The Best Worst Day of My Life
I've been a freelance writer since 1978, and I've always worked at home. Solitude suits me.
I became an observer of groups at a young age as the result of being thrown out of them. When they picked teams on the playground I was always last. My nickname was "No," as in "No! Don't shoot!" My name was often the last thing you'd hear just before the other team got the ball.
When I was nine years old I founded the Jackson School Sports Club. It consisted of eight single-spaced typewritten pages, not just lists of people, places and equipment, but literate paragraphs spelling out the need for after school activities such as these. I worked on it for weeks and smiled to myself every recess because I knew something they didn't know. I'd decided on 25 members, all the boys in both 4th grade classes, but the typing was killing me. Xerox machines hadn't been invented. My mom said I could probably get it mimeographed at the office, but then I wouldn't have anything to type anymore.
I did not finish typing all 25 manifestos because somewhere in the third copy I invented what is today known as "editing," a process by which a long document is made short by means of typing less. I was able to use everything, however, by carrying it around on my clipboard, my proudest object ever. "What is that?" they asked me. "Typing," I said. My pages were just as proud, curling up to show some leg. These were finished pages, embossed like Braille with whacks from my own Corona, bricked up solid floor to ceiling, wall to wall.
I called everyone together for Saturday at the swingset and they all came, every last one, and clustered around me and my mysterious clipboard. I had practiced this speech, imagined it and reimagined it. I was already looking back on it fondly. And now here it was. I carefully unclipped the flyers and began to pass them out. "These are, just take one, this is a, I'm trying to tell you, this is, it's a sports club--"
"All right, I'll take Deitelhoff." It was Dan Purdom, alpha man, responding to the groans. Gary Deitelhoff, my best friend who would be a 9th round NBA draft pick in 1974, stepped behind him, and Deutsch picked next. My flyers were chasing each other across the playground. I was picked last. The game began.
It was the best worst day of my life, but it took me 40 years to realize it. All this time I thought it was a story about how I never fit in, and it turns out it was the story of how -- and why -- I became a writer.
I still find groups difficult, but over time I've learned to deal with it, either by showing up in a funny-guy mask, or showing up late and leaving early, or by simply standing in a corner and smiling until it's over. Once or twice when the funny-guy mask didn't come off I'd stop showing up and hope somebody would come get me and beg me to return. Sometimes it's happened that way. Other times not.
Withdrawal is awful. Returning to an empty place, once again defeated, is to plunge into the spongy lap of hopelessness and pray to disappear. In this fetid nest I keep the things I've known all along: that I'm no good, that I'm selfish, that I'm a loser and a compulsive basket shooter and the reason nobody likes me is I'm not likeable.
What gets me out of my self pity is more self pity followed by months of additional self pity until my self is worn away and it just becomes pity, at which point I become one with the universe, not the alpha man I'd hoped for but a beta man for it.
The Big Duh us always the same, that We're All The Same. Who hasn't desperately wanted to be part of a group? Who hasn't felt the ice of rejection? Who doesn't fear public humiliation more than death itself or even electrocution?
On television, when somebody gets voted off the island or rejected by the bachelorette, or midgit, or real estate mogul, it resembles real life. Or does it?
Is life just a series of judgements, those laid upon us, and those we lay on others? Is it simply a matter of who goes and who stays? Is this how we actually operate?
Yesterday I lost a friend at Blogcritics. No, nothing like that, he just quit is all, fed up to here with criticism, well, blogcritics would be critical, but never mind that. I wrote him a long letter full of philosophy when I should have been posting, and I'm trying to figure out how to recycle it now that I received a rather perfunctory reply.
There were some good lines, like: "We are all former somethings and current something elses on our way to something better." And "the web is a wicked web of massive deceit, every page another stage for someone else's conceit, and even when we join beneath a banner as a unit, we are liars sniping liars on a battleground of bullshit."
I thought that was pretty good. I might put it to music. Or just add it to the top of the clipboard.