Monday, November 15, 2010

Shirley Show-Off and Miss Popularity Runner Up

Yesterday I stopped into the Porkly Workly for a couple of necessities on my way home from a little sacrilegious Sunday shopping. I ran into another former member of Mother's Milk who, unlike Braggy Bridget of the U10 Hand-Picked Undefeated Soccer Team, would probably have hidden behind an aisle like I wanted to, had we not had an abrupt head-on encounter. I would have avoided her because I find her somewhat odd and off-putting; she might have liked to avoid me for the very same reason, for all I know. But I suspect that a part of her behavior towards me is due to feeling self-conscious or -- gulp -- intimidated. I squirm a little every time I think about this. She joined Mother's Milk at a time when I was behaving in a way I never had before and never will again. My first year in Splendaville had been extremely lonely and difficult, and when I finally broke down and joined Mother's Milk, it had felt like a lifeline. I was desperate for friendship and something to do with little Phartacus, and I threw myself into the whole rigmarole with gusto. I quickly made friends with a woman who, by her own admission, loved high school for the social aspect. (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!)  She was fun and irreverent, loved being popular and being in on all the gossip, and I eagerly followed her lead. At 16 I had been smart enough and confident enough to avoid this sort of scene, but as a full-grown woman and desperate mother all I could see was someone to laugh with and confide in.

You can never know how other people see you, for which I am endlessly grateful. I would NEVER want my super power to be mind reading. What I suspect is bad enough!  But I'm fairly sure anyone who met me at that stage thought I was one of those popular girls they remembered from high school. Ugh.

Anyway, I think that partially explains the look on this woman's face whenever she is around me: slightly widened eyes and a perpetual half-smirk. I try to be charitable and chalk it up to nerves, but as she chattered away I had to wonder if some of the smirking wasn't just the thrill of recounting what a prodigy she had birthed. I tried to look sympathetic amongst the Jell-O pudding cartons as she detailed the difficulties of having a daughter so brilliant that she had been called into a teacher conference and told her little Einsteina would have to slow down in math because soon there would be no one at the school qualified to teach her. That little third-grade Einsteina had tested at a high school reading level and even the gifted program couldn't address her needs. Poor Shirley Show-Off indignantly related the story of being told that she was doing Einsteina a disservice by not letting her have summers off school, when all they were doing was one hour of work a day... some math, reading, a couple of simple science experiments, a little Old Norse Icelandic literature, ancient Greek...

I get that moms are proud and want to share their children's accomplishments. I try to confine my brags to grandparents, and spare friends and acquaintances all the eye-glazing details unless they specifically ask. (Is your child a genius? Why, YES, since you ask...) Yet as Shirley Show-Off went on, it became harder to keep my mouth shut, until I eventually interjected that Phartacus was cruising through the dreaded third grade with ease. Why did I feel the need to say this? I know my children's strengths and talents (and also that things can change in the blink of an eye. What you brag about today may vanish tomorrow.) -- why did I need Shirley Show-Off to know it too?  I think of myself as someone who dislikes competitiveness in friendship, and I have distanced myself from women whose conversation reminds me of an endless holiday letter. So why did I have to chime in?

Is it because I don't like competitiveness, or because I fear I don't measure up?


  1. Crap, don't read my braggy blog today! Love how you make me snort out loud when I read your writing!

  2. I was just wondering when I'd see a new post from you. Great snaps! I see absolutely no resemblance between your blog and Shirley Show-Off. There's a difference between letting people know what's been going on, and making sure to tell people only the glorious excerpts, true or not.

    By the way, after posting this I had a belated moment of introspection and realized that maybe Shirley Show-Off was doing all that *because* she has this misguided notion of me of one of those ladies, and thought she needed to show me her worth. Or something. Wait, my epiphany is fading...

  3. Oh, and as Bugs Bunny says, "Bon Voyeggie"!

  4. I think it's because you don't like competitiveness.