Shelley Widhalm

Popular Unpopularity

In Alone, Finding friends, Fitting in, Shyness on November 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

I’ve always wanted to fit in, but I wonder what that means. I was kind of an outcast in high school, though I had friends. They were not of the popular crowd. That’s what I wanted to be: popular. I joined a few sports teams, believing that if I was an athlete, I would have instant friends.

That didn’t work, plus I was not very coordinated or good at getting balls into hoops or hitting them with bats or tennis racquets.

I became a journalist and at the small-town newspapers got a lot of attention, but that’s because sources wanted their story told, or they recognized me. They liked my writing. Or my reporting.

I liked the attention, but it didn’t make my phone ring.

Plus, I went into journalism to write.

I wanted to be the center of attention, but I was shy. And now I shy away from situations where there are lots of people. I linger on the edges. I keep conversations short. I look for any clues that I’ve overstayed my welcome.

As an adult, popularity doesn’t matter, but does fitting in? Why do I, no matter what I do, still feel slightly unpopular? It doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends I have, particularly because it’s a virtual world of social interaction that doesn’t feel real. Nor does it matter how often my phone rings, or not. I still see myself as left out. And alone. That is, until I come home from work and get a greeting from my dachshund Zoey. She makes me feel popular, at least with her.

As an adult, I know that fitting in does not matter. What matters is the meaning we make out of the friendships we are lucky enough to find – and keep – whether in human or dog form.

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