Except Me

Why does everyone here
know everyone else
except me?

To be clear, me was being excepted from the everyone-here who knew everyone-else, not the everyone-else being known. Although I guess if everyone truly knew everyone, then everyone-here was the same as everyone-else and so me was being excepted from both groups.

Oh, never mind. I knew what he meant and I expect you do, too.

Everyone here obviously knows everyone else,
but I don’t know anyone and no one knows me.
Why do all these people know each other
and I don’t?

And, perhaps more succinctly . . .

Why am I the only outsider?

This late-1980s university classroom was hosting the first session of a continuing education class in the spring. The season matters, because some of us had been in a course with the same instructor in the fall. As each of these returnees came through the door, there was a murmur of happy recognition from other returnees, followed by a cacophony of hey-how-are-you greetings.

So when the psychologist instructor asked if anyone had any questions before we got started, one guy said, in a hell-yeah tone, I do.

Why does everyone here
know everyone else
except me?

What, had there been an undisclosed prerequisite course that he had missed, through no fault of his own? I waited for the response: Would it be explanatory, placatory, or indignatory? But instead the instructor did that silly psychologist thing where they ask gentle and insightful questions instead of taking things personally.

Is that how it seems to you?
That everyone knows everyone else?

Yes, said buddy emphatically. Now the tone was well-of-course-it’s-bloody-obvious, but psych-guy stayed cool.

If you were in my course before Christmas
would you raise your hand?

There were 15 people in the room. Six of us raised our hands.

So, you see, it’s not everyone.

No. It never is.

Fast-forward 35 years and I’m standing on the edge of a cacophonous crowd about to sit down to a potluck meal after a worship service, thinking how hard it is to walk into a group where everyone knows everyone, except me.

Is that how it seems to you?
That everyone knows everyone else?

Hell, yeah, I think. But as I watch people rushing to corral enough seats so that they can eat with people they know, I realize that even in an established congregation everyone doesn’t know everyone. If they did, there would be less urgency about securing chairs. And when I look more carefully I see others like me, standing back a bit from the hubbub, more than a bit uncertainly.

So, you see, it’s not everyone.

No. It never is.


This entry was posted in Day-to-Day Encounters, Feeling Clearly, Relationships and Behaviour, Thinking Broadly and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Except Me

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    You’ve hit on a profound truth here, Isabel (entirely aside from your parsing of a semi-intelligent protest). There are, it seems to me, three kinds of people in the world:
    1. those who know everyone, or, if they don’t, will soon make sure that they do know everyone.
    2. those who don’t know everyone, and would rather not know everyone anyway, because it’s more comfortable to occupy a quiet corner and nurse a Margarita.
    3. those who can’t count past two.
    The second category will always think of themselves as outsiders (I’m one of those) even when they’re welcomed warmly.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I’ve sure seen and worked with the former – folks who are completely assured of their welcome, yet not in an obnoxious way. Seemingly, they’re just untroubled by any insecurities. In stranger groups, I am not one of those either – whether or not a margarita is on offer. 🙂

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    When I joined choir several years ago, I felt like a kid who had just started school. “I don’t know anyone. I don’t have any friends. Other kids know each other, they won’t be friends. I don’t know what’s going on!” As an adult, I felt sorry for six-year-olds and wanted to go home to my mommy. I stayed with it, which is good.

  3. barbara carlson says:

    “To be clear, me was being excepted…” ——- me (!?)

    Et tu, Bruté?

    Am I missing something here? not “I” ??
    Explain yourself, missy!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – 🙂 I could have put “me” in quotes or I could have written “the “me” being excepted” but it seemed like more fun to do it the other way. Or more annoying, as the case may be.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    I see the title of the post now… still… I have a real problem with the use of “me” in place of “I” as it’s everywhere in speech now.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yes, it’s used wrongly (by old-speak standards) when it should be “I” a lot these days – as is “myself” when it should just be “me.”

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