I'm a few hours away from ditching the City for a few days and heading for the Poconos. I am really looking forward to relaxing in pjs by the fire (I'm hoping there is a fire), reacquainting myself with the outdoors, seeing what passes for a ski resort on the East Coast (um, yes I am a snob and no I will not be snowboarding as all my gear resides in Utah where there is vertical and snow), soaking in the hot tub and hopefully making new friends.
What I am not looking forward to is putting a swimming suit on in January in front of anyone - trust me, I tried it on last night in front of the mirror and I was embarrassed to see myself! Dry, pasty skin should remain hidden under sweat shirts and long pants for a reason.
A friend of mine put the trip together and I believe there will be about 18 singles. This slots nicely into my be more social resolutions and should be fun . . . so why am I full of mixed feelings about the whole endeavor?
The last time I went on one of these pile a slew of single Mormons in a house weekends was 4th of July weekend in 2005, the summer I moved back to New York. A friend of mine from Salt Lake had moved to NYC a couple of months earlier and I had just moved back in June and was adjusting to the changes two years can accomplish on the social scene, styles and my neighborhood. I was delighted to be invited on a long weekend in Cape Cod despite the fact that I only knew one person. I figured this was the chance to get out there and meet people and bond and all that.
I was a driver of one of the four cars and we managed to congregate at my apartment at some outrageously early hour of 5 or 6 am.
[As an aside, those of you who do not live in NYC most likely take it for granted that on a whim you can decide to leave for the weekend in your car and all you really need to contemplate is gas and packing. Those of us non-car owner types are not so lucky. Getting out of town can be a collosol endeavor involving renting a car (sometimes in NJ because it is SO much cheaper), picking up said car (which may involve a train ride to Newark airport), finding a place to park the car while loading luggage and people, fighting NYC metro-area traffic, debating whether to buy food in the City before you go or at some unknown location near your destination and if you are not the person with the car (like me today), cramming all of your weekend necessities (which include a set of queen size sheets!) into a bag that is not ridiculously large for a weekend and can be dragged to work with you!]
The drive to Cape Cod went well enough and I chatted easily with my four passengers getting to know them better (only one male - those are the odds I face out here!). At some point after we arrived at the beautiful house we rented on a lake, I began to feel self-conscious and separate. Everyone seemed to know each other fairly well and my perception was they weren't interested in getting to know me . . . at all. There were numerous misunderstandings where people just plain did not communicate with me but expected me to just drive where they decided they wanted to go. The one friend I had going into this event was being reuinted with her two best roommates from whom she had been separated recently after moving from the Upper West Side all the way Downtown. I was trapped in a car full of inside jokes and gave up trying to crack my way in. The lone boy in our car turned out to be the ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine . . . which ended in WWIII according to my friend (I had heard of him but never met him before that time and when we discovered the connection it was awkward!). Other people in the house were nice enough but I ultimately felt like an outsider crashing their cozy weekend getaway.
The breaking point for me was the last day - 4th of July. In the morning I thought we were going to the beach so I was wearing my swimming suit and we ended up at a small town parade - with me dressed for the beach. At one point during the parade I lost track of every person I was with and just walked back to the car to wait for them. I was also not fully informed about our trip to Martha's Vineyard and for whatever reason changed out of my swimming suit for the trip. Once there the crew decided to ride bicycles around the island. This didn't sound too bad except I was only a few short months removed from my knee surgery and I knew my knee couldn't handle a lot. I mentioned this at some point but was ignored . . . or it was lost in the crowd. At some point during the ride some leader determined the beach was our destination. I was not the only one sans swimming suit so the two of us purchased extremely patriotic (read: ugly) suits at a random swim shop. They matched because somehow that was the only respectable suit in the shop.
Our bike ride continued and my knee grew more and more fatigued to the point that I was extremely far behind everyone and had no idea where I was going. The pain grew intense and I was near tears - but more for the emotional pain of being left behind than my knee. I mentioned this to one or two people but I think they just thought I was an out of shape loser and biked on. When I finally reached the beach, the weather had turned slightly chilly and people were ready to pack up and turn around after about 15 minutes. My knee was swollen but no one seemed to care. We biked back and landed at an ice-cream scoop shop after I picked up some ibuprofen for the swelling which was leading to an intense head ache as well. I think one or two people took my ailment a bit more serioulsy at this point but mostly steered clear of me afraid they might catch it after uttering a "why didn't you tell us?" sentiment. Because I was invisble in my gaudy red and white striped blue trimmed suit.
I got my ice-cream with everyone else but needed to sit (yeah, the knee) and the only seat available was a bench facing the street - their table was directly behind me. I felt transported back to junior high as the complete social pariah and wallowed in my self-pity as I ate my ice-cream. Coming out of my reverie I realized I no longer heard voices behind me. I turned around and everyone was gone. Everyone. All 10 or 11 of them had vanished. I hobbled around the cute little streets of Martha's Vineyard and peeked in stores wondering how a group that large could vanish so quickly - I still had my ice-cream! I assumed they were at the dock waiting for the ferry so I hobbled my way down there to find . . . no one. People were queing up for the next fairy but not a single face was familiar. Not knowing what to do I joined the line and listened to families and friends laugh and giggle and inspect their tan lines. By this point my mind had spiraled to the basement of emotions where it took every ounce of strength I had left to keep from crying. I occasionaly wondered if perhaps they were looking for me but knew the truth - no one knew I was gone. And I was right. The crew eventually appeared and came piling onto the ferry as if nothing had gone awry. Their jokes and grins continued to stab my sad little image of myself until I was completely deflated and retreated to the other end of the ferry with my cell phone to call my mom and cry. Someone had announced proudly that they learned our bike ride was over 20 miles. OVER. TWENTY. MILES! This made me feel like slightly less of a loser for being so slow and having my knee react so vehemently against me but I was cruel in my head and chastised myself for falling so far behind. It was miserable. I couldn't wait to go home and retreat to my own solitude away from these people and their exclusionary ways. The drive home was long and late. I think we reached Manhattan around 4 am on July 5th and I went to work the next day.
I was so injured I vowed never to do such a thing again despite the pleasant weekends away where I made deep and abiding connections with wonderful people. The Cape Cod experience ruined it for me and I have not been brave enough to try it again.
This weekend is different from the last in many ways but I still have some social fear that I will be the lone girl struggling to keep up on the 20 mile bike ride. I keep reminding myself of the Memorial Weekend I spent in North Carolina in a house of 30+ people where I made friends I still cherish today nearly 5 years later. I can't let one bad trip spoil the experience forever.
Yet, last night as I was packing I somehow let my mind slip into the setting that what-I-wear-will-have-a-direct-impact-on-whether-people-like-me and the correlating setting of these-extra-few-pounds-I-have-bulging-on-my-thighs-and-waist-make-everything-look-bad. I hate those settings. I want them banished - did you hear me? BANISHED!
Over the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions. Nearly every blog, newspaper, tv commercial and sign on the street is focused on one thing as a goal this year: losing weight. Whether it is through diet or exercise or starvation the message is everywhere. But with what purpose? There is a sign on a bus stop (albeit a weight watchers ad) I love. It reads somethign to the effect of "Burn the books. Flush the pills. Eat some bread." This has had me thinking. Wouldn't a better (a more productive and feasible) goal be to just learn to accept myself? To love who I am right now instead of who I think I could be or would be or should be or was 10 pounds lighter? Isn't it more important to enjoy life by eating the bread than depriving and worrying about how much our love handles might grow? I am not saying I will quit working out or suddenly allow myself to eat nonstop or anything but what I want to do this year is focus on accepting myself without comparisons to those I think are prettier/thinner/smarter/funnier/cuter than I am.
Why is this so mixed up with my thoughts about going on what should be a fun and relaxing, care-free trip? Because I want to head into it with the right mind set with no pesky insecurities trailing behind me. And like so many times before, once I manage to write them out, the feelings are purged and I can leave them in the dust where they belong. Thanks for listening.