When I was 7 years old, I was invited to the birthday party of a girl who lived up the street. Paula was a couple of years younger than me, but it never seemed to matter when we were ripping down the slide or playing Ring-around-the-Rosie.
When I arrived at her birthday in my best party dress, though, it started to matter.
I looked around the room at the other girls playing and squealing and realized that I didn’t know a single other person there. They were all Paula’s friends from school and because we were in different grades, and her other friends didn’t live on our street, they were strangers to me and had no advance knowledge of my awesome-ness.
Even way back then, when confronted with a room full of people I didn’t know, my first instinct was to withdraw. Not wanting to disturb the already established group dynamic, I sat quietly on the fringe of the party watching the other girls rub balloons on their head and stick them to the walls.
After the gifts were opened, we gathered around the dining room table to eat our lunch of hotdogs and potato chips.
I had zoned out of the conversation for a bit – wallowing in my inability to integrate into the gaggle of girls, and giving myself an internal pep talk – when I heard the conversation turn to something I knew I could contribute to…
“I never get tired of chips!” one girl announced.
“Me too,” another agreed, “I love chips!”
In a desperate effort to try to fit in, I piped up. “So do I! My sister lets me stay up on Sunday nights to watch it – she likes Officer Jon, but I think Ponch is WAY better. Last week they set up a sting to catch a gang of car thieves and then they went jet-skiing!”
All the girls around the table stared silently at me, for what felt like an eternity, until one finally piped up, “We were talking about potato chips
*trust me, it was implied