Don’t Join Me, Won’t You?
…or Life on the Planet of “Me, Myself and “Why Just I?”
by Marianne Curan
In high school, humans are defined by their generation’s version of groups which, since the dawn of teenagers, has come down to The Jocks, The Geeks, and The Stoners… or more simply put, “The Cool People and everyone else.”
On the whole, humans, unlike most other species, are undefined by a dedicated group. For instance, groups of whales are a pod. Groups of birds are a flock, sheep are a herd, etc.. Humans are…well, “humans.”
Animal groupings get more fun with the weirdly named “nuisance” of cats and an “implausibility” of gnus—well done, Science. I must say my new favorite animal groups are the ones ironically appropriate for our nation’s current state, like… a “congress of salamanders”… a species known to change its colors to reflect a current threat—or a CNN poll. Then there is the aptly named “congress of baboons” which seems should be interchangeable with a similar group, a “drove of asses.” Here’s hoping they all end up on the endangered species list.
I have tried and failed all my life to be a joiner. I was a Camp Fire Girl who hated camping. Done. I was on a Swim Team but hated the choking chlorine vapors of indoor pools. Done. I don’t know if my neighborhood has a Neighborhood Watch and if it does, I say, “Go right ahead. I’ll take my chances.”
I loathe corporate “team building” b.s. and would call in sick to avoid things like “The Amoeba Race” (my top pick for “you can’t make this shit up” REAL team building idea) in which your “group” forms the three parts of an Amoeba: protoplasm, cell wall and nucleus. Then the group travels, splits into two amoebas, and the amoeba have a race. I would be the amoeba who “splits” and never comes back to work.
One of the all time joiner opportunities is having kids. I always wanted kids (okay, “a” kid) but was certain that if I did have said kid there would have been no “Mommy & Me” classes. Oh, God. No. My goal was to sign up little Huckleberry or Katniss for “Nanny and You” classes.
Is this beginning to make you wonder in which “species” I belong? Perhaps a “suicide of lemmings?” After all lemmings amass in huge groups and, according to lore, unwittingly follow the pack before pitching themselves off cliffs to their death.
Politics (deep breath) is all about joining which is why I don’t belong to any particular party in the good ‘ol US of A. However, my X chromosomes did compel me to buy a Pink Pussy Hat in honor of the Women’s Marches the day after the Trump Inauguration —which I joined—sort of—from the comfort of my living room. Yes, instead of going to a march a mere 15 minutes away, I put on my hat and I watched it all unfold on TV. And you’re wondering, “Why did she even buy the hat?” I get that and I wonder why as well. This goes into “Marianne Seriously Regrets Not Joining” file.
It makes sense that humans join different groups throughout their lives. It’s how you fit in, enjoy life, explore, learn, make friends. I have had those experiences in small doses in so-called groups…but I don’t seem to find comfort in that joint effort for long.
For many women joining a group starts with tiny tot soccer teams and tee-ball. Then it’s on to Girl Scouts and cheerleading; then it’s about becoming a leader of Student Government or The Spanish Club. Then in college, it’s on to sorority days at Kappa-Kappa-Kouldn’t-Kare-a-Lessa. Then when you’re a real grown-up you join the “Sushi and Chardonnay Singles” —which you attend while checking your phone for a Tinder Date so you can swipe your way out of that group. Or you might find yourself more comfortable with a grown-up nerd group gathering for a workshop on “iWatch Updates” at the Apple Store.
Once women get hitched they move on to Zumba classes, sewing circles, and book clubs. Middle aged women join The Red Hat Society and jaunt off in a big bus to see “Menopause the Musical.” Before they know it, these life-long joiners are mall walking with the “Silver Sneakers.”
Shoot me in the head.
Okay. That sounds pretty harsh. So, instead, dress me in a lemming costume and let me pitch myself over a cliff. But, if I chicken out from jumping, then, please shoot me in the head!
There are days when I am truly perplexed why I don’t like being part of these things. Forced into group situations I often blossom and have the whole room laughing and having a good time. Yet, it often feels forced…not organic. And, when the event is over and I should feel buoyed by the experience, I’m wondering if I ever want to go back. What’s that all about?
Of course, along this solo path my inherent “goodie two shoes” nature has made me worry about being labeled a “quitter”—which by nature I’m not. I’ve always been that, “If you want the job done give it to Marianne” person. Where did she go? Why does joining always feels uncomfortable for me? And more importantly why does NOT joining make me feel cowardly, stubborn…and apathetic?
As I get farther into middle age (gulp) I worry about getting farther into old age (bigger gulp) and becoming a very lonely old lady—I really do. Will I be moved to become a “joiner” because I’ve got no other choice? Or will I do it because I want to embrace my life, find new challenges and adventures— and in some way make a mark in the world whether anyone knows it or not?
Here goes. I’m going to don my freshly knitted Pink Pussy Hat and accept that I’m okay with my choices—for now. I still embrace my mantra, “If I don’t join a group in the first place then I don’t have to quit.” Small solace, I know, but that’s how my species, whatever that is, survives this joiner world.
There is a group I’ve considered joining, Non-Joiners-Anonymous.” But, I hear they meet in groups. Cue the lemmings.