Social Appropriateness

Jennifer, Rob, Me 1977. I was 4 in this picture.

There is a memory from first grade that I can not shake no matter how much I try. As a matter of fact this is the only day of first grade that I can remember clearly, even though this happened in spring 1980. The teacher that year was Sister Mary Patricia Rose. Each grade at St. Peter’s Catholic School was divided into two classrooms of about 30 students each. St. Peter’s consisted of a church with a school next to it, a huge parking lot with a playground, and in the back corner there was a convent where the religious sisters (they were not monastic nuns) lived. Rob was not in my class as he went to a public school and I went to a private one. On a very nice spring day Sr. Patricia Rose took our class for the afternoon to the lawn that was next to the convent where she lived for the afternoon. She had us sit in a large circle and sit “indian style.” I could never sit like this, on my but with my legs folded in front of me. It always hurt to me to sit like this. I don’t know if my muscles were too tight or if it was something else and never understood why teachers wanted everyone to sit like this on the floor. Sr. Patricia Rose then passed out large cookies for us, some vanilla and some chocolate. I remember one of the kids, I think it was my friend Tom M, saying the chocolate cookies were the color of poop. I repeated that and laughed. Some how I was the one who was heard and so both he and I were sent back to the class room. It was a very long walk for a first grader to walk that far back to the class room. I remember it as being akin to a walk of shame. In hindsight it felt similar to sitting in the penalty box in hockey. So while everyone else got to enjoy the afternoon outside we had to go back and sit in class.

I bring up this memory to illustrate a struggle that I have had since I was very young: being socially appropriate. There have been plenty of times in life when I have failed to understand my surroundings and do things that were appropriate for the time and place. Another memory was about 5 years after the first memory shared. The summer in between 5th and 6th grade my dad took me walley fishing on Lake Erie with a couple of his friends from work. I had a great day that day, catching 5 walleye. My dad, even though he was an experienced boater, did not have that great of a day. He got sea sick and was trying to be quiet about it. He was sitting on the side of the 28ft boat attempting to quietly throw up overboard. At the very point he was doing this I shout out “Hey Dad! What are you doing, looking at the fish?!” In doing so I embarrassed him with his co-workers. I could go on and list countless stories like this. But there is no need to beat myself up.

“Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go, but…” -Don Henley, Boys of Summer

Being appropriate in social situations is something that I struggled with when young, and I still struggle with to this day. Saying the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. Saying it too loud. Taking conversations into tangential threads which are only relevant to the conversation in my own mind. Telling people things that I really should keep to myself. Not showing the proper reaction when people come to me with challenging situations. I never realized until recently that I have a serious issue with this and how much grief it has caused me in life.

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