What Sesame Street doesn’t tell you

This post is brought to you by the last piece of pie, low self-esteem, and Mike calling me on my bullshit.

When I was a little girl, I said hi to everyone. My mom tells stories of me saying hi to people in the grocery store. If they didn’t acknowledge me, I would badger them with my hi’s until they responded. Once I started school, report cards would come home saying, Julie’s a good student, but needs to work on not talking quite so much in class. Somewhere along the way, though, I learned to stop talking. I learned that not many people wanted to hang out with the kid who tended to be obnoxious and say awkward things. Over time, I started to “learn my place”: I was the nerdy girl who never quite mastered social interaction. Tread carefully when speaking to others, and don’t expect them to like you.
Despite that, I still managed to fall into friendships. I say fall because these people are kindred spirits. Friendship with them was just easy. We understood one another and accepted and loved each other’s weirdness. There was Beth, who I admired for her boisterous lack of filter. There was kind and gentle Christy, who took pity on me the first day of high school and made it a point to befriend me. There was Jill, whose matter of fact wit and inherent geekiness made my day. There was Jason, (who I admittedly spent a few years crushing on) who was always there for me, without a thought.

Nowadays, friendships like that are hard to come by. I know that’s not abnormal, according to this article in the New York Times. I have found some kindred spirits, but even those took a long time to develop. Life gets in the way; everyone is busy and focused on what they need to do. It became even harder for me once I became a stay at home mom. It’s just like dating again. Despite what the song, Getting to Know You from The King and I may suggest, getting to know someone new sucks major balls. Awkward small talk, (at which I have never been good) followed by de facto rejection is awful. Awesome conversation followed by de facto rejection is even worse.
Since battling back some of my anxiety and depression, I’ve made it a point to say hello to people. You wouldn’t think smiling and saying hello to someone you don’t know would be hard, but it really is. One day at the bus stop, I had, what I thought, was a nice little chat with a mom who also had a son about ZoĆ«’s age. But since then, she’s avoided me like the plague. She may say hi if she doesn’t have someone better to talk to, but for the most part she watches me coming to the stop, turns up her nose and goes back to whoever she was speaking with. I refuse to go unnoticed, though. I still say hello or good morning to her and whoever is there. Last night, I told Mike that I didn’t care that the ladies at the bus stop stand in groups, ignoring the others. And he called me on my bullshit. The fact is, it hurts. Moreover, I just don’t get it. Why do people insist on being such douche canoes and ignore others? I’m not asking for friendship in which we confide our deepest secrets. I’m not even asking for getting coffee together. Just a simple hello, an acknowledgment of my existence and that I’m worth your eye contact.
At the end of the day, though, their behavior is probably not going to change. But what I can do is push through the low self-esteem and know that I am worth eye contact. I am worth getting to know. And while I’m working on that, I can follow Sesame Street’s directions and “stick out my hand and say hello.” I may not make any friends, but at least I’m not a douche canoe.