Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Cliques and Clucks




“Mean Girls” are often insecure

Ever walk into a room where others huddle together and, while not doing anything overtly hostile, do nothing to welcome you in? Then, when you awkwardly try to contribute, they change the subject and physically scoot away?


I haven’t had this experience for many years. It’s so very middle school. In fact, it is at the center of my WIP, a novel for middle grades. I suspect that when I was that age, I was sometimes the snooty offender, not the shy newcomer wishing someone would step forward and take them in. Perhaps this novel is my way of making amends.


I had an interesting experience a few months ago. I decided to give an online hangout a try, and RSVPed a virtual meeting of women who write. I’m a woman who writes, so it could be a fit.


Turned out this group all knew each other (virtually) from previous such Zooms. I was the lone newbie, and let me tell you, it brought back memories of the less than happy kind.


This time, while the official leader was welcoming (that’s why she’s the leader) no one else did. I stayed quiet, listening and learning, and was left with a big question mark pulsating inside me.


I had stepped into a clique. The women were nice (to each other) and interesting, (for the most part. Hey, writers, as a general rule, are articulate and interesting people.)— But there was this cluck-cluck of a hen-house hyperactivity that spoke of wanting to be noticed.


 I realized I was caught in their vibe while also pushed outside the circle, a juxtaposition that echoed the experience of the main character in the story I’m revising. It’s an unpleasant place to be, all the more because it exposes how our own vanity and pride are no virtue.


It also reminded me what cliques are about. Those who exclude are the insecure ones.


I did get one thing out of my attempt at this new connection; I revised the story to better express this situation for the main character. The universe had to send me back to middle school so I could better do my work.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

It sounds like synchronicity was at work here: You got what you needed for your story.

Vijaya said...

I'm so sorry you had to experience cliquey exclusion instead of relying on memory. Alas, it's all too present even in the adult world. Good for you for using this to add greater depth to your story.

Barbara Etlin said...

What, you didn't experience clique fallout in high school?! High school was much worse in my experience. Did wonders for my self-confidence.

I've found that most adult writers have been welcoming to me at conferences and workshops. Most of us have outgrown that stuff. I'm sorry you experienced it. But, as you know, everything is writing material!

Mirka Breen said...

I escaped this completely in the middle school years, and for the most part in high school. As I wrote in the post, looking back I might have been part of the in-crowd during those years.
It's much easier to weather this later, when sense of self is fully formed. I am sorry for all young'uns who go through it.

Evelyn said...

Such an unpleasant experience. I'm so sorry. But I'm glad you were able to put it to good use. I think my training as a minister's daughter growing up (for the most part unspoken, but ingrained nevertheless) was that one of my jobs was to help make other people feel welcome. It carried over to non-church functions. If I'm busy trying to make other people feel included, I'm less likely to feel the exclusion of the cliquey people. Of course, if the whole group is a clique (as in your case), that doesn't work so well.

janlcoates said...

Research opportunities can turn up in unexpected places, for sure. Zoom is such a weird creature anyway - most people probably act a little less than their "normal" on Zoom, but it's awkward being made to feel awkward in a group. Glad you took the positive away from it, though!

Sue said...

At least you can use the experience in your writing. I find in groups, I have a tendency to listen more than talk when I'm uncomfortable. Though if I feel strongly on a subject, that's another look altogether. HA HA