I’ve been ranting at you in my head for the past eight hours. I wanted to do something about it—call you, confront you, email you, something. Those communication methods, though, would only lend weight to something that shouldn’t necessarily get it. But then I realized, I’ve got a blog and this is what blogs are for.
You chose to hurl at me what was essentially a big ol’ middle finger and then walk away. I’ve got something to say that I was too hurt, angry and confused to say at the time but has been circling around in my brain ever since.
We started out with what I think is a necessary conversation about where the kickball league is going. It sounds silly when I read that statement aloud because Sweet Jeebus: this is KICKBALL we’re talking about. The fourth grade game for kids who can’t connect with a ball and bat yet. There shouldn’t be debate and issues and confrontation. It’s KICKBALL. And that, at essence, is why I’m displeased with the elitism and clique-ishness that’s developing.
If we can’t be better than fourth graders when it comes to making sure that no one feels like the last kid who gets picked for the team—even after the kid with the clubfoot and the one with the coke-bottle glasses—shouldn’t we be ashamed of ourselves? And yes, I’m saying that because I’ve felt that way these past two seasons. Moreover, I feel bad for the newcomers because if I’ve felt that way in my fourth season where I DO know some of the people in the league, I can only imagine how they are feeling. It’s not enough to say that it’s human nature and let it lie. I don’t dispute that there’s always a side to humans that create an in-crowd. I’m saying that it’s our responsibility to try to fight it, to rise above the instinct, to work at inclusiveness.
This new attitude towards league members is manifesting in ways big and small in the league. A break off league where teams have to be “invited”. Lots of talk about how one night is “better” than the other (which I don’t dispute on athletic grounds, but I think that’s been caused by the break-offs and siphoning). Some teams suddenly not showing up to the bar after games and the rest of us not knowing why (which, whatever, we had a good time, but still.) Almost no one from Thursday night’s teams showing up at the theoretically-whole-league barbeque—because they didn’t know about it, didn’t feel comfortable, or didn’t feel invited.
And maybe that’s what you like about the league, J.. Maybe you, like me, were never one of the in-crowd kids, and now you’re getting your in-crowd chance. Maybe that’s why you groove on it, defend it, excuse it. If that’s the case, own it. I personally took my unpopular past (and present, to be honest—I have a small group of friends that I feel blessed to have, but I’m no social butterfly, I’m not the go-to girl for social whirl, and I’m more than okay with that) and use it as a reason to try NOT to be that kind of person. I don’t always succeed, but the honor is in the striving. So if you are digging the chance to be The Guy Everyone Knows, the in-demand guy, I will still have a problem with what the league’s becoming, I will still argue with you about it, but at least you’ll be honest about where you’re coming from.
So that’s what we were discussing. It was actually really interesting, because I had a chance to voice to someone from another team something I’d noticed about the league, and get honest input back. The suddenly, you turned it around. You asked whether it was because of the you leaving the team that I felt that way.
“Is this about me leaving the team?” you asked.
Which, by the way, I never answered. No. No, J., it’s not about you leaving the team. I would have felt this way if you stayed on the team. In fact, I felt this way before you left the team.
But in the shock of the abrupt turn of topic, I let myself get distracted. Because I answered a different question than you asked.
The question you asked: “Was I mad about you leaving the team?”
Was I mad about you leaving the team? No. I’m not mad you left the team. I wasn’t mad at the time, I’m not mad now. I understand why you left, and it makes sense, and I bet you’re happier now, and that’s great. You weren’t the first, you weren’t even the last, even my husband left the team (for a time). Leaving happens. Yay leaving!
The question I answered: “Was I mad about the way you left the team?”
Because yes. I was. How Andrew left the team: “I don’t think I’m signing up next season.” How Beth and BD and Dan and Juice left the team: “Yeah, this didn’t turn out to be what we thought it would be. It’s not for us.” How Jane left the team: “Yeah, Jane’s not coming back. She didn’t like it.” How even T and N left the team: “Hey guys, we’re joining another team, and here’s why…”
How you left the team: “J., are you signing up with us? J.? J.? J.?” while you tried to shrink into your pint glass. The night before signups closed. And you’d already signed up with another team. And despite the previous comments you’d made with us about “Next season we should…” or “Next season we could…”
So was I mad about that? Yes. It was cowardly and dishonest, and most of all, it was laaaaaame. It put us in a tight spot. You’d let us count on you, encouraged it even, and then fled without a warning. That is what I was mad about.
But I never got a chance to say all that, J., because with that hard look on your face, you hissed at me about how hard the decision was and what a bitch I was to hold it against you. Note that if you hadn’t taken a wussy way out on leaving the team, you could have had a chance to tell us all that and I could have said, “Yeah, I understand, but I bet this is the best choice for you—you’ve got more friends on that other team, and you spend more time socializing with them than your own team anyway. Go for it!”
But I didn’t get a chance to say all that—neither when you left in the spring, nor last night—because your next comment was just mean. Your face was stone-cold hard. Your jaw was clenched, as if you were forcing deeply-buried words out through unwilling teeth. Your voice was raspy when you said:
“You never liked me anyway. I never felt like you liked me at all.”
Well, that certainly makes that hug I gave you when I saw you yesterday morning awkward in retrospect, huh?
I feel like shit for ever giving you that impression, because until last night, I never disliked you. I was mad, sure, but that doesn’t mean I discounted anything about you. You’re J., you are what you are, which is quirky, different, someone I don’t entirely get, but I’m okay with that and never disliked you for it. Do I have to get you to like you? I never thought so, but maybe you were looking for the getting to know that I liked you, and that’s why you thought I didn’t like you.
Why does this bother me so much? Why did I know that, with bottom-of-my-gut sureness, I had to get away from everyone before I started crying? (I hate hate HATE that I cry at the drop of a hat, by the way.) Andrew doesn’t understand why I’m so upset by this either, and that—at its heart—is why I’m writing this letter I’ll never send to you. Because I want to know why that upset me so much too. So let me try to spell it out.
I’d hate to be the reason someone left the team. I hate that you felt that way, and I didn’t know it. I hate that you’re using some emotion I don’t even feel to justify anything you did or didn’t do, but especially such an ugly one. I hate that someone thinks I’m capable of being so ugly. And most of all, I hate that you never gave me a chance to tell you it’s so far from true.
So there, J.. That’s how I wished I’d been able to finish the conversation. I'm a little pissed you'd say those things to me and never give me a chance to respond to them, but maybe that makes you feel better. Whatever.
In retrospect, it’s pretty stupid to be wound up in a ball about, “J. doesn’t think I like him!” and I guess I can only blame the drinking or latent insecurity or the moon or something. But hell, I feel what I feel what I feel, and what I feel right now is pissed and depressed and tired. And if I feel that way over someone I still barely know thinking I dislike him, then maybe this fourth-grader’s "sport" is more appropriate for me than I’d thought.