Thursday, February 12, 2009

Groups and The Loser

open toolbox
An open toolbox.
The Complete and Total Loser is not a joiner. There were no Boy Scout retreats, no frat house antics for him in college, no men's groups in the 1990s, sitting in fake sweat lodges, banging synthetic drums and crying about the good things his father did or didn't do for him. No yoga classes now, becoming one with his body and the cosmos while patting himself on the back for not judging the inferior posers around him.
Part of the Loser wishes he could do such things. How nice it would have been to have support in college, to have "brothers" to offer him a beer after a day of classes, to hold parties with, parties girls would attend. Then later, to move up the ranks as the college years passed, garnering responsibility, instructing freshman in the ways of the fraternity as they stood before him at attention with pillowcases over the heads hoping that they may one day be ... him.
It's been shown that those who join groups early in life do better in the workplace. They're more more comfortable in social settings, backslapping at gatherings, exerting leadership. Most success at a company, they say, depends on political skills rather than talent and ability.
All fair enough. But the Loser cannot, as people have advised him to over the years, fake it till he makes it. He is to this day stunned when he imparts information to coworkers and it is absorbed and followed. He wants to shout, "Don't you know what I am?" at them.
Part of why he doesn't join is fear of rejection. Not a new fear. He experienced it when young. The derisive laughter at his attempts to be knowing and cool. The labeling by his brother as a tag-a-long and a dummy as he limped after he and his friends. The torsos of older children angled away from him as they shared secrets. His deformity kept him from the jock crowd. His group was the future homosexuals, computer geeks and poets. But they were smarter than he was and barely tolerated him.
Another reason is one he seldom admits, even to himself. It's that what if he did join a group, have the strength of legions behind him, yet still failed? The Loser's life is devastating enough as is.
His favorite memories now of his youth follow this: Age 10, home from school on a Friday afternoon. It's four in the afternoon. He's eaten two bowls of Cheerios, drinking the sweetened milk from the bowl. His big brothers aren't home and his mother has gone shopping, which promises bags with cookies and cereal with prizes in the boxes later. He has found in the trash or the basement a complex device that interests him. An alarm clock. A miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder. He dissects it with small tools from one of his father's several toolboxes, marveling at its intricacy, the little gears and transistors. Rare moments of concentrated exploration pass. Dummy that he is, he can't figure out the workings, but it doesn't matter; it's the journey that he enjoys.

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