When I was about eight years old, I used to spend a lot of time hanging out by my family’s mailbox. Not because I was waiting for the mail, I hasten to add, but because I was waiting for my best friend, playing in her yard across the street with someone else, to invite me to play, too.
Understand, this was my best friend. And whoever she was playing with was usually someone I knew from the neighborhood. And yet I was too—shy? afraid of rejection? proud?—to ask if I could join in.
So instead, I would simply put myself on display at the farthest-most reaches of my driveway, hoping desperately to be noticed. I’d twirl on the mailbox. I’d examine, with feigned intense interest, small rocks on the ground. I’d jump rope, seemingly vigorously counting my skips—but in truth, counting how many seconds had gone by and calculating how long I could continue to hang about without looking stupid.
But my best friend never asked me to join in. Not once.
How awful! How exclusionary! How snobby! But look at it from her likely perspective: HER best friend was playing by herself, rather stand-offishly, across the street, and not just calling out or coming over and asking to join in. They probably thought I was the snob.
I spent an awful lot of my youth waiting to be noticed and for others to intuit what I wanted: walking my dog an embarrassing number of times past the house where my crush lived; studying in the student union where the guy I adored from afar worked; standing just outside a group of people talking at a cocktail party, hoping to be included; pointedly arriving before the boss did and leaving after she did in the hopes it would lead to a promotion.
It never once occurred to me to simply ask for what I wanted.