Friday, January 27, 2006

But It Was a Pretty Big Salame

I don't win contests. I just don't have any luck in the lottery-type ones, and I never have enough skill for the skill contests. The last time I won anything was freshman year of high school, when I won a salame at the mother-daughter fashion show/luncheon.

And that's the last time I remember winning anything, except for one baby shower about 10 years ago where I cheated. Yes, that's right, my losing streak drove me to cheat at a baby shower. Don't judge me.*

I am good at a lot of things, but I'm never quite good enough. Lest you think this is just a self-esteem issue, I'll give you several heart-wrenching examples of how true this has been:

1. Grade School: I decided to actually work on my science fair project one year. I'd heard over and over from the science teacher that I could do better if I "applied" myself, so I decided to try. I worked really hard on my project, which was the now-classic "growing plants in different conditions." They gave awards to the top 5, and I was, of course, number 6.

2. Grade School: There was a club called the "Junior Altar Society" where 7th-8th grade girls got to clean the church on Saturday mornings. Yeehaw! You had to be asked, and most girls in my class were. I was not. Who knows why? Why would they do a ceremony where they hand out engraved invitations to girls to get them to clean the church?? It wasn't something we earned, it just happened, and I was one of maybe three girls who didn't get asked.

In a display of chutzpah that still impresses me, I ignored the snub and showed up that first Saturday anyway. I told my mother I'd been invited and I told my friends the invitation had been mistakenly sent home. The first Saturday I blithely ignored the moderator's confusion as she searched the roll list for my name. I smiled gracefully as she wondered what to do (since I think she knew I hadn't been invited), and finally, in defeat, wrote my name in on the bottom. Then I went and got the vacuum to start cleaning the altar.

3. High School. In one of my crazy spells Junior year, I decided I needed to beat my best friend at something. She excelled at pretty much everything she did. There was no way I was going to attempt calculus, so I took Anatomy/Physiology with her. I was used to being a B to her A, but I wondered what would happen if I really "applied" myself. Anatomy/Physiology was a very tough class taught by a med student who looked like Tom Selleck and had the social skills of a house fly. There were straight lectures, tons and tons of memorization and 15-page tests that asked us to recall absolutely everything. He was not into "making the material come alive," so to speak. I mean, beyond the way physiology and anatomy sort of is alive, already.

Anyway, I worked my ass off. I thought I had a chance at the Physiology award, which excited me since I'd never won an award (see above) for any subject, although I did well - I just never did the BEST.

So, at the end of the semester, the cumulative scores for both sections were posted. Unfortunately, some chick had a photographic memory and beat me for the top score. There were 700 points possible. She got 670. I got 650. The next score down was 520. Do you think maybe they could have sprung for two Physiology awards at the end of the year , since we were pretty close and the next 40 students were over 100 points lower?? Nope. Miss 670 got the award and I got zilch. I did beat my friend, though, so all was good.

Believe it or not, we're still friends. She's very forgiving and ignored my craziness. I also beat my lab partner, who is now a very successful OB/GYN.

4. When I was a freshman in high school, I heard about the National Honor Society. I heard you had to be nominated to get in. What an honor that would be, I thought - and I wouldn't have to be the best, I just had to be good enough since they took about 10-15 girls (this was an all-girls high school) per year. When I saw the girls that got in, I thought, I could take them.

Most nominations happened in junior year. I volunteered, did community service, etc., all motivated by the hope of getting into the NHS my senior year (yeah, I know - how selfless). I was sooo excited to get the application. I'd been "nominated!" Now I just had to apply. I had tons of student council service, etc., and I poured over the application to make sure I included everything. This was going to be the pinnacle of my high school years - this would make it all worth it.

You can see where this is going. I didn't make it. I was a hundredth of a GPA point too short (3.67 as opposed to a 3.68). The nomination letter said that my grades had qualified, but there was some arcane formula, and they could only take the top 20% of the people who applied, so I could meet the requirements and still not get in.

But here's the worst part: ALL my friends made it. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I literally had no one to eat lunch with on the Thursdays when they had their meetings. And what hurt the worst was that I'd wanted it more than any of them - most of my friends were not very impressed with it and didn't care, but accepted because it looked good on the college apps. And many of them didn't have half the service I had, but they did have slightly higher GPAs. I remember approaching the moderator, Sr. Marcella, rather hysterically and asking if there was anything I could do to get in or to get her to reconsider. I couldn't exactly bribe her, but I thought maybe we could, you know, massage the numbers a little. Can't we weigh the student council stuff a little heavier? I mean, my friend Sally had good grades, but didn't do any service at all, and she got in. Sr. Marcella was a little freaked out by my intensity and said, "Sorry, no," and bolted for the door.

I cried. I cried for days. I cried during class. I cried at home. I couldn't stop. I couldn't eat or sleep. All my friends would wear the gold cord around their necks at graduation and I wouldn't. I had never felt like my efforts amounted to so little. I was completely crushed. I can still feel the weight in my heart, over 20 years later. For the next year, on the first Thursday of every month, I skipped eating and snuck into the library so I wouldn't have to search for someone to eat with and it wouldn't be so obvious I was alone. I eventually stopped crying and was able to act like I didn't care, but I felt so excluded and worthless.

One last triumph, though - at our last assembly when it came time to hand out the cords and gold tassels (for members of the Calif. Scholarship Federation, which was open to anyone with a GPA over 3.0) to graduating seniors, the administrators were so flustered and ill-prepared that when they called my name and I went to the front, the vice principal glanced at me and said, "I think she gets everything!" I didn't correct them when they handed me a gold cord and gold tassel. So there, Sr. Marcella and NHS.

5. There was a weird ritual in my high school that involved inviting a group of girls to spend the night at the convent with the sisters. I'm not sure how they did it, but I remember that I didn't find out about it until after it happened and we heard that 1. the nuns ate popcorn while they watched TV, and 2. they had a closet full of feminine hygeine products. It had never occured to us that nuns would get their periods like normal people.

This time, not all of my friends got invited, so I didn't feel quite so lonely in my exclusion, but enough did get invited that I wondered what the hell I had to do to get noticed. On the other hand, maybe it was a recruitment thing and they were smart enough to write me off early.

6. The next thing I wanted badly was to be an RA in our college dorms. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that I made it all the way to the final round for three separate dorms, none of which finally selected me.

7. The following year, I started sorority rush and dropped out. I said it was because I didn't like the fake smiles and cheery small talk, which was true, but the real reason I dropped out was because I knew my history and decided I wasn't going to put myself in a position to be so painfully rejected again.

8. Now, to be fair, I have to admit that in grad school, I applied for competitive internships and got them, so it's not like I always lost everything. I had confidence in my clinical and interviewing skills. But if I don't have a WHOLE LOT of confidence in something, I don't go for it. I stay out of competitions and contests. I've wanted for a while to apply for some regular writing gigs, but haven't had the guts.

This is all a very long, sad, self-pitying way to tell you that I won the Bay Area's Best Baby Blog award for January by Parent's Press. It's a new thing, and I think they're going to award it every month. But I won it first. And yeah, I shared it with someone else. The actual copy in the paper says "We had a tie vote among staff members judging the contest." I don't know if it actually came to blows, but I'm glad someone had my back and I didn't come in second this time.

*Extra points if you can tell me what recent TV sitcom that quote comes from.


HeyItsBeej said...

"*Don't judge me.
*Extra points if you can tell me what recent TV sitcom that quote comes from."

That would be Brett Butler playing Joy's mom in My Name is Earl, Mr. Trebek. Er, I mean Ms. Lunasea.

(Yeah I know this entry is like two years old but I'm responding anyway)

template by