Being Excluded: Sorry, you weren’t invited

At last night’s happy hour, I took a punch to the gut.

We’re currently staying at a cabin close to my extended family. M, my sisters and I are in one cabin, and two other branches of my extended family are in other cabins down the road. We’d all assembled for pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and there, my aunt told me about a lovely walk she’d gone on earlier in the day with all the other dogs, except ours.

She’d picked up all the dogs from the other cabins and went out with them. Our dog was not invited. She said it was glorious.

I said: “That sounds lovely”, and thought: “OUCH!”

I can see why he wasn’t invited: our dog is a lot of dog, his hips are getting bad, and walking 3 dogs already is no easy feat. Clearly, she had no idea that I’d be upset – she told me freely, as though his being excluded was nothing at all.

Which, in a way it is. He doesn’t care:

No parties for this guy
No parties? Does that mean I get to sleep on the couch and be cuddled instead?

But I’ll admit: I suddenly understood why parents cry when they find out their kid wasn’t invited to a birthday party.

When I was about 6 or 7, my mom took my sisters and I ice skating. When we got to the skating rink, half my class was there. I remember being surprised, like: “Oh hi guys!” and that a lot of the kids were excited to see me. They’d assumed I was late. But I wasn’t – they were there for a birthday party that I hadn’t been invited to.

I know: when I look back on it, I cringe at how awkward it must have been for my mom and the other mom. It’s hilarious. I was too busy looking at my classmates, but I’d put money on it that my mom gave the other mom one of these:

lucillebluth

And the other mom? Being caught red-handed? While surrounded by a bunch of friendly six-year-olds saying: “Oh Emily, you were just late! Hi!”? Imagine the shame! That there is enough reason to invite the whole class to a party, just on the off-chance that you might be the mom who introduces a class of six-year-olds to social politics and exclusion.

For me, it wasn’t so bad. I was just a kid: I didn’t know what “exclusion” was, really, and was pretty unaware of classroom politics. I generally liked to keep to myself and read.  Sure, I remember being a little upset, like: “why wasn’t I invited to the party?”, but I was happy to simply ice skate with my sisters and have ice cream.

My mom and dad? They were not impressed. They worried that I was hurt. My dad has since told me that he agonized.

Now, this makes me laugh: their earnest distress about something I cared so little about. The agony of being a concerned parent, of wanting the best for your children, even when your children themselves are more interested in donuts and learning to swim.

Our dog? Sometimes we struggle to get him to go for a walk with us, if he’s tired. He’ll groan and grunt, as if to say: “Really? Oh man. Ugh. Fine, if you insist.” So, why I was hurt: it doesn’t make much sense.

Maybe I’m becoming more like my parents than I realize!
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