Earlier today I saw an advertisement for lunch meat. I hardly ever pay attention to commercials and I honestly don’t remember the brand or anything that could help me link it here. Obviously this wasn’t a very effective commercial in that sense but it did move me enough within ten seconds to remember it. Basically it shows a school cafeteria and a little girl sitting by herself wondering if anyone is going to sit with her. Within seconds all my childhood lunchroom anxiety was back.
You would think something like that would leave your mind as an adult but apparently it still bothers me on some level. Maybe because I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it before. See it’s crap like this that reminds me I need to get back into therapy. In lieu of speaking with a therapist I’ll just talk to myself here.
In the commercial the girl was probably around eight years old or something like that. In my first through six grade school lunches of life I don’t recall having much lunch anxiety. We were a small school with a big lunchroom and I think I was only pretending to eat my mushed up sandwich in my lunchbox. We ate as fast as possible so we could go outside to enjoy recess. Life was hard in those days. So many slides. So little time.
The two most awkward years of life were most certainly in Junior High. All the girls are bitches and all the boys are horny little dirtbags. When lunch time came around we were all crammed into a lunchroom over-packed with kids. They had different lunch shifts that eased some of the crowding but it was still horrible. There were cliques and if you weren’t in one you sat alone but being over crowded, there was no place to sit alone. I remember spending more than a few lunch periods hiding in the bathroom.
When high school began it wasn’t any better. Now there are even more kids. My graduating class was 650 so I assume that puts about 2,600 kids all locked in the building and eating lunch in different shifts. Again, too many to fit. They had big circular tables to ensure that you were sitting with whatever clique you were allowed into. If your friends didn’t have the same lunch hour as you, well, you are going to have an awkward time. I spent a lot of time wandering around searching for someone I knew and hoping they might have a seat available at the table. By the end of each semester you would usually have things worked out but all that anxiety came back as soon as they changed it again.
It’s not like I was really unpopular or anything. I was a nice kid. I had friends. The problem was that in my youth I didn’t have the self-confidence to approach strangers or the softball clique and ask to join them. These days I wouldn’t think twice. In retrospect I don’t understand why they had the lunchrooms set up in such a horrible way. I know I wasn’t the only kid who loathed lunch hour. It’s torture. It is forced social time with snotty judgmental kids. I just wanted to eat my Taco Bell in peace.
It’s a wonder I turned out so well adjusted.