Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lunchroom Anxiety


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.

9 comments:

I'm With Stupid said...

Jr High and high school were terrible times. The lunchroom was a nightmare for me too. I remember my first day at jr. high I sat down at a table and "Joe B" a big 9th grader (our jr high was 7th - 9th grades) told me I was in his spot and If I didn't move he would kick my ass. So, I moved.

I had lunch alone for most of my years in school. Now, it doesn't bother me at all to go to a restaurant and eat alone.

But, if I had gone to school with you, I would ... well I wouldn't have sat next to you either. I was more afraid of pretty girls than I was "Joe B." ;-)

Jay

LL said...

You can sit next to me in the lunchroom anytime dahlink...

Knight said...

Jay- I wish I could kick Joe B in the face for you. I think I would have been okay with eating alone if that had been the possibility. I go out to eat alone all the time now. Ya know, I think if we had gone to school together and you were willing to say hello to me we would have been friends. If you would save me a seat I would kick Joe in the face for you. Then everyone is happy.

Knight said...

LL- You are such a gentlemen.

Dana said...

I never had issues with lunch in high school. We had an open campus so I just left to avoid the anxiety.

That said, I've been in the Principal's office a few times with Cam, and I *still* get sweaty palms and want to burst into tears, even though I'm not the one in trouble.

Reb said...

I think we all have suffered lunch room anxiety. I don't think mine started until Jr. High though. I don't think our elementary had a lunch room, but that could just be because I went home every day. I know there must have been one in Jr. high, but I don't remember it and as it was the only Jr. high school, each elementary school was a bit of a clique the first year.

High school on the other hand...wow! All the kids you met in Jr. high plus all the kids from the country schools and then some classes had the Catholic kids as their school wasn't as comprehensive as the public one and was right next door, so it was easy to go to one class here and one there. I think at any given time there were about 5k students having lunch in two lunch rooms and three courtyards. We didn't have alternate times for launch back then either. We were however allowed to smoke in the courtyards or in one classroom that was designated a smoking lounge. In winter you can imagine that room was packed to the nines and you really didn't need to light up.

Jo said...

I was in with the hot-shits in school and still felt like throwing up periodically from nerves. I'd try to escape the clique because it's basically a cult but the other cliques were just as bad...ironically nerds, goths, misfits can be just as cruel as the rest. I wanted to be alone a lot and what you wrote really reminded me of that--the impossibility of being alone in a natural way when you're 13 and everyplace is a stage.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

boys, young and old, are all horny little dirtbags ;)

reich said...

I am not a social mastermind, but i think ll your problems came from eating taco bell.