“The things that make us feel the most alone have the greatest power to connect us.” – Ze Frank

This story will connect you to me:

Many years ago, early on a September morning, I walked towards the side entrance of my high school. Crowded near the door, the ‘cool’ kids smoked their cool cigarettes and held their cool bodies in cool poses. A flash of white drew my attention away from the wall of cool and down to my shoe.  There, just now slipping into recognizable shape, yesterday’s underwear crept from the leg of my acid-wash jeans onto the top of my purple keds. So many thoughts flashed through my mind in that horrific millisecond of realisation, that I’m surprised my head didn’t explode.  In fact, if my head could have exploded at that moment, I would have died happy, saved from shame, and somehow pleased by the mystery I created when the forensic team discovered not one, but two pairs of underwear, one with a pretty pattern of purple flowers on a white background and the other with purple and gray stripes.

Ladies' underwear advertisement, 1913
“Oh my, is your slip showing?”

My head did not explode, nor did I freeze with shock, instead, my brain went into overdrive, speeding through my limited options. I could pretend it wasn’t mine, let it fall onto the sidewalk and ignore it. Of course, the chances were high that the cool kids would see and know it was mine, which would lead to my early death by mortification. Or, I could turn around and start walking away, hoping the underwear would not slip out completely before I could hide behind a bush. Again, high chance for the mortification death thing here, and a chance of me being covered in equally embarrassing and inexplicable scratches, since the nearest bushes happened to be of the thorny variety.

In a flash of brilliance, I chose option number three: I stopped walking, swung my backpack off my back and onto the ground in front of the contaminated foot then knelt as if to tie my shoe. As fast as lightning, I unzipped the front pocket of my back pack, grabbed the horror and shoved it in. Perfect. No one noticed.  I walked into the school and the cool kids ignored me as thoroughly as usual.

End of story….

Sort of…

The problem is, the story never really ended. It still haunts me, on endless repeat, to this day.

In that moment, I felt separate, alone, utterly unconnected to the people by the door. Everything about me, about who I was, what I wanted, what I loved or liked, what I feared or hated, was alien to everyone else.  I was an alien in that moment. Totally disconnected from humanity.  That disconnect hurts.

Oh, I laugh when I tell the story now, of course I do.  But it is only funny because it still hurts.  

You laugh at the story because you have felt that pain.  All those cool kids knew that pain as well. Everyone knows that pain.  The crazy part is, it is that pain that connects us. That shared pain of being totally alone in a shameful moment binds us together.  It helps us see that we’re not so different after all.

“The things that make us feel the most alone have the greatest power to connect us.” 

Isn’t life weird?

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