So (yes, I'm aware that "so" is not really a grammatically correct way to start a sentence and that I do it often—just consider it my counter to hundreds of people ending every sentence they say with "FML". After a parenthetical statement of that length, I might as well start over...)
...So this past Saturday, a friend of mine who attends Harvard but lives an hour away invited me to her sister's college graduation party. She's Nigerian, and I promise that is relevant. If you understand the relevance already, you may have an idea where I'm going with this post and if not, just read along.
Naturally, being present at the largely family graduation ceremony of a relative of a friend I scarcely talk to was not the optimal social environment (if you had to reread it just to figure out the relationships, good. Maybe you can understand how much more complicated it was being there). Factor in the fact that I had never met the sister or anyone there except my friend. I may have also been the only person present who was not Nigerian. Granted, none of these resulted in any explicit social pressure, but within the workings of my mind, I may as well have been running around in an orange jump suit—scratch that; someone might have been wearing one of those— I might as well have been stark naked with the body of a chicken—scratch that too, I kinda have "chicken legs"— WHATEVER! The point is I felt slightly out of place and like I didn't necessarily fit right in.
It really didn't help matters that I'm struggling to recover the social grace, or at least amicability, I used to possess. I was at my best before I understood how social awkwardness worked, which was of course back in the days of my childhood. Up until I started high school, I never had any problems being in unfamiliar environments; I would just go make a few new friends and fall right in with everyone else. Granted, it was easier since the only requisite knowledge was the last episode of Power Rangers (and I watched those fake ninjas with their megazord RELIGIOUSLY). I'm not so fluid socially probably in large part because I'm always afraid of doing something awkward or misrepresenting something I somehow symbolize. Work in progress... new mantra is something along the lines of iREP GFM (explanation later).
So as the party went on my friend had some things she had to attend to as well as emcee duties, so she dropped me at a table with a friend who's about to start college and told me to drop college experience on her. As soon as she told me she would be going to Howard, I realized her experience would be wholly different from mine and that I really had nothing to offer her. Eventually, her family (who is also situated at the table) starts talking to me a bit too and as interactions continued, I realized how hilarious they were. Clearly though, sitting at a family table did little to help my sentiments. There was a salutatory period in the middle of the presentation and I met a few people, including my friend's uncle who's name is "Good Luck"—still meaning to ask my her if that's her uncle's legal name, though regardless, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy since seeing him just inspires a grin.
After the get-to-know-everyone period I felt at little better, but still nowhere near where I should have been. Want proof? They started playing music (presumably Nigerian music, which I liked much more than you might expect), so naturally I'm sitting tapping my feet from my chair and bobbing to the music a bit, but I didn't get up to dance at first. People kept telling me to go ahead and hit the dancefloor (there were like 20 people already dancing) but I refused for a while. I was trying to avoid standing out and between it being a new type of music to me and my standard dancefloor conduct, I opted that rushing the floor was not really conducive to that goal. Eventually my friend came by and asked me if I wanted to dance and I was taught not to turn down women when they take initiative (someone might find this info useful at some point if she finds herself tryin' to holla ;]), so I obliged. Of course I stood out because on I go hard on the hardwood floor, rather it be to ball or ballroom. Get it? Basketball? Ballroom dancing?(not like I know how to do that yet, but that's beside the point).
Funny thing: all of my feelings of ostracism were completely self-imposed. After I popped out of my shell, more people seemed to try to get to know me and I started having a good time. There were 2 games of musical chairs with cash prizes: $10 for the under 13 and $20 for everyone else. I tried to moderate the younger game (you know how 3 year olds don't necessarily understand that they've lost and that it's not their turn anymore). When it came time for my game, I was going hard on the chairs—like I said, she lived an hour away and my finances are in dire straights so I was trying to use that cash prize as gas reimbursement. There was music, and you know that means I was dancing. I was also really trying to play fair and, you know, move the whole time, so I started running in front of people who weren't (this one particular woman was BAD about standing still). I wound up with a fanbase :) I managed to lose in the final 3 though because I got a bit too busy entertaining and the music cutoff while I was in the middle of a dance move and running around Miss No-Movement (thank GOD she didn't win)...
After that, I went to grab some food, which was ON POINT, and had one of those classic "Damn, I OLD!! moments. This 6'5" dude walks up to me and says, "Yo what's up... you recognize me?" And I no clue who dude was, but I had found him to be familiar looking and told him as much. He's a kid I coached during my senior year of high school. He's about to start his senior year now, though when last I saw him, he was 5'10" tops... I was flabbergasted.
By that point, people were just eating, socializing and dancing. Not too many ways I could go wrong there. There was also a performance by a troupe of kids who do traditional Nigerian dance—I'm convinced that being a Nigerian child may be one of the more lucrative things someone could do. I love that the culture "makes it rain" on children doing something positive rather than on strippers and rather offended that America managed to take and ruin yet another thing from Africa. Oh well, what can be done about it?
All-in-all, wound up being a very fun night and a great experience.
Also, iREP GFM means I represent God, Family and Myself. I'm done worrying about all those other things I let myself get caught on. Back to the roots.