That Dreaded Hour...
Mark's post today helped clarify in my mind a thought that is probably quite universal. How you began to handle social situations in junior high, such as table selection in the cafeteria, in all likelihood signals how you relate to people as an adult.
Mark approached the situation very differently than I did. (And, interesting enough, Mark and I are very different people.) Mark's Modus Operandi initially was to insert himself at the cool table and lay low, hoping to eventually become a part of the group. After recognizing that the cool table wasn't all it was cracked up to be he then chose to eat in solitude which eventually gave way to his being the table that others migrated to. His experiences helped him provide a safe place for others to relax and be themselves.
I was not nearly as brave as Mark.
Fearing I wasn't quite up to snuff with the cool table I made a very tactical decision to bypass it and aim instead for the "second tier" of cool. This afforded me the position of not being a dork or nerd (although my table definately had a couple of those,) but it also made rejection less likely.
Ours was the great middle table that provided space for upward, or downward, mobility and the membership changed often. We were a dropping off place for those who fell out of favor with the cool table and a goal to be reached for if you were simply not cool at all. In the case of the former we were either a place for the formerly cool to lick their wounds and prepare to venture back up a notch or a place where people realized that status was bullshit and not worth the time to cultivate. For the latter ours was a place to either prepare for the next step up or to realize that status was bullshit and not worth the time to cultivate.
I'm proud of my choice. What I'm most proud of is that I chose to stay. The prevailing mindset said I should have strove higher. My youth ministers said I should have reached down lower. But I stayed. I saw people moving up and people slipping down. But every now and then someone or another, tired of the traveling, would pull over on the side of the road and plant their lawn chairs next to the two or three of us who had been there for a while. The company was good and refreshing. Our status was clear-- we were us.