When I was in elementary, junior high, and high school, I was in the gifted and talented program. It kind of attaches certain expectations to you, whether you want them or not. Like you’re going to do great things. Then, in high school, I took the most challenging curriculum my small school offered, and took some college classes for dual credit. People were expecting success from me.
Then I went to college. I wasn’t very good at college. Specifically, I wasn’t very good at making it to class. So I stopped going altogether.
I needed money, so I got a job waiting tables at a 24-hour mexican restaurant near my home town, and moved back in with my parents. It had been a few years since high school at this point, and occasionally I’d see people I went to school with. It was always quick conversations, then they’d go their way, and I’d go mine.
I was feeling like a pretty gigantic failure at this point in my life. But I had good friends and a little disposable income, so I’d found a kind of equilibrium between pride and shame.
Then, one day, I waited on someone I went to school with. He was also in the gifted and talented program, but he was a few years younger than me, and had been teased pretty heavily throughout high school. We were very pleasant to each other, to the point where I wasn’t sure if he even recognized me. Then, as he was leaving, he leaned over to his (I guess) girlfriend, and said – in a totally non-whispery voice – “That girl used to be in Gifted and Talented.” Then they both laughed derisively at me.
So I turned to the guy and said, “Yeah, I’m a waitress now, which I guess makes me the lowest form of life to walk on two legs, but at least I’m still smart enough to get OUT OF FUCKING EARSHOT BEFORE I TALK SHIT ABOUT SOMEONE I’M STANDING RIGHT THE FUCK IN FRONT OF.”
Just kidding. I didn’t yell at him. I was at work. I didn’t want to get in trouble, or make my other tables uncomfortable. Although, this is a restaurant where the married owner regularly asked me (and other waitresses) out for drinks while his wife was cooking in the kitchen. So, looking back, I don’t think it would have caused me any problems.
I really regretted not saying anything. For years, I carried it around with me. Why didn’t I stand up for myself?
Then, a couple years ago, I was home visiting friends and went to a fast food restaurant, and guess who took my order?
Yep, that guy.
I know what you’re thinking, but no, I didn’t say anything to him. I could tell just by looking at him that he felt ashamed. I don’t know if he was ashamed because he remembered talking shit about me years ago, or if he was just feeling like a gigantic failure because he was working at a fast food joint 20 miles from where he graduated high school. I felt like life had given him his comeuppance.
Plus, I like to feel like I’m the bigger person. And I like the person I’m bigger-personing to feel like I’m the bigger person, so they feel even more ashamed. Maybe that cancels out my intial bigger-personhood, but I have to get some joy from these situations. Stop judging me.
Also, years later, I published a blog post detailing what an asshole that guy was. But I didn’t reveal his name. Because I’m the bigger person.