I’ll admit it. I’m a little bitter.
Last night, my organization hosted it’s first ‘big’ fundraiser. It was intentionally not a ‘dinner and speakers’ affair. We were focusing on our youth programming, which currently involves working with transgender youth (yes, youth) through the adolescent medicine division of a local hospital. So, we made it fun…a comedy show on the theme “Awkward Adolescence.” We had a great professional line-up, the show was awesome, drinks and food were cheap and silly (tater tots, anyone?). It was, truly, a great way to spend a Saturday evening.
And almost no-one showed up.
Well, maybe that’s a bit unfair. I don’t want it to read that I don’t appreciate each and every person who was there. Many people did show up–the performers, some of the kids from the program, a few supporters, most of our Board members, my awesome mom, and some dedicated volunteers.
At the same time, I just couldn’t help but notice the absence of my supposed ‘progressive leadership network,’ the transgender adults who work in services for that small community and with whom I have been networking with for the past year, and many, many people who I have shown up for time and again–friends, members of my ‘moms’ group, other social entrepreneurs. Then there were the people who promised, not just to come, but to bring others. These people all knew about the event in advance, they had the invitation in at least three forms (and also, in many cases, a phone call). And they were not there.
Now, some will say it’s just the LA way, that people over-commit and drop the ball all of the time. Yes, I would say, that is true. Only, for me, this is not an LA story. It’s sort of the story of my life.
I realize that I am an outlier. Maybe it started with my unconventional name and upbringing, but I have always had the sense of being quite ‘different.’ I have always been interested in things not many other people are interested in. At the same time, I am not ‘alternative.’ I have only one tattoo and no interest whatsoever in going to Burning Man. I have hundreds of ‘friends’–people I like, who like me, who I have helped through times of trouble and some who have at times helped me–and a small handful of real friends. But I have never really belonged to any group. I don’t have a tribe.
Most of the time, I am all right with this. When I left my ex-husband just over ten years ago, I had this clear sense that I’d rather really be alone than feel alone in a relationship. I still feel that way. Since having my son, though, the aloneness has taken on a new depth and texture. As I get older and spend more time in solitude, un-partnered in any way, I feel increasingly socially awkward, unable to connect with people for more than a conversation.
Which is sort of convenient. These days, most of my social life involves isolated conversations (always interesting and often lovely) while attending other people’s events for their work. Which I do a lot. Not every time–I literally can’t. But, usually, at least a couple of times a week, I (the single mom with two jobs) line up a sitter, refresh my makeup, and head out for the mixer, the fundraiser, the talk. I know how hard this kind of work is, so I show up.
Last night, way too many people did not. For a fun night, for the kids, for me.
Yes, it’s a lonely road. The stream by it is bitter.
And sometimes, frankly, it’s hard to swallow.