The Tribal Mentality and the Outsider

As long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people that flows from one “tribe” to another. In the words of the 90s, I am a “clique jumper.” WitchDoctorI feel simultaneously both at home and awkward around just about every group of people I’ve ever encountered. A good part of that comes from moving a lot during my elementary school education. Not nearly as much as my older siblings, but enough for me to get used to meeting new people and leaving them behind. I was fortunate, I settled into a permanent school district relatively early compared to my older siblings. I never changed again after February of 4th grade.

In retrospect, it just now occurred to me that obviously we moved in February each time because that’s when the leases were up… duh.

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah, clique jumping.

The high school I went to didn’t have as rigid a caste system as Hollywood would have us Chameleonbelieve. I mean there were definitely circles of friends, but they seemed to have more to do with who knew who best and less to do with their social class or interests… with the exception of the kids that all ate lunch in the stairwell, and although it might have seemed like a fairly straightforward clique of “goth kids” it was actually a cult of students that for some reason worshipped Yeti_Detective, who had not yet discovered his non-human lineage.

Although he already had a Yeti-fro.

I found that I didn’t really fit in with anyone but someone had fallen into being part of several different groups of friends. It was something I thought of as being a little unique at the time, but that is how life works out for most people.

Like a social chameleon, everyone bounces from group to group, slightly disguising themselves. For some it’s easier than others. We float to the outside, camouflaged just right to not draw any attention, for others, it’s all about wearing the brightest plumage and becoming the center of the crowd, any crowd.

I guess that’s the difference between the queen bee and the lone wolf.

I like to think of myself as a lone wolf. It gives me an excuse to eat my meat rare and bloody…

As I’ve grown older and moved through my twenties, I’ve started to abandon that lone wolf persona a bit more. I find that I still switch between several groups of friends, all of whom I adore and feel at home with. Some of those friends overlap, but not all.

They don’t need to. They all give me different things. That doesn’t mean some aren’t as close as others. It just means that I have a support structure that gives me more than just one type of input.

For a guy with an entire life history of making bad decisions and alienating people, it’s a very tasty position to be in.



This post is part of the Scintilla Project, a fortnight of stories and ideas orchestrated by a trio of fine and sassy ladies.