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.

10 thoughts on “The Tribal Mentality and the Outsider

  1. Inkytwig says:

    Yum. Yum. Yes, I think that is a good place to be. I have that as well. Some are more intellectual than others, some are more silly or some are just there – always there. Each provide a different source of support and love and vice versa. It’s good. It’s healthy. I think.

    1. I’m not sure how I would live without it. I think it would directly lead to even more notebooks in my piles.

  2. Kim says:

    The doodles are smashing; let me just get that out of the way.

     Between the queen bee and the lone wolf there is the annoying meerkat, who mostly pops its head up and looks around in panic. This is me. Although, no, that’s a bad analogy because they have really rigid groups (Meerkat Manor is the source of all my wildlife education) and rigid groups usually make me feel a little stifled.

    Well. There went that.

    I’m glad you have a home with so many different tribes. And I’m glad so many different tribes recognize your value and welcome you with open arms.

    1. Social Gopher? Social Gopher. How about Social Ducks? I think there are a lot of lessons we could learn from ducks. They teach us to let things slide off our backs, take to the air and soar, and most importantly that steady, patient effort will get you all the way across the world. 

  3. Allison McCaskill says:

    Can any of your groups be combined? I have a few different ones even now, and some of them would probably be okay together, but I have this vision that trying to combine my women-who-had-babies-at-the-same-time tribe with my book club would result in some sort of catastrophic implosive incident.

    1. There is some overlap in places. For example, some of my table top friends are also LARP buddies, and some of my LARP buddies are also hanging out buddies and family.

      I used to worry about different groups not getting along with each other, but I’ve learned that the ones worth carrying about almost always do, and when they don’t, they pretend they do for my benefit.

      There are a lot of tribes I find myself part of, but, I still have one core family. That doesn’t always mean blood relatives to me, either.

  4. ***C*** says:

    This is very true.  I think the wisest thing to do sometimes is to have multiple tribes that we can adapt to and be comfortable in.  I know that is where I feel the happiest, and I know that is what I try to teach my son — which is hard because in 5th grade, everyone thinks they must have a very best friend!

    1. I have a best friend. He’s been through a lot with me, and I think I’ve been pretty fortunate because he is generally accepted by every tribe that I am. Of course, he’s also one of those guys that always becomes everyone’s friend… well for the most part.

      I think that it’s important to be exposed to as many different groups as you can. The more of the world you allow to enter yourself, the more of the world you understand. It makes you a better person, a more complete person.

  5. Stereo.* says:

    I think social chameleon might be one of the best terms I have heard.

    1. Thank you. I hate admitting that I only though of it as an excuse to draw myself wearing a lizard mascot suit…

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