I took a space in the parking lot and sat there with the engine running. I wanted to turn around and go home but I knew my then boyfriend, Jamie (to my surprise he ended up marrying me), wouldn’t understand why.
The last time I felt this paralyzed was in high school, when my first date came to the house to pick me up– and my mother decided to show him a childhood photo of me on the toilet.
I watched families walk by in their pressed khakis, their Wayfarers, their striped polo shirts. The ladies with their sun hats and freshly manicured nails. I looked down at my outfit:
Black shirt. White shorts with the barbecue stain on the pocket. Dirty flip flops. This was my stab at Country Club casual.
There’s no way I’m going in like this, I thought. I’m from a farm town in Ohio, where long beards, flannel and bib overalls are a fashion for all occasions.
Sure there were golf clubs where I grew up, but the only club my family was a part of was the Moose Lodge– where as a Girl Scout I would pull bingo balls for the smoking, white haired masses who would show up for game night every Sunday after church. I decided then that I would take hard time over any kind of community service.
We didn’t play golf or tennis in my family. We never had club championships or member guests. Our big annual event was the Tuscarawas County Fair– home of the double fried Elephant Ear, the obligatory frozen chocolate banana, and the recovering meth addict checking your wristband at the Zipper ride.
The point is, where I come from, country clubs aren’t in the lexicon. And here I was, in idyllic Simsbury, Connecticut–feeling like a fish out of water.
I decided to call Jamie so he could walk me into the grill room. I figured the chances of me getting made fun of were cut in half if I came in with someone from New Jersey, who might just be crazy enough to give someone a curb job if called upon.
“Hey Babe– where are you?”
“Outside. Can you come get me?”
“Hello? Did you hang up on me?”
I walked in by myself, like a lamb to the butcher.
And then I saw Jamie, standing next to a man in green leprechaun pants, and I knew it would be okay.
“And you thought YOU were underdressed,” he said with a smile, and handed me a beer.
That man would become a good friend– and so would most people at that country club. I realized that day that fitting in has nothing to do with what you wear, what you’ve done or what you haven’t done. It’s letting people in, and letting the real you, out.
Now pass me a plate because I smell a barbecue.