It took a long time but Jerry eventually realized how to be popular and to avoid the rejection he had met for a large part of his life
This series, Stories of Seclusion, tells composite stories of people who have spent much time alone.
Today’s installment tells of Jerry who has spent most of his life getting rejected.
As a child, Jerry liked to argue but was physically reticent. That combination made him a popular target of the school’s tough kids. As the other kids were walking home from school, they would often see Jerry on his back getting pummeled.
The nice kids just shunned Jerry. That was understandable. He was guilty of The Mortal Sin of relationships: Never make people feel bad about themselves. He didn’t mean to be hurtful. He just wanted to use his best abillity: thinking well on his feet. Besides, he erroneously thought the way to gain respect is to show how smart you are. Paradoxically, among most people, it’s the opposite; Self-deprecation makes others feel superior, which makes them like you.
Not a glutton for punishment, as a teen, Jerry spent more and more time alone. Of course, that set in motion a vicious cycle: The more time he spent alone, the less opportunity he had to develop social skills while other kids were building theirs. So the gap between Jerry’s and other kids’ interpersonal savvy kept widening so that by the time he had entered college and rushed the university’s 20 fraternities, not one accepted him.
Jerry very much wanted a girlfriend but continued to try to impress them with his intelligence. So he’d tear apart whatever argument the potential girlfriend would make. Frequently committing The Mortal Sin, his relationships never lasted long.
After graduating college, not surprisingly, Jerry chose solo work. He became an indexer: from home, creating indexes for technical books. That job requires his analytical ability and virtually no people contact.
As Jerry got older, he was more often able to restrain himself from committing The Mortal Sin but found that even an occasional slip was usually enough to turn off a person. With all but the most secure people, there’s little tolerance for attacking their self-esteem.
One reason Jerry isn’t assiduous in restraining himself is that he wants to be able to be himself, to use his quick-fire smarts wiithout pulling punches. He feels that being required to suppress that is akin to asking a writer not to write or a humanitarian to stop caring.
But Jerry would like to get along better with people and to meet a woman. So he has taped a note to the frame of his computer monitor: “Boost others.”