By Sue Murphy
Now that school has started, everyone will be choosing up teams. Not Alabama or Auburn. That was locked in at birth. I’m talking about other-than-that choices.
You may or may not make your high school football team. You may or may not make cheerleading. Like I’ve said before, too many people, too few slots. That’s the way it goes.
But there are also insidious, unofficial teams – teams on the playground, teams in the lunchroom, teams in the hallways – where you’re either in or you’re out and you may never figure out why. Your status has to do with some unseen, unwritten set of parameters set up by … actually, no one knows, but everyone seems locked in, or more to the point, some people get locked out.
You remember how it was in grade school? Recess finally came, and immediately some self-appointed captains had everyone line up (Why did we listen to them?) and commenced calling names in the order of who they liked best. Could this be any more painful?
Well, sure it could. They could make you sing while they do it. We used to play a game called “Farmer in the Dell.” Here’s the gist: One kid is the farmer (sometimes the teacher appointed the farmer), and as everybody sings, he selects a wife, who selects a child, who selects a nurse, who selects a dog, until you wind up at the final verse which is, “The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, hi-ho the dairio, the cheese stands alone.” Hi- ho indeed. I suspect the game was invented by the same people who brought you “Old Maid.”
I spent many a recess hoping against hope that I would make dog status. It never occurred to me that this wasn’t kind or helpful. It was just the way life was.
But it isn’t, or at least, it doesn’t have to be, so I’m sending this out to all of you cheeses: Don’t let the farmers get you down.
I worry about all of my little cheese friends, but to tell you the truth, I worry more about the farmers. I suspect that, deep down, they are cheeses themselves who are trying desperately to outrun their cheesiness by degrading the people around them. I worry even more about the wives and children and nurses and dogs who, even though they know it is wrong, silently stand with the farmer and count the cheese’s lonely status as a narrow miss on their part.
Cheeses, my advice is to hold your head up during that last verse, but do not stand there for another round. Gather up other cheeses and build a game of your own.
If the farmers in your life try to extend their game to the lunchroom, sit somewhere else. If the toadie wives and children and dogs and nurses carry the cheese ridicule to Facebook and Twitter, do not listen, do nwot look at it. But most of all, remember that, even if the teacher appointed the farmer (and that was wrong), it’s all a meaningless game. It can be a cruel one, one that will require every bit of your cheesy fortitude to withstand, but do not buy into their ridicule, do not think for one minute that they know what they are doing. Rise above their nonsense. Be a big cheese, or at least a kinder, gentler cheese, because in the end, that’s the only thing that really matters.
I keep a sign on my desk that says, “Be truthful and gentle and fearless.” Go forth, little cheeses … and sing. ❖