On being left out (AKA FOMO, AKA the worst thing to happen to anyone short of death by defenestration)

I have a very skin thin. Filo-pastry-thin, read-through-it-thin. It doesn’t break, exactly, or tear, but it lets things through.

I get hurt by a lot of small things. I’m good with big things. I think, perhaps, if the world fell down, I would be among the last 30% to die. I’d hold it together. I’d have hoarded rice. There would be pieces of gold jewelry in my shoes, and you’d want to be part of my gang because I wouldn’t fall at the first wave. The eight or ninth, another story. But by then there are fewer people to watch.

Small things, like being left out, are the worst things. Like mosquito bites or paper cuts or tooth ache. It’s not a broken leg, or a punctured lung. It’s not being impaled by a pole when the bus you’re on crashes into a Sports Direct and sends a thousand basket balls into the air.

I don’t even like to read stories about people feeling left out, because it hurts me. I feel it through my filo-pastry skin, exactly what it’s like to see on social media the things you’d like to be doing when you are, perhaps, bath-robed-post-bath, snug in bed with wine and chocolate, watching something you love and feeling loved, until you see the other thing: people you like, doing things you like, without you, not missing you. And then the bathrobe and the chocolate lose their appeal, and feel like second choice. Second place. Because you wouldn’t be there, would you, if you had options, only you didn’t.

It gets better as you get older, I have found. At not-quite-but-very-nearly-thirty, I can’t claim to know for certain that the betterness keeps on in a tidal wave of confidence until, finally, washed up on the shore of 40 you give no shits about what anyone is doing but yourself, but: you get better at choosing, yourself.

Not choosing to leave people out, you understand, because if you’re doing that after having felt the otherness of a Saturday at home when you’ve been left there by dint of someone else’s carelessness, then you’re as bad as the rest of us are bad (and we’re all bad) but: choosing not to care.

After all. If you went to everything you felt the lack of, you’d be exhausted. You’d be in bits. You’d be pieces of skin scraped against concrete, you’d be dinner-partied and club-nighted and drinks-with-the-girls and walks and movies and doubled dated out. You’d be done.

I know that. I know it very well. I know it better than I know the Harry Potter books, or Gilmore Girls Season Any Of Them (very well indeed).

The knowing, though, happens inside my thin skin, that has already let everything in, and refuses to let any of it back out. When I say it gets better as you get older, I do mean it. I’m almost certain that I do. I have broad perspectives, now. I have an appreciation for a bedtime of 10pm that I’ve never had before. I know the delights of my own company – of lying naked in clean sheets with red wine, and watching something I’ve seen one thousand times before and yet:

It’s the choice that’s really key here. The fact that I’ve chosen my solitary Friday night path, rather than been forced onto it. And not having the choice? Sucks.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Filo pastry is delicious, nights at home are very nice, don’t leave people out of things or you’re an ass.

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