Brookings is a little town, just over 22,000 according to the 2012 Census. In a manner of thinking it's surprising that I don't cross paths with my old social group all that much. But we run in different circles now. Eight years ago I was essentially cast out when my marriage broke up and they chose to embrace my husband rather than me. The social structure here is much akin to high school cliques and the members of said cliques don't intermingle all that much. There are the few who defy classification and move pretty freely about between the circles but they are rare birds. Which brings us to last Friday night. I joined some friends at Skinner's patio where a terrific jazz/blues/rock quartet was playing. Less than halfway through my first beer things began to seem very, very surreal. And at having consumed a mere eight ounces I can't blame it on the alcohol. Okay, so I had a Cosmo earlier with dinner but I expect I had at least begun to metabolize that little confection. When I gazed about the patio area I discovered that most of my former social group was there as well. Including an out-of-town member. None of whom were acknowledging my presence. That was fine with me. Normally I think it's markedly adolescent for people to not be speaking to each other. In fact, at times I make it a point to speak to them just to surprise and irritate them. If I were a better person I wouldn't be gleeful over such behavior. But Friday night I was content to merely observe. I was sitting with friends and enjoying the music and the beautiful evening outside. I wasn't truly withdrawn, but I was in my head a great deal of the time. Liz and Tami noticed and asked me if I was okay. I was fine. It was just more than a little weird. And it took me until this afternoon to process all that I had taken in. I had been seated less than a dozen feet away from my three best friends from my previous life. What I realized is that I was on the outside now just as much as I had been then. I had been allowed in my previous life to sit at the same table with them and laugh and converse with them but there was something about the tight inner circle of these three women that I had never quite been invited into. From all outside appearances I was one of them but not really. I was often ridiculed by them for having a different opinion on any number of subjects. I was the fat, funny girl who wanted so much to belong that I tolerated all sorts of catty abuse from them. I was frequently punished and excluded for my errant behavior. It was as if the group functioned on an emotional level on par with a middle school girl gang. Eventually I was excommunicated when my marriage was over. And even though severing the ties of so many years with these women was a difficult and painful transition, it turned out being a tremendous relief to leave the struggle of trying to fit in with them behind me. And I remembered what another friend, a woman not so close to the center of things had told me soon after my divorce. I always envied the close, intense relationships you had with them. All these strong, smart, confident women who were such good friends. But now that I've seen how they treated you, how cruel they were in abandoning you and shutting you out, there is no way I want to be inside that inner circle. It's just too high a price to pay for entry. I'm happy to be where I am. She was so smart to observe that. And it took until today for me to realize that they can't kick me out of somewhere I never truly belonged. I was always outside looking in. I'm much happier to be where I am now. It was, indeed, too high a price to pay.