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Some people–perhaps most–join a group and then graciously proceed to conform even more to it. I have an irritating and opposite pattern; I’ll ingratiate myself to some crowd or another–be it a writer’s group, a women-in-business consortium, some volunteer / activist project or another, even (and sometimes worst of all) an academic department–and instead of taking notes and learning how to be a good version of the demographic in question, I’ll find myself acting as the local contrarian, questioning not only the surface decisions, but the very values around which the group purports to organize.

This is frustrating. It makes me not a good belonger. It makes me skittish about joining anything, because I’ll invariably end up condemning it. I over-empathize with opposition.

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” Groucho famously said, but it’s not quite that. I think I am just against groups in principle. I can’t even wholeheartedly align myself with humanity, for god’s sakes, or even life writ large. I wish I could be happier being in-between, or perhaps more whole-heartedly give myself to distance; I am not proud of this form of participation.

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