I got an email from a high school classmate the other day asking me if I was interested in attending my 15 year high school reunion. I’m not at all interested in attending, but thinking about my high school experience got me to thinking about my best friend from HS, whom I haven’t been in touch with in about 8 years.
My friend (whom I’ll call Mary, not her name) and I started drifting apart long before we ceased communication altogether. We were roommates in college during our Freshman year, but about a month after arriving at college, she acquired this boyfriend to whom she started devoting every waking minute. I, being of the boyfriendless type, was forced to find a group of friends that excluded her, some of whom became the best friends I’ll ever have in this lifetime and whom I still keep in touch with.
The thing is, the more distance I got from Mary, the more aware I became of some extremely annoying personality traits that I’ve come to class as Middle Child Syndrome. I’ve Googled around a bit, and this appears to be a relatively common phenomenon. Apparently, MCS commonly exhibits itself in two very different ways (and yes, I’m aware that not all MC turn out this way)…the MC often becomes an expert negotiator and peacekeeper, or the MC has a tendency to try to compensate for the “non-special” status by trying to present themselve as unique.
It’s the latter set of behaviors that, in retrospect, I can pinpoint in Mary. At various points during our friendship, Mary established (or attempted to establish) the following unique characteristics about herself:
- She had unusually sensitive hearing
- She had unusually sensitive sense of smell
- She had much thicker hair than most people, and her boyfriend had confirmed that she actually had two (count 'em, TWO!!) hairs growing out of each follicle on her head
- She had perfect pitch
- She had breasts that, while admittedly small, were perfectly shaped
- She had the healthiest fingernails of anyone she knew
- She alone could appreciate what an amazing car the Pontiac GTO was
- She was always the “first” one to appreciate the genius of whatever particular band/artist she was fascinated with at a given moment
- She had the most adventurous sex life of anyone in our circle of friends
These are just the things I remember off the top of my head. Some of them seem petty and silly when you look at them written out that way, but keep in mind that I picked these up over about 15 years of friendship. They’re just representative of her entire persona, in which she always seemed to have a compelling need to establish herself as being uniquely different (read: superior) from everyone else.
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think that her family life contibutes heavily to this overcompensation for what I can only assume were feelings of inadequacy. Not only was she the middle child, but her older sister developed juvenile diabetes when she was about 8 years old, and was subsequently given even more babying attention than the eldest child would normally get. Mary’s younger sister also got the sort of attention afforded to the baby of the family. So, not only was Mary stuck in the MC role, but she was constantly fighting for attention between the sick elder child and the babied younger child.
I haven’t seen such an obvious (or at least seemingly obvious) case of MCS since my friendship with Mary faded, but I think about her a lot and wonder if she ever got over it or if that “hey, look at me, I’m unique and special in every way” mindset persists. I wonder too about the combination of elements that contribute to this reaction to being the MC, as my MC brother doesn’t exhibit these behaviors at all.
What do y’all think? Do you know anyone like this? Have any of you MC out there ever noticed this sort of thing about yourselves?