March 15, 2012 by Alison Grisham
Nobody ever strives to be in the middle. We all want to be king of the hill, head of the class, or first in the race. It’s natural. That’s where all the breathing room is and where most people make their mark. No one celebrates mediocrity, so the middle has gotten a bad wrap for years.
I blame the Middle Ages for setting the tone. I mean, really, besides Gutenberg there weren’t many intellects over an en- tire 400-year period. In fact, the most notable thinkers of the time only excelled in one area — torture. You couldn’t find a sage, scholar or savant who wanted to get mixed up in indoor plumbing. But a secret society of medieval sadists, well sign me up, and together they managed to come up with 11 different ways to torture someone. This brain trust ushered in burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, dislocation torture and an occasional branding just to shake things up.
But as if that weren’t enough, the Middle Ages also brought us feudalism and the Black Plague. So I guess the fear of being in the middle is, at least, rooted in some kind of historical substance.
Years later, Tolkien renewed our fear by bringing us the horrors of Middle Earth and I still blame the Wright brothers for not working out the middle seat on an airplane. That was a patently bad idea. But those issues aside, I’ve been thinking about the middle lately and I’m not convinced it’s as bad as we’ve been led to believe. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t try so hard.
For instance, who wants to be the first one to arrive at a party, or for that mat- ter, the last one to leave? The middle of any gathering is when the conversation flows the easiest and the drunks are least likely to be sloppy. And, who wants to sit in the front row at the movies? Give me the middle any day. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that the middle trimester is the only one where you feel halfway human.
The middle square is the game winner in tic-tac-toe. Everyone loves a person willing to find some middle ground. I like my politics sort of middle-of-the- road and the middle of a book, movie or meal is almost always the best. With the exception of the pesky “mid-life crisis,” I think the middle years of life are the most enjoyable. At least it’s when a per- son starts to get comfortable in his own skin. And who wants a jelly donut or a Hostess Twinkie without the delicious middle?
I’ve been doing a lot of people watching lately and I’ve noticed a couple of common themes. There’s an awful lot of pain and doubt on the bottom, but there’s an awful lot of stress and responsibility at the top. I’m not sure either one is worth it. After all, the middle is never lonely and there’s always room to dream.
So in spite of my life-long desire to achieve and become accomplished at something, maybe I’ll break out some new words to live by. Like the boys from Stealers Wheel mused back in 1978… (cue music)… “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you …”
And for my money, that’s not a bad place to be.