The Obsession of Being First

blue-ribbon.jpgToday is the day of the New Hampshire Primary, the first presidential primary in the nation… kind of. We saw last year the scrambling and craziness that ensued when several states tried to put their primaries ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa. Wyoming actually succeeded, paying the meager price of only having 1/2 of its delegates actually be able to attend the national convention. So it’s only “pseud0-first”… it’s not really first.

Not only is New Hampshire obsessed with being first, there are certain small towns in New Hampshire who hold their primary at 12:01am on the day of the primary, making them the FIRST of the FIRST. The most prominent of these towns are Hart’s Location and Dixville Notch. With 42 total residents of voting age, Hart’s Location is a great little voter microcosm for the world, and was fictionalized on a memorable episode of The West Wing entitled “Hartsfield’s Landing.”

But what is with this crazy obsession to be first?

When I was in grade school, it was a big deal to be first. You always wanted to be first in line after recess, first to turn in your work (no matter how sloppy), first to finish lunch, first to be ready to go home. Some times when your glee would reach peak levels, you would scream out “first!!!” as if to declare your order superiority.

Having a last name which started with “A” only made this problem worse for me. We often lined by in alphabetical order by last name. This put me right at the front of the line, and usually first. Except for those years when whats-his-name Adams was in my class… oooh how I hated him and the “D” in his last name!

Well, the good news is, we grow out of grammar school and we become pimple faced teenagers. Suddenly it’s no longer cool to be first… or eager… or even conscious. Just try teaching a group of teenagers in Sunday School. You ask them a stupid question, and they look at you like an idiot. You ask them a good, thought provoking question, and they look at you like an idiot. I’m not sure if it’s puberty or what… no one wants to be first, and no one wants to stick out.

Except me. I always stuck out, what with my white eyebrows.

But, you know, some little part of us never forgets how awesome it is to be first. We first-hogs just want to be first for the sake of being first, mostly. It makes us feel superior. It makes us feel smart and capable and better than everyone else, even when there’s no logical basis for that conclusion.

So New Hampshire… Iowa… everyone… chill out. You might be first, but you aren’t the big deal you think you are. California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas are all waiting to show you who is last the best of all the game!

6 thoughts on “The Obsession of Being First”

  1. This has to be one of my all-time favorite posts. I know the pain of being last as my name begins with R. I guess I just got used to it. But there are a few times I finished first. Remind me to tell you about them.

  2. Yeah? You thought that you were first? Try your first name also starting with an A. There was a Brandy Anderson in my grade, but I beat her out. There wasn’t any Adams in my grade so that was it. I was first of all. And what about always having the front row far left (according to the teacher’s vantage) seat. Some teachers went alphabetical across the rows, some went alphabetical down the columns, but I was always the same seat. The routine was always the same. The first day everyone was to stand up and walk to the front of the room against the blackboard. I always tried to be in the front of that so that I didn’t have to step over everyone knowing that I was to be the first one to sit down. Then the teacher would point to the chair to start with and say “Angela Anderson”. So it always went. And a surprisingly many teachers would leave us that way all year long. Later as I was older I was glad a bit glad when we were put in alphabetical order AND John Benson was in my class. He would be assigned behind me and that was good *wink*. But how do you think that Michael Bowling became my best friend in high school? Same social circle AND a B name? Oh and also you didn’t explore one of my favorite points about all this. There was recently a study done and there is some association between having your name start at the beginning of the alphabet and academic achievement. Amy does better than Zach I guess. IF I would have known all that I would have named my kids differently and made Scott take MY last name! 🙂

  3. I too was always first chair by the desk but im living proof of the name/alphabet=good academcs

  4. Ah, the joy of alphabetical seating…try being a VerHoef! I was always in the back row, far corner, all through school. It wasn’t so bad when Victor Vanderburg was in my class (yum!) but otherwise I seemed to be surrounded by the problem children at school. Maybe there is some truth to the alphabet/grades thing – although I did alright for myself after all!
    It was also another joy in marrying a Jones – I moved straight up the alphabetical food chain!

  5. Sam, Thanks so much for having this blog. I really really enjoy reading it and it just makes my day.

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