CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chris Preen.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “TheLemur” is a pseudonym.
In any situation, my mum excelled in introducing some socially disruptive element. For example, I participated from ages circa 12 – 14 in speech and drama competitions. All the other competitors were dressed in mufti, but she insisted I wear formal black pants and white shirt.
They were ‘sloppy’, and ‘we are not going to be dragged down to their standards’.
Conforming to a dress code which mum arbitrarily deemed ‘decent’ was far more important than my feeling like a fish out of water. Mum was totally oblivious to that anyway, as, you see, I was not ‘peer dependent’. And because I was not peer dependent, I could only frame my opposition to the clothes in terms of stylistic preference (to no avail, of course). For a competitive class known as ‘reading at sight’, in which each participant expressively read a passage from a book they had not seen before, all involved had to be taken together out of ear shot so no one heard the passage before their turn. For some reason, the demographics favoured girls in speech and drama at a ratio of 5:1. You can imagine my predicament. Firstly, it took me a while even in homeschool situation to leave behind self-consciousness. Second, I related very poorly to socialized school children. They knew how to strike up interactions between each other, so the child with poor social skills is always in an out group among his more gregarious peers. Third, being all dressed up impressed itself as another me vs. them barrier. Lastly, I had no idea at all how to even platonically talk to girls. It turned out I and a rather competitively prominent girl were penultimate and last in the competitor order, in the particular instance I’m channelling. We spent an awkward few minutes alone together. I didn’t know what to say, and given my anti-social body language, nor did she probably. Later, my mum had the nerve to ask what happened. That really pissed me off inside. Why the hell would you ask that, when you should know I have no concept of how to navigate that sort of social terrain? Some voyeuristic desire to know every detail of my inadequacy? Describing my internal state like this seems rather solipsistic. Sometimes I wonder if I have the right to single out events like these after reading through what some of you in America went through.
Naturally, mum found fault with the other families who attended.
Their children performed unbiblical pieces (about witches or wizards, or worse, dictatorial parents). The girls wore ‘disgusting’ clothing. I recall in crystal clear quality after one competitions ended, we went to Subway. Across from where I was sitting, in my line of site, sat the same girl I mentioned earlier. Leaning forward to eat her subway, her top rode up, exposing her lower back. Mum then insisted I swap places with her so my back was to this 14 year old hussy.
This is the kind of sexually repressive culture endemic in fundamentalism, and fundamentalist homeschooling. Teenagers can be granted no sexual agency. It’s not just they abide by the teaching of abstinence before marriage. The unwritten rules consider the idea a post-pubescent male would like to insert (consensually) his organ into the female, and that she would like to receive it, to be thoroughly improper. That would be part of the Marxist plot to destroy families by ‘teaching the kids about sex when they’re young’. The point of allowing someone to be a sexual being relates to socialization, because the repressive approach perpetuates a self-enforcing segregation. If boys and girls wanting to fuck each other silly is ‘dirty’ according to the unwritten norms, then the cognitive dissonance of the unconditioned response (sexual desire) clashing with an internalized mindset that completely gaslights the desire’s legitimacy, demands eschewing any sustained contact with a member of the opposite gender.
So during their sexually formative years, fundamentalist Christian youth subconsciously ascribe each other the role of toxic triggers.
Cultish, homeschooling conventions run by the likes of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) confirm the behaviour by insisting on the ‘six inch rule’. All male female haptic interaction is sexually fetishized. You can never make a fundamentalist understand an argument, as their dogmatic modernism cannot really grasp post-modern deconstruction. That the statement ‘Sex is God’s gift to married couple, and we see no problem with it in that context’ does not decisively plant them in the garden of healthy sexual attitudes is an anathema to them.
Anyway, handling myself around girls was something I had to consciously learn mechanically at (a secular) university. I’m sure some female readers can attest to their version of that experience too.
Another dysfunction of isolation derives from the concomitant dynamics of habitualized isolation and the perception interactional partners are scarce. By habitualized isolation I mean the point at which the negative interactional outcomes owing to substandard social skills, overcome the desire to socialize.
You learn to do without social interaction, and thus lose any desire for it.
You become, effectively, asocial in a tightening, downward spiral. Only now do I have the objectivity and critical tool kit to see what happened; at the time I drifted aimlessly on a sea of calm, functional depression. It’s like moving in suspended animation. I couldn’t stand being on Facebook and seeing group oriented behaviour. A wall of unmotivated inability stood between me and pro-social activities. Now from time to time, for a variety of reasons, certain people will break through your bubble of isolation. Since the mind perceives them as scarce, you become emotionally fixated on them, a sure recipe to destruct a relationship. You obsess over the slightest signal of non-reciprocation. You need them more than they need you. You feel small, and constantly unwanted. And you must constantly deal with a power imbalance. He who cares least about a relationship controls it. In a way, it’s an objective scarcity too. Few people understand the unique personal histories of homeschoolers.
There’s often an outsized intellect compensating for a bereft emotional state.
Adults laud your academic achievements. Children feel jealous and push you away in spite. You condescendingly look at the ‘ignorant fools’ around you, trying to pretend you’re not envious of their social capital. To this day, I still struggle with these two dynamics. In quiet moments, I feel quite fucked up. Sometimes, a wave of intense loneliness sweeps over me, and in one of them I wrote these two poems/songs:
I feel the reservoir press against my spirit
A weight of water unmarked by morning light
Or cheerful souls drifting on the edge of my ken.
This mortal current sweeps my soul within it
And against the firmament I wage an unceasing fight.
I want to go beyond the 12 mile limit
Join two streams into one
But you are lost and never found
Beyond the horizon to which I tend.
Let me stretch out my hand away from the sirens in my mind
And live in hope I’ll feel your grasp before we sink in sorrowful seas.
In my sleep I found it
Found the glow that lights our path
Took the meteor to bits with my bare hands
Strew my dreams through the aftermath
Yeah they don’t know what I want to know
They don’t know where I wanna go
down the river in my mind, down the the river in my mind
I’ll flow, I’ll flow, through grains of time
I stretched out my heart
Touched the cheek of the girl next door
Her candle light eyes lit up my face
But I let the fire fall apart
If you want to see me
Before the man comes around
See the shooting stars in the north
Then turn the other way round
Embers scattered in the snow
Red white red white red white glow
Melting heat melting flakes
ceaseless fusion, silent sound
If there’s any good news, it’s that my mother realized her mistake when my brother, around 12 or 13, exhibited all the signs of a nervous breakdown – obsessively checking switches were turned off, checking under beds for interlopers, and general neurotic manifestations. He’s had a vastly more natural social life.