Month: October 2012

Reblog by Linda Holmes: Disposable Friendships in Modern Society; Opposite-Sex Friends (Assumed to be Lovers); Friendship Getting Respect; Friendship Breakups

Amazing how lightly people can take friendships….

A book review about how friendships these days are treated as disposable:
‘Friendkeeping’: The Close Relationships We Could, But Can’t Easily, Let Go

Some quotes:

I realized as I read it that I wasn’t responding only to the book itself — which covers territory like secrets, crisis management, and how much advice to give your friends — but to the mere fact that it was written.

It was taking seriously something, namely adult friendships, that often turns into the wallpaper of cultural life: something that’s there, and that’s lovely, and that ideally you don’t have to think about, but not something that you would delve into deeply. Not something you attend to specifically.

In a way, this theory reminds me of what we talked about here earlier this week: that the very compelling fragility of friendships comes from the fact that there’s such a low barrier to exit. You don’t have to work on anything if you don’t want to.

Indeed, Klam says when she wrote the book proposal, she realized that in theory, there were easy answers to all the hard questions she had about friends. “You could possibly write every question that I posed and answer it: ‘Well, just don’t be friends with them anymore.’ ‘If you don’t like their spouse, don’t hang out with them.’ So there was less of a sort of [concern for] how to work through things … just because you know you really can walk away.”

From the same blogger who wrote the review:

Building a show around friends has some structural advantages; friendships are precious specifically because they are fragile. You’re not bound to these people by law or by blood (in most cases), and you don’t share a home with them or share your stuff with them (again, in most cases).

You have to keep choosing them every day, and on any given day, you could just … not choose them, and that would be that.

I once had a friend very tentatively, in hushed tones, acknowledge that there is a way — one particular dimension, one kind of sense of intimacy — in which your closest friends are closer than family, and I think that’s what was meant.

You don’t have to file anything to dump your friends; the barriers to exit, you might say, are very low. Your mom is supposed to like you; your friends just do. —You’ve got to have friends: how curated families shook up tv comedy

As for opposite-sex friendships as shown on TV:

Heaven knows, I’m a rom-com person. I’m an appreciator of the slow burn as much as anyone.

Still, not every close bond is a precursor to something entirely other than itself. I admit that I’m an outlier — I badly wanted Friends not to get Ross and Rachel together at the end, since they were obviously going to make each other miserable as they had so many times before. But I don’t like the romantification of every important relationship in the known universe. —Sometimes a friend is just a cigar: why not everybody needs to kiss at the end

She may be talking about TV, but it also applies to how people often see opposite-sex friendships: as somehow necessarily being about sex.

Which is really frustrating and sexist, because then you can’t even talk about how much you care about your opposite-sex friend without everyone on the forum going, “OMG you want to have an affair and should ditch that friend!”

Um, considering how many guy friends I have and care about, you must think I’m a promiscuous ho bag.  I mean, sure, I love to flirt with my guy friends, but that’s all it ever is: a little joke between friends, nothing serious.

It’s extremely annoying to have to add some version of “I mean as friends” when I talk about Richard, because so many people (including Tracy) have made it into something it’s not, that I feel the need to do so.  Let’s get with the 21st century, people!

People say “best friend” because it recognizes what you might call, for lack of a less academic-sounding garble, “platonic intimacy.” It says, “This is a person who is not like normal, ordinary friends, but who is the ‘I would drive anywhere at two in the morning for you without complaining’ kind of friend.”

Or, in the case of Pam Ribon’s book You Take It From Here, which is a wonderful look at a relationship like this, the “I would manage your life in the event of your death” kind of friend.

One of the reasons Bridesmaids was so affecting was that it really honored how important those relationships are and how painful it is when they’re jeopardized.

It was great to see Kristen Wiig play the fact that you can feel just as devastated, just as undone and disoriented, by losing friends as by losing boyfriends.

Breakups are common dramatic fare, but as I recently talked about on our podcast, the saddest breakup on My So-Called Life, after all, was Angela and Rayanne. —Best Friends and Broken Hearts

 

I finally got myself a three-bar cross: My Orthodox conversion is complete! ;) (convertitis)

I got one of these a few months ago:
http://www.skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=2752&Category_ID=110 [link no longer works; was a three-bar cross]

…Because, until I got that three-barred cross, my other crosses just didn’t seem “Orthodox” enough.  And goodness knows, if you want to convert to Orthodoxy, it’s gotta be all the way, right?

As a friend of mine at church, a college guy converting to Orthodoxy, said, “Like cell phones, the more bars, the better!”

Must have the icon corner with 50 icons…Must have the headscarf….Must have every Orthodox book the other converts have and claim to have read….Must dress like a 19th-century Russian peasant and wear a long, scraggly beard (assuming you’re a man, that is)….Must get upset that the people at church (Orthodox since birth) don’t do it “right,” the priest dresses too Catholic, there’s an organ and pews, nobody fasts beyond cutting out meat during the 10,000 Lenten days of the year–is outrage!

And must subscribe to Hyperdox Herman on Facebook!  Oh, wait, that page makes fun of people with Orthodox convertitis.  Heresy!  Is outrage!

And yes, since it can be hard to get this across on the Net, this is tongue-in-cheek.  🙂

Parent-Teacher Conference: Our Kid’s a “Crazy Inventor”

Just got back from a parent-teacher conference.  Geez, our kid is brilliant.  He’s in third grade now; scoring at the top at everything; behaving; getting along well with other kids; sweet; and the teacher occasionally asks him if he’ll be a crazy inventor when he grows up, because he’s inventive.

I can just see it now….With that hair always in cowlicks because he forgets to brush it, his Gen-X parents into stuff like goth, steampunk, D&D and unconventional sleep times/schedules–our little boy growing up into one of those begoggled steampunk turn-of-the-century inventors.

Like, say, Jasper Dale on Avonlea, my favorite character on that show, by the way.  Forget his social awkwardness and stutter–Jasper is smart and hot.  (Hey, look, somebody else agrees with me!)

We stopped spanking our son a few years ago, and yet he still is well-behaved for teachers and most other adults.  Every year he gets such praise from his teachers.  His parents were both social misfits (still are), yet he’s doing fine.  How did that happen?  His parents both had “issues” in school, yet he’s doing well.  How did that happen?

And yet, with how well this one’s turning out, we’ve been unable to have more children…..What a frickin’ shame.

 

Psychological Hell as Shawn Turns Dark and Moody (sexual user); Irish Writers Class–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–January 1993, Part 1

Irish Writers Class 

Now I started my second year of reading My Utmost for His Highest, in totally different circumstances now, but still desperately needing the messages it and the Bible had for me.

Pearl got a present from a relative which inspired Rachel to make up this tune:

Some little Christmas thing
Sitting on my mantel
I don’t know what it is
I got it from some corny relative
It killed my cat
What do you think about that
As the world blows up

As far as I can explain a tune in words, it was a simple, alto melody sung mostly in low notes.  The line “I don’t know what it is” sounded similar to the beginning of the Aerosmith song “Living on the Edge,” which, incidentally, came out soon after Rachel made up this song.  (I always jokingly wondered if Aerosmith stole it from her.)

“It killed my cat” ended on a higher note, “What do you think about that” on an even higher one, and “As the world blows up” even higher.

Pat Robertson actually predicted the spring/summer Flood of 1993 on or around January 5, according to my diary.

My Winterim class, Irish Writers, taught by a tall, thin teacher named Todd, was a lot of fun.  It was held from 9 to 12 each day.  We learned not only about Irish Writers, but about the Irish people.  I had no idea just how colorful they are.

Todd had been to Ireland, and showed us pictures of a man he met there.  He said the man tended to walk with his arms behind his back and his hands clasped, an Irish thing.  Todd passed around a brick of peat, which is dug out of bogs and used for fuel.

We learned about Irish history, and that the Irish are passionate about everything (including freedom, and in such a way that, until 2000, it seemed impossible to stop the fighting over it).  The Brits looked down on them, at least in previous centuries, for loving sex and alcohol so much.

We learned about stout (no, we didn’t drink it).  We read books, plays and stories by Irish writers.

James Joyce said he was no good at making things up, so his stories were based on things that really happened.  As far as I was concerned, he had little sense of plot and most of his stories were dull.

We read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–the second time for me.  I had to trudge through that novel in high school.  It was just as bad the second time.  (What is the point of that 42-page Hellfire Sermon, anyway?)

The only part I liked was the beginning, with the stream-of-consciousness stuff about a moocow and some bird plucking out the kid’s eyes if he didn’t apologize for something: “Pull out his eyes, apologize, apologize, pull out his eyes!”  I like to repeat that now and then.

We read his collection The Dubliners, and the only stories I liked were “The Dead” and “Araby” (which I had also read in high school).  “Araby” would show up again in a Lit class junior year.

We saw My Left Foot, a filmed version of “The Dead” with Colm Meaney (from Star Trek: TNG), and a John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man, set in Ireland.  Though we didn’t like Foot, and I think we liked the movie Dead, we loved The Quiet Man.

I loved the very end of The Dead, focusing on snow falling on tombstones in a graveyard.  It reminded me of my own musings at that time whenever we passed cemeteries in a car: that the people in those graves were fortunate to not have to feel the snow or the cold, or have heartaches, or go through any more of life’s many problems.  I just hoped their souls were in Heaven.

Our first day of class, we chose or were assigned partners and days to do presentations.  I ended up with Clarissa, and we had to do the next day’s presentation on “Araby.”

Clarissa and I had no examples of past presentations to go on, and had to just make everything up, not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t.  We thought we did all right, and certainly our best from what he’d told us to do.  But afterwards, Todd told the class with a grin,

“Maybe tomorrow’s presentation will be better.”

He often did this, ripping on people and grinning at the same time.  It was the only fault in an otherwise pleasant guy who actually loved Jane Austen but wasn’t gay.

One day, I brought in some of my Irish pen pal’s letters.  I said she would talk about the noise of bombs going off and helicopters constantly flying overhead, and about the constant violence in Belfast, where she lived.

Shawn had Irish ancestry, so one day I said to him with a grin, “I understand you now.”  I explained what I had learned about the Irish.  I told him I had Scottish ancestry, which I thought meant we had a lot in common.  But I forgot that the Scots and Irish fought each other.  Shawn said, “That must be our problem, then.”

****

I talked to Steve about what Peter told Memadmin.  I asked if I needed to apologize to Peter for anything I did freshman year.

He said, “No, you did nothing wrong.”  Others told me this, as well, such as Julie.  “It would be good to let him know you never meant to hurt him.”  I didn’t want to say anything to Peter, though, but Steve did.  When he did say this to Peter, he got no response.  To describe Peter’s reaction, Steve thought a moment, then said, “Indifference.”

Psychological Hell as Shawn Turns Dark and Moody 

On the 5th, Shawn wanted me to come over, but I had to unpack.  He called up the next night, and said to call him when I finished my homework.  I tried, but kept getting his answering machine, so I went over there to find out what he wanted.  (It couldn’t be the usual; he said firmly that the physical stuff was going to stop!)

I found him in the lounge, watching one of the movies rotating around the dorms that month–the end of Poison Ivy.  Blech!  A few other guys and Frank, the RA, were watching it.  I came in during one of the sex scenes.  I went up to Shawn and said, “What is this?”  Another guy said, “It’s a porno.  Wanna watch?”  Um, no.

I went to the vending machines; Shawn stood by me to wait for me, but went back to watch the end of the movie.  The other guys kept making perverted comments, which angered Frank, no saint himself; one said, “Oh, you’re just mad at us because there’s a female here.”

Whatever Shawn wanted with me, I never found out; after the movie, he just sat there flipping through channels, so I got to know the remaining guy better.  He’d been in the Special Forces, and had interesting information about the Japanese mindset and the sterility of drinking urine on the battlefield to stay hydrated.  He seemed to be flirting with me; I hoped so, and hoped that Shawn would notice and get jealous.

But Shawn was persistent, asking me over again the next day.  I had to write a paper first, and didn’t finish until 9 or 9:30.  He called to ask if I still wanted to come.

He didn’t even hint that he was calling to cancel because it was getting late, and we know what happens when it’s so late.  But since he did not actually tell me this, and I can’t read minds, I did still want to go, so I went.

What was this about?  I expected it would be nothing but talk.  Part of me wanted more, but part of me just wanted to talk.

He let me in, but started reading his homework and watching TV.  (I guess he must have brought a TV from home, because I’m pretty sure he did not have one before.)  It seemed so rude.  So I started watching the TV with him and occasionally making comments, which got him to at least glance at me now and then.

Finally, he put down the book and said, “Could you do me a favor?  Could you give me a back rub?  My back is killing me.”  Back rub?  Seriously?  Those always led to more with us.  But I didn’t expect it to, this time, naive person I was.

He lay down, I sat beside him and began using the knowledge he’d given me about giving back rubs.  When I stopped, he gave me one; he tried to behave, but almost transgressed a couple of times, then stopped himself.  But then he kissed my back.

Soon, he lay down beside me, held me and told me to try falling asleep, “just to see what’ll happen.”  I put my arms around his neck, full of tenderness, and nestled my head on his neck and played with his hair.  Some things happened….

It got close to midnight, so he said I’d better be getting back to my room.  I began arranging myself as he got up, smiling, and sat in the chair.  He didn’t seem to feel guilty this time, so I was happy.

Then all of a sudden he said, “What are we doing?”

I paused, upset at this turn, and said, “Well, I know my reasons.”  I love him, that’s it.

“What are they?”

“There are some things I’d rather keep a secret.”

I was irritated, especially as the same old conversation over the same old stuff began, the hyper-analyzing.  He seemed mad at somebody, hopefully himself and not me.

He asked, “Where do you want this relationship to go?”  I couldn’t answer.

Where did I want it to go?  The hope of marriage, but only if it seemed right; the hope to go out and be a true couple, with romance and not just being some chick he fools around with on the sly; but the fear of commitment while other guys still interested me.

You can’t tell a guy you want to marry him in a couple of years, if he doesn’t feel the same: You’ll just scare him off.

He said, “I’m probably not Mr. Right.  You’ll probably meet a lawyer.”  He thought a lawyer would be well-read and my intellectual equal, unlike Shawn, who would be an engineer.  (This is funny because I ended up marrying an engineer.)

He said he was afraid of commitment.  (Well, so was I; so what?)

Once, he asked a question and I paused to form an answer.  Introverts have to think before we speak; we do not form our thoughts while speaking, like extroverts.  But Shawn snapped, “And I don’t want to wait four days for an answer.  That’s what I don’t like.”

And I don’t like people who snap at introverts for taking the time we need to think before we speak.  But unfortunately, I was not able to say this, not knowing about introversion, NVLD or the art of verbal self-defense.

He kept snapping at me like that, once because I thought he was talking about me but he wasn’t.  He said he doesn’t like it when I do that.  (Well excuse me for misunderstanding and not reading your mind!)

“I’m not a book reader like you, not so smart.”  (What?  He was a math-brain and was in the National Honor Society!)  “I don’t think I’d give you the attention you need.”  (What?  I liked spending much of my time with my friends or alone in my room, recharging.)  “A girl from Taiwan asked me, ‘Why are you so rude to her?  It seems like she has to seek you out.'”

Then came the revelations of what kept going through his head, what he would do to me if I let him, overpowering thoughts of what he could get away with if he tried, how badly he wanted to try.

(It was only our fear of offending God that kept us from going all the way; I would have allowed him, otherwise, because I was just as full of lust as he was–and from what he said, he may have started to realize this.)

He asked, “Do you do all the things we do because I force you?”

I said, “Not all of them.  I must make it hard for you to do things I don’t want.”

He said, “No, you don’t.”

He said, “I wish our friendship could be like mine with Frank or Pearl.”

I said, “It could never be that way, now.”

He thought maybe, if one day he scared me enough, I’d turn tail and run; I said, “You really think scaring me will–You’ve already scared me to death!”  I was thinking of the “Dreadful Night.”

He told me he was into one of my friends.  (Fortunately for me, she had a boyfriend and was not interested.)  What a thing to tell a girl who loves you after you’ve just been using her body and making you think you want her!

He insulted me, made me feel like some cheap whore, no better than the pop tarts.  He referred to us as “sexually active,” which I objected to–though legally, he was correct.

I no longer knew what was right or wrong, beyond the sex act itself; he told me I should read the textbook for his class, Understanding Morality.

He almost seemed to blame me for things he himself had chosen to do even when I tried to get him to go away, times when he himself chose to come over and do all these things, but I was too much in love to stop him, like now.

He called me a source of stress, but all he ever had to do was stop coming over, stop asking me over, stop starting things he knew I would not want to stop, and let me get over it; no one was putting a gun to his head and forcing him to touch and kiss me.  Sure I wanted him to, but it takes two people, and he had the right to refuse to do it anymore.

He was being such a jerk, saying such things, almost making it sound like I was to blame if it didn’t stop–then he tried to start it all over again, while telling me he felt nothing, which made me bat his hand away.

After all this scolding of me for allowing him to have his way with me, he turned creepy, tried to get me to do something in front of him which I did not want to do.  I said, “I’m not a pervert!”

He smiled and said, “Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are.”  He began doing things I did not like….I told him to stop….He suggested doing to me what I did not want to do to myself….I said no….

Is this why he kept wanting me over the past few days?  He’d had time to reconsider, this was premeditated and not spur of the moment, but every night he asked me over until I finally came, after he had insisted he would not do this to me anymore.

Then he bumped my arm, which was holding a can of pop.

I said, “You’d better be careful, or my pop might spill.”

He said, “It already did.  It’s on your shirt.”

I looked down at my shirt, saw a dark blotch in the dim light, and said, “You’re dead.”

He laughed and got me something to wipe it up with.  He said, “Maybe I shouldn’t let you come over here anymore,” but with a smile, so I said, “I hope you’re just joking.”

He finally helped me sneak out around 1:30, with my long hair tucked into my coat, then told me to call him that afternoon if I wanted to talk more–which I did not.  I knew how it would go: the same as always.

It felt like we’d lost the ground we gained with that tearful phone conversation, all because he could not keep his hands to himself and I was too in love to stop him.

I spoke to Sharon about it; she said no one would care if they saw me leave, because I’m of age, so don’t worry about my reputation, which Shawn kept warning me about.  She said we should make up our minds soon, and either commit or snub each other.

This seemed to turn a corner, but not the one I’d hoped for at the beginning of Christmas Break: We went from the fun we were having before, to a new and more disturbing phase, where we did things we’d never done before, went farther than ever, while he often treated me with contempt.

The thing I did not want him to do to me, he eventually did in February, suddenly and forcefully from what I recall, taking away my innocence and filling me with thoughts I could barely control.  Not what is clinically called “coitus,” but another thing.

And even though he himself had similar thoughts and told me about them, he judged me for them when I confessed them to him.

In fact, considering his mental health history, I can’t help wondering now if something happened over Christmas Break that led to this, if he was on the verge of another nervous breakdown, and I was the unlucky one caught in it.

From January through the end of the school year, he kept going from manic hyper stages where he treated me kindly, to foul moods which ended up hurting me.

I had told Shawn so many things, including deep, dark secrets.  We usually seemed like best friends.  But sometimes, like January 10, I wondered if we were even friends.  Some weeks he’d call all the time and sometimes stop over, but I wrote on the 13th, “some weeks, like this one, he won’t call and he won’t even sit by me.”

I had hoped things would change for the better between us, but instead they got worse.  He was moody.  I was too afraid to call him or go over without being asked.

On the 11th, he was in a bad mood, so I didn’t want to sit with him at a meal; I was surprised to see him come sit with us.  But he just started writing in notebooks instead of attending to the group’s conversation.  Why bother sitting with anyone, then, especially me?

He was having troubles with his Winterim class and the two joint teachers, who he felt were against him.  At 2 or 3 in the morning, he kicked in the door of someone who woke him up with their stereo!

****

Shawn had told me to sit with my friends whether Peter was there or not, so on the 12th I did so.  I sat with Steve, and Peter was right across from me.  He didn’t stay long because of class, but it seemed to go well.  I stayed cheerful despite fighting to control my shaking.  Even Peter seemed cheerful.

On the 12th, I saw my old suitemate Tom checking out a display for some date rape movies.  A guy with him said, “You saw the word ‘sex,’ and you went right to it.”  Tom denied it, but I said, “Yeah, we know you, Tom.”  He gave me a kind of lecherous smile.

That night, my suitemates held a seance in the suite lounge.  Clarissa and I stayed in our room, hoping they wouldn’t call something into the suite that wouldn’t leave, and keeping our crosses nearby.

Pearl and Tara were in England for their Winterim class, which was led by my old Expository Writing teacher.  They visited such places as London, Bath and Stratford-on-Avon, and included a showing of Phantom of the Opera.  I was envious, but had no way to afford such a thing.  It did, however, make it into my story “Bedlam Castle.”

Then on the 14th, Shawn sat at my table for a minute, then, as he passed behind me on his way out, tapped me on the back.  I looked up; he smiled and said “bye”; I smiled back.  This made me feel better; kindness from him again?

Index

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

Poem about abuse: The Fire Elemental (About Richard/Tracy)

That one in your house will burn it down
I tell but no one believes me
I saw her eyes flash with fire
She tried to steal my soul

She is a salamander

The one I trusted told me that truth
But interspersed with lies
A web he wove over me
I claw from my eyes

I heard the rage
Saw the strikes
She bit
He bit back

I raise the alarm, tell the truth
But now he denies it
Turns against me in rage
I am betrayed, abandoned

The fire begins to rage
It burns through all the rooms
I try to pull him out but he won’t let me
He is one of them too

[This poem is about witnessing abuse, and being told about abuse, only to be treated by the abuse victim as if you were crazy–then discovering the abuse victim is also an abuser who was manipulating you.  It’s based on this story.]

Poems of Werewolves and Longing (The Beast of Backbiting); Reading Clarissa, My Drawings of Her–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–December 1992, Part 3

Poems of Werewolves and Longing

On the 20th, during Christmas Break, I wrote in my diary,

I’m starting to wonder if I am in love with Shawn now.  I remember telling him, on only the Monday before the Tuesday he almost took what wasn’t his [my virginity], over the phone that ‘I know I’m not in love with you.’  But I think that, even then, I was starting to wonder….

I thought–remember this?–that I only thought of Shawn as a friend at summer’s end.  I badly wanted Peter to reform and return to me.  But, as soon as I got back to school, I didn’t want [what I erroneously thought was a word from God that he would] to come true, at least not very much, and Pearl called me ‘obsessed’ with Shawn.

I go up and down with him, all smiling and teasing with him one day, and irate at him for something the next [one of his many criticisms, blowing me off, snapping at me, that sort of thing].  Sometimes, especially in the past couple of weeks, it changes in the same hour….

I want to tell him, Forget about [your ex-girlfriend], as much as you can–I’m here.  What’s wrong with me?  Maybe the real problem is, he doesn’t know me well enough yet, or his mind’s been filled by too many negative things from those people that judge me so harshly.

I feel so hurt when he does something that hurts me, like Tuesday night almost three weeks ago, or his constant criticisms.  You’re never hurt so much as by the ones you love.  I don’t use that word lightly, ‘love,’ and I never have….

I keep wishing Shawn would return this, and it depressed me when he says he doesn’t….

I hope that love will grow out of friendship, now that Shawn and I have agreed to start learning about who each other is.  I’ve confided things in Shawn that I’ve never told anyone else but God.  Such trust, to tell him such a thing.

(I did not say “I love you” lightly, differentiating it from infatuation.)

For days after our conversation, I kept crying or feeling cranky.  And no, it was not my period: I was depressed about Shawn.

But on the 29th, I wrote a poem about a werewolf, the beast of character assassination.  I eventually used it in Advanced Poetry.

It shocked people; it drew praise.  Julie said she didn’t expect such a poem from me.  It was published in a new, campus literary magazine called Farrago.  I don’t remember if Shawn saw it.

This is the poem:

“The Beast of Backbiting”

They’re a werewolf.
Each lie’s a tooth
in a long mouth full.
Long fur of self-righteousness,
shadow-black.
Pointed ears prick at the agreement
of others of its kind.
Watchful, red eyes.
Help me, help me,
it careers after me!
It roars, cracking the air–
Foul, hot breath of judgments.
You have the gun;
I grab your sleeve.
Shoot it!  Kill it!

Once it had you,
tearing with dagger-claws,
ripping for your heart,
to make you one of them.
I shot the gun,
scared it away.
I tended your wounds,
plucked out a broken claw,
an implant of perceptions.
Your hand flew up from pain,
knocking the claw to my chest,
scratching me, though no blood drawn.

Now shoot a silver bullet of truth–
The werewolf falls,
eyes fixed, in death, in surprise.
But it rises again,
snarls, fangs bared,
saliva oozing.
Its pride is hurt.
You shoot again, hit the shoulder.
The beast rages, lunges.
You shoot once more, hit the heart.
With a pitiful whimper and a gush of blood,
the beast dies.

I wasn’t the only one affected by rumors.  Once, a teacher told his class to beat the stress of finals week by starting a rumor.  They would see how far it got by noon.  So one of his students did just that.  I don’t know what the rumor was, but by lunchtime, it was all around the school.

I wrote another poem, a rant about the different meanings behind our actions.  How I did not regret what we did, how my motives were love while Shawn’s were cold and lustful.  The title came from Jane Austen’s juvenilia.  The poem was full of longing.  And no, this one did not get workshopped in Poetry class:

“Love and Freindship (sic)”

What shall I say?
That I regret?
What shall I do?
Mourn innocence lost?
Then I lie!
Longing fills like never before
(or maybe once).
Lust, but for kisses and caresses.
Tho’ a half-emerged wish for more.
No sin here,
but almost.
I’m virtuous?  I’m pure?
Maybe, but what are you?
Same hour, same acts
(tho’ none a sin)!
Float through the moat of motive:
One kiss–
I feel love;
What do you?
One caress–
I feel hope;
Where lies your heart?
Tho’ your heart’s cold, mine stays warm;
One desire–
Yours from below;
Mine from the heart.
I float, I float,
here in these cold waves,
wondering, wishing–
Will he yet be truly mine?

On the 31st, I copied a quote from Héloïse of Abelard and Héloïse: “I ought to groan at the sins which I have perpetrated yet I sigh for those which I am unable to commit.”  I wrote, “That’s how I feel, though I don’t know if I have sinned.  And not only do I long for Shawn to touch me in places that maybe should be forbidden, I wish I could do other things.”

I had felt the same way a month earlier.  (There were things we had not yet done, but did later.)  I copied another quote from Héloïse which reminded me of what I tried to get Shawn to understand: “The sensual delights which we enjoyed together were so dear to me that I cannot help loving the memory of them and am quite unable to erase them from my mind.”

(I have translated a racy passage of the letters of Abelard and Héloïse, here.)

****

Over break, I’d listen to dance music of various kinds on B96, especially late at night: mixes that went on for quite some time and got especially intense without words, techno, house.  I wrote on the 23rd,

This dance music seems to express, in its technological style, my deep feelings–love, resentment, fear, strength, resistance, resolve, anger–all in one, all at once.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much now.  Maybe that’s also why sometimes I have to turn it of and turn on something tamer–when it overwhelms me.

An hour later I wrote,

I don’t want people to think my beauty is artificial–a perm or painted face; I want them to say, ‘She’s beautiful, inside and out.’  Peter’s mom, remember, told me that I’m one of those girls who just don’t need makeup.

So why couldn’t Shawn see that?

Hmmm….On Christmas Eve, I wrote that I saw a skit on In Living Color that included a wedgie, and “it reminds me of Shawn trying to do the same to me.”  What?

I was glad to see the end of 1992.  I hoped that 1993 would be better.

Reading Clarissa; My Drawings of Her

In my diary and letters from this time, I gushed over the book Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, which I found in the Roanoke library.  I read some of it while sick with the flu, since I had nothing else to do.  Over Christmas Break, I had no homework and nothing else pressing (except lunch dishes).

This was a wonderful, wonderful book; since my massive version (1200 pages) was abridged, I didn’t yet know that there were even more wonderful parts to it which would explain parts of the plot even more.  I read 100 pages a day–which for me is a tremendous amount, since normally I probably would have gotten through 50 at the most, even reading all day long–and finished on New Year’s Eve.

I loved the Gothic feel of many scenes, such as Lovelace showing up in Clarissa’s hotel as a gouty old man.  I’m not sure if it’s called pre-Gothic or Gothic; it’s been described both ways.  On Masterpiece Theatre, which showed the movie version in the spring of 1992, it was called a Gothic.  It came out before the supernatural tales of the 18th and 19th centuries, but had the traditional elements of a Gothic: A young, virtuous virgin is abused and locked up by a dirty, usually old, man.

Richardson’s book Pamela, an earlier work, had a similar theme, except that the dirty man was young and handsome, and eventually “reformed.”  In Clarissa, the man was young and handsome, but did not reform.

The book was far more intense and intricate than the movie could possibly have depicted, with a remarkable understanding of psychology and the thoughts/motives of each character.

I laughed when Clarissa’s coffin arrived and she had it dragged up the stairs to her room.  She shocked everyone in the hotel, who said, how could she bring her coffin into her room?  She said, how could they be so surprised, since it was just a box to hold her earthly body?  She expected to die and go to Heaven, where everything would be beautiful and peaceful.

Two songs became associated in my mind with Clarissa.  The first was “Unchain” by Whiteheart, on a CD I got for Christmas.  I listened to it over and over during Christmas Break, and the beautiful melody seemed to fit somehow as I read.  Maybe it was the plea for God to “release my soul” and to “unchain.”  After all, Clarissa kept pleading for Lovelace to release her, and no longer keep her a prisoner in the brothel where he had taken her.

The second song was “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran, a song which came out over Christmas Break and was played over and over as I listened to the radio while reading.  I also taped it.  The melancholy music and lyrics fit Clarissa well.  The song may have been about a breakup, but Clarissa’s sadness was due to the rape, betrayal and abuse from someone who said he loved her.  When she died, all the pathos made my eyes mist and my nose tickle.

I drew pictures of the characters, to help me visualize them and their period clothing, since characters are often a blur of emotion and action as I read.  They rarely take on a concrete appearance unless I can look at a picture.  This may be because of NVLD.

I based the first picture of Clarissa on a plate in the “Fashion and Clothing” article from our 1960s Collier’s encyclopedias.  This was my masterpiece.  I somehow got her haircolor mixed up: I thought she was a brunette and her friend Anna a blonde, though it was the other way around.

But Clarissa’s features–based on beautiful British actresses I’d seen over the years–were lovely enough to fit her description.  I tried to draw Lovelace, but I preferred the one in the movie, Sean Bean.  I’ve never been good at drawing men, who end up looking effeminate.

I admired Clarissa, the paragon of virtue, and the ending brought me close to tears.  I admired her as my ideal, but did not act like her when Shawn got me alone.  Maybe I connected with her on a subconscious level, since I knew what it was like to be lied to, lied about, and emotionally abused by men, though I did not yet know just how bad it could get (Phil, a year and a half later).

I had no clue why this happened.  I suppose the natural gullibility caused by NVLD, and the ostracism I’d often experienced throughout my schooling for no reason I could see, made me an easy target.  Boyfriends were never easy to find, especially when my faith said they had to be Christians–and even the Christians could be jerks.

I wanted to stop the abuse, but had no idea how.  I couldn’t control Peter’s actions, and still hoped Shawn would stop criticizing me and fall in love with me.

Here are two of my best “Clarissa” pictures.  The bottom one was drawn in 1997.  When I showed the first one to my friend Becky in South Bend, she grabbed it with an “Ooh!”:

Clarissa

Clarissa2

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

Werewolf: The Beast of Backbiting

I wrote this after learning from Shawn that many of his views of me were based on what other, unnamed people were saying about me, things that were not true.  I will be posting this in the next installment of my college memoirs.  It surprised my fellow Poetry classmates, and the editors of the campus literary magazine expressly asked for it:

They’re a werewolf.
Each lie’s a tooth
in a long mouth full.
Long fur of self-righteousness,
shadow-black.
Pointed ears prick at the agreement
of others of its kind.
Watchful, red eyes.
Help me, help me,
it careers after me!
It roars, cracking the air–
Foul, hot breath of judgments.
You have the gun;
I grab your sleeve.
Shoot it!  Kill it!

Once it had you,
tearing with dagger-claws,
ripping for your heart,
to make you one of them.
I shot the gun,
scared it away.
I tended your wounds,
plucked out a broken claw,
an implant of perceptions.
Your hand flew up from pain,
knocking the claw to my chest,
scratching me, though no blood drawn.

Now shoot a silver bullet of truth–
The werewolf falls,
eyes fixed, in death, in surprise.
But it rises again,
snarls, fangs bared,
saliva oozing.
Its pride is hurt.
You shoot again, hit the shoulder.
The beast rages, lunges.
You shoot once more, hit the heart.
With a pitiful whimper and a gush of blood,
the beast dies.