Category: mutism

Selective Mutism Strikes at a Zeta Party; Peter Turns the Screws–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–November 1992, Part 2

[To all who have been bullied for being shy and quiet, this one is dedicated to you.  I feel your pain.]

Selective Mutism Strikes at a Zeta Party

On November 15, the Zetas held a party in their meeting suite showing Wayne’s World.  I planned to go because I wanted to see the movie.  None of my friends could make it.  Steve was there, Shawn was there for a while, and Darryl may have come around–but most of the guys were strangers, Zetas.  I’ve never done well when surrounded by strangers.  Shyness?  NVLD?  Both?  I don’t know.

I didn’t understand why everyone liked Wayne’s World so much.  No one at the Zeta party laughed much when they did watch it.  They mostly played pool or chatted, I could barely hear the movie, and I didn’t feel comfortable.  I felt even more uncomfortable when Peter showed up.

When I saw the movie much later, with my friends, I finally understood why it was funny.

The Zeta meeting suite was in horrible shape, terribly dirty.  In the bathroom, for example, one toilet was broken and blockaded by junk, junk and dirt was all over and even in the sinks, and the other toilet’s handle didn’t even work.

How could they have a suite without a working toilet?  Didn’t they ever call maintenance?  Didn’t anyone ever try to clean the bathroom?  How could they stand this?  It was a good thing they didn’t live in the suite!

I did not expect Basic Instinct, a recent movie, to be played next.  I knew little about this movie.  One Zeta said there was a censored version–and they had the uncensored version.  Oh, joy.  The opening scene was darkness intermingled with cries of obvious sexual pleasure.

I was even more uncomfortable than I had been all evening, but when Sharon Stone’s character pulled out the ice pick, I had to at least know what was going on, how in the world she could be so cold as to kill the man she was having sex with.

The discomfort was even worse because Peter sat in a corner nearby.  I was on a couch at this time, and he was in a chair almost adjacent to mine, with maybe one or two people between us.  He seemed uncomfortable as well during all the sex scenes.  Someone teased him about being off in a corner by himself.  During this movie, Shawn arrived–a relief, with Peter there.

After this movie, to my great relief Steve suggested Princess Bride.  I chatted with Steve about it, which was such a relief.  It was good to have someone to talk to at that party besides Shawn, who didn’t stay with me for long periods.  Occasionally, Maizie would be near enough to pet.

In general, the evening was a torment.  I would have left if not for the movies.

My torment was complete when Shawn said a day or two later, “Don’t tell anyone I told you, because the Zetas would kill me.  But after you left, they sat around asking if you’d said two words to anyone all night.”

I was disgusted and hurt and embarrassed.  I didn’t even know most of them, and had cared about little but watching Wayne’s World.  And most of them didn’t talk to me, either.  Outgoing people often complain that a shy person never introduces herself to them–yet they themselves never talk to the shy person!  If it’s so hard for me and so easy for them, why do I have to do all the work?

If you ever read the book Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Fanny Price was almost exactly like me at that time.  She tried to be good, tried to be moral, yet was so shy that she couldn’t stand to be surrounded by strangers.  She’d feel inner indignation about things that violated her idea of morality and right, yet wouldn’t often say much about it.

It seemed Jane Austen understood my type of person so completely that she could write about one without sermonizing on how this shy person should be more outgoing.  If Fanny Price were there instead of me, I believe she would have gone through the same things and emotions that I did, and that she, too, would have been talked about after she left, in a way that would embarrass her.

I was about ready to cry at the news.

How much of this was related to NVLD?  I’m not sure, but it certainly wouldn’t have helped.  It could also have been a form of selective mutism.  I didn’t want to turn into an outgoing person.  I wanted people to accept me the way I was, the way I was born.  (Because of this, I can understand the feelings of people who say they were born gay.)

Peter Turns the Screws

On November 18, Memadmin called me in because Peter told her I was spreading rumors about him.  It was all a lie.  I was not going around telling people that we were getting back together.  Why on earth would I tell people we were back together unless he came to me and said he wanted me back?

I didn’t even want that anymore, because Peter disgusted me.  I wanted Shawn, Mr. Octopus–annoys everybody–drives me crazy with analyzing–gorgeous-blue-eyed Shawn!  Peter even told Memadmin that my stories about the Mental Link were rumors, that I was making it up!

Whatever drove him to tell her this, it hurt me deeply.  Memadmin said, “I don’t believe he has the ability to hypnotize.”  But as I’ve said before, I’ve had a professional do it, so I could recognize it.

She said that Peter wasn’t accusing me of “lying,” that he said I probably believed what I was saying was the truth.  But that contradicted what she had only just said.

“Is it because I went to the Zeta party?” I said.  “I just went there to see the movie.”

“I don’t think so,” she said.  “I got the impression that his Zeta brothers have been teasing him about the Link.”

“Why didn’t he come to me and talk to me?”

“I think he’s afraid you’ll think he wants to date you again.”

Excuse me?

I figured the real reason was, he wouldn’t come up to me and tell me I was lying, when he knew I was telling the truth.  Over the past months, Peter had lied to and about me, even when he knew I knew the truth.

What could I possibly have done to make him hate me so much and tell lies about me to other people, to even try to get me in trouble with Memadmin?  And why did he act like we were friends again in September and October, greeting me kindly whenever he saw me, only to turn around and be my enemy again when I tried to be nice and show him no hard feelings through my note in October?

Two people told me that note sounded like a good idea, and there was nothing in there but an offer of future friendship, no professions of love or wanting to get back together, and I only sent it after he showed definite signs of wanting to be friends again.

How could he accuse me of spreading rumors, when I only told the truth and my future hopes for reconciliation, while he was the one spreading rumors?

Even when I dated him, I knew he often lied to people, though I never thought he’d lie to or about me.  I strongly suspect that these rumors are one reason why nobody asked me out for quite some time.  (Either that, or they figured Shawn and I were together.)

I suspect that they were spread among his fraternity brothers, his girlfriends, and anyone who would listen; who knows where they went after that.

The following year, I discovered that he had carried his rumors and warnings to a new friend, Phil, who wanted to date me–and to Phil’s mother.  Phil did not listen, but had to deflect the vicious comments made by his brother Dave O’Hara and the ignorant ones made by his mother (who kept asking if I was doing “marriage talk” yet).  Was I not allowed to date, while Peter went from one girlfriend to another?

With the way the rumor mill went at Roanoke, it’s quite possible that people had twisted things around and it got back to him like that.

But why would I say we were getting back together when he was treating me like crap, I was angry with him, and would stare him down if I saw him look my way?  Why would I say this when Shawn was the one I really wanted, when things kept getting so hot between us?  When I also had a crush on James?

I only sat next to Peter by accident, and if my friends were at the table; I didn’t go out of my way to sit near him.  Pearl had called me “obsessed” with Shawn back in September, before she knew what had really been going on between us for many months.

I no longer longed for Peter to come back to me, and at some point started fantasizing that when Shawn left Roanoke to go to Madison, we would exchange letters and one day Shawn would send me an engagement ring.

Even my friends could see that I had accepted the breakup, contrary to Peter’s belief.  As I wrote in my diary after seeing Memadmin, “I’d rather kiss a frog than go out with [Peter].  He’s scum.”

I spoke to Steve about it.  I said, “He knows [the Link] happened, I know it happened, and he knows I know it happened.”

Steve seemed more inclined to believe me than Peter, who had just gotten in trouble with the frat for some misinformation he’d given, and soon got into trouble again.  I’d already heard about this from Darryl.  I didn’t want to talk to Peter, but Steve wanted to try, himself.

This left me in a bad humor, and a sad humor.  The next evening, I went to a David Meece concert with Pearl and another friend, at a college in or by Milwaukee.  Pearl said she was going to see her “man.”

After the concert, I got a shirt and CD.  The concert was just David and his piano, no band, but that was plenty.  He sang heartfelt Christian contemporary music.  At least once, I quizzed Pearl on the music, since we were both in Music History, and he incorporated classical music into his songs.

He was stand-up comic and serious by turns, telling us his life-story, and what God wants us to do when we’re going through hard times–just the things I’d been doing, such as praying and communing with Him.

I began to get teary-eyed near the end, as things he said hit home and reminded me of Peter’s harassment.  Pearl saw that, but I think she thought it was over Meece’s own story.

Afterwards, she had to go “meet her man” and have her picture taken with him.  He put his arm around her as she stood, and he sat on the edge of the stage, the top of his head to hers.  (She was short.)  She smelled Polo cologne for the rest of the night.  She told him her plans to get him to Roanoke.

My turn came, and I said his speech had touched me.  I was shy about it, of course, but I told him I was going through hard times and I’d been doing what he’d said to do.

He asked me where I went to college–Roanoke, which was on my key ring.  I said it was by S–, and someone in the line cheered.  I gave him the travel time from Milwaukee.  He said we should get him out there, that I should come along when they pick him up at the airport, and I should tell him my story.  David Meece wanted to hear my story!  Maybe he even remembered me in prayer sometimes.

****

When Dad came to pick me up for Thanksgiving Break on Friday the 20th, I was at work, so he went to Nancy.  He was impressed when she said, “Oh, she’s one of our best workers.”

Thanksgiving Break was full of homework.  I think there was rarely a minute, other than sleeping or eating or showering or going to church, when I wasn’t doing homework.  If I took any breaks, it was to celebrate Thanksgiving, and even then I probably had a textbook with me on the couch while everyone gathered in the living room after turkey lunch.

But I also listened to B96 from Chicago, now a dance station, and made a tape of the songs.  Then I played the tape for Clarissa, who would sometimes say, “I wanna hear some techno!” so I’d play it again.

On our way back to school, my parents and I stopped for lunch in Marc’s Restaurant in S–.  There was Julie with her parents!  Julie and I laughed.

****

I got the idea of Clarissa and I enjoying books together, and since she liked the idea, began reading Clan of the Cave Bear to her at specific times each week.  But though the book was excellent for reading by yourself, for reading out loud it was a bit dull, so she asked for another book.

I chose Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, a hilarious book by Douglas Adams which I had read in high school.  She loved it.  I loved reading it out loud, and doing accents and maybe even some voices.

A current song was “Please Don’t Go” by Double You.  It was catchy, a dance song, and part of it went, “Babe, I love you so.  I want you to know that I’m gonna miss your love the minute you walk out that door.  Please don’t go.”

There was also, “Please don’t go, don’t goooooo, don’t go away.”  Sara, Tara, Carol and others in the Group liked to sing it differently: “Please don’t stay, don’t staaaaay, don’t stay here.”  And, “Babe, I hate you so.  I want you to know that I’m gonna have a party the minute you walk out that door.”

Admittedly, this was far more fun to sing than the song itself, and I could never hear the song after that without thinking of it.

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:

 

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Frustrating German Teacher–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1992, Part 2

Food Service and Classes 

Part of the Campus Center got converted into a pub, which was supposed to be a combination bar, grill, pool hall, and meeting place.  Dances were often held there, even though it was too small for that.

The voting for the new pub’s name was on the 14th and 15th of September.  One name suggested was Study, so you could tell your parents “I’m going to Study” without lying.    Unfortunately, the name for the new pub was voted to be The Pub.  We laughed because lack of creativity won.

That was the golden year of ice cream.  We had it all the time, and in various flavors: the new chocolate chip cookie dough, Elephant Tracks, even peanut butter chocolate, which was delicious but rare.

I now knew where the ice cream freezer was, and would go there when I had my early dinner.  I had my pick of full bins, so my preferred choices would not be empty or ice cream soup before I could get to them.

The fries were always good, but Muskie fries were even better, and wonderfully salty.  You could eat either kind without ketchup.

These hamburgers had real meat in them, not vile soy, and weren’t served on bread but on buns, contrary to high school and junior high burgers.  I even learned to love the cheeseburgers.  Wisconsin has this way of making even cheese-haters start to like some kinds of cheese.

My first night in Food Service, since Nancy had told me to come in after dinner, I stayed after the first shifters left and the football players (mostly black) came in, and until maybe 6:30.  There were a lot of flirts in there at that time.  One of them asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I said no.

He said in disbelief, “You don’t have a boyfriend?!  What kind of music do you like?”

“Nearly anything,” I said.

“So if you put on a slow song, she’ll dance with you,” he said to the others.

There was another black guy with a shaven head who liked to flirt with me.  He often worked the lunch shift with me during spring semester.

I loved the attention, which made me feel beautiful.  I had never really had much of that sort of attention in my life, and Shawn kept making out with me but insisting we were just friends, so I could certainly use it.

I got a roommate later in the month; she also worked Food Service, and for a time we worked together.

Remember James?  Now for more details.  He had very German features and a long nose (I have a fetish for long-bridged noses).

I sometimes spotted him working after my late shift on Thursday.  His job was sweeping.  He always seemed to look at me whenever I was nearby.

I’d walk around putting dishes away while glancing at him, and noticed him glancing at me as well.  I looked at his time card one day to learn his name.

I would pass him on the way to or from Food Service, and we would glance at each other.  I never quite got up the courage to say hi, I guess.  Oh well, he never said it, either.

The two good things about Food Service were higher paychecks and Muskie Inn coupons.

****

Carl and Dirk were freshman roommates who worked in Food Service on a different shift.  Nancy pointed at them once and told me that one had a crush on me.

I thought she meant Carl–whom I preferred–but she meant Dirk.

Dirk was just as much a know-it-all as Shawn, able to talk you into believing anything, and I eventually considered him obnoxious.  He wasn’t even cute.  So it’s just as well that Nancy said,

“I told him you were shy, but he didn’t like that.”  Yeah, well, who needs you?

I sat with Carl and Dirk a few times at meals.  Once, Dirk said,

“Half the guys here are probably in love with you.”

I think he was trying to inspire me not to be so shy, as if it would somehow make a difference on someone who was born that way.  I don’t know if guys were really saying this about me or if it was just Dirk’s theory.  If it were true, I wish that one of the guys would have acted on it.

Nancy told me once that Dirk would try to tell the football players how to do their jobs.  Now these guys had been in there far longer than freshman Dirk had, yet they seemed to take his commandeering with amused, patient faces.  But Nancy expected that any day now they would grab him and put him through the washer along with the dishes.

The freshmen in my shift kept complaining about Freshman Studies.  They said it had nothing to do with their major, so they shouldn’t have to take it.  I thought a liberal arts education meant a little of everything, not just what applied to your major.  It’s for expanding your mind, not just teaching you how to make money.

One of my first days back, while I was still feeling self-assured and happy, I had to face Roanoke reality again: Peter was back at school.

****

In a cold room in the basement of Old Main, my Fiction Writing class met with Terry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  My final grade was a satisfying A-, just what a writer could wish for.  I wondered why Terry loved Flannery O’Connor so much, since she seemed to write such dark stuff.

We moved the desks so they were in a circle, making us much more comfortable talking to each other and reading our work.  We kept writing-journals.

One of the students also knew Peter.  She read one of her assignments in class, said it was about someone she knew–and she confirmed to me that it was Peter.

Her assignment was about a guy who takes dream trips while he sleeps, trips into the past where he studies with a ninja master.

Or maybe she talked about him traveling in time to other places; I don’t quite remember what she read, just that I knew about these dream trips as well.

One assignment was to write an argument between two people.  I based mine on stories I dreamed up in junior high, about Shyeskol, a Martian with a high-pitched voice, and Brian, the Earthling she loved–but he thought she was weird.

I used much of the Martian culture I had already developed over the years.  The class seemed to love it, and Terry especially loved my simple, beautiful-sounding alien names.

We soon had to sit down and write for an hour, just to see what we came up with.  I sat down at the computer at home for much longer than an hour, and came up with “Brian and Shyeskol.”

It was 25 pages, double-spaced.  Terry brought it to my suite to return it to me after he graded it.  He stood outside the door with an umbrella, and said, “This took me soooooo long to read, but I really enjoyed it.”

I first wrote my now-published story “Bedlam Castle” over the summer.  I had dreamed parts of it, only the characters were the cast of Are You Being Served? and Colin’s part was played by Spooner.

I don’t know why it was Spooner: I never had a crush on him or anything.  But that’s why Colin ended up average-looking.

I threw in ghosts to explain things that only made sense in a dream, such as clothes changing color.  I typed the story with the name “Bedlam” in maybe a day or two.  Now, in Fiction, I needed to submit stories to be workshopped, so this became one of them.

While home for Thanksgiving Break, I typed a revision into my parents’ computer.  It was about 20 pages, double-spaced, and I believe I had to print up 20 copies for everybody in the class.

That took forever, and then I had to separate the pages and remove the edges.  (It was a dot matrix printer with continuous feed.)

I submitted it to the class, and people joked that it was so long it kept them up half the night.  But they loved the story, and had all sorts of praises.

Rachel loved the humor.  One person, a man who was probably in his thirties or forties, loved that the focus and culmination was a kiss and not sex, unlike so many other stories and movies these days.

I took the copies back, along with the comments people had scribbled in the margins, and revised the story in my word processor.  It became much stronger.  I also changed the title to “Bedlam Castle” to address a concern that “Bedlam” didn’t fit.

I worked as quickly as possible, but revising and then printing the story took far longer than I expected.  I had to get it ready for finals, which were shortly after Thanksgiving Break, but I also had other classes.

The night before the final day of class, I stayed up until 5am revising it.  Then on the day of the final, which was to be held in Terry’s house on Prof Row, I was still working on it!  The 1991 Brother word processor printed dreadfully slow, and ink cartridges lasted for maybe 20 pages.

The time for the final arrived, and I was still printing out the revised copy for the teacher.  I ran out of ink at least once.  The final was just the class sitting in the teacher’s house and chatting, but we were supposed to turn in our revised stories as well, so this could not wait.

I didn’t get done printing it until 3:00, an hour after the final started, and everyone was waiting for me before they could start.  One of my classmates called and said, “Where are you?”

“I’m printing out ‘Bedlam,'” I said.

She and the whole class laughed.

When I finally got to the final and gave the story to Terry, I could sit down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Terry had been a lead singer for a punk rock band in his youth, circa 1980, and played us a record made by his band.  I still remember the chorus to one song: “I want to kill for kicks!”  His punk persona was different from the Terry we knew, a soft-spoken, even-tempered man.

My friends giggled at the way he would talk slowly in class and that he was actually using a textbook this year.  But I liked him, and really missed him the next year when he moved and someone else took his place.

One day freshman year, Pearl had been sick and didn’t go to class.  He came all the way to her room to find out how she was.  Ever after that, people joked that he was her “man.”

****

Music History and Appreciation met in ugly room 14 of Old Main.  This room was painted in a 70s red-orange that looked good on the outside walls of the building, but not on the inside.

We listened to tapes of samples of the various types of music which appeared in each period of history.  We discovered that music notation wasn’t established until sometime in the Middle Ages, so it’s difficult to pinpoint just what songs sounded like before then.  Love songs were as prevalent then as now.  I learned to love plainchant and Baroque.

We read about Hildegard of Bingen and the music she wrote.  We learned a few other things about culture as they related to music, and that one woman intellectual in the eighteenth century wrote under a male penname so she’d be taken seriously.

She was one of those philosopher-types, such as Voltaire, which were around in those days.  I don’t remember what her penname was.

We learned that modern-day S– and other Wisconsin towns of similar or larger size were like the big and small towns and cities of the nineteenth century, with “its symphony association, organized by merchants, bankers, government officials, lawyers, and other members of the middle class” (page 243, Listen, by Joseph Kerman).

We learned that Franz Liszt was like a modern rock star: His concerts drew crowds, women wanted to tear his clothes off, he broke piano strings as he played (much like modern rock stars sometimes smash guitars), and he had a “flamboyant” lifestyle and affairs with noblewomen.

In the class with me were Tara, Pearl and Shawn.  I loved having them all in there with me, seeing them three out of the five weekday mornings and then being able to discuss the class with them.

Pearl and I loved hearing Chopin’s Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, because David Meece had written a song, “This Time,” with this song incorporated into it.  It’s also used in an episode of Abbot and Costello’s comedy show, “The Music Lovers.”

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, my Sophomore Honors class met with Bill.  I read all the books, except for one.  Some I liked more than others; I loved Incidents in the Life of a Former Slave Girl, the diaries of women pioneers, and The Crucible.

I thought Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold was terribly boring.  It’s funny to occasionally find praises of it in newspapers and books.  I thought Gretel Ehrlich was obsessed with sex, since she saw phallic symbols everywhere in the Wyoming landscape.

By the way, the teacher in “Bedlam Castle” was written with Bill in mind.  Somebody in Fiction even noticed that he was like Bill.  Since the teacher didn’t show up much in the story and did nothing awful, I don’t think I should worry about libel suits.

Once, probably around October 16, Bill brought in two black students.  They spoke to us about the black experience, since nobody in the class was black.

They said that oftentimes a young black man would go to a white girlfriend and ask her for money all the time, knowing full well that he couldn’t do this with a black girlfriend because she would think he was nuts.

From what they said, black women sounded far more confident than many white women, and I envied that.

I also mentioned that I saw Boyz n the Hood in the Muskie, and sat there with tears in my eyes, blown away by what I had seen.  I had no clue that such things happened in this country.  Our guests nodded and smiled, confirming that yes, this movie was showing things the way they really were.

****

Humanities class would meet with my freshman year German teacher, Ruth.  I didn’t get along with her, but I loved reading the textbook, especially the part about Egypt.  I seem to recall getting an A.

I was especially entranced by the sad story of Abélard and Héloïse.  I wished the book had gone into more detail on it, or even reprinted some of their famed letters.

I mentioned the story to Pearl, and that I had been told Héloïse was twelve.  Pearl said she’d been told she was sixteen.  In 1999, I heard she was seventeen.  So how old was she, anyway?

I read Dante’s Divine Comedy over Thanksgiving Break, and loved it, though I really hoped that Hell wasn’t nearly that bad!  According to the Orthodox, this view is just his invention.

Frustrating German Teacher

As late as September 1, my schedule of the semester’s classes was fixed except for German Composition and Conversation, with Ruth, which was still marked “TBA,” or “To Be Announced.”  The room and teacher were decided, but not the hour.

As I did with every single other class I had during my college career which was marked TBA (and there were at least two or three others: German, probably Frontiers of Space, World Lit, possibly Expos), I waited for the Registrar’s office to send me a new form or a notice giving the time, place, and teacher for the class.

This was just normal procedure for classes which weren’t Independent Study, and Comp/Con was not Independent Study.  You were expected to wait for a confirmation of the time or room, rather than calling and annoying people about it.

I certainly hadn’t been told to do this any differently, and it had worked just fine in the past, as it would in the future as well.

It was probably just before Friday the 11th, when classes had been in session for a couple days and I still hadn’t heard anything about the class, when I saw one of my German classmates in my suite.  She was friends with some of my suitemates.  I asked her if she had heard anything yet about our class, because I hadn’t.

She said that she and the others had contacted Ruth about it and had started meeting or were about to.  I don’t remember if she gave me a time.  It’s just possible that she did and that it conflicted with something else I did and that I had to talk to Ruth about that, because I see in my day planner that I still planned to talk to her about it on the 11th.

So on the 11th I went to find Ruth and talk to her about the class time.  I certainly didn’t at all expect the reception I got.  I know she also talked to me on the 21st, so I may be confusing some of the things she said now with what she said then, but I do believe she chewed me out for not calling her before about the TBA like all the others did.

I thought this was totally unfair of her, because how the heck was I to know to do this, when with all my other TBA classes, I was just supposed to wait for an announcement?  Only Independent Study classes required contacting the teacher about it.

Whatever she said to me on this particular occasion, it upset me enough that I dropped the class and switched to Music History and Appreciation.  Pearl, Tara and Shawn were all in the class, so I believe I was happier in there than I would have been in Comp.

I have never regretted switching classes, though I have regretted how my love of German was soured by this teacher.

She seemed to like all three of the other students in German freshman year better than she did me.

I was a good student, already knowing many of the things taught first semester, and I loved German.  But I didn’t talk any less or any more in that class than I did in German class in high school, and I did have a life outside of German class.

I did well in the class, as I did in my other classes, and in my old German class I had been one of the best students and felt that the teachers really liked me.

But it seemed there was no pleasing this one unless you were extremely outgoing.  We can’t all be like that, nor do we all want to be.

On the 21st, probably in the morning, Ruth had me come see her.  I was doing well in Humanities class, I thought, which by now was the only class I had her for, and which should have been the only one she would concern herself with.

I didn’t know what she wanted to talk to me about, but I surely didn’t expect it to be the whole German thing again.

She sat there and chewed me out for several minutes, saying I wasn’t assertive enough, referring back to the TBA thing

(which didn’t have anything to do with how assertive I was but with my tendency to want to follow normal procedure–which is generally considered a GOOD trait),

my not going to her office with the high school student more than once to converse in German

(I considered it boring; this had nothing whatsoever to do with assertiveness).

She also said she didn’t think I had the knowledge or assertiveness or whatever to go to Germany junior year, as I had been hoping to do.  (It was the reason I chose Roanoke, the chance to go to Germany.)

Yet I was a good student!  I knew what German she had taught me!

I wasn’t a German major but had been considering a German minor; this only required six courses of German, and I didn’t have to take Comp for it.  It wasn’t even a prerequisite for other classes, so I could skip it altogether and it wouldn’t make any difference.

I only needed four other courses, one of which I could take spring semester.  By the time I took a semester in Germany, I could easily have had two more courses in German, probably from the literature and culture courses.

Since the course book says nothing about what year you have to be, I may even have done it senior year and had yet another course under my belt.  So what did it matter how much knowledge I had of German at the beginning of my sophomore year?

After all, you take a class because you don’t know what it teaches, not because you do, and by the time you get done with it, you do know what it teaches.

Her reasons for me not being able to go to Germany in a year or two were unfair and irrelevant.  She was biased against me long before it would have been time for me to show I knew German well enough to study in Germany.

I guess she just didn’t like shy people who were not go-getters.  She loved another girl in the class who was in all sorts of things, outgoing and ambitious, majoring probably in Business or Marketing.

(I was a writer from an easygoing middle-class family.  Many of my relatives were farmers, and my brothers ended up in the working class.  My big ambition was to write well enough to be published.)

I remembered her getting snippy at least once when I asked why pronunciation for a word (German or French) differed from what I’d previously been taught.

I remembered her getting mad at me for choosing not to do an optional activity because I didn’t want to.

And her harassment over my being introverted was insufferable.

So I decided I could not keep taking German with this woman, and wished I didn’t have to take Humanities with her as well.  At least I got an A.

I began pondering whether or not to pursue the German minor anymore.  It was undeclared, and Ruth would be my teacher if I did pursue it.

My ideas of becoming a translator apparently had faded.  She had destroyed my desire to continue my study in German.

Now all I wanted to pursue was my Writing major, which was soon to be declared.

Since she and Heidi were both German Swiss, I began to wonder if there was something about the Swiss that made it hard for them to get along with people like me,

if maybe they favored go-getters and had no patience whatsoever for the quiet, retiring sort of person, who has every bit as much right to exist as a go-getter does.

Yet I had a Swiss pen pal, and we seemed to get along all right.  But Heidi did say that a popular Swiss joke was, they’re a neutral country because they like to fight too much.

I took no more German classes after this.

I get the feeling, looking at my old response papers (written after attending lectures or performances), that she graded them unfairly.

Like for example, I wrote a favorable review of “Les Jongleurs”; the performers dressed in medieval garb and played medieval songs in the Bradley Building.  I wrote how boring it was that the guys all dressed in modern suits, when I would have liked to see them dressed in medieval clothes, like the girls were.

Ruth wrote on my paper that I should have taken issue not with that, but with the dresses the girls wore: She said they were in poor taste and not at all period!  Maybe that was HER opinion, but I thought this was supposed to be MY opinion!

Looking over my other response papers, it seems that nothing I ever wrote pleased Ruth.  She kept docking me for not saying this or that or saying too much of this and not that.  Maybe I just never thought of those things, or had those reactions, or maybe I really did think the lecturer made excellent points.

I’m not real sure why she didn’t like me: After all, it seemed like most of my teachers did.  I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious or a bad student; I was just me.

She took issue with things I had done all my life and had never ever heard of anybody having a problem with.  I was totally shocked to learn that anyone would.

Her criticism got personal.  It wasn’t for many years that I learned that the traits she complained about, are perfectly normal NVLD and introverted traits.

It’s too bad that Roanoke’s usual German teacher was gone at the school’s Japanese satellite school during my years at Roanoke.  HE was well-liked, and a native German.  Maybe I would have received my German minor and become a translator for banks.

****

As for television, that time period had some awesome shows–quirky, creative–which didn’t last more than one season, but also one that did, Picket Fences.  There were Covington Cross, Key West, Class of ’96.

There were other shows about college that came out at that time, yet Class of ’96 was the closest one to actual college life.

Oddly enough, though, Seventeen slammed it as being unrealistic, and it didn’t get renewed.  For my school, it was very realistic.  I think one of the things they complained about was the smaller class sizes and no TAs, but my school had smaller class sizes and no TAs.

They showed dorm life–guys playing their stereos too loud while one character needs to study–and the freshmen coming for orientation with their parents, unloading their cars, moving in, having no clue what was going on or what they were supposed to be doing.  It wasn’t all about sex like the summer’s Freshman Dorm.

This show, and the lack of realistic college shows, inspired me to write about college, the way it really was.  The idea for these memoirs was born.

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:

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The Relief of Being With Friends Who Do Not Abuse You

After the trauma of being bullied for more than two years for being shy and quiet, of being hounded for it–

treated as if I had nefarious motives–

punished by withholding me from my best friend–

screamed at via e-mail in vicious, foul language–

and even turned on and blamed for this abuse by my own best friend–

then ridiculed by them both for being traumatized by this and not wanting to see either of them again–

then intimidated by them by sending me a nasty message and stalking my blog after being banned from it for malicious behavior–

then intimidated into silence through threats if I dare to tell my priest what they’ve been doing–

It is a balm to my soul every time I am with my friends, every time I am with nice people.  At church, I’m accepted as I am.  I am an introvert, mixed in with elements of selective mutism and nonverbal learning disorder, so I sit quietly as others around me at church chat with each other; yet they still smile at me and accept me as I am.

When I am with friends, real friends, good friends, such as I was yesterday for July 4, they accept me as I am.  I sit there quietly most of the time, listening to the conversation, contributing if I have something to say on the subject, but mostly just listening.

This is the way introverts are; it’s the way our brains work; it’s the way we were born to be.  And my true friends accept this.

I was with a friend of 20 years yesterday; she and my husband spoke far more than she did with me, but it was all okay.  She’s an extrovert, but she knows I am this way, always have been, always will be.

There was a time when some extroverted friends tried to get me to talk more, even to strangers, but they were gentle about it, just made a couple of comments they saw as helpful, and now they just know it’s the way I am.

Years ago, at my last job before becoming a housewife, one of the secretaries made some snarky comment about my quietness to the other secretaries.  I didn’t hear it, but I certainly heard of it, as all the other secretaries were incensed with her for what she said about me, as they considered me a sweet person who didn’t deserve it.

So even though there might be the occasional person like Tracy, bullying me for being quiet, most of the adults I’ve known since leaving school, have been far nicer about it.

The emotional trauma of being bullied for so long and so viciously is still with me, still affecting me every day.  But every time I am with people at church or my real friends, it is a huge help.

It reminds me that not everyone is like Richard and Tracy, that most people I know are not like Richard and Tracy, that most people, period, are not like Richard and Tracy.

This reminder helps a little in drawing me a bit out of that shell that’s been around me ever since they emotionally eviscerated me for being shy and quiet.

Why Are Women So Mean to Each Other?
Female Bullying
The Medium is the Message
Bullying in the Female World
Cyberbullying: The New Female Terrorism
The Emotional Terrorist by Erin Pezzey

 

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The Care and Feeding of Shy People

This was originally a Usenet post, posted to a large SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval hobbyists) newsgroup back in the spring of 1998.  The newsgroup was called the Rialto.

This was before the explosion of Internet articles and blogs about how introverts need respect, too, for the way they socialize (or not) and the way their brains work.

I expected a lot of criticism for going against what I kept hearing from the extroverts all around me.  Instead, I got an amazing response from all sorts of other shy people who agreed with me, and suggestions such as carrying around M&Ms to offer to people as icebreakers.

I also got a helpful critique from someone who was not shy, which helped me revise it into a better form.

The chronicler (newsletter writer, guy named Folo) for one shire (SCA group belonging to a city/region) saw it and asked to publish it in his shire newsletter.  So this has actually been published before.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to my copy of the newsletter, so can’t reference it.  But I do have an e-mail with the updated version which I agreed to have published.  It was specifically addressed to SCA readers, but applies to everyone.  Here it is:

Sometimes comments are made to shy people, especially to scared newbies or recent newbies who still don’t know many people very well, that are thought to be helpful but are really not.  For example, “Well, if you’re bored / If you don’t know many people, then you should talk to people.”  Or, “Do you talk?”  Or greeting a person not with a hello, but with a, “Don’t talk so much today!”

Such comments may be well-intentioned, even considered humor.  To the speaker, they may seem reasonable and easy to act upon.

But they sound rude to the recipient, and can actually be counter-productive.  Instead of talking or smiling more or starting conversations, the shy person may grow increasingly resentful, talk less, and, instead of doing the things he naturally does to start friendships, ends up not even doing that.

He grows more uncomfortable and self-conscious than he would have been.  In effect, an outgoing person telling a shy person to talk more is like a well person telling a sick person to get better, or a cat telling a dog to be a cat.

Instead, be more understanding of the shy person’s natural manner of making friends.  Some are not sure how to make friends, but some have already developed strategies that work for them.

Maybe a particular person is quiet at first, but more talkative after getting to know you. I  have found myself going from quiet to talkative in a matter of minutes with a person I’ve only just met, because we seemed to “click.”

But often, the thought of talking with a complete stranger can make a shy person freeze up.  Let him ask for help, and don’t just assume he needs it.

Another thing to do is, if he appears bored or uncomfortable, you could invite him to join your group at a meal or whatever your group is doing.  Then don’t persecute him if he doesn’t open up right away.

(Our reasons for keeping quiet in a group discussion are varied: we don’t know the subject at all, we don’t have anything to say, all our points are already made by others, or we just can’t get a word in edgewise until the subject has already changed!)

If he thinks he would like to get to know you better, he might, after this icebreaker, seek you out.  Or need to be invited once or twice more.  That would help a lot.  Ask him for his opinions on conversation topics, too–make him a part of discussion.  Remember, you have the power here, in the shy person’s eyes.

Crowds can also be intimidating.  A relaxed setting (meaning, no one’s pressured to talk), such as a game of pente or watching TV, with a handful of people is an excellent way to get a shy person to “open up.”

Those are my observations after years (inside and outside the SCA) of seeing what works and what doesn’t.  What works is to accept the shy person as shy and/or quiet; what doesn’t work is to try to change this without being asked.

Nyssa of Iona

 

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