When I write about cultural disconnect or socialization problems, I am not just talking about some short painful period after high school, where I went to college, experienced intense culture shock, and then got over myself and became a regular adult. If only, if only, that were true.
I am bombarded weekly with mainstream cultural references and ideas, and 90 times out of 100, it’s met with a blank What The Heck Are You Saying from me. In other words, my childhood stabs me in the back, constantly.
This happened tonight.
Neighbor: Lana, have you ever heard of the so in so town?
Me: *lump* yea, I grew up near there.
Neighbor: I thought so. But did you know so in so from the Eagles grew up there?
Me: Okay. *blank look*
Neighbors’ Wife: Lana, do you know who the Eagles are?
The guy tried to be nice and say, “I guess they were before your times” in between his speech that I didn’t know the most famous band in all of history. I tried to laugh off the pain and just said, “No, it’s not that. I don’t keep up with music.”
I can’t just make up for 18+ years of lost time. Or I can’t make up enough, anyway.
It’s been, gosh, a few less than a decade since I left home. Three of the years were spent overseas in another bubble of it’s own. So that’s less than five years of my life that I lived around mainstream people.
During those years, I’ve had to learn everything, from what to dress, how to shop in the grocery store, how to shop in a clothing store, how people have sex, how to date, how to talk to people, how to make friends, how to handle conflict, how to love Jesus, how to leave church, how to help kids without spanking and barking ugly, and a world of books, music, history, jokes, ideas, abcdefghjklmnopqrstuvwqyz.
So when the neighbor comes over, how do I explain that as a kid, my best friend burned a Rebecca Saint James CD, and that when the Newsboys Shine came on at the Rollerskating rink, our mothers complained, then on the way home my mother explained that God was not glorified through that music? How do I explain that I grew up on Chopin and Mozart and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” but never turned on a radio station other than the two conservative Christian channels until I was 18 years old? How do I tell them that my first exposure to even contemporary Christian music came in a form of a Chris Rice CD my friend gave me for my 17th birthday?
How do I explain to people that when I left home, I had never listened to anything not Christian, ever, like ever, ever? Except children’s music Twinkle Twinkle Little Star How I Wish YOU’D RESCUE ME. Or except background music in the department stores I visited twice a year.
How do I explain that I’ve ignored the past pop culture because keeping up with anything present is bad enough?
How do I explain that American culture means little to me because I didn’t grow up in it?
How do I explain that because I grew up in fundamentalism, I’ve had to learn that feminism isn’t evil and that religion isn’t square and in neat boxes, and so, I haven’t had the emotional time to learn much else because quite frankly, losing my faith and foundation took everthing I’ve got?
How do I explain that I learn a little each day about mainstream culture, and the rest of the day hike and read and blog and chill with family and friends because that makes me happy?
How do I explain that, sir, it ain’t easy like you think?
I never know what to tell people when they ask, “do you know?” What kind of question is that? Of course I don’t know.
But quite frankly, I don’t want to tell people that I grew up in homeschool fundamentalism. I don’t want to go there. Not to neighbors. So I just say, ” well, I don’t really keep up with music,” and try not to cry.
But sometimes I do cry.
Because I patch up one hole in my life, and I see another. And I keep patching, keep searching for information, keep googling, keep asking, keep giving blank stares. And I wish it would end. But it doesn’t.
Sometimes homeschool moms ask about homeschooling done right. “What can we do to help our homeschool kids not experience the culture shock that you did?” they ask. I love that question, but see, they can ask how because they have the ability to help their kids, to teach their kids, to engage with their kids in mainstream culture. They have the ability.
But it hurts me because I don’t have the same ability. At least not nearly as much (I’m trying to learn, really). Because anything I’d do with my (theoretically teen) kids would either be forced (studying it like a textbook), or kids teaching me. I’ll never just live it out naturally, because it’s not my first language.
And that’s why this hurts. I don’t know how to pick up the pieces, patch the holes, and truly live in my own land.