I’m reading Hayden White’s The Content of the Form. Over my dead body. Actually I love his book. I just can only take so many pages of theory day after day before I go insane. So I’ll stop and blog here a bit.
He said this:
Everywhere it is the forces of disorder, natural, and human, the forces of violence and destruction, that occupy the forefront of attention.
Sometime I feel like that pessimist. I’m always repeating such dark stories. Fundamentalism does this. Fundamentalism does that. Have to dress modestly, not date, smile every second, mom shames, dad yells, sister cries. Just whatever.
So then when I read this quote, I started to think of the space that is not yet narrated. Just as kids still picked flowers during the 30 Years War, what did I do so great and wonderful all those years trapped at home?
No doubt I still did pick up flowers and read interesting books and bruise my feet running around barefoot.
But you know why I don’t narrate those stories enough?
Because the great moments were still occupied with the “dang perfect” syndrome.
No, for real. If you are a fundamental kid, and if you want to be real, you have to be alone. Otherwise if you are with anyone else, you have to be perfect. Maybe you can be non-perfect with a sibling. If the sibling doesn’t tattle. But with outsiders? FORGET IT. Because they will judge you. Even your thirteen-year-old friend will judge you.
And even the whole alone thing is questionable. I used to try to impress myself when I was ALONE. Because, if you are fundamentalists, you believe that God is hovering over you, watching you, holding you accountable.
“God’s not pleased with me!” I’d fall on my own bed at night, weeping. I was haunted with this. For years.
We used to always say, echoing Bill Gothard, “you aren’t all dressed until you wear a smile.” I even had a post of this on my own bedroom door. The implication was smile even if we weren’t happy.
Or we’d have to say our manners, then get shamed if I did not.
Or we’d memorize scriptures. Stuff our brains with it. Of course, the message was always, more character traits to keep. That I could not.
Then add the sheer fakeness of it. “So in so is coming over, put on a skirt.” Or we’d go out in public and laugh and fake it all out. After we had thrown the algebra textbook across the room and practically cussed at it.
As a kid, I knew I was unhappy. I never remember thinking, “oh, I’m so happy.” Never. I kept a journal, never missed a day, for most of my teen years. Basically it was full of pain.
But even before I was a teen, I’d freeze up in public because I was such a screw-all in God’s eyes. “Raise your hands and promise to be attentive,” we were told at Bill Gothard’s Children’s Institute. I was tired of the crap and didn’t bother raising my hand.
I guess it just goes to say this. If we did 100 million fun things as a kid, but all of those 100 million fun things required me to be perfect, consciously Christian, a warrior of God, and demanded my full attention and happiness, then it wasn’t worth it.
Think of it like this. Suppose you are a woman who loves to travel. And a man says he will pay for you to travel the entire world. But you have to marry him, submit to him, and wear a head covering all the time. He is nice and kind, but you still have to wear the head covering and submit? Would you do it?
Probably not. Unless you grew up that way.
And that’s exactly my point. I think we did a ton of fun things as kids, but when I think of my childhood, I see a wall of unhappiness.
And my parents were not trying to be jerks about it, either. They never tried to stop me from crying as long as I did it, as I said, alone.
In public I was told. Smile.
Depressed kids just don’t belong in fundamentalism. They can’t get help. They are trapped.
We are an entire generation with the broken pieces of our religion scattered on the floor around us. We are the children who learned fake smiles too early, who found all the right answers dissatisfying, who know what it’s like to sit in a pew with our hearts a thousand miles away.” ~ Micah J. Murray, “Why We Left The Church”