manifested nightmare

I’ve been realizing lately that I used to be a really shitty person.

Not that I’m doing all that much better now or anything, but at least over the last few years I’ve become aware of my flaws and my tendencies and I am slowly but surely putting leashes on them and teaching them how to sit and shut up. I make no claims about being a Good Human Being, but damn, at least I’m willing to admit I’m human.

Baby!me did not have that ability. Much to her peril. And it’s taken me almost a decade to admit it.

Blame an old friend for this, if you will. Beautiful thing about social media is sometimes people reappear out of nowhere after two years of awkward silence and it’s like the distance never existed at all. This one, he’s special. I’ve blogged about him in the past because he’s slightly more notable as the first love whose lack of interest in me led to me leaving the Bubble and ending up on antidepressants for the first time (wow, boy did a lot for me), but before that… before that, he was the only person who knew me in high school who did not want to fix me, let alone try.

I think I scared him. It’s been eight years since it happened, a third of my life, and I still vividly remember the cold November weekend our paths first crossed. Rarely do I have primal reactions to new people, and negative ones even less so, but I took one look at that boy and I wanted to bring him down. Over the two days and several hallway encounters that followed, I almost hit him several times – and not always by accident either. I’m pretty sure everyone has vague sociopathic tendencies at age sixteen or so, but I was something else entirely and I picked a pretty good victim.

Or so I thought. But in my chaotic brilliance, I’d picked the one Bubble boy in our region who could not only keep up with me but actually chose to. Chose to explain to me, a year and a lifetime later, that sometimes content warnings make life easier. (Not that I listened, but seventeen-year-old me was not good at following instructions.) Chose to reach out to me and treat me like a damn person, something I did not know how to respond to at the time (and still don’t, honestly). Chose to, in sweet Bubble-boy fashion, become the first real friend I managed to keep.

But oh, that doesn’t change how much of a bitch I was.

If it moved, I hated it. I was undiagnosed depressive, not to mention aforementioned sociopath-adjacent tendencies, and I’d been left in a perfect playground. A quick glance at the national news will inform any outsider of how succeptible such communities are to semi-outsider predators, but the young who aren’t eaten frequently grow up to be just as monstrous. I was merely more open and aiming in a slightly different direction than my peers. All of us were a bit feral, I think. I stood out as a lone wolf amidst the shifting pack of our homeschool group, but nobody survived unscathed.

Still, someone saw light in me. Someone my age, someone I never would’ve expected kindness from until it was shown. And that, more than anything else, is probably why I’m still alive.

(I’m gonna message this post to the person in question, for the record. I do follow the “if you write about them and you’re still on speaking terms, make sure they see it” rule. So… this could get awkward and lead to a follow-up post about how I’ve set my life on fire THIS month.)

I still have a lot of reflection to do, but at least I’m admitting it. That’s the first step.

do something

I’ve had it up to here with passive-aggressiveness.

As usual with most of my frustrations, there’s a few contributing factors here. There’s the culture of random catfights at my work (for those of you who don’t know me in RL, I work in retail and that’s honestly a whole ‘nother post but sufficient to say, I have some INTERESTING coworkers). There’s the wildlife on Facebook who I can’t unfriend for whatever reason (usually ’cause I want to watch them completely trainwreck in a couple years) who post so, so many political things but don’t have actual SOLUTIONS. There’s similar bullshit on Tumblr, which is why I haven’t even checked my tracked tags on there in like a month because I can’t deal with people. There’s… guh.

Again, my background comes back to bite me. Again, having grown up in a fairly normal family that for whatever reason attempted to blend in with the conservative wildlife comes back and my disillusionment has roots somewhere in my teens.

I guess my frustration with people who have problems but don’t ACT ON THEM started with the pro-life movement. (I’m about to ruffle some feathers here, so if that topic is really important to you, this is your warning to quit reading.) Obviously, as a good Bubble kid, that was something I grew up around. Worse, as a good Bubble kid who was adopted right after birth, that was something I couldn’t escape. When I was younger, my mother was prone to waving the “I adopted three unwanted children” flag every chance she got. (She’s toned it down over the last couple years, but still brings it out for special occasions.) It was her sainthood, and as far as that goes… far be it from me to judge one of someone’s more harmless hangups, but as one of the kids in question it did feel an awful lot like a guilt trip.

But as per usual when dealing with the Bubble, my mother was comparatively tame. On this issue, a little more dramatically than most. Even outsiders know that pro-life is THE issue that defines the Bubble. It’s not an optional belief, like headcoverings or the more obnoxious strain of Calvinism. It’s a REQUIREMENT. But at least in my experience, it was dealt with the same way every other cause was – talk about it until lungs and lips turn blue, throw money at the problem, maybe serve on an organizing committee if you’re REALLY dedicated to the cause, and… that’s it. That’s where it begins and ends.

Now, apply that approach to literally any issue that bothers anyone. That’s generally how it works. For issues of a wide variety. By people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I just… I can’t.

I can’t.

If something bothers you as much as you claim it does, DO SOMETHING. Time goes a hell of a lot further than money. Don’t just sit there and post shit on FB. DO SOMETHING.

And if you’re not willing to put up the effort to turn your beliefs into actions… maybe you should rethink them. Y’know. Maybe.

mid-case scenario

As of this past Saturday, all my contact with the Bubble going forward will be completely of my own free will. My little sister officially graduated high school the second time (it’s a long story and not mine to tell in detail but mostly features her primal concept of loyalty), my family survived some awkward conversations in a bizarrely small church gym, and it’s over. We’re done.

I know, I know – I myself graduated six years ago, so technically the past six years have been voluntary, but… it’s hard to run when you’ve got younger siblings. Especially when one of said younger siblings is friends with everyone. (Bean, if you’re reading this, I love how outgoing you are but sometimes I wonder how your brain handles it. Maybe with the space I would have if I’d stop obsessing about questionable genre shows??) So while I was out of the heart of the fire, I was still on the edges.

And now I am not. And that’s weird as hell and, like everything else, it’s got me brooding.

I am not the perfect Bubble girl, that much is obvious from my colorful vocabulary and the fact that, at almost 24, there’s no ring on my finger and my uterus has yet to have an occupant. But nor am I what they thought I’d become either. Sure, I’ve got a few more tattoos than would be considered ideal (okay fine I only have four SO FAR), but I don’t have bizarre piercings, my sexual orientation is only a relevant detail of my existence when I feel like hissing about that one girl I had a crush on two autumns back (one of those fabulously no-win crushes no less), I don’t have a criminal record or a child born out of wedlock, and I’m pretty harmless when I remember to take my meds.

So, I’m something else. A grayscale daughter of a black-and-white world. Weird, huh.

I got the chance to talk to an old friend last weekend who I hadn’t had any direct contact with in a year and a half (thank you Facebook chat for reminding me of the last time we’d both been broody enough to deal with each other) and it was the weirdest freaking thing. Six years ago, I thought I was gonna marry that boy. Mind you, I thought a lot of other shit then that also ended up being completely wrong, but… there’s a part of me that’s always gonna have a soft spot for Vulcan. Like most of the people I’ve loved, he sees right through people to their very cores. Even from the other side of the world, having noticed that I’d liked one too many of his vacation photos (which are AWESOME btw and I’m kinda jealous) and deciding to check in on me ’cause why the hell not, he saw through me.

God, I’d probably be miserable right now if he’d liked me back. If we’d been one of those Bubble couples – if you’ve ever dealt with the Bubble, you know the type, the ones that get married after six months of their version of dating ’cause it’d be a mortal sin to make out before marriage. We easily could’ve been. I’m sure there’s an alternate universe where Vulcan would’ve fallen for me because of how many feathers it would’ve ruffled for the golden boy to settle down with the bitchy black sheep. (And now that’s a story idea. Frack.) But we didn’t, and I can finally see how that was a good thing.

In the end, turned out neither of us did Perfect Bubble Young Adult that well. And it feels awesome to know stuff about a whole range of things that are perfect gibberish to someone whose mind used to amaze me (and to an extent still does). It feels awesome to know that that boy’s out there doing his thing, in his own orbit, keeping his head above water and finding happy moments here and there. I’m definitely one of those people who likes to keep an eye on former objects of affection – given that I’ve gone after some Real Winners, it’s almost necessary – but at least I don’t have to worry about Vulcan. Never have, never will.

I mean, my first instinct upon meeting that boy almost eight years ago was that I wanted to punch him. Even considering the Bubble doctrine of Universal Compatibility, there was no way that was gonna end well for me.

I feel like I’m in another transformative phase of my life. I know, I know, I’m in my twenties so like this entire decade is supposed to be transformative, but like… this current moment more so than usual. This summer, just beginning, like it could totally reshape everything I am and believe in.

Idk. I got a tattoo of a moon on my wrist two weeks ago because werewolves are the perfect analogy for everything about me, I’m attempting to plow through the works of CS Lewis in an effort to sort out my spirituality completely separate from my environment of origin (or the megachurches it seems like everyone my age goes to), and today I learned not to wear my super-modest dress when I’m going to a particular location ’cause that is how one gets harassed by drunk homeless people. It’s a weird week and I’m just shutting up and running with it.

Bubble-girl superpowers

As those of you who’ve been reading my ramblings for a while are well aware, I had a rather unconventional childhood. For the most part, on this blog I talk about the negative elements of growing up hella sheltered, but there are a few up-sides to the world that created me as well. Thus, a list of stuff that I am especially good at because of my time in the Bubble:

  1. predicting what my hypothetical children would look like if the other parent was… just about anybody I crush on, really. Although this may not be “I’m ex-Bubble” so much as “I have an active imagination and did really well in biology”, I still feel like it counts. The moment I catch the flutters for someone, I start envisioning the possible tiny humans, and I can’t wait for the day I get to see the results of that and get proved right.
  2. winning at “are they pregnant or just fat??”. I can tell. I can always tell. I also win at “are they pregnant or just haven’t figured out how to wear clothes that actually fit??”, which I would like to point out is usually harder.
  3. natural immunity to creeps. I’m not even sure how this works tbh, but sometimes having like zero understanding of normal social cues works out really well for me.
  4. running in just about any type of skirt. You say there’s no way anyone can move in a particular garment?? Watch. and. learn. “Impossible” does not apply here.
  5. speaking fluent good-girl-bitch. Aka the midwest version of southern-belle snark. If it sounds like a compliment, it’s probably not one.

remaking fairytales

 

I’ve heard it said that you can tell a lot about a girl by her favorite Disney princess movie.

This is a little ironic considering I was raised in a culture where I had to lie about watching such things until some indefinite point in my teens when my mother Gave Up, but I do think there’s some truth to that statement. What someone idealizes does, whether they like it or not, end up having a strong effect on who they become.

I always liked Beauty & The Beast best, myself.

I’m pretty sure I almost broke the videotape when I was little because of how many times I watched it, and my earliest career goal was that I wanted to be Belle. From my perspective as an odd yet fairly mundane preschooler, Belle got everything. She got the cool house with the huge library (I learned to read when I was three and have had a book-buying problem ever since), she got dresses that were cute but still practical, and her love interest made a lot of sense to tiny me. Sure, the Beast ultimately ended up being boringly attractive, but that wasn’t why Belle loved him. No, she fell for him because he was kind, because he treated her like a person and expected nothing more than for her to see him with the same eyes.

Even as a little bug, I had issues with the cultural narrative of relationships I was soon to learn. It just took me a while to find the words to say that.

I knew, well before I had the words for it, that I wasn’t gonna be what the people around me wanted. I was and still am a domesticity fail, as evidenced by last weekend’s chili experiment (life tip – there is no reason to put two jumbo-sized cans of tomato paste in ANYTHING unless you’re cooking for a crowd) and the fact that my organization style is “I can’t lose anything if I can see EVERYTHING”. I’ve figured out my performative femininity acceptably enough, which is to say I like wearing cute dresses and I can run pretty well in three-inch heels, but I didn’t get to that point until the tail end of high school. It took me past my twentieth birthday to figure out that I actually do want to get married and have a few kids and probably homeschool ’em if that’s the best choice for who they are as individuals, and even then I’ve set those goals for myself for my own reasons instead of because they were expected of me. I’m not musically talented, so ’nuff said about that defect. In general, I just… turned out to be my own person in a culture that really wanted Stepford girls.

Obviously, said culture didn’t give me a game plan for relationships with the opposite sex.

(Sidenote – turned out I’m bi as hell, but that’s irrelevant here. Maybe someday I’ll share the story of how I figured that out, but for the purposes of this post, I’ve got enough trouble as a girl attracted to guys. More than enough trouble, really.)

There were the books, of course. Before You Meet Prince Charming was a real big hit in the local community. I remember thinking, as an extremely innocent thirteen-year-old, that maybe it wasn’t good to get your relationship instructions from someone who’s never been in one. I made the mistake of actually saying  this to a few people and… well, I was already the black sheep girl of the group, so wasn’t like I could do anything worse unless I got pregnant or something.

(Spoiler alert – that didn’t happen. I thought I was asexual until I developed my first major crush when I was seventeen, it took another six years for me to crush on someone who liked me enough to kiss me, my physical innocence is still pretty intact, and I’m a smart enough woman to be on birth control for the sake of covering my ass anyways. Didn’t stop me from having a Virgin-Mary-panic moment a few weeks back, but that’s a mandatory experience for anyone who has a uterus. Even one of my close friends who is solidly lesbian and physically inexperienced has had a panic-induced pregnancy scare. Srsly.)

As if the books weren’t enough, there were the social pressures. I remember, for some very weird reason, deciding I wouldn’t kiss anyone until I was engaged to them. No freaking idea why that seemed sensible to me, but it was restrictive while still being realistic (or at least that’s what I thought at age 15-ish). We did not talk about crushes, ever, and there were a few secret relationships amongst my peers that I didn’t learn about until several years later. Not to mention, girls were never allowed to initiate anything. Ever. Just wait around like good little wallflowers until a Good Bubble Boy thought we were worthy of forever.

I’m not sure how old I was when I realized my fate was probably not gonna go that direction, but at some point in high school, I started constructing my own alternative fantasy.

I was damaged goods, or at least that’s what I figured. I was vaguely aware of my status as a Survivor, and a lot more aware of the self-harm scars on my legs. I had no culturally valuable skills or personality traits. Obviously, I was never gonna be anyone’s first choice.

Once again, Beauty & The Beast saved my ass.

Obviously, I subconsciously told myself, what I needed was a slightly damaged man. Not dangerous, mind you; more of a brooding type without the asshole-ish qualities that usually come in the same package. Someone who had definitely Seen Some Shit and was visibly a different person because of it, but still had flickers of light in his soul. Someone quiet and kind and above all else protective. Someone who could deal with my bad depressive days and still, somehow, actually like me.

Then, armed with those desires, I discovered fanfic and shipping and all of those fun things.

I firmly believe that fanfic can be therapy. You’ve just gotta find the right thing to write it for, the right characters and pairing to make your life make sense. I’ve processed a lot of major life events through fic, and some of my friends have told me that they can tell when a plot point in a story actually happened to me because it feels more real. I also used that outlet to figure out what I wanted. If you’re an inexperienced little bug who’s pretty convinced they have no real chance of changing that… trust me, playing in someone else’s sandbox makes life make so much more sense.

I found some unexpected stuff along the way. I found friends who are like sisters. I found inspiration for my tattoos, both existent and planned. I found things worth living for.

Oh, and I convinced myself I had relationshipping down, which was real freaking cute when it got crash-tested.

Be careful what you wish for, I guess?

I did good, in the grand scheme of things. My “type”, if you will, is a solidly good type of human. Compared to one of my besties, who is a little too interested in fictional sociopaths and has made an effort to make sure her RL “type” is much different for her own safety, at least mine is something I can safely go after. I created this for myself, after all, and I might as well see what paths it leads me down.

But srsly y’all, if your kid’s favorite Disney princess movie is The Little Mermaid and your kid has seen all the Disney princess movies, you’re in for a wild ride. Just sayin’.

the walking wounded

I’m not sure exactly when I got disillusioned with organized religion. It’s one of those things that obviously happened at some point, but out of all the things that caused this particular cluster of jadedness, one catalyst stands out – in a culture that values martyrdom, wanting to die and wanting to feel pain for your own reasons doesn’t go over so well.

The church I grew up in (which my family has recently left, freaking finally) did not handle mental illness very well. Or at all. Ever. If anything, my community of origin tended to follow the approach of “if we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen to our kids”. This got applied to everything, and the results were predictably awful. Premarital sex? No way to confirm numbers on that one (yet), but I’d bet money that not all of my peers were as innocent as we thought. The entire concept of different sexual orientations? I still turned out bi. Mental illness? Ooooooh boy, that one got blown to hell and then some.

I’m not actually sure when I developed depression either beyond “some indefinite point in high school”. I had a nice little self-harm phase when I was 12, and I’ve got some tiny little scars on my thighs to prove it (life tip – safety razors are appropriately named, but I still did a little damage), but somehow that one hasn’t recurred. I’ve probably had anxiety since I was a little bug, but that only got confirmed and medicated a few months ago. I have recurrent suicidal thoughts, and every time I think those are gone, lol no. I’m not ashamed of any of this.

According to the culture that created me, however, I ought to be. Assuming it’s even real, and a lot of ’em don’t think it is.

I grew up thinking that the church was supposed to be a place of healing. For me, as a woman with multiple mental illnesses, it was anything but. Instead of hope, I found victim-blaming and denial, and I’m not that kind of a martyr. I can’t survive that thought process anymore.

Suffering is all well and good, they said – beautiful, even. I call bullshit. I am the walking wounded and I know better.

the corruption of Reject Girl

I got my first kiss a week ago, in a parking lot, in the middle of the afternoon, towards the end of my first date with anyone ever, after talking to the other person for about an hour and a half, and at what felt like a rather odd but perfect point in our conversation.

I’m posting this publicly, even though that relationship – a blossomy hopeful week-old creature – isn’t public yet and probably won’t be for a while yet, because this was not how I thought it would happen.

Good Bubble girls do not do this stuff. Good Bubble girls… probably have nightmares about one of the sweetest things I’ve ever experienced.

But it happened, and I’m still processing it in the context of the things I used to believe, and that’s kinda a mess so here I am writing about it in the hope that maybe putting it into words and flinging it at the faceless internet will help it make sense.

I’m a daughter of purity culture, and there’s nothing new I can say about that calamity, but I will say that it’s a fun thing to explain to people who don’t know it exists. If you’re such a person, others have written about this stuff way better than I have and I’m sorry I’m not in the mood to explain it. And if you’re one of my fellow victims… you wish you could forget, right??

Good Bubble girls don’t kiss anybody until they’re married. Or engaged at the very least. Or maybe almost engaged. Certain they’re with their soulmate, in any case.

I was never really a good Bubble girl. Never had anything else that world wanted from me. But damned if I wasn’t innocent as all hell. My lack of physical experience was supposed to be my one selling point as a person, enough to make some unfortunate man want to take care of me forever in exchange for being the only person to ever see my glory.

Because, y’know, that’s a totally legit reason to settle down with somebody. Not because you’re actually good for each other, not because you want the same things, but because you wanna get all over each other.

The older I get, the further I get from that world, the more I understand why outsiders think it’s all crazy.

I got lucky, I guess, in that I didn’t freak out after the kiss – which in itself was a very strange five seconds before I processed that maybe I want to do things slowly and maybe holding hands with the guy I may or may not be dating is still kinda weird for me and maybe this is about six new sensations at once and I like it but I’m not sure how to deal. I got lucky in that the freakout actually happened on my drive home about half an hour later, and then in lesser forms over the following two days. I got lucky in that, a week later, I’ve accepted it as an utterly beautiful Thing That Happened.

But still, I’m stuck with the guilt of a culture I have tried to leave behind.

Good Bubble girls wouldn’t have let that happened. Good Bubble girls would’ve stayed far away from someone who’d do that to them. Good Bubble girls would definitely not let the situation repeat a couple days later, let alone actively enjoy it.

Screw it, I’ve never been a good Bubble girl. If anything, I was always Reject Girl, the world’s worst superhero or whatev. All Reject Girl had going for her was her innocence, and now even that’s gone.

Ah well. There was never a future for me within the Bubble. And like something right out of a fairytale, all it took for me to finally accept that fate was the gentle brush of another person’s lips against mine.

I’ve got bigger things ahead of me now.