Saturday, March 29, 2008

All you have to be is you (how to lose friends and alienate people)

When I was a young child I had this recurrent thought before I let myself drift off. I was in a warm, single-story house (we had always lived in apartments), and there was a storm raging outside in the night, a strom so fierce it might've been a war. All our friends and relatives were already tucked safely in the other rooms of the house, butjust to make sure, I'd go through a mental inventory of my dog, my brother, my grandparets, uncles and aunts on both sides, cousins, dad's cousin and his children, neighbours, my parents best friends, then I'd go through my collection furry animals, and then I'd start thinking of more people who should be in, and so I'd run out into the poring rain and thunder in my night out, and drag them in from wherever the were hiding, unsuspecting that this storm was about to turn LETHAL. I'd bring in my best friend and my minor friends, and my classmates, making sure that those who were mean came in last, but still I'd bring in everyone I could think of, even the intimidating grocery store couple. Everyone who needed to be saved, everyone who was oblivious to the great grave danger. And when the house was full beyond capacity (I still have my spacious bed though), I'd let the thunder and sleets of rain loose, and sleep peacefully through it all, at peace with knowing that I saved EVERYONE.

I was 12 years old and brainwashed by Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. With all the paranoia in Israel about missionaries (culminating a few weeks ago in a packaged bomb sent to a preacher's son, who was severely and irrepearably wounded), I don't know why no one ever pointed out that having only recieving 3 channels, one of them entirely in Arabic, and one of them interviewing policticians and such on dingy looking sets, that the only thing to watch after school was manga versions of the New Testament, Christian workouts with a bubbly blonde in pink lycra, and the 700 Club with its narratives of salvation from misery, addiction and handicap. I didn't know much about religion, just the Judaism hated me if I didn't wear long skirts and stockings, prayed before I ate, drank or peed, and generally that nothing that I did in life - going to the beach, watching TV, reading, slow dancing with a boy on a Friday night, or eating cheese within 6 hours of having eaten pastrami - was in synch with Judaism at all. Although I am Jewish by birth, getting in touch with God, a God whose full name you were not allowed even to say, so that when you read the Bible in Bible class a few times a week, you had to be very careful not to utter the explicit name but say "the name" instead, required steps that were impossible to take unless I wanted to alienate my friends and annoy my parents far more than I already did. Jesus, however, was so readily available. On the Middle East Channel, broadcasting from Cyprus, Pat and his team of co-hosts and guests were welcoming and hearty, if you understood a bit of English. On every show Pat or another preacher, sometimes even a woman (who were not banished behind a screen in the back of the church-studio) would invite a standing, closed eyed, open armed audience to invite Jesus into their life. Since I was alone in the house, my brother was outside playing with his neighbourhood buddies, my parents at work, I'd ask Jesus for help to. I asked him from the bottom of my heart because there was so many things I needed help with. I needed to be pretty, I needed to lose weight, I needed to get my braces removed, I needed my breasts to stop growing, I needed boys to like me, hell even notice me, and girls to stop ridiculing me, I needed new clothes for that purpose, and I needed to somehow stop sliding into the endless pit that it academic failure, I needed love, I'd die without love.

I felt horribly guilty about these communions with Jesus. I knew we weren't supposed to talk to him, and I think even back then I had a slight suspicion towards the motives of white haired men in slick studios, although I don't remeber if they prompted donations on the show. I knew that Jews were not supposed to give in to Jesus, that Jewish bravery was being burned alive at the stake and not surrendering, that I was betraying millions of tortured souls. That our God was the real one, even if he wasn't nice, even if all he did was threaten and punish, he really cared. Even though the Bible was a mindnumbingly boring story of human and divine aggression, and the New testament (which I have somehow procurred by scanning my dad's bookshelves, finding a tiny, pocket-sized Gideons version of it) read like an teenage advice book, with instructions specifying each part for a different mood (it was hard deciding which nategory I belonged to between the various states of anxiety, fear and depression). I knew that I was doing something wrong, and my guilt about my daily meetings with Pat even overshadowed that over masturbating in the shower.

Many people I used to work with in my mid- to late-twenties have gone on in the field to become successful, well-known even. I read interviews with them, a review of their recent work, or watch their faces on online television. It took them about 5-7 years to make a real name for themselves, to earn 5 digit salaries, to fulfil themselves in exciting positions that take them around the world and put them in the center of attention. When I started working with these people, I met myself as I could have been if i didn't succumb to bullying, depression and neglect. if I hadn't let myself down over and over in the worst ways possible in my formative years. Shortly after that year of watching and kneeling with Pat and thighcrercising with the smiling Christian cheerleader, I pulled into the fast lane of adolescence. It took 2 years, and I went from being a child with breasts who turned to Jesus against her better judgement to a strung out, tattooed, cocksucking scavenger. The season has started, no holds barred. Men that 2 years later, 1 year later, 6 months later I wouldn't have even seen, they were so removed from my world in age, in demeanor, in geography, populated my world, and the children that I grew up with, the ball kicking tan boys with their scratched knees and vulgar vocabularies, the gum popping hardened girls with their underlined bikinis and lemon bleached curls, have evaporated into insignificance. I has stopped the bullying short about a year after Jesus and Pat came into my life, but it was too late. I had sold my soul to do that, sitting at the back of the bus, answering back to teachers and slamming doors, outstaring, smoking, popping beer cans, hitchhiking with girlfriends and them alone in the cars of sheepish looking men glancing over at a loss for words, sneaking to the city on Friday nights and into nightclubs where the guys were 18 or older and the girls looked 30 with their teased hair and frosted lips and skin tight minis. It all happened so fast. There was a void, but now it was filled by so much that had happened, phone calls, heart aches, blunts and pills, piercings and cuts, and always the men. Pregnancy wasn't a consideration, HIV was a rumor, other STDs didn't exist. The worst that happened was that someone took it much further than you wanted and then you pretended that it was actually what you wanted and when it was over your furatively licked your wounds. Your home was your body, and you would leave home (you dropped out of school, several schools) months earlier with your duffel bag and end up smoking a joint with a soldier on leave on the shore of the lake, or sleeping it off in somebody's basement, or drunk out of your head with a tourist by the beach. The panic never seized, because it didn't stop for a second.

When I started working, I mean working white collar jobs, working with creative, educated people in places where ideas had a life of their own, is when I realized much more painfully where I have made the wrond turn, betrayed myself in the most complete way, where all the men, even the worst of them, where just a prop, an accessory. I was lucky to be alive, healthy, pretty, I was lucky to have a brain which I could use to almost catch up with my peers, but I still had the hollowness, the depths that I have seen and been to and no one else could have imagined. I was remakably unscarred, save for some self made scars and markings, which I had become adept at hiding. My face was pure, my eyes held no clue to the images that lay behind them. But I remined opaque for many years. I didn't talk about it, I didn't meet anybody who even remotely echoed those times and days, not someone who made it out of there. Not someone who kept their sanity. I was busy with living, with learning to socialize, with spending time with men platonically, more often than not, with learning an art of flirting that didn't lead to being taken there and there, with seeing humans - often with shadows, often threatening, but human nonetheless. It was a long, slow learning curve studded with crisis and drama, crying and jealousy fits to my boyfriends, anger at my bosses, hisses over the unfairness of it all. But I trampled on, and I thought that this was as good as it gets. By acting out as a teen, I became what I wanted to be, a rebel, a ruthless outsider, until I almost couldn't go back anymore, went so far into the storm the house was but a hint of illuminessennce, but I clawed my way back, and the the people were still there, and there was still some room for me. To think that this all started with Pat Robertson, an evangelist preacher, slowly prodding me towards the edge.


BigAssBelle said...

i don't know that i've ever read anything in the blog world that so perfectly echoes my own experience. the only reason i do not have HIV is because it wasn't around in my wildest years. amazing. you have a gift for truth telling.

Anonymous said...

Happy Independence Day!!