Supplies: the School of Distortion

Car Wash Window
photo I snapped in a car wash

Almost all the teachers at CPHS at some point uttered the words “You need to have a fallback if you’re in the arts.” Sometimes this speech was addressed to me. Sometimes to others. I strongly suspect that it was part of the curriculum.

For fans of Veronica Mars, you’ll get this: the demographics of the school fell along very similar lines to those depicted on Neptune High. It fell to the teachers to condition those of us from the “poor” families to expect a job as a janitor (pays better than most realize) and maybe some spit as a Christmas tip. They were programming us to either live in service to the wealthy families, or for the prettier girls to aim to marry into them if they could – or marry early and get started on that whole life as a servant in a country that doesn’t call it that situation.

I kept my mouth shut. It was tacitly expected that I would become a teacher because that’s what my family did. While a few idealists asked me for my own ambitions I was, for the most part, very close-mouthed about what I wanted. All I wanted, from beginning to end, was to write. I noticed that any sign of success in my preferred area got more music classes and obligations dumped on me. My family pushed hard for me to be a music teacher.

I’d rather kill myself. It has nothing to do with hating music or music teachers. It would be as bad as if I were gay and expected to live my life straight. I am not trying to co-opt it, but from what I’ve seen described from gay people that have had to, that’s a close comparison.

This was who they wanted me to be. They also wanted me to go to school where I was always in reach, live with them until marriage and wait on them hand and foot, marry someone I was tacitly set up with (I have a good idea who, based on compliments from my sisters’ friends that my mother reported back to me… and seemed to approve of. Ick. SO inappropriate, compounded by the pure, offensive squick of the interchangeable woman fantasy.) It was a lot like a micro version of Hunger Games society that was mapped out for me: my poverty of spirit and resource would be what made all their lives richer, all while pretending I didn’t exist after they had done with exploiting me.

While most of this is only conscious in retrospect, I did have a strong sense of self that manifested in helpful ways, even if I didn’t fully understand them. I loved romantic comedies but was always sorely disappointed when the heroine married the guy at the end, as though that were her only best possible resolution. My parents would tell me things about myself or make guesses as to what my motivations were – I just walked around with the belief that they were both hopelessly out of touch and not worth discussing anything of real meaning. To me they became arbitrary authorities, people to wait out until I could escape that particular iron curtain. I did not feel loved or guided by them because I wasn’t. My belief that they were hopelessly out of touch with reality, especially as it pertained to me, became my saving grace.

I moved on to college where there were other institutions of distortion awaiting me – but in college, I also found my guiding lights. Pete was the most surprising of them; he was always much more important to me than I was to him, but it wasn’t one of my giving and him just taking. He had some of his own distortion to deal with, albeit much more positive than mine. But he was what got me started rethinking all my assumptions.

He probably wouldn’t be happy with how I’ve turned out. He really wanted me to have kids, too.

But he did a good thing, even if he doesn’t see it that way.