Thursday, June 29, 2006

I remember my first real party... know the kind I mean, the kind with--*drum roll*--alcohol? As a teenager, I was fairly clean-cut. I did what my Mom and Dad said, for the most part. Once when I was 14 I had a few drinks from a friend's beer bottle at a school dance, but other than that....clean.

In Grade 12, we moved to a new town even smaller than the one we had been living in for two years. The kids at the school were nice enough, but they had known each other since Grade 1, and I was definitely the outsider. One day, Shirley asked me if I wanted to come to her place for a party Friday night, beer and barbecue. I couldn't believe she had even asked me...she knew I was the preacher's daughter! I lamely said I'd ask my mom, never expecting her to say yes.

I asked my mom straight out, with no pleading or "I'll be good!" She looked at me and smiled and said, "Go ahead, honey. Sounds like fun." Was this trust? Yes, it most definitely was! There was no lecture, no warnings about the evils of alcohol...just trust.

So I went to the party. There were only 33 kids in my class, including me, so almost everyone was there. Most of them were drinking beer. I remember one of the guys standing at the barbecue pouring beer over his steak, something I had never seen done before. Someone asked me if I wanted a beer. I said no thanks, but is there any soda pop? Sure, in the fridge, help yourself. I think I had half-expected to be mocked and ridiculed for turning down the beer, but nobody even noticed.

I remember "White Wedding" howling through the speakers and all of us singing along with Billy Idol.

I didn't stay really late, but I had fun. I felt like a bridge had been crossed, like I had hung out on alien turf and been accepted as I was. Perhaps it didn't dawn on me then, but I had also accepted these other kids as they were, without expecting them to clean up and come to church or youth group or Bible study. It sure made a difference in how I was treated at school...not quite as much of an outsider, a little bit more like someone who belonged.

I hope I remember to trust my daughter when she wants to walk on alien turf. It's a good place to learn about people, a good place to learn about yourself, hanging out with the "aliens". You realize there really isn't any difference at all, to speak of.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I remember realizing that it's possible to like Jimi Hendrix too much...

A bit of background. I grew up in a home with plenty of music, but almost no rock and roll. We sang choruses and hymns, Dad would listen to Jim Reeves or Tennessee Ernie Ford on the record player...but we were NOT allowed to listen to rock and roll radio. When I went to college and started volunteering at a college radio station in 1985, my mind was blown wide open by all the music in the record library. One day I'd be excited about the Violent Femmes, the next day it was Janis Joplin or the was ALL new to me. My favorite, though, was Jimi Hendrix. I played him every week on my show, mixing him in amongst the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and Einsturzende Neubauten. It made perfect sense to me, and I often talked on air about how I thought Jimi was--if not ACTUALLY, then practically--God. Anyone who listened to my radio show in Vancouver knew how I felt about Jimi.

An acquaintance of mine, David (names have been changed to protect the guilty), asked me on a date. He was a quiet sort with a brooding intensity, and I knew him well enough from my social life, so I said sure. I think we went for a walk along the seawall, and then went back to his place so he could cook me dinner. As we were sitting at the table after the delicious meal, David started talking about Jimi Hendrix. He loved Jimi, too! This was starting to look like a promising date! He pulled out all the Jimi albums he had, which was more than I had ever seen before, and put one on. He sat at the table and closed his eyes as the music started. I, being me, pushed my chair away from the table and started dancing around the room like a hippy, blissed out as I let the guitar notes tell me what to do next.

David spoke up: "What are you doing?"

"I'm dancing! I just have to move when I listen to Jimi!"

"You can't listen properly if you are dancing. You have to sit and listen without distraction!"

I realized at that moment that all the promise of the first half of the date was at this moment being destroyed by David's obsession with Jimi. I had been told all my growing up years that dancing was wrong and I should stop, and here was this long hair telling me to stop, too. "Uh...I listen best when I move!"

"No. Nobody can properly absorb what Jimi was trying to communicate if they are not paying full attention. Sit down."

Rather than make a scene, I sat and listened to Jimi with David for about another hour. It was very boring. Apparently if you want to really "get" what Jimi is communicating, you can't dance, talk, or do anything but sit there with your eyes closed! I can picture us in that apartment sitting at the table in the candlelight, David's eyes closed, mine sort of closed but actually peeking at David just to make sure he wasn't kidding or pulling my leg or something. It was quite humorous, but I couldn't wait to leave.

I was fully prepared to turn David down the next time he asked me out, but he never asked me out again. I must have failed his test as completely as he failed mine.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I remember the stranger who laughed at me...

As the family of the pastor, we often had guests over at our house for dinner. This was something I usually looked forward to. I enjoyed entertaining people, and new guests were a new audience who hadn't seen all my old material!

One afternoon there was a few people over, grown-ups without any children. I was cavorting around the kitchen listening to their conversation, when one of the men looked at me and laughed. He made some comment, I don't remember exactly what, about the enormous size of my tongue, and then proceeded to stick his tongue out like someone with Down's syndrome and roll his eyes at me. Everybody laughed. Except me. It so happens that I do have a very long tongue, and as a child when I was concentrating on something, it would sometimes rest on my lower lip with my mouth partly open. This was an unconcious act that I didn't realize I was doing...until this man pointed it out. I was humiliated. I discovered what it meant to be self-conscious.

I spent the next few minutes alone in front of a mirror, purposefully trying to recreate my usually absent-minded tongue placement. Even I had to admit, it looked ridiculous. It made me look dumb.

Friends, thinking of this memory still fills me with hot shame and anger. I want to find this man, who's name I thankfully don't know, and kick him in the shins, just like an 8 year old would. I can't believe I am still holding onto the hatred I felt for him. I guess it's time for me to let it go, to realize that a man who would mock a child and laugh at her like that must be a small man indeed, with a small opinion of himself, and probably needs my forgiveness more than I need his respect. So, little man, wherever you are...I forgive you for laughing at me.