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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Formative Childhood Experiences: Trust No One [20091210|11:11]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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No one can break your heart the way they can when you're a child. That pure, searing agony of utter tragedy enveloping you, of the world collapsing into the crumped tissue with which you wipe your streaming face. You don't yet have the twin defenses of experience and the sense of humour imparted thereby.

I've often been called reserved and aloof and I can pinpoint the lessons that led to the development of these traits. I'll start with "Other People Don't Always Want To Do The Same Things As You".

I had a friend in the third grade, Terri. She wasn't just a friend. She was my best and only true friend. She was also to be the last person I ever called that.

Terri was my friend at least in part because she was very shy and I was quite outgoing. I did most of the talking for both of us. She never seemed to mind. Also, she was the only person willing to accompany me at recess in the pursuits I preferred - bug-watching in the woods, pretending my dollhouse was occupied by a king and his family and attempting to make shelters out of branches and sticks, where we would live when we were grown up. I didn't like team sports and had no desire to play foursquare or basketball. And I was perfectly happy because I thought I'd found someone just like me.

One day as we passed the dodgeball courts en route to the woods (that day's activity: cracking open freshly falled horse chestnuts), Terri yanked her hand out of mine. I stared open-mouthed as she joined the line to play the game. "What are you doing? Come on!" I insisted, trying to pull her away. She shook me off. "I'm going to play," she said calmly and turned her back on me. I wandered off to the woods by myself. My tears blinded me periodically but I still managed to assemble a fine collection of glossy chestnuts before returning to the classroom, where I sat next to Terri in silence. The next day, I asked to be moved to a different desk. I sat with a boy who spent most of his time drawing spaceships and ignoring me, which suited me fine for the rest of the year. Terri went to sit with Holly, who eventually became one of the popular girls, with her curly blonde hair and sweet, pliant personality, neither of which I would ever possess.

I mourned the loss of that perceived harmony for a couple of years, but eventually I found someone else I thought I could trust, at least. This led to the "Other People Make Fun Of You Behind Your Back" lesson. This girl was a neighbour, two years older than me, and I was flattered that she wanted to spend time with me and found my odd activities interesting. She was willing to rehearse and perform a play I'd written about going home to Hawai'i, to get soggy while making mud sculptures next to the creek and to try science experiments such as baking-soda volcanoes. She seemed more than tolerant. She was eager to participate. (Notice how my expectations have undergone radical reassessment.)

One day I went over to her house to ask if she wanted to play. She always said yes, so I took it for granted that she would. When I arrived, I found two other, older girls were already there with her, up in the treehouse. My friend wouldn't come down to talk to me. "I don't want to play with you every day," she said impatiently. I was hurt, especially since I didn't ask her to play with me every day, but I started to walk away, not wishing to commit the same error I had with Terri. As I departed, I heard one of the other girls say, "Is that your neighbour? She's so weird."

I waited to hear my friend's response.

She giggled.

It was a sound that indicated her complicity with the sentiment as clearly as if she'd voiced it herself. I knew I didn't wish to play with her that day or ever again.

A couple of weeks later, I spotted her from the living room window, under which I was attempting to devise a code unbreakable to my older male cousin. (I never succeeded. I later discovered he'd found the notebook in which I wrote my keys.) She came over the front lawn hesitantly, with an appealing expression on her face. I bolted out the back door and down to the stream so I wouldn't have to hear her ingratiating voice or my mother's puzzlement at finding me absent from the house.

The lesson was complete. Don't trust people with the fruits of your imagination, for they will mock you.

This wariness may be why I fell in love with the internet and social networking (before it was even called that). Suddenly it became possible to introduce a level of abstraction and anonymity into group interaction, and surprisingly, the majority of people seemed to be rather considerate about it. The abstraction provided a measure of protection from the sort of pain described above. I could share my thoughts and my creative output with less of a risk to my heart. These experiences may also be partly be why all my romantic relationships have been heterosexual. (The other part is an almost fanatical devotion to the cock, but moving swiftly onwards...) However irrationally, I don't believe that male humans can hurt me the way female humans have. I've been devastated by the breakup of various relationships, but none have had the poignancy of those early ones. None of my more recent experiences have had effects from which I've struggled to recover for so long. This is the first time I've been able to write about them in an objective way and they happened over twenty years ago.

I think this may be why I'm so fond of, and to a certain extent identify with, the Brits. There are people in the UK whom I can call friends, I think, but neither they nor I would ever commit the embarrassing crime of speaking of it aloud or of insisting that the friendship include such activities as, say, spending a lot of time together. My trust and love are girded with cautious silence, but that doesn't make them any less real or tenacious than it is with those who wear their hearts on their sleeves. An understanding of this perspective is embedded in the culture here, which makes life easier for a spiky little soul like me.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: imho_im_a_givin
2009-12-10 12:34 (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! I understand that experience all too well.
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[User Picture]From: doccy
2009-12-10 13:24 (UTC)
Dammit! That's what I was gonna say :P
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[User Picture]From: cataragon
2009-12-10 13:26 (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this, it really made me think.

I'm sorry you were hurt like that, and I don't wish to turn your personal experiences into a philosophical experiment, so feel free to tell me to bug off, but do you think that it's possible to recover from those kinds of hurts and trust more openly again? It sounds as if you maybe don't wish to, which is perfectly reasonable, but do you believe people, more generally, can? Should they? Or are these lessons that should stay learned?

One of my closest childhood friends molested me, for years - something that, obviously, left me with damaged ideas about friendship, and relationships and trust (and pretty much everything else, for that matter). I like to think I've recovered, mostly, and deal with the world neither with excessive mistrust, nor too much naivete, holding people I love close, without either strangling them with need or pushing them away - but sometimes I wonder how true that is. I certainly did a lot of mistrusting, naive trusting, pushing away and strangling while I tried to sort it out.
It's hard to know how to balance, when the ground underneath you was never level to start with, and I never can decide if the pendulum is swinging too far one way.

So I guess I'm intrigued, about these kinds of things as lessons, as shaping people in ways they don't want to 'fix'. I'm generally accepting of the person I turned out to be, but sometimes I wonder what I would have been like as a person without those influences, and I've certainly done a lot of work to try and get rid of their effects.

There's always something, though, isn't there? We have no control over what will shape us and influence us, and no magical knowledge of which kind of experiences will make us, later on, better or worse or just different people.

Is it better to trust, or not to trust? And what counts as damage and what counts as lessons? What makes us better, what makes us worse, what just makes us different? Bits of my childhood were horrific, but did I come out from that broken, or just different than I would have otherwise? Partly broken, obviously, but maybe with other things - personality traits, perspectives, I wouldn't have otherwise.

If we are what our past makes us, to what extent can we, and to what extent should we, try and change that? Should we just try and come to peace with it?


C.

PS. As a child, one of my favourite pastimes was digging big holes on the beach, digging little caves out of the walls and turning the whole thing into an Imaginary-Miniature-Cave-Person village paradise. Your childhood activities sound like things Me-At-Eight-Or-So would have really enjoyed.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 20:14 (UTC)
I think it's possible, and necessary, to trust people after your trust has been broken. You have to if you want to have meaningful relationships with them. But as you touched on here, there is a difference between the kind of naive, all-encompassing trust I placed in people when I was a child, and the carefully monitored, gradually increasing level of trust I put in people now.

I try to see most damaging experiences as lessons, except when they're completely not my fault (e.g. being assaulted at a bus stop). In that case, I'm thankful that I came away from it relatively unscathed. I've modified my behaviour so that I'm never in that situation again, by always either knowing exactly where I'm going or having money on me for a taxi so I don't get stuck on a night bus. But I don't dwell on it much. I don't want that experience to shape me to the extent that other painful experiences in which I've been a willing and long-term participant have.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 20:06 (UTC)
Oh yes, I think the internet has also made it much easier to appreciate the brainfruits of others, without all that awkward meatspace interaction that usually has to occur beforehand, or the necessity of being in the same room/city/country.
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[User Picture]From: wurlitzerprized
2009-12-10 17:25 (UTC)
this post touches me deeply...i am still "recovering" from an adult friendship blowout that has me re-examining my very self, the self i thought i had carefully constructed and protected from all the ills you speak of, from all those childhood/adolescent traumas. it was a case of being over-involved and over-exposed and entangled and entwined in ways i couldn't have imagined possible...anyway, it burned a hole through me the depth of which i never thought i'd ever encounter in my lifetime.

i feel very confused about what "the social contract" is anymore. i feel kinship with my social networking circle in that i feel i have found people who are freaks_like_me, cut from the same foreign cloth. yet real life leaves me skittish.

i wonder if my anglophilia stems from some sort of subconscious, intuitive attraction to the kind of interaction and friendship you speak of so eloquently here.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 20:01 (UTC)
As another respondent mentioned, it's very strange that the breakup of a friendship is not generally perceived to be as difficult as the breakup of a romantic relationship. I've found that such splits are just as immediately painful, and more difficult and slower to recover from. I'm sorry to hear you're going through it again. If you were here, I'd make you a cup of tea, and tell you all about the ways in which the train service in this country is going to the dogs.
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[User Picture]From: ursarctous
2009-12-10 17:27 (UTC)
i love this post, thank you for writing it. it's interesting how much of it sounds so familiar to me and how much seems like the complete opposite of my own experiences... only interesting to me, obviously, so i won't go into it here, but thanks for putting things into perspective and making me think.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:31 (UTC)
Well, if you feel like posting about this topic in your own journal rather than publicly here, I would be glad to read it. :-)
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[User Picture]From: sanat
2009-12-10 18:17 (UTC)
Word, to much of this. Especially the part about men just not being as hurtful as women--I so wish I'd realized that earlier on. Because of my relationship with my dad, I was always pricklier and more distant to men right from the outset, but that so left my back open for the blunt daggers of smiling manipulative girls.

Rachel, Francesca, Kellie--fuck ALL y'all, forever. :*(
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:35 (UTC)
Well, I'm not sure that men really are less hurtful. I think they can be just as hurtful as women, and in the same way. I know a number of women I can confide in securely, and a number of men with whom I would never discuss anything deeper than the weather report and the state of the train service because I know they're horrifically gossipy - and bitchy.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:42 (UTC)
I remember you telling me about that, yes. It's odd that the general perception is that the breakup of a romantic relationship is the most damaging and painful. But I think friendship breakups take longer to recover from and are sometimes more hurtful. Maybe this isn't everyone's experience, but I've always found it easier to acquire a new lover than a new friend.
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[User Picture]From: hafnir
2009-12-10 19:40 (UTC)
A couple thoughts:

1) I've never really understood why women (and of course girls) are so competitive and mean to each other. I mean, we guys have it too, but it's usually with much less vitriol. At least, in my experience.

2) Overall people's motivations are usually pretty simple, and we're all just a couple pushes from barbarism, and only a few steps removed from animals. You shouldn't expect too much from us, but that doesn't mean you can't love people too. You just have to love us for what we are, not for what we should be. I feel like I'm talking about my pets. :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:38 (UTC)
I have to disagree with (1). Men can be very bitchy indeed. Being a woman who has worked most of her life in male-dominated environments has taught me that male humans can be just as nasty, two-faced and gossipy as female ones.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2009-12-11 00:52 (UTC)
It's very hard to look back on such friendships with an objective eye. Especially if you're a dominant personality. The subtle communications of others are not always as apparent.

The Internet is a weird phenomenon. California culture is ripe with pretending to be bland, friendly, and accepting of absolute strangers. Only on closer acquaintance or with the distance of the Web can you be as waspish as you please.

Do you see a restrained British culture as sympathetic to your own approach to life, or merely enabling you to keep up the distance and self restraint required never to be hurt again? In the first case, go you, you've found a home culture, but if the latter I say tell people now and then you care about them. If nothing else, it will shock the hell out of them as much as seeing your bare toes on the Internet.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:45 (UTC)
Do you see a restrained British culture as sympathetic to your own approach to life, or merely enabling you to keep up the distance and self restraint required never to be hurt again?

I think it's about 30% column A and 70% column B. You're probably right that I should risk embarrassment and speak of my affection every now and then. But I think I'll stick to drunken moments. Preferably when the recipient of my confessional is drunk and I'm not. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2009-12-11 04:20 (UTC)

Spiky Little Soul

This is a very moving post, and probably way too familiar for many women reading to be quite comfortable.

(The other part is an almost fanatical devotion to the cock, but moving swiftly onwards...)

Hahhahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I'm sorry. There I am, reading along, feeling melancholy, and then you have to go and write this. Priceless. Levity.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:51 (UTC)
Sorry about that. This is another British influence, I think. The consequence of five years of constant teasing is an inability to take myself seriously for longer than about five minutes.
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[User Picture]From: nationofsheep
2009-12-11 04:20 (UTC)
That was a great post. I'm glad I got back to my social network here to read it. There are so many posts I have missed over the past few months, but I am glad I was around to read this one.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:47 (UTC)
Thanks very much! I'm happy to see you're posting a bit more regularly now yourself. :-)
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[User Picture]From: girl_onthego
2009-12-11 04:52 (UTC)
Agreed on all counts.

xx
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 18:58 (UTC)
Thought you might be able to relate.
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[User Picture]From: enterlinemedia
2009-12-12 01:14 (UTC)
Thanks for sharing. I can relate to this one.

P.S. If you want a print of one my photos, let me know soon (I have until end of thursday to print in the college dark room (until the middle of next month).
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-12-13 19:12 (UTC)
I really love the lighting on "IR gothic 7". Other favourites are the one colour piece (October gothic 12) and the Gothic Beauty 2 (Holga shot). Unless you really want me to choose, I'll leave you to pick which of those three you want to make into a print for me. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2009-12-14 13:23 (UTC)
I think a lot of children may actually be evil, and evil is something we (well, most people) grow out of (or learn to suppress). They say bullying and things like you've experienced don't matter when you get older, but they affect who you are for the rest of your life.

Two particularly unpleasant experiences stick in my mind from childhood. When trying to fit in in primary school I made an effort to be friends with a group of girls, and tagged along with them, until finally one day they told me to get lost, they didn't want to hang out with me. In terms that pleasant. I spent lunchtimes alone from then on - I convinced Mum to give me a key to the conservatory so I could go home and sit in peace with a book.

Another incident, in secondary school, involved a new girl, a nasty piece of work, who was particularly horrible to me (I shan't repeat some of the things she said or the jokes she made because it still hurts too much). She turned up at my door one night, she had come round to play. I didn't want her there, but Mum didn't know that, and I couldn't just tell her to go away. So she was let in and we sat in my room and chatted (although I was guarded and suspicious) and she was all nice and friendly. I thought maybe she'd thought better of her behaviour. Not so much. The next day she was telling everyone loudly how geeky I was and how stupid, and how rubbish my house and bedroom were, and making fun of my music and so on. Luckily she didn't last long - I guess she was expelled, like from her last school.

My school years were full of such things, and all of it has made me who I am, and not in a good way. It has taken me a long, long time to gain any kind of confidence that anyone could possibly actually like me, and I still don't really believe it, right down inside, except maybe G. And I hate them all for making me this way. I don't think I believe in forgiveness.

But there were good people too. Perhaps we should make posts about good things from childhood, to counteract the evil.

Edited at 2009-12-14 01:27 pm (UTC)
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