The importance of ladies to me in growing up as a child of a parent with mental illness.

I just turned 32, and I am very happy to get 31 out of my head. I try to keep a better account, these days, of what has happened in my life than I did when I was blundering around blithely as a teenager, drifting from couch to couch, job to job, apartment to apartment in many places.

I mark the places I’ve worked by the incredible people I’ve worked with. Mostly, those incredible people have been women, as guys in our culture are often quite uninterested in being good friends if said friendship involves anything even approaching the word “vulnerability”. I think this requires some back-story:

I grew in a family of very tough people, who, though we were all quite abnormal, had some defense mechanisms in common because sometimes, defense mechanisms are valid within a family setting and get you completely ostracized from society when you use them in public. My family used personal, intimate vulnerabilities as weak points to strike at when they needed to remind you that you were attacking them – it was our strange, combative way of indicating that we were now an emotionally wounded animal and would, to paraphrase Eminem, sting when we were cornered.

Mom sent me this album at some point. She could be honest through music sometimes, sometimes the only way. It’s a really good album for thinking about this stuff, for me, YMMV.

I was just thinking about the varying jobs I’ve had. My first job set an extremely high standard that every job since has almost completely failed to meet. When I was a teenage boy, I somehow managed to land a job in a a new agey-type store, maybe even a head shop, I don’t know, I don’t remember. I do remember my manager: she went by Kat. She was a gooooooorgeous lady with lovely hair and a mischievous attitude, but intensely friendly and completely assuming of positive intent. I thought of her as a pagan Ariel. I bought a painting in Albuquerque that I just looked at, and for some reason it reminded me of her. Definitely my first “adult” crush.

 

She was one of a long string of extremely compassionate ladies I have encountered in my life, who accepted me for who I was and talked to my screwed up self as if I were a real person and not human detritus, which is what I felt like. She impressed upon me the need to try to maintain that compassionate attitude toward others I encountered in life. She was a pagan, which made me really think hard about pagan values, and since then I must say I have never encountered a smart pagan I didn’t like, because to claim to be pagan is to make the Hippocratic oath and then some.

I loved that job. It was easily as interesting as the one-hour photo gig I did for a couple of months in Arizona.

I’m not pagan, by the way. Of the religions I’ve studied, Vedic philosophy comes the closest I’ve seen any philosophy come to describing how humans actually work.

 

Anyway, I may or may not have arranged to work there specifically to be able to hang around Kat. She had a smoky air about her, and it probably helped that the place was chock-full of all kinds of different incense. She was why I was into Enya and Loreena McKennitt, Deep Forest and a whole variety of Persian and Mediterranean music. We didn’t talk much, I mostly kept shop and looked at the pretty clothes and rested. Home was terror for me, I was so happy to have a place to go that was not drama class, where I could relax, where I could be assured that mom would not come by and randomly look in on me, where I was above all doing something useful and even earning money!

I’ve been considering why I have traditionally been attracted to a certain type of woman, or certain types, because of the friendly ladies I crushed on in my childhood. I tend toward amazonian women because I had a crush on my sister’s friend Alice. I like Persian culture and attitudes toward relationships because the extremely friendly and tolerant grocery store owner was Persian, and he was much nicer than the people in my family and at school. Also, I had a crush on these three when younger:

 

However, they were only projections of my crushes on actual girls who had been actually nice to me in the actual world.

Princess Jasmine and Ariel and especially Pocohontas. Shit, am I in love with Disney Princesses, just fundamentally as a person? Naw. Real people are way too complicated for that. That’s part of the problem. No matter how many Princesses Disney spews, there will never be enough to account for making appropriate heroes for everyone. Hence, comics.

What I mean to say was, I loved that head shop job or whatever, and I have loved incense and Vedic philosophy and all things Indian/Hindi/Pagan ever since. I guess that might make me a little bit hippie.

 

You might ask why I didn’t date girls at school, or ask them out, or anything. Here’s why: my town was 90% Mormon. The town next to us, also 90% Mormon. My mother forbade me from even really talking with people who did not go to the same church. She hated that I had Mormon friends, and actively worked to destroy those friendships. I would counsel her about my friendships, and she would tell me that they had insulted me and were obviously being mean, and that I shouldn’t hang around with people like that. I could handle repeated breaking-up of friendships, which inevitably happened because my mom switched churches a lot, but I didn’t think I could handle falling in love with some girl – my mom would just use it against me, force me to break it off when she was angry at me for something or other.

Most parents use grounding as a punishment. But it wasn’t punish-y enough for her, because I really liked reading and staying inside and listening to music. So she started handicapping me socially by telling me that everyone around me hated me, or that she thought they were, in her terms, awful. Isolating me was her game. She told me awful things about almost everyone I knew, and definitely about everyone in her family. I ended up not wanting to deal with the whole lot if they were even genetically connected with her, a mistake on my part. My cousin Sarah was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Women have been a huge positive influence in my life. I projected all the mom-ness I have received onto my mom for a long time, but these other ladies deserve talking about more. They recognized that I was being actively fucked up, that my self-image was shattered, that I didn’t know who I was or how to act, but that I wanted to be better than my mom. I craved it, it was something I missed. The first person I remember imprinting was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Sorenson, who is the reason I have always been attracted to pretty blonde Swedish women (Later, Kjerstina, a brief encounter in I can’t remember which school, reinforced this), particularly if they’re teaching me french. Mrs. Dunn was similar, but for black-haired women.

Anyway, I’ll talk more about the women who have shown genuine compassion and tenderness toward me when I was starved for it at home. And, my oh my, have I got some defense mechanisms to talk about next time.

If it weren’t for Beverly Phillips, my beloved Elementary School Gifted & Talented teacher, I would be long-dead or insane. She saw what was happening and forced me to work on logic puzzles unendingly from third through sixth grades. She rewarded me with cool art and science projects.

Anyway, today I am feeling grateful to the women in my life. I will talk about the guys at some point as well.

 

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