Not so funny

Today, I am filled with deep hope and deep despair about this book.  It makes me feel like I’ve taken some heavy-duty decongestant.  I feel like it is both on the cusp of completion and so distant I’ll never do it.  Do you all know the feeling I describe?

I have been reading G*t Out of My Lif*, But First T@ke Me and Al*x Into Town, which is the UK version of an American book of a similar title.  It is about adolescence.  I have realized that I did not just miss out on childhood, but also on adolescence.  There was no one who loved me — unconditionally or otherwise — so there was no one I could reject fearlessly.  There was no breaking away from childhood because there were no parents and no childhood.  Was all my anger at my aunt simply because I wanted her to love me and she didn’t?

And can she really be blamed?  You cannot force yourself to love someone.  Yes, she was hypocritical in claiming she treated me as her daughter, but that may have been her worst crime.   Maybe she was so deeply unhappy herself she couldn’t even see the ways she was unfair to me, but I think my real anger is that I knew she did not love me.  And, I wanted her to, even though I don’t know that I ever loved her.  I just wanted so badly for someone to care about me.

Did everyone feel that way as teenagers?  What does it feel like to be a normal teenager?  Is there such a thing as a normal teenager? 

Oh — I seem to be not so funny today.  I’d say it’s because it is a gloomy day here, but Oscar Wilde pulled it off in precisely the same climate.

19 responses to “Not so funny

  1. I’m not exactly being all sweetnessy and light-like myself.

    It doesn’t exactly answer your question, but I’ve never (well, hardly ever) wondered why people don’t, y’know, love me, when it’s crystal-clear to me, and most likely to them as well, that I don’t, couldn’t possibly, love them no matter how much I wanted to.

  2. Emily, this, “There was no one who loved me — unconditionally or otherwise — so there was no one I could reject fearlessly.”

    Then, this, “Did everyone feel that way as teenagers? What does it feel like to be a normal teenager? Is there such a thing as a normal teenager?”


    Big blown out breath.

    No, no normal teens. Typical, sure. But on a range, a scale, you know?

    Life didn’t present me with a world in which rugs can get yanked out from under me with no notice by losing a parent to death in childhood, but it did create that world for me in other ways.

    So, yeah, I do know what it means to not feel like you can reject anything, anyone, fearlessly.

    But I don’t know if anyone can do that…maybe that’s the lesson, yeah? Like “it’s not courage or bravery if you aren’t scared.”

    What you wanted? And feeling angry because you didn’t get it? Oh so very, very understandable.

    I was angry because I learned even love is not enough sometimes.

    I’m not even sure what else to say. Lots running through my head.

    I do know that feeling you describe, though.

  3. Adolescence for me was not much about rejecting anyone or anything. I waited until my early twenties to do that. But being a teenager did feel a lot to me like I was on the outside of a pane of glass watching everyone have a party inside.

    Later on I guess I knew I was loved, but I wanted to be loved less or at least with fewer conditions. Discovering that there are conditions and limits placed on a love you know from first hand experience should be unconditional is painful in its own way, I guess.

    Your teenage years certainly weren’t normal. But it sounds as if plenty of normal teenaged angst was mixed up in your very abnormal life.

  4. It is gloomy here, as well, and I am in a funk. Funny, wishing I could be in a funk in West Hampstead instead of West Nowhere, IL.

    Adolescence is terrible – the desire for love is so intense, and yet the need to fight it off with a stick wages on, also. I can imagine your need for this love, this acceptance, was dreadfully strong, based on what I’ve read here. You cannot fault yourself for wanting that. As for your aunt, she could have – should have – mustered more compassion for you. It seems to me that she is missing something, some key part, in her soul.

    Hope the sun comes out for you soon.

  5. I didn’t do my rebelling until I got to college. For me, even living with my own mother, it didn’t feel safe to test the waters.

    So I think it can happen to anyone in any situation that he or she feels cheated out of adolescence.

    I know I do.

  6. I love reading you and I hate reading you. I keep my teen years, my childhood years tucked stoically away, but I find reading your posts makes me remember some misery that maybe I will write about someday. My times however were in no way as hard as yours. No way.

    But often I find in talking to others about their lives, they all seem so….squeaky, nice, normal.

    (Mostly I love reading you) And in that I hope you ralize that there is a point to this book.

    No, your Aunt could not be forced to love you, but she could have been human, she could have been kind. I htink what you lived IS exeptional, and you deserve to write it.

  7. I can’t speak to normal teens at all.. but can only relate to what I’ve seen elsewhere. My growing up was very similar to you in many ways.

    I answered your first question at my site…

    Perhaps after you’ve read it, we can both come up with an answer.

    I suspect that those of us who never had it keep looking for it in one form or another. Or at what point do we give up? Sometimes it doesn’t seem quite real.. and I used to believe it was something people just made up.. like I did.



  8. normal teen? doesn’t exist. but i know i pushed hard against my mom and took comfort in believing i was smarter and wiser than she. which was crap because now i know she was a great mom and i was a sh*t kid.

    but i guess in this particular instance i am speaking from an outsiders perspective. my home life was happy and and loving. most peopel don’t believe that is possible.

  9. realitytesting

    Oh hell, Emily. I STILL get upset when I can sense that someone doesn’t like me, let alone LOVE me. And most of the time, I don’t really like or love them very much at all (case in point? Well, THE SHOOMEN of course).

    I think it is so much different when it is a parent or the person who assumed the role as parent in your family. Your step-mother signed up for that job. So perhaps she wasn’t up to the job, as you say, but the fact is that it was her CHOICE to be in that position and her responsibility to follow through. Even worse, I think, is that she didn’t just “not love you”…she was abusive and behaved hatefully at times.

    And you were a child.

    I find it fascinating that you didn’t act out more when you were a teenager, and when you were telling your story, I wondered why that was. What made you different, in that way, from so many kids at-risk. I know you didn’t have a childhood or anyone loving you enough to rebel against, but at the same time, the experience of so many of my troubled students..and even my own experience…was to rebel against what was going on at home…especially when what was going on at home was nothing but abuse and a total lack of love.

    That said, perhaps your experiences impacted your development–and the stages of it–differently. You never included much about how the events impacted YOU, developmentally, until the very end of your storytelling here online. I don’t know that your intention was to write about that aspect of your experiences.

    Your story is so important, Emily….hang in there and keep going.

  10. Eh, you have enough story already. Don’t worry about exhausting every detail about yourself, uncovering every stone.

    That is what the ‘sequel’ is for! 🙂

    (See, trying to get you to make more money)

  11. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “normal teen”. I came out of my own ten years with some huge issues and that was with two parents who were neither abusive nor neglectful. What they were was massivly unequipped to deal with a shy, reclusive teen suffering from depression. They just chose to ignore my problems and yell at me about not getting my homework done. In retrospect (even my mom has to admit) that might not have been the best solution.

    I feel like I was pretty damaged by my teenage years and I had a fairly normal upbringing. I can’t imagine that someone who went through everything you did wouldn’t feel upset or angry or sad about a lot of it. You have a right to down about that stuff. You don’t have to be funny all the time but I will say that I have always been very impressed with your ability to maintain your sense of humor as you talk about all this.

  12. I read this before going to put the dishes in the dishwasher, just so you know. 😉 And while I was doing that, a song was playing by Savage Garden called Affirmation. A line in that song is –

    I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do.

    How long do we carry the baggage of anger at our parents and other care givers in our lives for what they did or did not do?

    Forgiveness is the answer, I think. One has to forgive them all. One has to stop thinking about what could have been, what should have been, what would have been, and accept what *was*. Then one has to decide to let it go.

    I think this is part of the process you are going through right now. I’ve been through this process a few times myself. It isn’t easy. I had a lot of hate that I didn’t want to let go of, because I didn’t see what would replace it. I can honestly say what replaced it was love for myself, and a simple acceptance that I cannot change the past but I can change my future and carrying all that anger and hurt and hatred with me would not give me the future I wanted.

    I had good reasons to hate. I had good reasons to be hurt and angry. So do you, from what I have read. However I believe that hate, hurt and anger is like a cancer – these emotions ruins everything it touches. I did not want to invite that cancer into my body to take up residence and slowly kill me. I don’t think any of us do really, but somehow it sneaks in there. We then have to fight it with everything we have, just like we would fight a real cancer.

    I mentioned the Affirmation song – In fact the whole song has a lot of good lyrics, so I have put the entire thing below.

    I believe the sun should never set upon an argument
    I believe we place our happiness in other people’s hands
    I believe that junk food tastes so good because it’s bad for you
    I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do
    I believe that beauty magazines promote low self esteem
    I believe I’m loved when I’m completely by myself alone

    I believe you can’t control or choose your sexuality
    I believe that trust is more important than monogamy
    I believe your most attractive features are your heart and soul
    I believe that family is worth more than money or gold
    I believe the struggle for financial freedom is unfair
    I believe the only ones who disagree are millionaires

    I believe forgiveness is the key to your own happiness
    I believe that wedded bliss negates the need to be undressed
    I believe that God does not endorse tv evangelists
    I believe in love surviving death into eternity

    I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned
    I believe you can’t appreciate real love ’til you’ve been burned
    I believe the grass is no more greener on the other side
    I believe you don’t know what you’ve got until you say goodbye

    I hope something I said there was useful. 🙂 I’m thinking of you Emily. 🙂


  13. Oh, and I have to say I personally believe the God does not endorse tv evangelists line. 😉

  14. Today, I am filled with deep hope and deep despair about this book. It makes me feel like I’ve taken some heavy-duty decongestant. I feel like it is both on the cusp of completion and so distant I’ll never do it. Do you all know the feeling I describe?
    I’ve had that feeling at one point or another on pretty much every thing I’ve ever written. (Or at least everything over a page long. Limericks come and go too quickly to leave much time for despair, which may help explain the disappointing scarcity of bleak, nihilistic limericks in world literature.)

    Regarding adolescence– that’s hard to answer. I was lucky enough to have two sane parents who loved me, yet I nonetheless felt something similar to what you’re describing–that craving for someone to love me. In my case, it was focused on wanting a girlfriend. Obviously a part of that desire was physical (duh–I was a teenage boy)–but there was a major emotional component as well. Maybe adolescence is the period where love from a parental figure ceases to be sufficient, and needs to be supplemented with romantic love (and/or a greater degree of platonic love from friends. )

  15. Oops–the “quote” tag doesn’t work. The first paragraph of my comment above was meant to be quoted from your blog entry. (As you probably figured out, but just in case…)

  16. I hated being a teenager. HATED IT. Or is it just I hated middle school and high school? I’ve don’t have many good memories about that time period in my life.

  17. Folks,
    Thank you all so much for your comments. It means so much when I am in a slump like that. I seem to have emerged today and am writing up a storm.

    I am sorry I have been missing from so many blogs lately. I hope the writing I am doing excuses it…

    Off to write more.

  18. I have no idea what it’s like to be a normal teenager. Does anyone though, really?

  19. Hi Emily, I’m just catching up tonight. I’m glad you’re feeling a bit better now and are cranking out some good writing.