Emoblog/2015/05/10/Camelot Academy thoughts

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One aspect of Zander's school is that they do a lot of all-school parents-required events, which means that I or we (Harena sometimes just isn't up to it) end up going to places where we are surrounded by a mixture of successful, type-A-ish grownups and bright, interesting mostly-teenage kids who get to demonstrate their value to society in front of a captive audience, thus inducing in me a potent mixture of feelings including jealousy (entirely conscious and acknowledged, and largely understood, thus (I think) prevented from transforming into bitterness, anger, or resentfulness towards the jealous-ees), regret, appreciation, wistfulness, anger (not part of the jealousy; more regarding various happenings) and other less well-defined items.

There are three or four such events per year – one or two "Evening of the Arts" performances, a Thanksgiving Dinner performance, and graduation – and we've been through this cycle almost six times now (Z started there in seventh grade). Two years ago it was especially wrenching because Anna was graduating from high school and I wasn't even going to be there, much less have the opportunity to write an essay.

(For better or for worse, it turns out that her school didn't have anything like this and so there was neither need nor opportunity for an essay. I think she told me, when we visited Athens a few weeks later, that the school charged money for kids to attend the graduation ceremony, so she didn't even bother. Camelot makes you pay extra if you don't attend...)

...but that's getting side-tracked a little. What I wanted to write about had more to do with the aforementioned mixed feelings, and "success" and adequacy...

First, there's Jenny, who – as near as I can estimate – decided that she had no future. Her dyslexia and ADD – which were basically Not Handled Here at that school in that era – ganged up with the limited palette of conservative social roles she had been offered (by her family and church) to erode her self-confidence at its roots.

I believe I carried a subset of that same sense of impossibly-overwhelming-obligation around with me as well; I only survived by consciously deciding to reject it... but here we (H and I) are, thirty-five years later, being very clearly and pointedly non-self-sufficient (on a financial level, at least, and is there any other level that really matters?), making it rather difficult to imagine either of us honestly offering assurances to past!Jenny that things will get better if she could just persevere and believe in herself. Letting go of impossible obligations is one thing; failing even to meet the basic, reasonable-seeming obligations one sets for oneself is quite another.

There are extenuating circumstances, of course, but that almost emphasizes the point: the future was in many ways every bit as bad as we were afraid it was going to be, which is why it was able to clobber us so casually.

Mind you: in certain ways the future is much better, which spoils a nice, simple narrative by making it complicated and nuanced – but neither that nor the extenuating circumstances matter in those shallow-at-best social encounters at school events, where narrative inferred from immediate context is all there's ever time for when there's time for anything at all.

I try to imagine myself having an honest interaction with any of the other parents, and I just can't do it. It would take an afternoon of explanation just to give them enough information to have a chance of understanding my motivations, and I can't imagine them having any respect left for me after that. Several more days of explanation might restore that respect, but it would by no means be guaranteed; I'm not even sure how I feel about it myself. There were many times, in retrospect, when I should have said "no", but thought that it would be unreasonable to do so. ...or maybe was just too afraid of the likely consequences.

(It's almost irrelevant, because it's just another detail, to mention the fact that people invariably assume I'm Z & B's father – which pushes multiple buttons all at once: I never wanted to be a parent, I never wanted to be a spouse, I never wanted to play parental roles, I never wanted to play male roles, I never wanted responsibility over any other creature, and I fully recognize my inadequacy or inappropriateness in each of these areas – but I look male (long hair notwithstanding) and am present in a parental capacity, so people make the obvious inferences. Jenny didn't want kids either, but I bet she could have enforced that preference much better than I did – setting aside certain unsubstantiated theories about her possible motivations for suicide – while I've failed even at upholding my own values.)

So, these kids... some of them are quite talented. Looking at the girls, I find myself wondering: if I had been born looking something like that instead, would things have been different? (I make a point of including, in my imaginings, the ones whose bodies I find less irresistibly compelling, because we can't all be thin and pretty – even if I don't evaluate "pretty" by all the conventional metrics.) It's easy to retroactively blame everything on the dysphoria, or on the ADD, or on the combination of the two – when focusing on uninteresting material is pain, AND interacting with other people is pain, that's clearly a bit of a handicap – but would that really be fair? Is it maybe some deeper, personal inadequacy that would have shone through no matter how properly engineered the rest of me was?

Is it maybe somehow my job just to live through this, report on it however I can, and hope for some kind of adequate redemption somewhere along the way? That's been my working hypothesis for the past decade or so. It has the advantage, I suppose, of being non-falsifiable (at least in the short term).

Among the songs that most easily drive me to tears, in moments of non-strength, are the ones where the singer is promising that everything will be okay.

...and I get like this entirely without alcohol. I'd be absolutely no fun at parties. (Trufax: all the parties I can remember going to, I wasn't any fun. I either tried too hard or completely freaked out and melted down quietly in a corner. This is why I don't go to parties.)