Monday, May 28, 2012

this is a story about control

 Once upon a time when I was 18, I was a passenger on the worst road trip ever, and it would have been awful, I'm sure, even if I had not been ill and in the grips of deep despair - but I WAS. I was catching a ride back to Florida from DC with the parents of one of my friends and not only was I ill and in the grips of deep despair, but also my friend's parents hated me before they ever met me because they held me responsible for how "weird" their daughter had become since making my acquaintance and anyway, augh, I slept as much as I could but I also did a fair amount of pretending to be asleep so I could get out of answering all of their bullshit inquiries, but sometimes, you know, sometimes we were sitting in restaurants or in hotels or whatever - in environments that don't lend themselves to sleeping or pretending to sleep. A memorable point was when I was called out by the mom for the crime of not wearing a bra. Astounding, it always has been to me, what some people are comfortable saying to other people.

The case I am thinking of right now, though, is this thing that happened in Jacksonville, when something happened with the car and we spent hours sitting in the waiting room of a car dealership while they got it fixed. In this waiting room was a phone, a courtesy phone, you know? A thing that existed in the late 1980s, y'all. Anyway, I called my dearest friend, who lived in that town, and told her my troubles. For a long time, I mean - maybe half an hour? My troubles were big, deep and wide, so maybe longer, I certainly could and would have talked longer still, but the mom said to me, in the same harsh tone that she always used with me, You need to get off the phone now. And there were other people in the waiting room, so I said something like, Oh I'm sorry and said I had to go, hung up and then said to the room, I'm sorry - do you need to use the phone?

And everyone shook their heads. No one needed to use the phone. I said something like, I see. And then something like, I guess I don't understand. And she simply repeated that it was time for me to get off the phone. I asked if we were leaving. And was told, not for at least two more hours. And I said, Ah. Okay. Thanks. Well. I'll be outside at the payphone. And went and called my friend back.

This came to mind as I was sitting here recalling recent, lovely experiences I've had at Unschooling get-togethers, because, I have to say, when I am in those settings, I get really kinda blissed out on the high of being in the company of people who would never treat another human being that way. And simultaneously, I get flooded with all these memories of the needlessly controlling folks I've encountered, both in my own youth and as an adult advocating for youth. It can be mind-blowing.

I always have a problem with people who are complaining about someone being controlling and condescending as treating them/us "like children" - this has come up at camps where I've worked quite a bit on the occasions when there have been members of the support staff who treated both the youth and those of us who work directly with them with considerable disrespect - anyway, I get the idea and I don't think anyone means anything ageist by it, but I cringe and try not to use that terminology myself because I feel passionately that we ought not treat anyone that way - not me, not you and not children.

I had so many times back in my more youthful looking day when, as an early twenties person working with the youth at various events, I would be perceived as one of the youth and thus treated shittily. And then have this whole stupid thing of no, don't apologize because you didn't realize I'm an adult - why were you treating anyone so rudely, why?

Control. It's all about control.

I remember a Ms. magazine cover from a long time ago that said "America's secret war against children" and I, an adolescent at the time, was like, secret my ASS. People who will tell you up and down about their rights and everyone else's will turn around and be snotty to children. And pat themselves on the back for it.

I'm cheesy, I suppose, and preachy, too. It happens.

I have identified as an Unschooler since I was 11. It is a big deal for me to come together with other folks who do the same. It's a big deal to feel like I'm with my people. I am happy to be in those settings as an adult and also I envy the children who get to have this kind of community. I sure could have used it. Because it has been a battle, one that can feel pointless, since I was 11, having to explain unschooling and stand up for myself when I rarely fit into some folks' ideas of how a kid or a woman or whatever is supposed to look or act or be.

And for what? To preserve someone's illusion of being in control.


Lone Star Ma said...

Great post.

Unknown said...

love it!!!! keep writing, you!