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