Long Gallery

The particular binds of fundamentalist Mormonism come to light in “Under the Banner of Heaven,” Jon Krakauer’s rowdy 2003 book about the faith. I finally read it this season, as a companion to “Big Love.” I recommend it. The book includes a quotation from DeLoy Bateman, who gave up ­polygamy and then surrendered religious faith entirely. He told Krakauer he doesn’t regret abandoning it. “Some things in life are more important than being happy,” he says, expressing the unmistakable tension at the heart of “Big Love.” “Like being free to think for yourself.
Virginia Heffernan, Together Forever, New York Times, 22 March 2009

While the producers of Big Love say that the show is about secrets, Ms Heffernan believes it is about the cost of being a group member, of fitting in.

In my experience, they are the same thing.   Suppression, submission, subversion and a whole lot of other things are at the core of that side of the primary duality, being tame enough to fit in as a member of the group.

Apparently, I understood Mr. Bateman’s point very early in my life, like before I was five, and I have the anecdotes to prove it, like betraying bus drivers at the age of 4, or standing for what I knew to be right over horrible peer pressure at the age of 9.

Being free to think for myself was always the most important thing.  It still is.

In my case, I don’t think it was a trade off from being happy.  My family wasn’t really happy; my father was off in his Aspbergers world, my mother in her own crushing, narccistic self-pity.

No, between my nature and my nutrure, I learned the only place I could have ownership is thinking for myself.   I created my own world and have lived in it for this half a century.  I never learned how to be happy as a member of the group; that always seemed impossible.

I am free to think for myself.   I’m just not free to be myself, to be loved and cared for.

How does one survive being cast out so early?  Don’t we all crave the safety of family, tribe, village, community, somewhere you are known and cared for?

In my case, I keep a gallery.  It is a long hall with murals that come back to life, reminding me again and again of moments where I have felt embarrassed or stupid or just disconnected.

I know when I have wandered into it.  I feel like shit, and mumble, “Marry me, Christine,” a plaintive cry for maybe the only person who knew me and was near me to connect with me, though that was never really a possibility, and we have been disconnected for at least 15 years now, a lost dream that never really was anyway.

But it is my call, my futile call, and it marks my sorrow.

The last mural in this gallery was painted just a few days ago.

I got back to the cul-de-sac early enough to get inside before the kids came home from school and started playing.   I sat in the basement at my computer, but I neglected to close the blinds over the sliding door to the back yard.

I heard a noise and looked up, and got eye contact with the 11 year old boy next door, grabbing a football.

Shit.

I want to protect children, I really do.  I care desperately about kids; my maternal drive is so strong.  “You’d be a great mom,” one woman told me, and it is a cherished reflection in my life.

So I hide to protect the kids, but I didn’t hide enough.

I know, I know, I know that the truth is that we can never hide enough, that we will always be exposed, that the way to handle challenge is being out, open, and owning my own story, but with other people’s kids, that is never so easy.

So I failed and felt like shit.  “Marry me, Christine.”

Just another mural up on the gallery, to be seen and replayed as triggered.  Shit.

I know what is important.  I get to think for myself.  I own my own wildness, my own freedom of thought, my own mind and knowledge.

But the child who needs connection, well, she keeps a gallery of the places where I fucked up, pulling out decades old stories to remind me of how I screwed up.  “We kept moving you to new schools, over and over,” my mother said, “but you kept making the same mistakes!”

Yeah.  I kept being myself, without skills and faith in my ability to connect.  I kept valuing thinking for myself over happiness, and where has it gotten me?  Read the tag I wrote almost three and a half years ago now: “The Loneliness of a Long-Lost Tranny.”

I don’t know how to pay the cost of happiness.  And while I am confident that I am right to value being free to think for myself over fitting-in, my longing to have someone know me and smile at me across at table, across a pillow, well, it is strong enough to keep a gallery.

Marry me.   God, I lost my virginity to the original cast album of Sondheim’s Company.

Or lose me.

My parents back tonight.  The sounds, the smells, the demands.

And me?

I’ll try to grab a moment or two to think for myself.

But it won’t be enough.

One thought on “Long Gallery”

  1. I think the gallery is universal.

    I just think a lot of people never walk through theirs, pretending it’s not there.

    It was said in _V_ that ‘happiness is a kind of prison’, and that was one of the things I took deeply from that book.

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