A boy named Doug

On a day off, I like to stay in my room, alone. No interaction with anyone except the dog. Solitude makes any day a good day. 

It means there's nothing to write about, though, so for lack of anything interesting, I'll present some memories from a corner of my past where I don't usually like to loiter.

Meet me when I was a kid: Our family was repressed, religious, boring but not unbearable. I knew kids who had it worse, so I ain't complaining, but let me complain. 

There were six kids, Mom and Dad, my grandma lived with us, and God made ten. God was always there in our house. We said grace to Him before every meal, and every snack. My grandma probably said grace before brushing her teeth. She was always talking to God, and she thought it was a conversation.

Mom or Dad or Grandma would lead us in prayer for a safe journey whenever we got into the car, whether we were going camping or going to the grocery store or going to church. I once joked that we should pray for a good prayer before we prayed, which got me a whack on the head from my old man.

We attended church religiously, every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday night, and sometimes on Fridays. All six kids went to Christian schools when Dad could afford it, public schools after he got laid off from Boeing.

Seeing both public and private schools, the big difference was that the Christian schools were meaner to the kids, stricter, with more beatings. More boring classes, too, like Laws of Moses 101, or Advanced Begats. Public or private, though, the teachers were almost all dull and disinterested, and I remember several who took special delight in humiliating the quiet kids.

The teachers weren't why I hated school, though. I hated school before I even went. One of my earliest memories is the day before starting kindergarten — dreading it, because even then I didn't like crowds. A crowd of kids my own age? Hell, I knew I wouldn't fit in, but my mom said there was no way out and I'd have to go. She said I'd love it if I gave it a chance. Boy, she was wrong.

All through my eleven years of education, I hated almost all of the other kids, and they hated me. Depending on any day's threat level, I was somewhere between ill and ease and terrified. At recess I'd walk the perimeter by the fence, alone, or often I'd sit on the toilet in the boys' room, reading a good book and waiting for the bell.

My only escape was escaping, over that fence and away from school. Truancy was my home away from home, and it started at home — I faked the flu so often my mom thought it might be leukemia. When Mom didn't believe it any more the school nurse might, and I'd cough at her and she'd send me home early. When that stopped working, I'd take a book into the janitor's broom closet, or walk into the woods. By high school I was taking the bus to movie matinees, or working an extra shift at my fast-food job when I was supposed to be in class. I'd do anything to get away from the crowd of mean, stupid kids and boring, stupid teachers.

When I was old enough to quit school without a truant officer pounding on the door, I dropped out, and never regretted it. Remember teachers talking about how important a high school diploma would be? Bullshit, all bullshit.

Now I do lowlife, low-paid work, sure, but that's been my own choice. Until I got bored with ordinary jobs, I earned more working with computers than either of my college-educated brothers in their chosen careers, but not as much as my criminal brother in his lucrative line of work. It's what you know that matters, not what you've been taught.

As for the rest of my miserable childhood, aw hell, it wasn't all that miserable. Time to shut up about it, Doug. There was too much Jesus and too much school, but there were some happy moments, too. We went camping every summer, and I'd sneak away from the family for day-long hikes alone, which was well-worth the whupping waiting for me when I got back to camp. Other cherished memories include my first kiss, and the first fight I didn't lose, and my first expulsion from school.

Mostly, childhood was only an unending monotony, year after year being told what to do, what to say, what to think. I wouldn't wish that on any kid.

That queasy feeling I always had in school, from the day before kindergarten until the day I dropped out? I still get that feeling, whenever I'm stuck somewhere I don't want to be, doing something I don't want to do, surrounded by people I don't want to be with.

I've gotten better at cloaking my insecurities in a protective coating of anger or aloofness, but I still want less than nothing to do with any crowd of my peers. Generally, it feels like I have no peers. I'm stranded on this planet where I look like part of the dominant species, but absolutely I'm not one of them.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Whenever I start writing about my boyhood, it's usually a whiny, self-pitying story like the above, but that's enough complaining for today.

Anyway, family and school and a dumb old god that doesn't exist made me who I am — a grumpy recluse with no religion, no patience for being told what to do, no family I'm in touch with, few friends — and I like who I am.

At school, at church, at work, in any crowd, there's no telling how many assholes you'll be surrounded by, but when I'm alone there's only one ass in the room, and he and me, we're on good terms.

From Pathetic Life #15
Tuesday, August 1, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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