Bo Peep

Part 5 of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life

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Under the pen name Bo Peep, someone otherwise unknown to me publishes a zine I like, called Not A Pet Rock. We've traded zines, me sending mine and Bo sending Bo's, and then Bo surprised me by sending a lot of unnecessary necessities — cheesy crackers and candy bars, mostly.

I am not an etiquette and protocol droid, but I figured I ought to at least say thank you, so I sent a post card. Thanks, I said, and why are you so nice to me?

The post card had an inch of white space left, and I hadn't been able to figure Bo Peep's gender from his/her zine, so I also asked whether he/she was a he-type person or a she-type person. 

Ask questions, sometimes you get answers…

Why am I nice to you? Well, I am motivated by compassion and by the fact that I have laughed with you, cried with you, been ill with you, been pissed off with you. I have been treated the same as you by people on the bus, been chased by evangelical zealots. Your zine has delighted me; the gifts are just my way of trying to connect with you.

I am sorry that your vision of God has been spoiled because of the way it has been shoved down your throat. I myself feel ostracized by the extreme emotion and strange mumblings of those in church today. I just cannot become one of the family in a church — it feels like so much bullshit.

I do believe in God and the Christ, but I don't know how to communicate that other than just to say it. Believing in God doesn't give me the infinite joy it should, probably because I cannot seem to turn away from the truth I see. Fantasy is for fools. 

I was raised by my mother and stepfather, who tried to tell us we were his natural offspring, and was pissed off that my mom wouldn't go for it. I have three sisters and a brother. My parents are drinkers who say they aren't alcoholics. I can't argue for or against that, as neither drinks hard stuff, just beer. No vodka in the water tank behind the toilet.

But just about every day of my stay at home I got my ass kicked for no real reason besides their drunken stupidity. They passed out at night instead of falling asleep. I love them sober, but their legacy was to teach me that when you are accused of something you are guilty whether it's the truth or not.

All the beatings have been forgotten, but I cannot seem to get over the guilt aspect. For example, I have only in the last five years (since the cessation of alcohol imbibement) learned to speak up for my opinion. Since I don't drink, and everyone I know centers relaxation and social events around alcohol, I spend a lot of time alone. Being in opposition to drinking and drug-taking, as I feel it to be an excuse to blame substances and other people for our fucked-up lives, I cannot comfortably attend. However, I do not judge, as I am quite tainted in my views. I just cannot participate, which makes for a lot of free time — hence my zine, Not A Pet Rock.

It seemed like a good idea at the time to become Bo Peep. Anonymity: it works for me. People will always pursue if they connect, but who can they pursue? Who is Bo Peep really? God only knows.

I am female by gender, and confused as a general rule. As a youngster I attempted to cause injury to my inner genitalia by forcefully inserting a knitting needle in my uterus. Apparently I am not aggressive enough, as I managed to carry a fertilized fetus for three months, until such time as I could eliminate the ball and chain of motherhood from my body.

I have since progressed along more 'normal' routes of development, never fully identifying with the norm, bur somehow managing to quench the appropriate lusts without truly damaging my psyche. I do not identify with the feminine characteristics which I physically possess. I am simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the images which cause my lusts to stir.

I am 30, about to be 31 in 'Nockedover'. I have five cats. I am a sucker for a stray, which is how I picked up the boy-toy who is asleep in the bedroom. I took a chance on a kid eight years my junior, and he is still putting forth the effort I require. Nothing is forever. People must do what they will.

I really appreciate your "take me as I am, or don't" attitude. Women choose men for status, and men flash money to win a woman's heart, but I am a eunuch. I am too serious, and moody, strong-willed and honor-bound. I believe in God and getting older, and hopefully wiser. 

How to describe one's self? For me, understanding lies in the same bed with faith.

—Bo Peep,

I wrote an answer and mailed it without typing it, so I don't remember everything I said and most of it's none of your bee's wax anyway. "To thine own self be true" was probably the gist of it; it's the gist of everything I believe.

Letters like Bo Peep's are an unvarnished and splintery but wide-open door into someone else's head, and it's amazing how wide some people are willing to open their head-doors.

We're all screwed up and making the best of our own sorry-ass situations. It's only the situations and levels of sorry-ass that vary. That's one of the lessons I've learned from doing this zine.

And whatever forgotten page or two I wrote to Bo Peep — never 'Little' Bo Peep, mind you — it got me an even longer, even more intense reply.

When I am powerless to communicate (infrequent reciprocation) (not than I am complaining) then I send you something. You are a good guy, full of self-hate as so many of us are.

I have been really lazy about sharing my writing of late. It is painful to share it. I am in remission. I write all the time, but haven't been transcribing it much.

By the way, Douggie, I am just as socially ostracized by God and His people, but it is a distance I have made. I have no doubt that the attitude is mine and the cynicism is due to my own lack of comprehension. I just can't seem to help myself. I keep digging into the mulch to see what I can see. I cannot turn away from the things that disgust me.

Moral degradation and filth are all around me. I see myself like a tick as I dig into the populace; to see their sickness and depravity I become one with them.

I used to see myself as a burn victim, and loathed my similarity to those around me. But now I know that we use the ignorant as tools, just as we become dust to those who come after us. They build their stairways over our bones. I am compelled to not turn my eyes from the truth, and as my understanding grows, I am often embedded in severe depressions.

I don't know if I enjoy the way writing makes me feel. It's sort of like pouring out myself as an offering to be ignored. The only time I feel like writing lately is in the middle of the night, so often I blow it off and go back to sleep.

Living with someone, and never having any true space that is my own, my ability to write and be genuine in emotional content is really inhibited by the constant presence of Winston and his friends. Not to mention that my attentions are frequently required or solicited into Winston's arena, as he seems to seldom truly and unselfishly grasp the concepts of my mind. (But who is truly unselfish, in the flesh I mean?)

Nonetheless, I am disturbed by the fact that I can never be social enough to please the man/boy that I live with. I am very satisfied to be alone most of the time. I can never get enough of myself, but rarely do I have the time to try. A few minutes here, and an hour there. Not that I am complaining, though the though has crossed my mind.

(If you print this, Winston would definitely prefer that you not use his name. If his friends discovered his girl blaspheming him, he would simply die. Make up an asinine name like Cubby or Cadwallader, one that may make him silently wish I had used his real name.)

I am thankful for 'Cubby' though. I have felt so unable to reach out at times in my life. There was a lot of abuse heaped on the children in my family, a lot of physical and mental abuse, so that I could not tolerate the touch of anyone for years. The touch of a tattoo needle was the gentlest touch I could bear. Self-hatred is amazing in its intensity.

The other day I went down to the Denver Mental Health Center, to find out if there was some kind of therapy class I could involve myself with. I was a little surprised that my non-smiling and slightly agitated mannerisms elicited a response so akin to irritation, or loss of control. You would think that those folks would be used to crazy people by now — or maybe they're only used to the ones that they keep under sedation. 

Having grown up with a schizophrenic sister, I have been the rounds with the mental wards and their lack of response. I have seen people pulling their hair out while pissing on themselves, and Mr or Ms Ratchet had no response. Just goes to show that the stare from a needy person can make anyone wilt. 

I also had a sister in the Harley Club, who was a stripper. And a brother in and out of jail, also an alcoholic. My mom had an occasional nervous breakdown to boot. I have seen quite a variety, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.

I had a drink the other day, though I didn't finish it. I felt I may have control (perhaps I am fooling myself). I am not driven to drink, right now. I don't value the bar scene, or the waste of money. The skeleton in my closet has a bottle in his hand.

Five years in February: that's how long I went without a drink. Guess time will tell which path I choose, since I cannot make tomorrow's decision before tomorrow, but I can tell you that I am a little afraid of what I have done, and where it may go. 

I have been really wanting to tell you, often when I am lonely I read your zine. But I didn't want to tell you, as saying it seems too personal and weak. I hate admitting need. When we need, the source withdraws. Paranoia — oh fucking well.

Think on these things, and know that you are really not all that alone in the world.

—Bo Peep,

I know nothing of alcoholism, and won't hazard even one word of pious admonition for taking a sip or two. You're battling it, and it's damned difficult, and I hope you can say no to it today.

God is another drug I'm immune to, so I'll say nothing much about that, either. If believing makes your life more bearable, believe. I have no quarrel with Christians or Krishnas or any other belief I disbelieve, long as they're not pushing it onto people who don't want it, like me.

I kinda like moral degradation and filth, but we have different strengths and weaknesses, you and me. And that's OK.

Hell of a letter you've written, though, stark and painful and personal, occasionally nuts but aren't we all. 

You didn't ask for advice but I'm gonna lay some on you anyway. If you don't like it, crumple it.

"Living with someone," you write, "and never having any true space that is my own, my ability to write and be genuine in emotional content is really inhibited by the constant presence of Winston and his friends." 

That's the part of your letter that slapped me hardest in the face. 

We all need an afternoon once a week when the only person you're trying to please is yourself. Me, I need that afternoon every afternoon. Your mileage may vary, but time for yourself is the only way to figure yourself out.

If you're not getting the solitude you need it, you never get to be Bo Peep. You have to adopt someone else's interests and rarely indulge your own, and be sociable with someone else's friends when you'd rather not? Well, what does 'Winston' see in you, when have no time to be you?

Nothing's wrong with some healthy self-hate, but give yourself the self-love you need, too. And you can't love yourself if you can't be yourself. Everything good in life comes from knowing, and being, who you are.

Me? I am Doug, but it took years for me to figure that out. Never even met me until I was 20-something, and I didn't make a good first impression, so it took years for me to know me, and longer to like me.

But I did and I do, and it's what I recommend for you.

Close the door, take the phone off the hook, and claim safe refuge from the demands of everyone you know. Smoke a joint and think things through, and then a few days later, think things through again without herbal assistance.

The important part is to step away from all the people and places where you can't be yourself — like you can't be yourself around Winston (or Cubby or whatever semi-insulting name we can agree on for him).

When nothing and nobody else is pressing at you, sort everything in the world into two piles — things and people that make you happy, and things and people that don't. Then take the second pile, and toss it in a dumpster.

Me, I gradually dumped so much into the dumpster, I found myself in a different city, someplace where almost nobody knows me, so I can go anywhere and be anyone, or no-one at all. But… I found myself.

Quit all the things that make life worse, and what's left is you, and you're terrific.

So that's my advice, yours for the crumpling but it worked for me, and maybe it'll work for you:

Keep Cubby if you like him, if he makes your life better. Drop him if he doesn't.

Same with God.

Same with your uncomfortable gender, your anti-Hallmark family — same with everything, really. Only you get to sort through it all, and any second-guessing from anyone else ought to be ignored. To thine own self be true.

Whatever you choose and whatever you chose to lose, I hope you don't quit writing — you're good at it. And I hope you find yourself, and some happiness. —DH

More of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life:

-1-   -2-   -3-   -4-   -5-   -6-   -7-   -8-

From Pathetic Life #25
June, 1996

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.

Addendum, 2023: And I never heard from Bo Peep again.

Pathetic Life
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