Fitting in

Most of my life, I can say that the majority of my anxiety and depression has come from the shame of not fitting in. In many ways, I feel like I have always been the outsider. I was never a popular kid in school. In college, I moved pretty easily from group to group, and often wondered why some of my friends took it upon themselves to drag me along to parties where I didn’t fit in. I would usually find a quiet corner and just observe, or fake my way through conversations. Leave early and without warning.

In school and growing up I got labels like brain, nerd, etc. Then later on as I tried to fight against those, I was mostly just solitary and angry all the time. Lonely as hell. In college, I wasn’t a big partier, until probably my senior year in which I made up for lost time and nearly didn’t graduate. I was burned out, drinking three or four nights a week. Ditching class to go to work. Phoning it all in because none of it mattered to me anymore. It was the same bullshit over and over and I wanted no part of it. A bunch of pretentious assholes pretending to read the books and regurgitating whatever they thought their professor wanted to hear. Myself included. You see, when I actually read the books and got a different interpretation, I was often told I was wrong.

In school, I belonged to a friend group of around three of us. Once in a while, we would find ourselves attached to another group, but mostly it was just the three of us. Mostly. My first girlfriend was the unofficial fourth, and of course my two best friends had a massive crush on her too. It was hard not to. She was one of those people who seemed very charismatic. Until years later when I found out she was faking it the whole time too. Nobody really knew her, but me. I’ve been told that among her group of friends–none of whom were very close to her–that they often wondered why I was with her. Today that might be an ego boost. Only it’s not. I feel bad for her when I think of that, because people liked her for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve been watching a show on Hulu lately called Normal People. It’s based off a novel about two people who have known each other since they were young and how they come and go into each other’s lives. Neither of them has ever felt like they fit into anything. But with each other, they feel like they fit together perfectly. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not so much.

The few relationships I have had I have felt a connection with other outsiders. I’m not even talking about the fringe groups like the stoners or the Polyphonic Spree people or whathaveyou. I’m talking about the people who laughed too loudly at movies, the ones who played Dungeons and Dragons, had Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian memorized–and dropped those quotes at any opportunity. But even with them I never fit in. It’s ironic now that everyone loves Stranger Things so much. But I remember being one of those kids, and we were treated like shit. We didn’t have the cool but pretty tom-boy friends, and we sure as hell didn’t have the quirky girl with psychic powers. We were all too aware of our outsiderness. We were pretty pissed off about it too.

The last couple of times I was dating someone I thought I had that connection I always wanted. The one that just felt right. Someone who could accept me for being smart and weird and sensitive and passionate. Someone who understood me when I looked at the world like a poet, instead of expecting a cold beer and a BJ when I got home from work. They knew that my musical tastes varied from Korn and System of a Down to Tracy Chapman, Brandi Carlile, and Townes Van Zandt That sometimes a good Van Morrison song would make me tear up, and I could just chill out to Portishead or Mazzy Star for hours. That I had played Skynyrd songs and early Tool and Alice in Chains as a drummer. That I knew the importance of Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep. I wasn’t locked in to any one thing, other than it had to make me feel something when I heard it. How I love music, and how I love sharing new stuff with others.

With my first relationship after divorce I made the mistake of trying to fit her expectations 100% and she never bothered to want to fit into mine. I compromised myself. Even though she was an outsider too. Not because of her brain or hobbies or any of that. She was an outsider because she was so cold to people who cared about her. Everyone fought to love her. Myself included.

My last serious girlfriend and I had an amazing connection. She and her brother and sister said I was in “the club.” She was a bit of an outsider herself. Homeschooled her whole life. Very tall. She loved video games and collecting comic book stuff. Dinosaurs. She knew what it felt like to be apart, but also I think she was too comfortable with her solitude to make that lasting connection with me. I think I might have sensed that early on, even though she tried to adjust to my world. We had plans for a while. It has left me wondering if a real connection is even possible, or am I always going to feel like I can’t fit in? Maybe she liked me for the wrong reasons.

But those connections failed in time, and they left me questioning if there was ever a connection at all. The last girl I was involved with…I guess I thought I could adjust fit in to her world. I wanted to so desperately. Fuck, it would be nice to belong somewhere sometimes. It wouldn’t have taken much. But I saw a picture of her town recently and it just reminded me of how…disconnected we probably were. She was of a different culture. More extroverted, if not just faking a persona to fit in so she had something to do on a Friday night. Masks. Maybe I never really knew her. They knew the kind of beer she drank, and I knew her favorite books, songs, fears and dreams. Maybe I knew the real her and she couldn’t allow that. I thought there was something there I guess. Something I had always wanted. People liked her for all the wrong reasons too. I like to see her comments and reactions pop up on Facebook from the past. It reminds me of the good times and many moments we shared. That connection. Even though…yeah. She’s gone too.

When I go places, I always feel like an outsider, but in a weird way, that makes me feel like I belong on the outside looking in, I get to see a world from a different perspective, but also I get to let a little bit of it in. I talk to strangers, I listen to their stories, I let everything surprise me if it can. I went to Park City, UT last fall and had a half hour conversation with a busker about mushrooms and marijuana and social anxiety. I don’t do the first two, but I am aces at the latter. Alcohol is a social lubricant, but so is music and dancing. But most of the time I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. That used to bother me more than it does now. When I get into writer mode, I get to walk alongside people. They know I don’t belong, and I know I’m not one of them, but they let me tag along for a bit.

I guess now I am mature enough to know that I don’t fit in. I guess I fit in with me and I try to have enough grace to not yuck someone else’s yum. I hope I am chill enough to let other people feel comfortable around me. I have very, very few close friends. Even them I keep at arm’s length. I no longer expect to be in anyone’s club, though I do appreciate the invitations to hang out when they are offered.

In my writing I give off the appearance of connection or letting someone in deep. But, it’s all very controlled. I only ever let anyone in as deep as I can allow. I learned my lesson the last go around. Letting people in hurts. The stuff you read here might seem deep, but it’s all just an illusion. Letting people in doesn’t last. And you spend the rest of your life recognizing the signs in hindsight that you should have seen all along. I’ve got nobody to blame but myself for that.

So, I get the story of Normal People. It really resonated with me in a lot of ways. I’ve had the girlfriend who didn’t acknowledge me around friends, and I’ve been that person myself. Too afraid to face what others might think of me. Sometimes when I get too close to others too, I shut off. I need room to breathe. It becomes exhausting being someone else for too long. Maybe that’s why I love to write. I get to be myself, but I also get to become someone else. It’s hard to explain.

So, maybe I shouldn’t try. It never ends well.

Unpopular Opinions

If you are addicted to TikTok, like some of us…cough, cough, you’ll have probably seen the phenomenon that is everyone using that sound clip from Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and are probably just as sick of it as I am.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. One of her best. Not THE best. But in the top three. But like anything else associated with this new generation (what are we at now, GenZ?), they always take something and just run it into the ground and suck the life out of it until nobody can stand it anymore.

For a song that always used to make me stop skipping songs and just settle in and listen, I have snoozed that sucker for probably the next ten years.

I have to admit though I’m grateful. Like Mindfulness/Yoga/Kombucha drinking levels of gratitude that they didn’t choose “Wuthering Heights” for that episode. How I loathe that song. It is shrill, about a book I utterly despised, and the cringe-inducing throw-up-in-my-mouth levels of Darth Vader yelling “Noooooo!” the mass interpretive dance party of dozens of people in red chiffon dresses you can watch on YouTube just demonstrate that there is a Hell and if I don’t straighten my shit out, I’ll be damned for all eternity listening to Kate warble “Heathcliff! It’s me! I’m Catheeee!” until I puke up my spleen and demons do carnal things to it in front of my eyes.

So, if you liked Kate Bush running up that hill. Wait until you get a load of her controlling the weather with “Cloudbusting.” It’s a better song. Or, branch out to Souixie and the Banshees. Sinead O’Connor. Stevie Nicks. Eurythmics. Or even Heart. Chrissie Hynde might just be the Chrissie that Eddie needed to wake up.

Or, maybe just don’t.

Stranger Shit

A few days ago, three shows dropped just before Memorial Day weekend. We were all so excited for them too. Shoresy (on HULU), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+), and Stranger Things season 4 (on Netflix). One of these was actually worth waiting for, and that was Shoresy, the Letterkenny spinoff. I might go into it later, but it’s basically like a feel good sports movie (think Goon, Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights) that has been infused in a Tim’s Double-Double for like five weeks. It’s good. It has an awesome soundtrack. I laughed outloud throughout the whole thing and I liked nearly all of the characters. It left behind the silly Letterkennyisms for the most part which I think have hurt that show. It was just a good watch.

Kenobi is more of just polishing that same turd the Prequels left us with. Ewan MacGregor carries the show on his back like a bantha. Mary Sue Organa is too precocious and once again they bent the rules of what we know about Star Wars…you know what? Fuck it. I don’t care anymore. Between the fans of the franchise who think it’s all real and the movies, there isn’t much else left to like about the series other than whatever the hell Mando is up to with Baby Yoda. Go nuts, b’ys.

So, my rant comes to Stranger Things, which as far as I can tell is just a fan fiction of the 80s through the lens of millennials who watched too many 80s movies growing up. They have once again applied their own sensibilities and romanticism to an era they hardly understand. They researched the time through painstakingly scouring old Speilberg VHS tapes and episodes of the Goldbergs. This season they threw in some Dazed and Confused to appeal to the stoners. Season one was great, then it fell off. By Season 4 we have a steaming pile of dogshit that has gone over budget with special effects, and hired the Woke Squad as the writers room. As Shoresey would say “Ho-leee…”

This is what I mean by Woke. I get inclusion, I get agency, all of that. But when you choke your sensibilities down everyone’s throat you get the same sorts of stereotypes you were trying to avoid. There isn’t one single likable character in this show right now. I finished episode two last night and I don’t even like Dustin or Steve very much. There is no chemistry. Nothing.

One of the things that bothers me the most is the character of Robin, who is a gay highschool girl and is very open about this fact with her buddy Steve. Yes, there are gay people in the world, and I’ve known lesbians who are just as vocal at talking about women they are crushing on as any high school boy. Now. Not in 1986.

That was at the height of the AIDS epidemic. People were getting the shit beaten out of them for maybe being homosexuals. Usually they weren’t! Our nation’s leaders were saying they were getting what they deserved with a slow agonizing death too. It was a scary time for gays in America, especially in the midwest. Robin in real life wouldn’t have so much as breathed her sexual preference outloud much less trying to chat up the pretty girl in band. It wasn’t like it is now! Things have changed a LOT since 1986.

The bullies are stereotypical bullies too, with the LaCoste shirts and blonde hair and mean girl tropes. The rollerink scene was an orchestration of some bullying that introduced the requirement of empathy when Eleven just snaps and she’s supposed to feel bad about retaliation, when most people in the 80s would have wondered why it took her so long to break that girl’s nose.

With a package covered in Soviet postage, Joyce would have wound up on a watch list with a white van parked in front of her house until 1991.

Then they jumped all over that Satanic Panic bullshit too with the DnD kid being suspected of murder and everyone freaking out. Nobody really cared back then about Dungeons and Dragons. Only the churches said anything, and the pastors shouting about summoning demons were on their third extramarital affair anyway. The congregation who actually took them seriously were probably waiting in line to be next, or so painfully naive in their social structures that they were too busy selling Shackley to do anything about their kids. They did NAIL the types of people who would be found sitting around a table in HS like that. But I rarely…RARELY saw anyone who could be considered a drug dealer playing RPGs. Stoners hung out with stoners and anybody dealing was likely already dropped out by then because they were making some money. What I’m saying is they didn’t DM campaigns. And in the 80s, nobody was calling horse traquilizer “Special K.” In 1986, there was coke, crank, weed, and pills. I doubt Hunter Thompson was even experimenting with ketamine yet. Maybe Timothy Leary.

Plus, the show is goddamn slow. Vegna or Vecga or Lou Bega, whatever the monster is called this season is creepy as hell and the damage he does is on Kronenberg levels of body horror. To that, I say, you had my curiosity, but now you have my interest. But the rest of it, from Nancy’s “journalist” assistant, Freddy(?) who is just Waldo, copied and pasted out of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video to Eddie, who is the crazy stoner NOBODY would want to hang out with unless they were already so burned out…well, you see where I’m going with this. For being Woke and all, there is no GenX agency or representation here. Which is no fucking surprise. It’s sorta what makes us GenX.

It’s millennials playing dress up from their parent’s old clothes closet. This season isn’t even fun. The nostalgia is just sublimated tripe extracted in concentrated doses and injected into a corpse of a franchise that people enjoyed for a while until the kids got older and creepy looking, which is a factual representation of what happened to all of those 80s child stars.

As GenZ kids would say…Cringe.

So, watch Shoresy and give yer balls a tug, titfucker.