I’m sure you have patterns or predilections. We all do. One of mine (that drove my parents to anxiety) was a regular habit of “adopting” (sorry, but that’s the most useful term I can think of) additional parents in the form of interesting older couples. I imagine my mom and dad felt I was trying to replace them, but my goal was simpler. Older people were better company than most my age, and it was interesting to form a new partial family.
I think my habit, which got started when I was quite young, was most annoying and vexing to Mother, who had (good, as it turns out) reason to worry. But it was never as if I was going to replace my parents. In any case, they were too possessive to ever permit such a thing, which goes a long way toward explaining why I found other parenting styles so personally appealing. Mom and Dad were always trying to improve me. That’s tiring. It also contributes to making a kid feel inadequate and unworthy. But Mom and Dad could never give up the hope that their blood-phobic son was not going to start a career of slicing scalps open to dazzle the world with the brilliance of his brain surgery. It was awfully nice to spend time with adults who more than less took me for what I was: a fairly harmless, not too ambitious, and very talkative youth.
It wasn’t that I disliked others my age. I did like them and would gladly have formed any number of close associations. One primary thing prevented this. They would open their mouths and all that came out (in my estimation) was fluff and nonsense of the teen years sort. Gads, how boring it was! After five minutes my store of pop music and fashion info was well into the red, and all I could do was head nod while wondering how to make an efficient escape.
Boys and girls were equally bad, though my deficient subject areas switched with the sexes. I’d be asked to shoot hoops and would have to decline or go home to get a gun. Too many girls (I was considered cute, which has long ago fallen into disrepair on my mainframe) insisted on trying to teach me to dance. They all knew I could do it if I would only loosen up a bit. Numerous private lessons (I was a slow social learner) ended in the same sorry state, with a well-intended girl feeling miserable woe because the best she could do loosening my dance moves moved me from very stiff automaton to quite stiff zombie jerking movements. I was clearly not destined for a future in dance, not when getting on a ballroom floor caused an instant feeling of naked embarrassment so intense and acute I’d have been less mortified being nude, because at least then I’d know where my shame was coming from.
One thing was sure: older people were never going to fire up one of the top ten and say, “Let’s dance!” There was the advantage, too, that life in the slow lane came with cake pieces and tea (I was good with tea, thanks to a parish priest teaching me to enjoy it with milk). This doesn’t mean I didn’t often enough drool over a burger, fries, Coke, malt, or pizza. I appreciated those things, but in teen world they defined the menu. When you don’t completely fancy what you’re supposed to see as the be-all of life, it’s comforting to find those others on a similar track. Most of the boys in my grade defined girls in terms of boobs. This made ranking girls quite easy. Even I caught on to that system, but it was damned unfair to girls and was embarrassing in showing too clearly what part of their beings a great many boys used as their primary thinking tool.
An afternoon with older people was free of all that, and it was on one such relaxed occasion that an elderly acquaintance said in his friendly Swedish style that he never saw a hearse towing a trailer. That was his version of “You can’t take it with you.” It’s quite true for most of us that were we to find ourselves on the brink of eternity, we’d think and wish for something other than material possessions. Those we love and our friendships are to be desired and valued far more than a special refrigerator or spiffy car. There is a general theme in religion that castigates us as sinners for being materialistic. This is often tagged into an opportunity to reduce our greedy materialistic side by giving in the collection. My cynicism aside, it’s not a bad thing to be reminded that human values are of worth in ways that material things are not and can never be. It’s true. They are different platforms in the same world.
But then, there is materialism and there is MATERIALISM. One exists for and relishes in acquiring. The other sees and uses material things for a more human end or as a way to put flesh on a humanistic vision. A material object—say it’s a thing someone you love has worn—is a token or reminder of that person and our connection to them. Material things can have whatever voice or voices we give them, just as when looking at the geography of the Earth around us one person sees rather little while another recognizes the story or record in the shape of hills or an outcrop of rock. It’s easy enough to read the superficial, but there is always more.
I missed a lot not getting to know my teen peers better than I was able, just as they missed out by sticking within their own tight connections. How often are we humans together and apart? We miss much, but we are not able to see and know everything at once. We see in bits and pieces, some from the heart and some from the mere stuff around us.