fun and learning to have it

ferris beuller

On top of going off the fundamentalist deep-end and realizing that Christians all have some basic things in common, I also started looking into some of the things I’d been told all my life were so horrifically sinful a good Christian girl would never consider even touching them.

I purchased Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on audiobook for the 13-hour cross-country road trip I had to take to get to grad school. And instead of hearing a frightfully woven tale full of Satan-loving, demon-worshiping witchcraft, I was enthralled by a story that taught courage, loyalty, friendship, honesty, integrity, intelligence, and sacrifice. I went and bought the rest of books, and realized that if I’d read Harry Potter when I was growing up, I might have made Hermione Granger my role model– and learned to value myself because of my geeky, know-it-all awkwardness instead of in spite of it. I might have valued intelligence, knowledge, and learning even when nearly everyone I knew told me that those things were silly, inconsequential rubbish–for a girl.

One of the friends I made in grad school, right off the bat, was Morgan*. We hit it off right away over a shared love of all things geek– and coffee. She took me in hand and led me to Mecca– well, the Honors Office, where there was free coffee. At the time. Now its 25c for a cup. Not bad, even then. She also introduced me to that most wicked, most foul, of all television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (also, just so this is clear: Joss Whedon is a god among men). Anyhoo, when she suggested one late, late night after we’d watched Twelfth Night that we watch Buffy, I was wary. I knew that show was of the devil– literally. There were vampires. But, I nodded, tentatively, and settled in with a cup of late-night coffee and watched episode one. It was cheesy, corny, and absolutely brilliant. If you watch it and don’t like Spike, you don’t have a soul (pun intended, for you Buffy fans).

I also fell in love with comedy. This is true of conservative evangelicals at large, but, as par for the course, more especially true of IFBs. Things can be funny– as long as they are also squeaky-clean. And I do mean sparkling clean. No swears, no body humor, nothing even skimming the surface of innuendo. And IFBs jump at mere shadows of innuendo– they see it everywhere, even where “normal” people wouldn’t. Everything has been corrupted by “free love,” and our morally bankrupt, debauched society has ruined comedy and humor for everyone everywhere. Sometimes I wonder if they’ve read Shakespeare, who is absolutely ribald, but then I remember . . . no, my fundamentalist college edited all of that out. Literally. They re-wrote Shakespeare’s comedies to make him less funny. It’s a crime against literature.

Morgan also went through some of her favorite YouTube funnies. Like Eddie Izzard. Now, if you don’t know who Eddie Izzard is– he drops the f-bomb. This is a word that was not tolerated at all at home. My parents used Kids-in-Mind to see if a movie would be appropriate for family viewing. We still watched things like James Bond– with a lot of fast-forwarding. Mom and dad never particularly objected to violence– I watched The Patriot, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan and all the zombie movies I could stomach. Which is a lot. I love zombie movies (double tap!). But if a movie had swearing– oooh buddy. Nope. Eddie Izzard also does a touch of drag. He wears makeup and heeled boots. And he’s hysterical. As is Craig FergusonHow I Met your Mother, and the character of Barney Stinson, represents everything I was taught to despise and assiduously avoid. Turns out, despising him is part of the hilarity. I had been told that if I filled my mind with these, that I would be ruined for all good, godly company. Also, IFB types rarely had a sense of humor, in my experience. When I first started stretching my boundaries, I was called a prude more than once. At one point in my life, I would have worn “prude” as a badge of honor, as a mark of high distinction. I aspired to be as prudish as possible. But . . . when someone calls you a “prude,” I discovered, it’s not a compliment. It means they know you’re judging them.

I became even more daring, if you can believe it. I invited a boy over– when no one else was home— and we sat on my couch and watched TV. That was it. Just because we were alone didn’t mean we were suddenly completely unbridled by our raging hormones. I had grown up being terrified of myself. Of what I could be capable of doing. In one of the great moments in sci-fi movie magic, Forbidden Planet, Morbius explains how the monsters from the id (Freud’s term for the subconscious) destroyed a planet and wiped out an entire civilization. This was what I was taught about my fallen human nature. It is wholly untrustworthy. My heart is “deceitfully wicked.” Given even the slightest opportunity, my sinful nature will overwhelm my common sense and my conscience and force me into unspeakable acts.

When I started making friends and “hanging out”– a new concept to me, I’d never done that before– I initially resisted alcohol. Like most Baptists, IFBs see all alcohol as a sin. The only things I knew about “the devil’s water” were related to the radio program Unshackledand how alcohol always led men to their doom, caused them to beat their wives, and destroyed their families and their lives. I was told once that if I ever touched alcohol, I would probably be a “mean drunk.” I was terrified that if I ever let it cross my lips that I would be enslaved by an instant addiction.  Whenever someone offered me a drink at any of these “parties” (not the drunken frat-boy keggers I’d assumed they would all be), I turned it down, and learned to walk around with a Solo cup in my hand, just so I wouldn’t have to say “no thanks” every five minutes.

One night, I decided– to hell with it. I wasn’t going to be so afraid. I knew I wasn’t secretly some deviant that would go against everything I believed the instant my inhibitions were a little looser. So, I tried it. Decided that beer is terrible, whiskey is like drinking gasoline, and that the only thing I liked was a white Russian. And the only thing that happened? I asked a guy friend if I could touch his hair — which, if you know me, is not out of the ordinary. I’d do that completely sober. And I learned that there is a difference between drinking alcohol because it tastes good (white Russians are like a frapuccino, only better) and getting wasted and being an ass. And no, I didn’t turn into a jerk. I stayed up all night, laughing with my friend at his birthday party, listening to Squirrelex and Pink Floyd, playing video games and having– yes, oh yes– innocent fun. I crashed on his sofa, ate breakfast with his roommate’s girlfriend, and went home. And I was, shockingly, just fine.

And the best lesson I learned through all of this exploring was that hardly anything of what I’d been taught were the visible “hallmarks” of being a Christian mattered. I’d been so paralyzed by fear, by the unending agony of wondering what would they think if they knew? And I realized that most of my “friends,” for most of my life, were not really my friends at all. They were just another system of confinement. Friends, in IFB circles, are people who “sharpen” you. They exist not to support you, or care about you, but to make sure you stay on the straight and narrow. They monitor you, and “challenge” you when they think you’re slipping. Their only purpose in your life is to judge you. To condemn, not to love.

What I discovered when I branched out into “lasciviousness,” was, instead of a deep black pit of despair where I would be broken and alone, I found a place where no one could freaking care less about what I did. If I wanted to laugh at a fart joke, I could. If I wanted to shake it to “Twist and Shout” like Ferris Beuller, I could. In fact, my girlfriends would join in, and we’d dance and laugh until we couldn’t dance and laugh no more. I could stand on top of a clothing display in Wal-Mart and sing The Christmas Song at the top of my lungs. I could strut my stuff playing air guitar a la Marty McFly’s Johnny B Goode, in the middle of Aéropastale, if I wanted. I could be happy, and show it in any way that struck my fancy. Living life with abandon wasn’t going to kill me, or lead me into fiery damnation. I learned to embrace impulse and spontaneity, to drink in wonder, happiness, and contentment in a way I never could before.

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  • OMG, omgomgomg,

    Wasn’t discovering HP amazing? It is all about good (honest, down to earth good) verses evil and evil is often deeply institutionalized (like the Malfoys!)

    And Eddie Izzard, F-bomb, schlef-bomb, the guy is a transvestite. google his action transvestite routing heck, let me find it for you because you deserve it….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJyS6ov3j0g&playnext=1&list=PL60315B1136270C4F&feature=results_video

    Sorry, got distracted watching and laughing!

    • I laughed hysterically, thank you for that. So bloody funny.

      And my children will grow up Harry Potter fans. They don’t have a choice.

      • Oh, and you didn’t mention The Big Bang Theory but you did mention your nerd status. If you are an honest to goodness nerd, you will find yourself laughing until you pull an ab muscle.

        • I freaking love Big Bang, but I didn’t discover it for another year after this, sadly.

  • “I learned to embrace impulse and spontaneity, to drink in wonder, happiness, and contentment in a way I never could before.” Yes!!! Two thumbs up! Awesome post, all of it!

  • Its really amazing to read about the journey you’ve made and how much you’ve experienced.

    Thanks for sharing it all with us,

    D x

  • Maura

    Oh, meeting Buffy and Harry Potter, exploring Westeros and listening to Radiohead and drinking beer (you’ll get there) are so very freeing. Whenever a song has the word “fuck” in it I sing along, extra-loud, because I can.

    • Oh, yes, I’ve been there. I’m going to write a post one of these days on how I started listening to the devil’s music. 🙂

  • Oh my… I only finally read the Harry Potter series and watched the movies last year because my girlfriend insisted I should. The result could not have been more happy… I don’t know how I let myself miss such rich tales, because I was taught they were of the devil.

    Funny thing about humor… my girlfriend and I were trying to share some SNL Lonely Island videos with my family and my mother got upset at the “Threw it on the Ground” clip, telling my younger sisters it was in poor taste and that there were better things for them to be doing than watching it.

    It’s actually rather frustrating to be able to enjoy so much and not be able to share with my family, because they cannot see the light.

    • I just finished reading them this summer. Took me a while.

      And I know what you mean– I love 30 Rock and How I Met your Mother, but the first time I tried to watch them with my family… it did not go over well.

  • If you haven’t read them yet try Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet. Also Andre Norton’s Witch World novels, and Anne McCaffrey’s novels (pick a series really, although my favorites are The Tower and The Hive novels, anything of hers set on Pern, and the Paytabe novels. I’m waiting for her son’s writing to be worthy as her successor). The Dragonlance novels are great sword and sorcery, epic good vs evil stories too.

    • I do love me some Dragonriders of Pern. I will look into the others, thank you so much for the recommendations. I think I might need something for solace after I finish Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.

  • Don

    Billy Connolly once did a routine entitled “Pale Blue Scotsman” (or something like that) which would have put Izzard to shame in the f-bomb department. At the end, he warns us that tomorrow we will need to be careful because we will find ourselves saying f— without thinking. And he was right. One of my cow-orkers had seen it too and we both had the same problem that day.

  • Colinde

    I love these stories… and ‘God Bless’ those demon-bound way-ward friends that lead us into such dark places! ;p HAHA! I had a friend I met in my early 20’s, a night time security guard at my job – that was always bored. We became friends when I commented on her crochet work at her security station (instead of knitting like everyone else called it). She then drug me into worlds I hadn’t known existed,..

    I will never forget my major ‘initiation’ into comedy by her: she put a Kat Williams video on while she spent 3 hours untangling my hairdo after a concert. To this day people balk and stare open mouthed when I tell them that was the first comedy video I watched (and I still LOVE it!). BTW I also discovered Danny Bhoy later, cute, half Scottish and funny to boot!

    She helped me buy my first car, in secret, without my uber-controlling parent’s knowledge.

    And also drug me to DragonCon for the first time. (Can we say geek overload?!) I have been a regular ever since.

    I met a lot of cool people and saw sides of society I had previously judged and shunned. Instead, I got to see beauty in them. I also began to trust *myself* and that was huge.

    • Comedy was sort of my door into the outside world.

      Also, I am supremely jealous of you getting to go to DragonCon. I am going to go pout in a corner now.


      • Colinde

        Would love it if you came sometime. I know some of the hardest part is the travel and the cost though (hint: share rooms). I’m local so I have an advantage over the travel aspect atleast.

        It’s an awesome sauce-pot of diverse interests and individuals. That’s a huge factor that keeps me coming back.