Theology

poptarts taste like freedom

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been watching through Gilmore Girls for the first time, although Handsome and I have been distracted by listening to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time on audiobook. One of the episodes we watched recently, included Lorelai having a bit of an epiphany about her likes and dislikes. In a conversation with Sookie, she says that the first time she ever had a PopTart, “it tasted like freedom.” She wonders if perhaps some of her favorite things are simply a result of wanting them because her mother said she couldn’t have them.

As I watched, I told Handsome “oh, I hope they deal with this more because I think this is something Lorelai really needs to work out.” So far, they haven’t addressed it again, but it got me to thinking some about the choices I’ve made in my life. I’ve enjoyed some of the things that I’ve done because fundamentalism told me I shouldn’t.

Take Star Wars for example.

I saw the original trilogy when I was about seven, and I remember having a dramatic emotional response. When we got to the scene at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, I turned to my father, sobbing, and declared “he just can’t be his daddy! He can’t be!” I was somewhat traumatized by this revelation, and was grief-stricken all the way through Return of the Jedi.

I sort of forgot about it, though, because we watched Jurassic Park the next day and I had nightmares about goats for a while. When I was eleven, though, The Phantom Menace came out, and Dad– who’d grown up with Star Wars— decided that we were going to break the “no good Christian ever goes to a movie theater ever for any reason ever” rule. It was made very clear to me and my sister that we were not to bring it up with anyone at church. In fact, just to be safe, don’t talk about it with anyone.

As I sat there and slowly fell in love with Obi-Wan Kenobi (I have a crush on Ewan McGregor to this day, it’s why I like gingers so much), I could feel myself becoming enchanted. I was hooked, obsessed. I found out about the Jedi Apprentice series and read them a few pages at a time whenever we were in a book store. I checked out Star Wars-related encyclopedias from the library and memorized ever factoid. When we got the internet, I discovered starwars.com and theforce.net and became heavily involved in the fan community, especially fan fiction. I read every single thing ever posted on starwarschicks.com and the Jedi Apprentice Fan Dimsension (one story in particular, “Sabre Dance,” ended up being my introduction to smut– I enjoyed the story on JAFD and found the not-safe-for-children sequel the author had written).

But now, as an adult, while I still love the films and will definitely be fangirling out my ass in December when I go see The Force Awakens, that obsession has … abated. Perhaps a part of it is that I’m no longer a teenager, but a part of me is sure that I’m not as obsessed with it because there’s no one in my life telling me I’m not allowed to be.

~~~~~~~~~~

When I was in graduate school, I started experimenting. For people who had a “typical” American childhood, you probably went through something similar when you were in high school. I started flexing my decision-making muscles, testing limits, all of that. I made some bad decisions, did some things that weren’t good for me– nothing too bad, but things that in retrospect make me grimace a little bit in either embarrassment or regret. I think that was a healthy thing for me to go through, as I didn’t know anything about myself, really. A bit like Kimmy Schmidt, I’d been trapped in an invisible box all my life and I wanted to experience life.

However, some of the choices I made were a literal middle finger to fundamentalism and pretty much nothing more than that. I tried to be ok with movies (like Planet Terror) that made me uncomfortable because of their overt sexualization of women. I did the bump-and-grind with a few guys even though they sort of creeped me out, and I dismissed those feelings because I chalked them up to my fundamentalist programming. I did that a lot, actually– if I had a negative reaction to something, I’d tell myself get over it, Sam, it’s nothing– this is fine. Just because your Sunday school teacher would be horrified doesn’t mean this is bad.

That was an important thing to learn to differentiate. Some things I react to because fundamentalist!brain goes into overdrive and teams up with JerkBrain to make me feel like shit for having fun. Other times I’m reacting because there’s legitimately something wrong. That show is portraying abuse. This comedian is sexist. That article minimizes the harmful effects of destructive theology.

A few weekends ago I went to a club for the first time in my life, and I had a blast. It was a local event mainly for lesbian and bisexual women, and it was awesome to be in a safe space like that. The DJ played a few songs I like (dancing to Icona Pop’s “I Love It” is fun), I got a little tipsy (don’t do Kahlua as a shot. Just … don’t), I danced with a few of my girlfriends, and had a pretty fantastic night.

It was also simultaneously miserable. I’m an introvert, so being in a crowded club filled with strangers? AHHHH. Loud, base-throbbing music sends my anxiety through the roof? AHHHHHHH. Flashing lights induce a headache? AHHHHHHHHHHHH. Dancing in heels? Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Oh, right, me. Should’ve known a club full of queer people would have involved Converse for most and my attempt to “fit in” just made me head-and-shoulders taller than basically everyone (at 5’8″ I already stand out in a room full of women).

But I’d figured out that my “oh, ok, I’m done, I want to go home now” feelings weren’t because fundamentalist!brain was telling me to. I wanted to go home and go to bed because I know myself. I know that loud noises and flashing lights and lots of people just aren’t my cup of tea for extended periods.

This is something fundamentalism robs us of. Being able to make decisions based on who you are and what you like doesn’t even begin to enter the picture. You do things because God (coughpastorcough) tells you to. You don’t do things because God (coughbullshitcough) tells you not to. That’s the only thing involved in making decisions, and while I understand how easy and comfortable and safe that can make us feel, it’s also the everyday equivalent of being trapped in an underground bunker.

Photo by Kaylan Chakravarthy
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  • Yep. Ewan McGregor is definitely yum.

    Although, I forget that 5’8″ is tall for most people. I’m 5’11”, so even short heels can boost me to 6’1″. I’m so used to towering over people that I get nervous around people over 6’4″!

    • Yeah when you’re alone with 100+ women and you’re wearing three inch heels? And the average height for women is about 5’4″?

      • Yeah, I forget that I feel nervous around really short people, too. But still, that night at the club sounded like a blast.

    • marciepooh

      WORD! Although I don’t get nervous around men until they get closer to 7′ since my brothers are 5’10” to 6’5″. Women more than an inch or two taller than me (5’11”) kind of freak me out, but I don’t run into very many.

  • I had a childhood similar to Lorelai’s, with a very controlling mother, and for the longest time, I was kind of lost without someone to oppose/oppose me. I did a lot of things later in life than most people because of it, and it took me a while to figure out when to trust my gut in the same way you describe. Thank you for reminding me that, although circumstances may differ, I’m far from the only one who has had to deal with (and continues to deal with) the same sorts of issues.

  • Sarah S

    “This is something fundamentalism robs us of. Being able to make decisions based on who you are and what you like doesn’t even begin to enter the picture.” <<<<< This! So much.
    And having to learn to differentiate between true discomfort and leftover guilt discomfort is. . . uncomfortable and confusing. And takes time and patience. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Lis

      Sarah S, you just said exactly what I was thinking!
      It’s such a difficult thing to sort out. At 32, sometimes I realize that I still am! *sigh*

      • Sarah S

        <3

  • Sha

    For me it was a middle finger to sex and gender stereotypes. Starting from my earliest years at school, I thought I owed it to my sex to break every stereotype, which lead to years of me trying to enjoy sports (I just don’t), but also (I realized years later) was the reason I got into some of the things I actually DO love (like weapons and snakes).

    These days, I just like the things that I like, but I still hold a lot of anger against a society that is so beholden to gender-essentialism that a 5 year old felt the need to form her identity around breaking stereotypes rather than forming her identity around herself (who breaks plenty of stereotypes anyway, but certainly not all of them, because she’s a person, not a robot)

  • I remember attending a Billy Graham crusade for two days out of the five he was here. It was a joy to sing in the choir with Ethyl Waters shortly before she went to be with the Lord, but I couldn’t go back after the second day because I was uncomfortable in the crowded setting. I understand your feelings concerning crowds.
    I remember realizing that God wouldn’t punish me for unclean thoughts or dancing or going to see an R rated movie, though the church I was in at the time called me on the carpet when someone saw me there, the move was Walking Tall with Joe Don Baker. That’s when I left the independent Baptist church and joined an SBC church where the youth pastor set up movie nights at a local theater, the movies were PG, but going to a movie theater wasn’t a cardinal sin. They still frowned on me going to school dances, but I went anyway without guilt, I’ve always loved to dance, and my parents met at a school dance so dancing was always a part of my life.

  • I can barely ever watch The Gilmore Girls because of all the triggers *twitch*

    But ditto to clubs. Fun for awhile, but then the introversion comes out and I’m ready for my quiet room. 😛

    Wheel of Time is awesome! I’ve read the series through multiple times. It’s fantastic.

  • This is such a huge thing for us to learn, I think. It’s this dance I have to do with myself. “Do I hate this because I actually hate it, or because I’m socialized to hate it?” or “Do I like this because I actually like it, or because I’m overcorrecting from childhood?” I guess the good thing about it is once I figure it out, I actually know what I want to do and don’t want to do, which is more than I can say for the first 20-odd years of my life.

  • So, funny story (cough), but I totally binge watched Spartacus solely to stop flinching every time I saw a penis. What do they call that… exposure therapy? #lol This probably needs context, but it’s all I’ve got. #rapesurvivor

    This post made me choke up. I’m 29, and finally seeing this tendency in myself – to make choices based off of what want “allowed”, and not just on what I actually want or think I might want.

  • Flora Poste

    I had similarly confused motives for my likes and dislikes growing up, but I think since my upbringing was not nearly as…homogenous… as yours seems to have been, my screwed up sense of “like” was possibly even more convoluted. Do I like those nasty green ice cream bars at the 7-11 because I actually like them, or because my mom won’t let me eat them? I pretended to be a “tomboy” because I didn’t feel pretty enough to allow myself to be the Amy March I secretly wanted to be inside. And later, do I want to sneak out to watch that r-rated movie because I actually want to see it, because I’m not allowed to see it, or because I don’t want my friends to a) make fun of me and b) have fun without me? (That one, usually.) At college I pretended to like night clubs when in fact they illustrate what I imagine hell to closely resemble. It’s so much more restful that as I get older I’m much more at peace with the idea of “like what you like.” “YUP, I’m 33 years old, I like Gordon Lightfoot, cherry brandy, Star Trek TNG, 1st generation My Little Ponies, science, and personality tests. My all-time favorite book is Jane Eyre, and I’m pretty sure that in a former life I was either Charlotte Bronte or Charlotte Bronte’s best friend.” And anyone who doesn’t like it can go to a nightclub. ?

    • Sarah S

      Love this! 😀

  • Soo… do You like pop-tarts? How about putting your hair in a bun, cuz that’s the real kicker: not liking something you’re not supposed to like, but liking something because you like it even though they like it as well.
    Did I mention this is my favorite show? This episode is definitely illustrative of my spiritual life. 😀