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.