First Loves, Country Loves, and More

27 June 2002

Well, nobody shrieked all night in the courtyard outside my window, so I'm doing much better this morning than I was yesterday. Yesterday I remembered what it was like to be little and not have enough sleep. I remembered what it was like to want to throw a tantrum (which I don't think I did much as a little kid). As an adult, it looks like a pretty nonsensical activity -- why on earth, I want to ask the child, are you thrashing your arms and legs about? I can understand the screaming of "No no no no no don't wanna," certainly, but the thrashing seems totally beside the point. Only yesterday, it didn't. I was really tired and out of sorts, and while I didn't scream and thrash, I totally understood the urge.

And in the midst of all of that, I wrote a scene of the Not The Moose Book that was quiet and resigned and a little bit tense and went just where it needed to go. Which makes me think that the people who tell me you have to get your mood out in freewriting or it'll come out in everything you write are full of it. But I already thought that.

I felt much better after that scene, too.

There are hazards to working from home, people. I love it. I would hate to give it up. But Mark is at work all day, and sometimes Timprov's sleep schedule and mine don't coincide, or sometimes he's working in his bedroom with the door shut, so often I'm alone out here. And last week, I heard a small voice singing, "Now Captain Jack had a mighty fine crew. He sailed across the Channel, too." It was my small voice, and I was sitting here singing "The Princess Pat." (Which, oddly enough, came up in a recent journal entry of Jette's -- Mom, do not follow that link, it's not a story about Girl Scout camp at all.) I want it known that I was occupied with typing and was not doing the actions, not even the tiara one. And on Sunday, I wandered around the house giggling, "C'zahyn tita! C'zahyn tita!" (It is a long, Applied Calculus for Physics and Engineering-related story that also touches on Lost Languages, which I read on Sunday.) It occurs to me that one simply does not do these things under normal office circumstances.

Which, I suppose, makes me grateful, but I would feel a lot better about it if it had been some, well, grown-up song I was singing, rather than "The Princess Pat."

I do love masking tape. I know duct tape has gotten all the glamour, but masking tape has its own uses. I have freezer containers labeled with contents and dates now. Last night, I cooked the fish for Mark and me (allspice was a poor idea in that recipe, and I should have ignored it) and left it marinating in the fridge for Timprov with the baking instructions in masking tape on the container. All organized and cheerful-like. We have electrical tape here (of course) and Scotch tape and packing tape, but until this week, we lacked masking tape, and I was feeling the lack.

Yesterday I read Stanley Wolpert's India, which I think was recommended by Philip, but it was from before I noted recommendations by name on my library list, so I can't be sure. Anyway, it was an overview of, um, India. And it functioned well that way, I suppose, although there were bits of it that particularly amused me. Some of the funniest ones were about religion. You could tell that many of his statements about Indian religions were much more related to areas in which he felt American religious expression was lacking. Indians, he informed us, have their religion as a central feature of life all the time, not "remembered only on Saturdays or Sundays, locked in books never read." Don't be shy, now, Mr. Wolpert, tell me how sincere you really think American Jews and Christians are.

I suppose it's no surprise, with the number of religions originating there, that an Indophile would be more likely to be someone drawn to religious practices. I think a lot of us who fall in love with a particular country have found something that our current location is lacking, nationally or regionally. A lot of American Anglophiles are in love with the history, the length of recorded history, or else with the formality. So it got me thinking: as a recent Finnophile, what am I seeing that I'm missing here? I think the number one answer is restraint. Too many Americans confuse restraint with repression, but there are many aspects of life in which Finns are less prudish than your average American. They just don't have to go on about them all the time. And those of you who love the Bay Area can tell me all sorts of ways in which it is wonderful, and you'll be right in many of those aspects, but it is not a very restrained city by American standards. Much less by the standards of Finland or some other country. There are other things that draw me -- not the least of them, snow -- but I think restraint is at the top of the list.

So Wolpert loves India, seemingly in large part because he loves Indian religions and how he sees them permeating life there. All right, I can see that...but I can see, too, how it would be somewhat less comfortable to have your life "permeated" by the militant Sikhs, the Hindu nationalists, or the Muslim separatists next door. I can do without that kind of daily interaction with my neighbors' religions, I think.

Oh, and speaking of: people, they didn't ban the Pledge of Allegiance. They said that teachers can't set aside time to say it with the inclusion of the "under God" phrase. The "under God" phrase was added in the Eisenhower presidency anyway. (But as we Americans all know, anything that has happened since 1950 is The Way It Has Always Been And Always Should Be, Dammit.) And I think they were right to get rid of it.

One of my parents' old pastors, Pastor Larsen, told people that before they advocated religion in public schools and other such situations, they should consider that it would not always be their religion. He knew whereof he spoke: he was a Protestant in Omaha, and Omaha is a Catholic town. It's easy for people to downplay the distinction, but very, very few Prots would feel comfortable saying, "One Nation, under our Blessed Virgin Mother, with liberty and justice for all." And that's referring to someone whose existence most mainline Prots believe in, albeit with some different traits than many Catholics believe in.

I also have problems with the level of indoctrination that forces small children to proclaim oaths of allegiance without explanation, context, or a chance to sincerely disagree, and I think that if someone said, "All jobs will require you to sign statements of loyalty to the government of the US every morning from now on," adults would revolt. But that seems to be a side issue to the court's decision.

Ah well. I'm not participating in the June Journal SMACKdown!, but the "First love" topic got me thinking. You would think the answer would be obvious. Well, I would -- maybe you wouldn't. But I do have more than one possibility.

My seventh grade English teacher, who is now my friend, once told me the story of how she fell in love with her husband. It was after a particularly tragic situation several years into their marriage -- it's not my story to tell you guys -- and she said that she thought she loved him before that, but afterwards, she really did. It was a beautiful story, but I wasn't sure about it. I think it's very easy to say "I thought I loved so-and-so, but...." And sometimes it's true that you really had no idea, but sometimes it's just an easy way of distancing yourself from feelings that might have proven to be less than eternal, or embarrassing, or something like that. Of course you didn't love when you were 16 the way you do when you're 60. If you do, it means you haven't grown as a person. But it doesn't mean that you were incapable at 16.

And thinking about that left me with a problem, because I have distinguished "my first crush" and "my first love," and it's now looking rather unfair to my much-much younger self to make that distinction rather than describing how I loved two different boys differently.

Jim (shown here, at the bottom of the page) was my kindergarten love. My first grade love. All the way up through sixth grade. There was no one else in the universe but him. The pairings of grade school, both in terms of friends and in boy-girl pairings, seemed totally immutable. Kathy and Amy were best friends. Jimmer and I weren't "going out," but we might as well have been, because we just went together. There were occasionally odd occurrences like the Valentine's Day in second grade when he and Robert and Joe got competitive about who had given me the most Valentines. But mostly, it was Jim and me, me and Jim. There was no other possibility in our minds, or in anyone else's. There was also no consideration of time. We never thought about "What do we do now?" or "What do we do next?" It just wasn't an issue. We did the next thing, whether that was harassing his little sister or walking home from band practice or whatever.

It's easy to say, well, that sort of thing, that isn't love. The question of whether you can really fall in love without options is one that all kinds of bad "marooned on a distant planet" science fiction stories have gone into. But I think it would be pretty disrespectful of my fifth grade self to tell her that it wasn't real. It was real, and it was a kind of love, and when I went to write "Drug Test," it was very clear that Jim had broken my heart, all those years ago.

(I still do love this man, in a quite different way, of course. I think Jim and I will always be part of each other. And while it would be easy to say, oh, we're such different people now, I think we understand each other in ways that other people really can't. He was talking about deciding to go to law school instead of doing engineering, and it totally fit with the way he had learned fractions. I'm not saying he's exactly the same or I'm exactly the same, but we have more background to understand where the other person is going than most.)

So that sounds pretty obvious, I think...the other "first love" I had was Scott. (Shown here, when he visited in March.) I loved Scott with options. I was entirely aware that there were other people in the world, other choices, and that Scott was the one I wanted to go out with anyway. I dodged when one of my friends wanted to set me up with her boyfriend's friend, an amazingly more suitable and pleasant guy than my actual first boyfriend, because I liked him okay, but not as much as Scott. (My actual first boyfriend was interested in me, and I thought I could make Scott jealous with him. Note to anyone who thinks of trying dating someone to make someone else jealous: this does not work if monogamous ideals have firmly implanted in the person who is supposed to become jealous. He will then be jealous but unwilling to do anything about it. This gets you nowhere with him, and then you're stuck dating someone you really shouldn't have. Don't do it.) (Oh, and Mom, if you're really curious as to which of my friends and which of her boyfriend's friends is under discussion here, I'll tell you. The rest of you probably wouldn't care anyway.)

It's odd to think that Scott was my first grown-up love, because it all started when I was 12, but I think that's a pretty accurate term, and we didn't actually date until college anyway. We had awareness of time, of possibilities, of the rest of the world and the rest of our lives and fitting everything into them. In short, we had context. That wasn't always a good thing, but it was a necessary and real thing.

(I still love Scott, too. I think to anyone who knows me, this goes without saying, but many of you don't know me in that way, or we haven't sat down and talked about first loves, or former boyfriends, or friends who have come to visit, or people who can make us laugh with a single word, or any of a number of other Scott-related categories.)

(Oh, and for the scorecard: this is not the Scott who goes with Michelle. Never dated that one. I do wish my friends would just have separate names, but I refuse to use Michelle's nickname for her Scott, as it involves Coleridge's children.)

Hey, I tried the thing that Tom did with searching on "Tom is," and Jenn did it, too, only with "Jennifer is," because I don't think she really cares what Tom is. Well, I searched on "Marissa is," and most of the answers were some variation of "adorable." Faaaabulous. Then I searched on "M'ris is." There was one person who had a dragonrider character named M'ris, and the rest of them were me. So I'm doing my part for the "unique name" thing. I am.

So. I'm going to read Kate Wilhelm's Desperate Measures and work on the Not The Moose Book. I've gotten to the point where I'm making notes the night before on scenes I want to do the next day. This is a good point. I hope to continue at this point. I like it. It gives me a sense of eagerness, and it gives me back some of my missing sense of time.

Ooh, ooh! I also made a birthday list. Including everything from a white tank top to Goldwater's of Arizona peach salsa to a new Leatherman. So. Time is coming back to me. This is good.

Right then. To work.

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