I’ve gotten most of my decent life-lessons from fiction. It’s not that I wasn’t being raised by people doing the best they could, but they were very busy. When I think about how busy they were I get tired. Even now.
The lessons I learned from my mother, stepmother, father and five siblings were survival techniques and the expectation that I would be fine. Especially if I didn’t just sit there. Heh.
I think that it’s no secret that I read a variety of, let’s put it politely, genres.
In grade school I read Dan Frontier books, The Three Investigators and a pile of books about dogs and horses owned and ridden by decent folk. That’s how I met many of the decent folk in my life.
In Junior High I read historical war novels, Louis L’amour westerns, and started reading romance novels. I also read the assigned dark, middle school fare of the day: The Outsiders, Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ethan Frome. God. Ethan Frome. I should re-read that to see what the hell it meant. Catcher in the Rye. Man. Allow me to review the classics in two sentences. Catcher in the Rye irritated me for the same reason Ferris Bueller’s Day Off bugged me. Only rich white kids get to throw their lives away and expect everything to work out anyway.
I also started reading romance novels. Harlequin romances. I liked the Harlequins that took place in…well..anywhere that wasn’t a small town in Wisconsin. But I didn’t read those very often and not for long. Barbara Cartland novels were historical romance but not fun for me. I love Georgette Heyer much more. She does people better. Barbara Cartland does clothes and decor. She’s like reading Zane Grey (who does scenery better than people) to Heyer’s Louis L’amour.
But I was reading them in parallel. So, the lessons I’d learn in one… Louis L’amour’s heroes and heroines were sane, desperate, violence as a last resort kind of people were measured against Harlequin romances. In the 70’s harlequins tended to be … Rapey. Like Luke and Laura rapey. He rapes her. She hates him. They fall in love. They marry and it’s all better. In General Hospital their marriage even got boring. Crazy attacker boredom!
I just read this: “Manipulating others to get what you want, capitalizing on their ignorance, even if what you cause them to do brings no harm to them or anyone else, is still wrong.
"If you want something, it’s perfectly acceptable, even laudable, to make it your goal. To doggedly pursue it, even I the face of all opposition- as long as you do that openly,without guile or deception. As long as you own your aims. If you stick to that path, then when you get what you want, you won’t be left feeling like a thief-feeling that while attaining your goal should have felt so wonderful, the victory is somehow tarnished, and your achievement is no longer an unalloyed joy."
I don’t know how to seriously quote a romance novel I just picked up. But it made think about real life. So there’s that defense. And, that’s what fiction does for me a lot. Have you read Ursula leGuin’s (sp) Earthsea series? So good. So smart. I do love a coming of age story. Possibly because you can always start over and “come of age.” Heh.
The romance novel. Stephanie Laurens is a good storyteller and does great work with sex scenes and is an okay writer. I hope she never reads that summation. Except that we all become better writers and being a good storyteller and the sex scene stuff will always get her work. There is, by default usually, a formula to romance novels. One of the things that should fascinate people about them is the socio-political agenda that is layered into a, supremely, basic novel of “sexual chemistry.” Heh. They can, and do, sell conservative agendas, liberal agendas, religion, morality.. animal rights. Anything and everything is laced into this stuff.
So many lessons in life. So many different sources to get the information on how to live a life. A lot of people do the self help books, many people follow the teaching of some talking head on television or radio. Some people actually read their chosen religious texts, listen to the boss of their congregation, or go to some homeopathic guru to hear the word on what constitutes a decent person and how to manifest that in daily living. Some people do 12 step programs and others, weirdly, get it from their mom or dad.
I barely know anyone who has, genuine, life skills they learned from parents. I’ve seen people (raised by active, attentive, caring adults) who are surprised to learn that you have to be a friend to have friends, you have to put out love and kindness and tolerance and patience to receive any of those. And these are people that were surrounded by support.
There’s an argument that those people were given too much so just expect it for nothing. I’ve felt that reasoning to be accurate but I might just be jealous. I got most of my approval from occasional teachers and a couple local firemen. I can’t recommend trying to deprive your children of support to try and “teach them empathy.”
I don’t think it was an advantage for me, being brought up by inattentive, scrambling messes of human beings. Because I was also surprised when I began to really learn life lessons. If we, who were raised like this, have any talent to tap it’s that we’re more like toddlers with new tech. We don’t know how to do anything so we button mash til something happens. (Old people think they know everything and hate iPads).
I spend a good portion of my time forcing a willingness to not be surprised when I don’t know things. Like I didn’t know that, for example, to be with a partner who is polite and respectful I have BOTH, be polite and respectful to him AND expect it from him and tell him when I’m not feeling it. Heh. Two reasons you might want to mention it to yer partner? 1. S/He’s human and makes mistakes 2. S/He’s not psychic.
Also a learned thing? When someone isn’t right to, with, or for you. Recognizing that and letting it go. Gotta learn it to act on it.
When I was fifteen I was struck by an example of parenting I read in a Louis L’amour novel. Tell me if you read this one… A lone guy rides into town and helps some people?
A guy picks up a kid he finds next to some smoking wreck of a wagon train. The story is told in flashbacks, from the kid, now grown up. He’s a gunfighter. OF COURSE HE IS. But it’s flashbacks of him riding with the guy that found him. The impression of the man, from the child’s perspective, is of a guy who doesn’t want to talk but does. The grown up kid’s realization, in hindsight, is that the quiet man was teaching him the only way he knew how… Telling stories and passing on information about the land, the people and how to do things by forcing himself to talk.
It gave me my first glimpse into how my father MIGHT have been parenting us. We all had dinner together and he would tell stories. By no stretch is my father “quiet.” But he’s not a play-catch/build something in a workshop kind of father.
You know how you’re told to love your family? Whether they are polite to you, mean to you and..certainly…whether you have ANYTHING in common with them?
More on manipulation later…