From a Rock Star to a Nobody: Why My Social Life Peaked at Kindergarten

Lately I’ve been thinking about how simple life was back in kindergarten. Yeah I know, I’m going way, WAY back here, but bear with me.

I started school for the first time shortly after I had been diagnosed with a profound hearing loss, and sentenced to wear clunky hearing aids that once earned me the nickname “Satellite Ears” later on in life.

When I started kindergarten though, nobody seemed to notice. I was just one of the kids, and for some reason, I was genuinely liked by almost everyone. Kids would meet me for the first time and instantly decided they liked me, even to the point of crying if I was apart from them for too long. I never really understood why, but it felt good to be in an environment where people really enjoyed having me around, even if we were all 5 years old.

I remember the playground too, and how this one skinny kid from another class would peel back his eyelids and then chase me around like some kind of bogeyman. Scared the daylights out of me too, that is, until one of my newfound friends saw it happening and beat the living snot out of him. You have not lived until you see a 5 year old whaling on another 5 year old dweeb just because he’d been bothering me too much. A truly wondrous sight to behold.

My tight circle of buddies continued to hold together throughout first grade, until the powers that be decided that my hearing disability wasn’t holding me back after all, and I could start the second grade at a normal school rather than the special school my posse and I currently went to.

So just like that, I got dropped into the second grade. Suddenly, my social circle was gone, and once again I was a stranger in a strange land. Only this time, no one befriended me. There were no easy and instant friendships to be had here. For the first time, I was alone.

I only remember having one friendship during that time, and it didn’t last long. I think we met in the third grade and got sort of close, but when fourth grade started, he decided he just didn’t like me anymore. It was a completely new experience for me, and I couldn’t understand how somebody could just decide out of the blue that they no longer wanted to be friends with me. I spent that WHOLE year trying to figure it out, confronting him, asking him, pleading with him for answers, until he teamed up with some tall, fat and ugly four-eyed snot and had him pound on me every time I got near my now former friend. The experience was so bad that my 4th grade teacher would give me unsatisfactory scores on my report card over my ability to get along with other kids. Stupid teacher.

And you know, I wasn’t trying to be a brat here. I just wanted to know why he didn’t like me anymore. I NEEDED to know. Why, just, why? Tell me why? But he wasn’t saying.

Eventually 4th grade was coming to a close, and the fat, ugly ape-boy my former friend had latched on to decided he really enjoyed beating me up just for the heck of it. I had to hide out in the bushes or under a slide somewhere just so I could get away from this lard-face. Every school day was a nightmare for me. I couldn’t even stay inside for much needed relief from all the beatdowns because it wasn’t allowed. Nooo, I had to go outside and play because it was “good exercise.” Yep, it certainly was great exercise running for my life from the playground’s resident baboon every day.

Then one weekend I happened to see a movie about this high school student who kept getting whaled on by bullies, so he hired some biiiiiiiig dude to be his bodyguard. Eventually they became friends too.

That made me think about things.

I don’t remember how, but eventually I found and befriended a tall, black kid and asked him if he was willing to be my bodyguard, and if he was, I’d pay him 50 cents. He heartily agreed, cementing what would be my first ever business transaction.

The next time I went on the playground, tubby four-eyed freak once again began his pursuit after me… until he was clotheslined by my new bodyguard. And just for good measure, Newly Hired Bodyguard began smacking him around until he knocked off his Woody Harrelson glasses and made the lard-face cry. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

That finally brought me the relief I needed until 4th grade mercifully ended a few weeks later. I don’t know what happened to my bodyguard though, as he must have moved after that summer, because I never saw him again. It’s a shame, because we were just starting to become good friends too.

Fortunately, the playground’s resident ape had also apparently moved, because I don’t remember seeing him at all during 5th grade. My ex-friend was still around, but at that point I had finally given up and decided to just let things be. We were stuck in the same math class that year, but one day he had dropped all his books on the floor, and I promptly helped him pick it up. When I did that I guess he saw that even after all we went through, I still had no malice towards him, and whatever antipathy he had for me then had at that moment finally melted away. We chatted on the playground that same day, but afterwards I just left him alone. He eventually found his own circle of friends to hang out with while I continued to float around.

I think then that’s when I officially became a loner. It started happening in the second grade, but my horrendous experience in 4th grade really cemented it for me. Somewhere along the way, I was no longer instantly liked. Instead, most people either shunned me or decided right on the spot that I was the most repugnant thing they had ever seen. And while 5th grade brought a small reprieve from all that animosity, my experience in junior high saw it being raised to new heights. I wasn’t just picked on. I was spit on, beaten, chased after, all without provocation. I’d barely have a chance to say boo before I’d get pounded on like a piece of meat. There were times when I reacted very badly to it all (mostly by taking it out on my parents), but as I look back, I realize I was just a kid who was just trying to make sense of all the crazy hatred.

It wasn’t till I started high school in another town that things finally began to calm down. During that time I met a guy who would be my first ever real best friend, a close friendship that lasted over ten years. Other than that though I was pretty much a loner. I hated social circles and gatherings because I never felt like I belonged, and more importantly, I never felt welcomed either.

As grownups now, we’ve learned to be more polite (sometimes) when it comes to company we don’t like having around. But even then, I could always tell when I wasn’t wanted. There was this sense of awkwardness because I felt no connection with the people I socialized with, no matter what circle or club or group it happened to be. Whatever magic I once had in kindergarten, it was gone forever now. To this day, I have still not found any place where I can feel like I truly belong. Perhaps that’s my destiny now, and if it is, I’m willing to accept that. The world sucks anyway.

But every now and then, I’ll remember that time in kindergarten, and what it was like to be the guy that everyone loved and enjoyed being with. And when I do, I can feel the loss. The loss of being connected. The loss of being a part of something special.

I am… THE TIN MAN

When I was doing some research about my personality profile (INFJ), I came across an interesting article about The Tin Man.  In the Wizard of Oz, the four main characters are said to represent four temperaments: Improviser, Stabilizer, Theorist and Catalyst.  The INFJ falls under the fourth temperament, Catalyst, which is what the Tin Man represents.

The Tin Man Poses For Camera
How YOU doin’?

Something not to be overlooked about the Tin Man is how he is made of impenetrable metal, not flesh. This is a powerful symbol, meant to draw your attention to something important about this character. When Catalysts get emotionally injured, they tend to erect psychological “barriers” to avoid suffering further damage. It’s a completely understandable reaction. The paradox is that the same barriers which protect them from getting wounded will also act as barriers that inadvertently preclude them from feeling loved.

That’s certainly been my experience, which is why I’m so loathe to let those barriers down, because no sooner than I do someone quickly uses the opportunity to stab a dagger in my face, and thus the walls quickly go back up again.  As much as I want to experience love, I hate leaving myself vulnerable because I can’t think of any past examples where I DIDN’T get hurt as a result of letting my guard down.  I’m very suspicious of people, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell who I can safely trust, though the safe course of action obviously would be to trust NO one.

As much as I’d love to confide in others and reveal my deepest thoughts, my tendency is to keep others at arm’s length and leave many details about my life shrouded in mystery.  In a way my blog helps me find a middle ground to all that, where I can express my thoughts freely (for the most part) behind of veil of quasi-anonymity.  It’s one of the weird things about being an INFJ: we’re far more expressive in writing than we are speaking, and many of us would eschew talking to people on the phone, but have no aversion to texting someone all day.  I wish more people were like this, as I love to instant message and communicate by text, but I’m surprised (even in light of all the new ways we can communicate on the Internet) that so few people actually do this.  It’s one of the reasons why I struggle with dating:  so much of the communicating has to be done on the phone or in person, forcing me to interact in ways I’m not comfortable doing, especially when I’m with people I don’t know well.  I hem and haw and stutter and just can’t seem to find the words I want to say, but with instant messaging (IM) and email I fire on all cylinders.  Very few are willing to meet me halfway though, even on job interviews when I ask if we can communicate by IM/email/text as an accommodation I’m still forced to talk on the phone.  To actually type out words seems to be too much to ask of certain people.

Still, as time goes on I hope to find kindred souls who appreciate the power of the written word, as well as the effort I make to talk to them freely and comfortably, just as I do now with the people I care about the most.

The price of being an INFJ

INFJs I think are especially sensitive individuals, not in the sense that it means we get easily offended, but that we have a natural ability to absorb and read energy around us in a way that many people can’t.  We absorb so much in fact, that there’s a limit to how much stimuli we can experience before it becomes too much to bear, and we need to withdraw into solitude to escape from the overload of sensations we sometimes feel.  While this describes many introverts, I think INFJs are even more keenly sensitive to our surroundings, and we can quickly detect changes in mood and behavior long before others do.  When there’s negative energy or conflict, we don’t merely sense it, we’re actually experiencing it as well (like being in a middle of a storm).

While others can take people and things at face value, INFJs experience intuition at a uniquely high level that can’t easily be understood or verbalized.  We just KNOW things, even in the absence of any foreknowledge of the subject at hand.  It’s also why we can detect disingenuity in people’s behavior and words so quickly, or as Obi Wan Kenobi would say, we sense a “disturbance in the force.”  Such intuition can’t be experienced in a detached manner either, somehow we’re also absorbing the negative energy we sense, giving us a feeling of dysphoria that doesn’t stop until the deception ends, or we remove ourselves from that environment (usually the later).

This is not a personality trait that many people can understand or relate to.  One of my Facebook friends in fact dismissed a recent post where I commented that INFJs “see fake people” as the result of me projecting my personal bias onto others, not due to any innate ability to read others.  Her flippant disregard belies a fundamental ignorance of what INFJs experience, and I’m sure most of us would candidly admit, far from seeing this as some sort of superpower we can brag about, it’s actually a burden we wish we could TURN OFF.

It’s like having eyes without eyelids.  There’s no way for us to merely shut this off and block what we intuitively feel, even when we desperately want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  The overload of negative energy/stimuli becomes so overwhelming that the only way to get a reprieve from it is by dissociating ourselves from its source, either by seeking solitude or the company of a very small circle of friends and family we implicitly trust.

My experience at the Grand Canyons was such a good example of this too.  In the early morning I managed to find a quiet spot near the edge and enjoy the views in peace.  I closed my eyes, and I could feel the canyon’s winds gently blowing past me, the sounds and echos of birds, animals and plants moving in perfect harmony, while my nose were permeated with the smells of damp earth and swirling pollen.  I felt at ease and at peace.

Grand Canyon View from Rim TrailAnd then the crowds came.

Obnoxious, braying, loud and boisterous, they continued to swarm past me as I tried to regain the short-lived moments of peace I had experienced only minutes earlier.  It wasn’t enough to shut my hearing aids off:  I could still FEEL them.  Crazy, chaotic energy disrupting my inner world with its poisonous darts.  I literally did not feel at ease again until I left the Canyons and drove the through the Navajo Nation on the way to Colorado.

Rarely does a day go by when I wish I weren’t the way I was, that I could be more detached and numb to the world around me.  I’d probably have a FAR wider social circle of friends and associates, as well as being a happy go lucky person with no sense or awareness of the evil that surrounds him.  Ignorance as they say, is bliss.

I wish I could be that person sometimes.  But it is what it is.

Exploring a world that harbors a subtle bigotry against introverts

Walking on RailroadI’ve been reading the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and while I haven’t finished it yet, it has truly been an eye-opening read.  (If you’re an introvert, seriously, GET THIS BOOK.)  Incredibly, it touched on nearly everything I’ve come to observe about the world of Christianity, dating, education and work that always felt… wrong to me.

The book exposes what was in fact a culture-wide shift in perspective on how one succeeds in life that began in the early 20th century, spearheaded by none other than Dale Carnegie.  Evidence of this shift could be found in part by simply making a comparison of the advice manuals in the 19th century to the manuals of the 20th century that Carnegie helped to shape.  Using word counts, the 19th century guides often resorted to words like these:

  • Citizenship
  • Duty
  • Work
  • Golden deeds
  • Honor
  • Reputation
  • Morals
  • Manners
  • Integrity

Cain writes:

But the new guides celebrated qualities that were–no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound–trickier to acquire.  Either you embodied these qualities or you didn’t:

Magnetic
Fascinating
Stunning
Attractive
Glowing
Dominant
Forceful
Energetic

Now why does this sound so FAMILIAR?  I realized that this described almost to a T the VERY same traits the “manosphere” has long since recognized as the necessary qualities a man must have in order to attract women.  Far from being a case study on sexual attraction, this actually appears to be part of a MUCH larger cultural phenomenon, one that engulfs nearly every area of life and dictates how successful we would be not only in dating and relationships, but also in our careers and education too.

Speaking of education, Cain quotes a dean in her research as an example of what college admissions officers look for in candidates:

“…in screening applications from secondary schools it was only common sense to take into account not only what the college wanted but what, four years later, corporations’ recruiters would want.  ‘They like a pretty gregarious, active type, so we find that the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity.  We see little use for the brilliant introvert.'”

This bias against introverts runs so deep that some view introversion as a pathology, not merely a distinctive personality trait, or at the very least a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Rather than being able to embrace their introversion, introverts are forced from the very beginning of their adult lives to abandon their natural proclivities if they’re ever to have any hope of getting ahead in life.

In today’s world, it’s no longer about quality, but appearance.  It’s the one who speaks the loudest that gets promoted, not the one who actually put in the work.  In the book Cain described a Toastmasters meeting in which an attractive brunette performs an exercise called “Truth or Lie,” where she must tell a group of participants a story, after which they must decide whether to believe her or not.  She tells her story, and when the room is queried, everyone believed her story was real.  She then gleefully admitted that not one word she said was the truth.  She confided later on that because of the competition in the workplace, it was important to keep her “skills” sharp.  Um, what?

Cain notes:

But what do “sharp skills” look like?  Should we be so proficient at self-presentation that we can dissemble without anyone suspecting?  Must we learn to stage-manage our voices, gestures, and body language until we can tell–sell–any story we want?  These seem venal aspirations, a marker of how far we’ve come–and not in a good way–since the days of Dale Carnegie’s childhood.

In another example Cain spoke of a group exercise conducted at Harvard Business School, the theme revolving around trying to survive at a hypothetical arctic substation.  The idea was to promote working together as a group and improve collaboration.  One group in particular had a member with extensive experience in the backwoods, yet because he was an introvert, he suggested his ideas too softly, and was hence ignored.  Of course the group failed miserably in their exercise, because they listened to the most vocal participants (despite their utter lack of experience in survival skills) rather than the soft spoken man who had been the true wellspring of knowledge.

I’ve met these loud, braying types before, and I never ceased to be amazed at how easily they could forcefully sell themselves as experts in whatever field they were working in, despite not having one ounce of actual knowledge in it.  The hubris is just incredible.  They basically lie, BUT they lie very well, and because of it they’re the ones that get the plush assignments, the best jobs, and the highest paying gigs.

It works in dating too.  Of numerous examples I can think of, I still remember one where the guy flat out lied about everything to the girl he was dating.  He simply played the game he needed to play to attract a girl, and it worked just long enough for her to marry him.  Once he had her though he dropped the charade and of course their marriage went to pieces as a result.  It’s hard to argue the effectiveness of his approach though: had he always been honest about himself she never would have been attracted to him.  And for an introvert who believes honesty is the best policy, it can be painful constantly watching a world succeed and get ahead on lies and deceit while he continues to trudge in the mud.

Even worse, this cultural infatuation and bias towards the extroverted has plagued modern Christianity as well.  Cain also took the time to interview an introverted pastor named Adam McHugh while visiting Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.  As examples of this bias she mentioned a few job advertisements she read recently on what large churches require of those interested in being a rector:  “The priest must be… an extrovert who enthusiastically engages members and newcomers, a team player.”  “If the first letter {of your Myers-Briggs personality score} isn’t an E [for extrovert] think twice… I’m sure our Lord was [an extrovert].”

McHugh tells Cain:

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion.  The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people.  It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out.  And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension.  It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.’  It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.”

Cain further writes:

Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved.  It also emphasizes building community among confirmed believers, with many churches encouraging (or even requiring) their members to join extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable subject–cooking, real estate investing, skateboarding.

Discussing the experience of the Saddleback church service, McHugh notes his discomfort with it all:

It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions.  The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of Saddleback’s culture doesn’t feel natural.  Not that introverts can’t be eager and enthusiastic, but we’re not overtly expressive as extroverts.  At a place like Saddleback, you can start questioning your own experience of God.  Is it really as strong as that of other people who look the part of the devout believer?”

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme,” Cain writes, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.”

{McHugh} knows that meaningful change will come slowly to a religious culture that sees extroversion not only as a personality trait but also as an indicator of virtue.  Righteous behavior is not so much the good we do behind closed doors when no one is there to praise us; it is what we “put out into the world.”  Just as Tony Robbins’ aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as Harvard Business School expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite of leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability.

Astonishing.  I’ve always felt like a fish on dry land, but that feeling extended to almost every aspect of my life.  It didn’t matter if it was church/Christianity, my job, or trying to find the girl of my dreams: there was a common denominator that seemed to define my frustrations with it all, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly, until I read this book.  In essence, I’m dealing with a culture that has evolved to reward only the extroverted.  It’s not so much that being extroverted in and of itself is wrong, but that society has come to revere it in its most extreme form, all the while regarding the introverted at best as a peculiarity, and at worst as a pathology or disease.  Not even church can provide a respite from this.

Cain’s book helped me gain an immense understanding of the world we live in, but I’m still left to wonder where I go from here.  Should I play the game like everyone else, push myself to become more extroverted and “fake it till I make it?”  That does seem to be the advice of many.  If I’m ever to attract women, move up the career ladder, or establish an authoritative presence in the Christian community, then I have to get with the program.  Adapt as they say, or die.

But as a Christian, do I really have to resign myself to playing the world’s game of extreme extroversion in order to succeed?  Or did God assign me another path to follow, one different from the path the world (and most Christian churches) expect me to travel on?

I know in some respects, I could afford to be more outgoing, to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to people.  But I also know there’s a line that can be crossed, where I’m not merely learning to become extroverted in a way that’s still comfortable to me, but where I start to deny who I am.  There’s a reason why God made me an introvert, and I can sense the danger in trying to repudiate His work.   I may not like it, and may resent how my introversion has “handicapped” my ability to succeed in life, but then again, I also feel an inner sense of peace when I stop (to use a biblical phrase) “kicking against the pricks.”

Rather than blindly accept things as they are, maybe it’s more important that I accept who I am, and let the chips fall where they may.

Why do I keep having these recurring dreams?

Last night I had a dream that’s been a recurring one for years:  I somehow find myself back in school, it’s finals week and I missed half the final exams I was supposed to take, while the other half I’m totally unprepared for because I skipped out on most of the classes.  The dream always ends with me on the verge of flunking out and failing to graduate.

There are times when I wake up afterward that I’m almost convinced I never finished college.  I realize this is probably some form of  anxiety manifesting itself in these dreams, but what I find interesting is the deja vu I experience during them.  There’s a feeling that I’ve done this all before, maybe because somewhere stored in the deepest crevices of my mind was the truth that I HAVE in fact done all this before, yet for some reason I was going through it again.  Still, I knew somehow that I did in fact finish school a long time ago, and that may have been partly why I wasn’t making the effort to attend classes and prepare myself for finals.  I remember in some versions of the same dream I’m visiting the records room just so I can locate my transcripts and find the evidence I needed to prove I had already graduated a long time ago.

I wonder if there’s some hidden meaning to these dreams that hasn’t occurred to me yet, especially since they continue to recur.  Maybe some dream expert reading this can weigh in?

Why I can’t always be miserable all the time

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8

The nature of blogging being what it is, traffic generally increases when I blog about controversial topics or other issues that evoke a lot of anger out of me.  Once it’s out of my system I tend to move on, although sometimes I’ll revisit the same topic whenever I’m in the mood for further reflection, or venting.  Mostly venting.

What I DON’T do is endlessly dwell on a particular topic that easily evokes contention and strife every minute of every hour of every day, forever and ever, amen.  I don’t know how people can do that and not go loopy.  For those of you familiar with the manosphere/red pill community (I use them as an example because many of my readers hail from there), their whole world revolves around one subject to which they blog endlessly in a never-ending stream of anger and indignation.  Much of it justified to be sure, but at some point I’m wondering where people manage the stamina to be able to peddle the same rehashed material day after day after day, without getting tired of it all.   Yes, men suck, women suck, the world sucks.  Get on with it already.

You hear enough bad stories in the news about wars, governments gone rogue, of societies run amuck and rampant with broken marriages, failed relationships, life ending divorces, that it becomes too easy to dwell on all the negative and forget that God encourages us to dwell on those things that are good and pure instead.  Like you know, Him, and all the things that He created.

But to be fair, I think for the types who endlessly focus on a singular topic, blogging is something that they DO, while for me blogging is a REFLECTION of who I am as a person, and that means covering a myriad of topics that represents the broad spectrum of my personality.  I realize this might make it harder to draw a consistent audience because I won’t constantly cover the subjects they may be passionately interested about, but so what.  I’d like to think my little place on the web can serve as a place of respite and encouragement, a reminder to people not to take themselves TOO seriously and remember that God is still ultimately in control.

Life serves up a lot of headaches, agony, frustration and utter wickedness that stems from many different sources.  While we can still be mindful of these things, and where necessary confront them, I’m also reminded of what the LORD said:  “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

In other words, we have enough to deal with today to concern ourselves with tomorrow, so there’s no point in stressing out about the things that are ultimately beyond our control.

There are a lot of frustrated people out there, myself included, who get agitated over the state of affairs today, wailing and griping about a lack of marital prospects (or bliss), lack of employment opportunities, or living in less than ideal circumstances.  Ok then, how many of us think we have it so bad that we’d rather trade places with this guy:

Elephant Man wearing a suit (Joseph Merrick)

You know, the same man who died of asphyxia simply because he wanted to sleep the same way normal people did.  Would you rather have HIS life?

So, a little perspective please.  I personally need to remind myself every now and then that when I wail over having no shoes, there are people out there who have no feet.

This is why I can’t always be miserable.  I still have my long seasons of despair and despondency, but when I start to focus on the good, even something as mundane as the falling leaves of autumn, I find it actually takes a concerted amount of energy to go back to being miserable again.  Being filled and blessed with the wonders of God’s creation has this effect of removing much of the toxicity out of our lives that man in his fallen state created.  Happiness I realized is not merely a state of mind; it’s also a choice.  That’s why Dennis Prager had it right: we really do have a moral obligation to be happy.  Not a fake smile or faux happiness mind you, but a shifting of perspective.  Too many wait until they FEEL happy to BE happy, but the natural order is that our actions should dictate our feelings, not that our feelings dictate our actions.

Of course that doesn’t mean I can ALWAYS be happy ALL the time anymore than I can always be miserable all the time.  There is a time for everything after all, for every purpose under heaven.  Such is the beauty and variety of life.

Remembering my dog days

Well, considering we’re into the dog days of summer, seems fitting that I started reminiscing about the dogs I used to have in my life, and it occurred to me that in all my years, I’ve never actually had a dog that I was particularly close to.  For one reason or another no emotional bond ever developed with any of the dogs I knew, at least to the extent that I could understand why they were called “man’s best friend.”  It all started with the very first dog I can remember from my childhood, a generic looking mutt that my maternal grandparents had named “Biscuit.”  And while it belonged to my grandparents, my mom often dog-sitted for them, so it spent a lot of time at my home as well.

This dog… seriously, will disappear like Jimmy Hoffa as soon as you dropped the leash.   Not even give you any time to react, just *POOF* and instantly gone like the wind.  We couldn’t even keep it in the front yard with our sturdy chain link fence, because she could expertly climb right over it and then bolt for destinations unknown.  We used to spend HOURS a day looking for her, and when we’d finally find her she’d start playing a game of chicken that had us zigzagging halfway around the neighborhood until we could finally put the leash on her.

Forget about playing fetch too.  Toss her a ball and she’ll run and get it… and then never come back.  She could be sweet otherwise, but at the same time she always seemed distracted and not really focused on me… nor anyone else in my family for that matter.  At the tender age of 5 or so I remember thinking I just wanted a dog that would never leave my side, and would always want to play with me and shower me with affection.  You know, everything Biscuit wasn’t.

It would be a few years before my parents would finally get a dog of their own, I think partly because shedding and allergies was a concern, so when the time finally came to bring a dog into our lives, my parents narrowed it down to a male poodle we found at one of the local animal shelters.

Now THIS particular dog wanted to hump everything in sight.  Seriously, it didn’t matter what it was.  NOTHING WAS SACRED OR SAFE.  Even after it got neutered too.  I don’t remember much else about the dog except that shortly after it was fixed, it turned incredibly violent and viciously bit my father’s hand one day (which in hindsight, is probably the best thing it ever did).  Sadly, it had to be put down, and despite not being particularly close to the dog, my mom and I took it very hard.  I was around ten at the time, but that was the last time we ever had a dog of our own.

A divorce and a few years later, we moved into my stepdad’s house, and his parents had a dog named “Whisky.”  I think this dog was picked out as a pup by my stepsister if I remember right, and Whisky was another one who regarded me as one of her peasants rather than a member of the family.  She was pampered silly by my stepdad’s parents, and spent most of her time living upstairs with them.  Occasionally she would come down to sniff here and there, and when she did I’d try to pet or play with her, at least when she could manage to sit still for 30 seconds.  Every time I did pet her, she would react quite affectionately… by urinating on me, and then happily prancing right back upstairs with not a care in the world.

I hated that dog.  To me it exemplified everything that I utterly despised about my stepfamily: self-absorbed, cold, emotionally distant and mentally unstable narcissists (sans my stepdad, who was the one good apple in a completely rotten bunch).  I know it wasn’t the dog’s fault, but she had become an unwitting sponge absorbing all the ugly traits of her owners.

During those days I was ready to give up and conclude all of God’s creatures would always hate me, and I probably would have too, were it not for a cat that suddenly showed up out of the blue at our doorstep one day.  Apparently it had made the decision of deeming us worthy to be its new caretakers, and refused to leave until we took it in.  For the first time in many years, we had a pet again.  A few days or so after the cat’s arrival, Whisky (otherwise known as Queen Sheba-Dog of the mighty suburban jungle) came downstairs as usual and started sniffing around until it noticed we had a new resident.  So she waltzes up to the cat for a good sniff, and the cat regards Whisky for maybe 2 or 3 seconds… and then rips into her face with her claws.  The dog SCREECHED like the little weenie sissy dog it was and BOLTED right back upstairs.  At that point I don’t think it ever came down again, at least not indoors.  Teh Kitteh now ruled the jungle.

I think that’s when the worm finally started to turn.  At last an animal had taken my side and become my ally and my friend.  Indeed, whenever I was sad or depressed, Teh Kitteh was always there to comfort me.  Somehow she just knew when she needed to be around to keep me company.  I was in a truly dark place then, but my cat (and it was indeed MY cat) proved herself a true companion who helped me get through it all.

It’s been over a decade since Teh Kitteh’s passing, and while I never did have occasion to own another dog or cat since then, I noticed my encounters with animals have become much more amiable over the years (except for slugs and ticks, which I will always hate with death’s hatred).  Almost every time I saw a dog in public now it would look at me and practically smile.  I remember the first time I noticed it too: while on vacation a few years back, I visited a stable to go horse riding, and a labrador mix lumbered up to me and started showering me with affection like I was the bestest friend it ever had.  I was 27 years old, and yet that was the FIRST time I had an experience with a dog like that.  Sheesh, where WERE these dogs hiding my whole life???  It’s funny, because as brief and random such moments with these awesome dogs would be, I can still remember them fondly because they stood in such stark contrast to my experiences as a child.

Still, in spite of the dark cloud that seems to have been lifted in my relationship with the dog kingdom, I wonder if I’ll ever have another real opportunity to emotionally bond with a dog and enjoy the kind of canine friendship I’ve always yearned for.

Or maybe I’ll just get another cat.

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