David’s happiness


Here’s the thing. I’m hungover. Yes, I’m 33 and still manage to be hungover on a Tuesday. And my horoscope was less than exciting this morning so I avoided it. Here it is, though, for consistency’s sake:

Sagittarius horoscope for September 13, 2011

Today is a good day to make a clean sweep. So if you’ve been in an argument with someone, get in touch and suggest that the two of you let bygones be bygones. And if your home could use a deep cleaning, get to it! If you get busy with cleaning, laundry or other chores around the house early today, you’re sure to get a lot done and feel a lot better about the level of organization in your life.

Make a clean sweep? I couldn’t even keep my head up to make a dirty sweep of my dishes into the sink.

This domestic advice seemed ridiculous and so I spent my day talking about loneliness with a lovely woman I met at the cafe by mine. I like to think that talking is still thinking about my thesis in some form and so I let myself off the hook when after our banter, on day 5 of my writing trek, I spent three hours curled up on my teak couch sleeping to CBC.

I did think about loneliness though. Meeting this woman got my mind tossing back and forth the idea of lonely children. I think it’s true enough that it’s the lil’ darlings who seem to be the ones we fear being lonely the most. But not only do we fear that they might be lonely and sad because of it–that child who eats paste in the corner, talks to their hands, and has no friends except for online avatars–we fear them.

I’m so happy, right?

Culturally we’ve been conditioned to believe that the lonely child can turn on us, that she carries within her the potential to become monstrous. Horror films are filled with plot lines involving such creepy kids. Today it’s become the norm to see a movie where the image of the perfect child has been stirred and sullied: Let the Right One In; The Orphan; The Good Son; Hide and Seek; The Ring. I’ll never forget the image of that dangly kid crawling out of the T.V. with her black hair covering her face, and her claw-like crawl making it so I didn’t sleep for two weeks, or, more appropriately, “7 days.” If you don’t get the reference, no worries. You can probably actually sleep without a bottle of wine.

Adultified children who know much too much about knowing are terrifying to a western culture that still holds onto notions of kiddy innocence, where, to quote pre-cocaine Whitney, we “believe the children are the future.”

Politically and culturally the lonely child who suffers the trauma of not fitting into the social has been reconfigured in terms of their potential for violence and terrorism. Phrases such as “the lonely gunman,” and “the trench-coat mafia” resonate in complicated ways that suggest the asocial and immoral ramifications of being a lonely misfit. The shootings in Columbine, perhaps, began this modern trend. But much before then there were warnings of the brewing consequences of being too lonely. Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” comes to mind. What a video. Brilliant. And yet this video stands in contrast to the way we see sad children today. Jeremy is a much more forgivable kid because he took his own life instead of turning his anger outwards.

The Brits have an actual term for wayward, teetering children. ASBOs. These children are said to suffer from Anti-Social Behaviors that enable them to do a variety of menacing things: getting drunk, begging, swearing, littering, intimidating adults, noise pollution, and loitering. Umm, I thought that was called being a teenager but what do I know. I used to beg adults to buy me vodka outside the liquor store when I was 14. Not a role model by any means. Problem is, of course, that getting slapped with an ASBO–the official order that forces the child in question to be home by a curfew and monitored by their folks–is now becoming a sign of coolness. A “badge of honour” as one BBC  announcer suggested recently. And so many ASBOs have been put on kids that the press is beginning to call Britain the “ASBO nation,” and these little ones “generation Fucked” as Maria Hampton, a writer for Adbusters colors it.

England, the largest surveillance state in the world, doesn’t seem to understand its children, even though it tries to watch their every inch of growth. In fact, Hampton argues that children in Britain “have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world.” Ouch. I’m not sure Britain is alone here. But is it fair to blame parents, politics, society, culture, IPods for these unhappy kids? You’re fucking right it is, but I think it’s much more complicated than issuing blame cards.

Children today seem to be calling our expectations that they will be the ones to clean up our shyte into question. And rightfully so. At what point in time did any child get asked if they wanted to be a symbol of the future? Of progression, heterosexual success, change, second chances, second comings, perfection. Balls, I can’t even cook for myself yet!

But this is an expectation. Even if parents don’t say it or even mean it the outer limits require this narrative. Grow up, be a success, and above all be happy. What the hell does be happy even mean? I’ll rant about that one for posts and posts to come, but first, a story:

One of the loneliest kids I have ever come across was a child I worked with when I was a youth worker back in the day before days. I was 15, a party gal, a soccer player, and still thinking I could sleep for 2 hours and be likable. The child in question, I’ll call him David, had a file the size of the Old Oxford and was placed on my team of hilarious delinquents in hopes that I, the youngest team leader, would be able to reach him. Or in the very least get him to play dodgeball without setting the school on fire. Me, in my arrogance, said “no problem boss! I can do this.”

David was so quiet. He spoke only to close ears and in whisper. He refused to talk to me, or any elder, and I never knew what he actually said to kids. All I knew is that after he dabbled in their ears they came running to me, ravingly terrified. I’d look at him then, ask him what he’d said, and he’d just stare at me, through me, with steely indifference. Eventually he did things to get him kicked out of the camp. It was suggested that he’d gotten one of the girls to eat cigarette butts. Another to steal all of the lunches, throw them in a can and light them on fire. Kids came crying with bruised faces and missing hair patches and David was asked to not come back. We couldn’t guarantee the others’ safety around him. He was 9 at the time.

I only saw him once more. I was at the park picnic with the kids and a few of us were walking down a path in the woods. I heard something to my left but saw nothing. I continued and the noise got louder. Finally, in the depths of the trees I saw two eyes. David’s crystal blues staring me down. I told the other kids to head back and I walked toward him. He didn’t move at first and I got closer to him than I’d ever been able to. “David,” I called out. “Let’s talk. Maybe we can figure something out if you wanna come back.” I’ll admit it, I was scared. I was assuming I’d come upon him surrounded by dead things–some cat or budgie he’d highjacked or hung up. But when I got to where he was he ran and there was nothing left behind. I felt awful then. He had no one, no family, no friends, no care, no chance. He’d been following the only social group he’d ever been a part of and we too had abandoned him. Had he failed us? Or had I failed David.  I dunno, but I’d love a redo of that moment.

Not sure where I stand on the idea that lonely kids need to be made happy. I think there is something wonderful about loneliness, and something sinister about our investment (culturally, politically, economically) in happiness. Maybe it’s the happy-needers that should try and figure out what it is they are wishing for and doing in order to secure this happiness. Maybe David, a foster care kid, an orphan, was also trying to be happy. He’d found what he was good at and what got him some attention–getting kids to do bad things. By all accounts, he succeeded in that. Maybe that made him happy. He should become mayor.

About newdaynewmood

A Lonely lesbian trying to write about everyday life and everyday ways to negotiate the tough political issues therein.
This entry was posted in bullying, dan savage, loneliness, popular culture, sexuality, social justice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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