My parents are an amazing, oblivious people. After a quarter of a century, their clumsy attempts have ceased to be frustrating—have, instead, slipped into the realm of ridiculousness. I hope I don’t come off as condescending. It’s just that through their undertaking to gratify my interests or reject them, I have been able to understand my parents as the loving, literal-minded, and culturally-stunted people they are.
Growing up, every experience had to be shared or rejected. If they couldn’t understand it, or if my younger siblings couldn’t take part, than my involvement was betraying the family’s interests. There was this notion that the family had to stick together, which is probably why I wasn’t allowed on sleepovers—Dad and Mom couldn’t come.
And everything was shared, especially toys, even if it meant scratching all of my DVDs and scattering my legos between my siblings’ rooms. I was banned from watching television unless we were all watching it, and I didn’t care much for Fox News.
My bedroom had a window which looked into the living room. Or, from a more accurate perspective, my parents sitting on the couch in the living room could look into my room. My door locked from the outside.
Hiding in the restroom with a book became my escape from the ant colony. I was intrigued by the savor of stories, the sweet and sour taste of lies, the pasty sweet smack and blackened results of poetry, the prologue’s d’oeuvres and the epilogue’s bitter aftertaste. I began to regard my parents’ diet as having a sort of rot that their tongues, burnt, numbed or blunted by scriptural verbatim, could not detect.
For a long time I wasn’t aware of their literalism (paired, as it often was, with an unwillingness to participate in pop culture). I read The Hobbit, and enjoyed it, but wasn’t allowed to start Lord of The Rings because it was “unchristian.” (I did anyway.) But I could read Every Young Man’s Battle, the Biblical Art of War against masturbation.
Imagine my confusion when Dad recommended I read The Screwtape Letters. I was disappointed to find very little screwing.