karaokegal (karaokegal) wrote,

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Essay about my childhood.

Written in response to timbershiver who responded to the You Pick The Topic meme by saying:

I don't think you've ever mentioned your childhoood...

What was that about a comfort zone?

I always say that my need for attention and validation stems from being an unpopular adolescent, but before I was a lonely teenager, I was a lonely child.

Born: New York City at Mount Sinai Hospital. October 24, 1964

My understanding is that I was a bit of a surprise, if not a total accident, but either way I was incredibly well-received upon arrival.

Both side of the family are Russian-Jewish, with long histories of being writers, artists, dreamers and pseudo-showbiz hangers-on. The prevailing attitude was secular, liberal, and intellectual. I was born to be a New York snob.

I was smart and loved and loved for being smart. It might have been good if I’d learned to shut up about how smart I was (or thought I was) especially since it was clear early on that the smart I had was all about words and writing with very little on the math and science side.

Somewhere I heard or read that all girls are either Mommy’s little girl, Daddy’s little girl or nobody’s little girl. I was, emphatically, Daddy’s little girl.

My father was (among other things) a free-lance publicist who worked at home, mostly because he couldn’t deal with putting on a suit and going to an office. He also worked for a travel magazine, interviewing agents up and down the Eastern Seaboard. This was in the 70’s and 80’s before deregulation, when being a travel agent was a non-miserable way to make a living, which eventually led to my thinking it was reasonable alternative to finishing college when it became abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to happen.

Mom was a star in search of an audience who eventually found it in Star Trek and Science Fiction fandom, where she still is a fairly BNF. She took me to some of the first big NY conventions, the kind that will never happen again. My first writing was Star Trek fanfic and my first Beta was mom. This is ol’ skool stuff on paper with Corflu and collation parties. I wouldn’t call her a Mama Rose, but she does have a rather over-powering personality and the need to be the center of attention. In that way, I am very much like her.

The defining moment in my personal mythology of my life is the move from Manhattan to Northern New Jersey in 1974 or thereabouts.

My mom had graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Library Science and there were no jobs in New York. And, it was also a fairly cut-and-dried “white flight” situation, although they would never admit this. It was the 70’s and it was the New York public school system. Fill in your own combination of Up The Down Staircase and Blackboard Jungle. (To Sir With Love does not apply.)

It’s only in retrospect that I can appreciate it. I already had this image of myself as a tough New York kid, completely intellectual snobbery and mini-attitude.

I never fit in. None of us did. Not my McGovernite, left-wing, liberal, Camelot-worshipping parents (YAY PARENTS!). My father still saw himself as the debonair fellow who had been dancing to Glenn Miller at Roseland in the 40’s or my mom with her unfulfilled showbiz dreams which were hardly satisfied with small parts at the Old Library Theater on River Road. Certainly not I with my high self-regard and inability to keep my mouth shout about it.

Put that together with a typical suburban set-up where the same of group of kids had been together since Kindergarten. Cliques and best-friendships had been formed and I never had a chance.

There were money issues as well. Fair Lawn was a little too affluent for us and while I can’t claim desperation, starvation etc, but middle class poverty can be pretty ugly. I was once arrested for shoplifting food, because I thought it was good way to help out. Or because I’m neurotic about food, another find family tradition, but I’ll spare you the OA spiel. (I believe in the 12 steps, but I’ve pretty much disavowed OA. It’s a long story.)

I had friends in fandom. RL (this was pre-internet) IF you can call fandom “real life.” It was different than my LJ/House/TW etc life now, but NOT that different in terms of it being very absorbing and distracting me from those parts of my life I found intolerable.

The only friend I can remember having during this period who I would consider anything like a real friend would be Regina and somehow we’re still together in one way or another. Then in High School, I hooked up with bff Jennifer and found my first writing soul-mate.

Childhood is what we survive to get on with the rest of our lives, but I’m not 100% sure I’ve done that. There’s still of lot of that person in my approach to life now, be it karaoke, comments or my so-called career and sometimes it’s very painful to live with that.

On the other hand, I’ve got a bigger, better batch of friends to share it with now.

Tags: journal, meme, meme a day 2008, whinging, whining
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