My parents thought they were doing me a favor when they chose to homeschool me and intentionally shelter me from the outside world, but what they didn’t realize is that their decision would leave me culturally disconnected from my peers.
I asked someone who Brittney Spears was some years back, and was rewarded with the most incredulous look I have ever seen. Some years later, I astounded someone else by literally not knowing the name of my state’s prized football team. It happens all the time. Someone mentions this music artist, that actress, or that other sports team, and I respond blankly. Friends start reminiscing about high school and I can only look on mutely. What they had I didn’t. What they knew I didn’t. I suffer from a huge cultural disconnect each and every day in my interactions of my peers. I don’t share the common past that they all share, I don’t know what they know, I don’t have the experiences they have.
But does it really matter if I’ve heard of Brittney Spears or know the name of my state’s football team, you may ask? Yes. It does matter. It matters to me. I don’t like feeling like there is a wall separating me from my peers. I have literally cried over this, numerous times. My parents thought they were doing their best for me, but they have made it so that I do not fit in among anyone except other exes, others who have left the Christian Patriarchy and are, like me, navigating a foreign and strange new world.
And sometimes, not knowing the basic cultural data everyone else knows really does matter. Several weeks ago I was at an academic conference, and one of the speakers mentioned a famous actor (I think) as an example of something he was explaining, but the whole thing went over my head because I had no idea who the person was. So as everyone else nodded understandingly, I wrinkled my brow in confusion and missed the entire point the speaker was trying to make. This sort of thing happens all the time.
I tried to articulate this to a friend several months ago, and she told me she had gone through something very similar. She grew up in Germany and then moved to the United States as a young adult. She told me that what I was feeling was just like the culture shock she experienced when she moved from one continent to the other. I should have been pleased that she understood, but all I could think was, how can I feel this out of place in my own country?At least she can go back to Germany if she gets tired of feeling out of place!I can’t do that, because I’m a foreigner in my own country!
I am missing something everyone else has, and I hate it. Of course, as with everything I post here, my life is not yet over, and as time goes on this sense of cultural disconnection should lesson. It’s like my friend from Germany – the longer she is here, the more she will feel at home here, but a small sense of cultural ennui will always remain. And at the moment the feelings of alienation are still there, and it’s NOT fun.