Did you know that this goofy thing was going to have a part 3? I didn’t. But when I started typing it, all I had was a title. It was a title made of multisyllabic words written with lots of letter “L” and “I” scattered through the line. But all three of those multisyllabic words do actually apply to my own life and character.
The word “Introvert” probably applies to me more than any other. And that may be hard to believe, since a teacher has to talk and walk and make jokes and ask questions in the front of the classroom. And I am constantly talking about me being a naked nudist and posting illustrations in which I portray myself as a naked young boy. But what I am now is the result of a life-long transformation, not a set of ideas and habits I was born with.
If life had proceeded from infanthood to boyhood to young adulthood normally, I might have been more of an extrovert. I was a bit of a loud and opinionated little boy with a confidence in my own creativity and grasp of the world that was pretty much fragile and not rooted in reality. But then, at the age of ten, in the spring of 1967, I endured a traumatic and unplanned sexual experience, a sexual assault really, that changed everything. It was not pleasurable in any way. He made me endure pain.and fear. He was the one aroused. I was the mouse in the mousetrap unable to even squeal.
My obsession with monsters and evil and monster movies came into full swing after my young life was changed. I had to deal with overwhelming fear. Fear of what happened to me. Fear of what it meant for my future. Fear that he might catch me again. It shut down my love of being naked. It made me afraid that I might become gay, even though I didn’t know what gay was or where babies actually came from. And I dealt with it by shutting down the memory. I forced myself not to dream about it or think about it or even remember it. And I began to watch Dracula movies to understand who he was and how to destroy him. And I learned that many monsters were merely misunderstood or made into monsters by tragic things that happened to them. I had to teach myself not to become a monster.
In school I became more of a melancholy mope. I chose to spend my time reading books and drawing secret pictures rather than playing as many games as I once did. I raised my hand less in class. I talked to fewer people, especially not people I didn’t know really well.
I became an introvert. I drew myself into myself and the many imaginary worlds in my own stupid head. I stopped being the leader of the gang. I developed more and bigger secrets. But mostly fictional secrets. It was better to have secrets about things that weren’t real. Me being an alien changeling instead of a human boy. Knowing secrets about other worlds that nobody else knew about didn’t sting as much when others found out than if they had found out the truth about what really happened to me that one awful day.
Puberty was hard. I wet my pants in Science class because I was afraid to go to the bathroom during class when no teachers were watching the hallway and other boys might be there in the restroom too… bigger boys. I endured teasing because I didn’t strut like a peacock in front of junior-high girls, and later, high-school girls, the way the other boys did. And you had to take showers naked in groups at the end of every P.E. class.
But teachers saw me as quiet and competent, a smart kid. And the other boys who became my friends began to realize that I was one of the smartest people they knew. I got A’s in class. I could help with homework and group work in class. And I was a problem solver who could be relied on to figure out difficult things.
So, in the sunshiny meadow full of extroverts and introverts, I was not a bee going from flower to flower to flower. I was the flower, letting the bees come to me. And I stopped being the prey animal, motivated to go into the forests full of fear because I needed to eat to stay alive. I grew into the thoughtful hunter, able to navigate the thorn-trees and brambles to find everything I needed.
I never became an extrovert. But I did learn to take the good things inside and share them with the outside world. Hence, 31 years of teaching, becoming a novelist and an illustrator, and doing so much more than just being trapped inside my own stupid head.’
I hate to tell you this now that you made it all the way through this soul-clenching essay, but there will be a Part 4. After all. I haven’t talked about the whole illogical thing yet.
But I am much more comfortable with who I am now. An introvert still, but no longer shy about sharing the naked truth.