Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Odd Woman Out

I've never really fit in here.

One would think that after twenty years, I'd be used to this feeling. I am, and I'm not. I am, because every day, in a multitude of ways, the fact that I don't belong here is made painfully clear.

I'm not, because it never becomes easy to be the one on the outside looking in. It's a perspective with which I am familiar, but not entirely comfortable.

I tried, when my children were small, to fit into the myriad groups that women join to stave off the isolation and monotony of caring for a home and small children. It was fun, at first. I didn't care what was being talked about, as long as someone was talking.

But of course, chit chat grows stale fairly quickly, and it's only natural that topics become more substantial as people get to know one another.

And that's when the trouble usually begins.

Time after time, in group after group, the cycle would repeat itself. I wore a groove in my tongue from the constant pressure of my teeth firmly clamped down upon it.

I am an agnostic, with strong anti-theist tendencies. If I wanted to talk about religion, I would join a bible study. But here in the South, it seems that any social gathering is an acceptable platform for prosyletizing. It simply doesn't occur to people that there might be godless heathens in their midst. It just does not compute.

And I can't tell you how many times I've felt that sick, sinking feeling in my stomach as the topic turned from diaper rash to religion. And of course, those deeply committed to their faith often have drastically different idealogy that those espoused by a heretic such as myself. And those idealogies are bandied about freely, without regard to the sensibilities of any others present who might not hold the same views.

I've been forced to listen to intolerance and ignorance spew from the mouths of women I liked, admired and respected; agog and abashed, paralyzed with indignation and indecision.

So I stopped going. I stopped putting myself out there, even in situations that seemed perfectly innocuous, and satisfyingly secular.

I'll admit, I've been lonely.

For a while, my sister was my sanity. But she moved back home with her family, and I lost my best friend; my doppleganger. She and I are very much alike. We've always gotten along great, but that's not to say we haven't had our difference. But when she's pissed, she tells me. She doesn't play games. She doesn't get all passive agressive. She's honest and forthright. She says what she means and she means what she says.

That is astonishingly rare here, and I can't tell you how much I miss her.

Recently, I've begun making an effort once again. Because I realized I was becoming a recluse and a bit of a misanthrope. I've joined this and that, and I've been having a pretty good time. I've been making an effort to embrace the good and ignore the bad. And for the most part, that's working pretty well.

But yesterday...oh boy. Yesterday undermined all the progress I've made in my quest to be more social and to accept the way things are.

I went to a PTSA meeting. I know, it's so cliche. But I have to do something to occupy my mind, and since I am chairing the Arts In Education Committee, It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.

Honestly I've been enjoying it. This isn't your Mama's PTSA. It's serious business and as such, the women are smart, savvy, and dynamice. I like them.

Everyone brings food, and after the meeting we socialize and munch. Usually, the discussion is fun and lighthearted, but this time, the talk turned much more serious. I don't even remember how it happened. But suddenly, everyone in the room was up in arms about the fact that religion can't be taught in public schools.

WITHOUT EXCEPTION, the women in the rooom agreed that it was a shame teachers weren't allowed to share their religious beliefs and provide religious instruction and guidance to their students.

I take that back. There was an exception. ME. I sat there, stupefied, as usual. Mute with my surprise, that wasn't really surprise, but more like disappointment tempered with sadness.

I kept my mouth shut. I always do.

Shortly after that, the volunteer liaison, who is also a kingergarten teacher, began talking about the new grading system being used at the elementary level. Instead of being strictly percentage based on the conventional grading scale, each student will also be individually evaluated according to a set of standard criteria.

I thought it sounded wonderful. There are so many children who are very, very bright, but don't fit the pre-determined molds that public school insists on squeezing them into. For unconventional learners, such as my Diminutive One, who are fantastically bright, it would mean that their potential is realized and perhaps for the first time, tapped into, nurtured, and valued.

And even "average" kids fall through the cracks. There are issues that go undiscovered and cause them to lag behind. There are small matters that can make a big difference in how a child performs in the classroom. This, I thought, would help identify them.

But I was in the minority, again. I sat and listened to them all complain about how this would pave the way for kids who have no business at the top of the grading curve, make it more difficult to cull the truly deserving from the herd and give them the opportunities they deserve, and impede them by forcing them to adapt to another, dimmer child's pace in the classroom.

The teacher's main concern was how time consuming all of this was going to be.

It was insulting and infuriating and I was, once again, shocked.

I said something this time. Politely, diplomatically, and, I thought, somewhat articulately.

Twelve pairs of eyes regarded me with wide eyed disbelief. Twenty-four hands shuffled papers in front of them. One voice adroitly changed the subject.

Shortly after that I excused myself.

I'm sad about what happened. Because my opinion of them changed, as I'm sure, did theirs of me. Henceforth, my function on the PTSA will be merely an obligation to fulfill. Not a joy. Not a pleasure. Just a chore.

Well, it was good while it lasted.


  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well...I see there aren't a lot of comments today - and I am must admit, I am afraid to say much as we do not agree on this subject. However, I feel very strongly that there are people that can have differing opionions and still have a productive conversation. I am sorry that you feel you have to keep your views to yourself whether people agree with you or not. I hate to hear how very judgemental people can be - and quite frankly, it often gives "Christians" a bad name - I myself am Baptist so I can say that with great authority! :) However, playing the devil's advocate if I may, I notice in your blogs that you often refer to God or Jesus in your speech, such as Saturday "This baby...God she is sweet" is it that someone who is Agnostic can refer to God if one does not believe in Him? Another thing I do not understand is why people who believe in Evolution feel that we should be teaching that to our children in our schools, but that we shouldn't be teaching creation? You (and I use the term "you" loosely - I do not know your actual beliefs) believe that Evolution is a fact, when I believe that it is not - I myself believe that there is more proof & fact in God creating the earth and all that is in it. I myself work in a firm that employs many engineers and scientists and find my Christian beliefs very much in the minority...VERY MUCH. And yes, in the beginning it was difficult to speak up for my beliefs, it still is, but I believe in it strongly enough that it is OK if people want to whisper behind my back about the bible verses on my wall, or the fact that I believe Jesus is coming back. So I do empathize with your situation. I guess what I am saying is there are two sides to consider. :)

  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger Kathryn in NZ said…

    Cull from the herd so the truly deserving can be identified???!
    Aren't ALL the students truly deserving of being taught well?
    What happened to "no child left behind"?
    It is unfortunate though, that every good teaching policy/ strategy seems to incur ever increasing paperwork (not teaching work) for the schools....

  • At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I A to the G to the R to the double E. I'm alone, too. I've always found that the people I like the most are the ones who never announce their religion. If I want to know, I have to ask. I believe whatever you believe in is personal and is better discussed when you have a more intimate relationship with someone.

    BTW, I believe evolution is a scientific theory backed by evidence. Creation is religious speculaton backed by word of mouth. Furthermore, if they do teach creationism in schools, then they will also need to teach the beliefs of all religions including Scientology, Native American, Buddhist, etc.

    Just my two cents from one heathen to another.

  • At 2:42 PM, Blogger Notes and letters to myself.... said…

    I am really really sorry you don't feel you can share your views and speak your mind. I am even sorrier those who differ from you can't be grown up enough to hear you out, and validate what your feelings and thoughts are regardless of how they personally feel.

    I am with "apryslantics" If you are going to teach Creationism then by golly you better teach Evolution, and every other religion that's known to man. What's fair is fair.

    My problem with the whole religion thing is that those from specific denominations and faiths feel like their faith is the best and to hell with anyone else, regardless of what they have to say, and bring to the table.

    That's how religious wars start and cripes look at the mess we are in now -- and no matter how you slice it and dice it, it all began over religion, and then all the other crap was slung in for good measure.

    I teach a day a week up at my son's school. It's part of a larger TAG program, and I can tell you if I had been a part of that conversation with that kindergarten teacher it wouldn't have been very pleasant.

    Hugs to you -- keep on a truckin.

  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger evenshine said…

    I say own it. I, too, live in the South. Though on the opposite side of the fence from you religiously, I would defend your right to speak your opinion as well. Speak up. You may find there are others of your ilk biting their tongues.

  • At 2:50 PM, Blogger evenshine said…


    "People who don't agree with you are not stupid or immoral. They just believe differently." -You

    Just a thought.

  • At 2:51 PM, Blogger Gwendolyn said…

    I, for one, am a Christian (from Georgia, even!) who believes that religion should NOT be taught in public schools. Because...if you teach Christianity, then you are also going to have to teach all other religions, and where does it end? And whose brand of Christianity? If the teacher is a Catholic, you are bound to upset all the Baptists in the class. Not to mention the Methodists. Who gets to decide? It's too tricky.

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Avalon said…

    I am much like you in my belief system. I however, find secret glee in disagreeing and stating my opinion. Not simply for the sake of disagreement, but because typically, once I state my opinion I find that there are a few who agree with me but were either too polite or too intimidated to say so themselves.

  • At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree Gwendolyn that religion should not be taught in schools (that is what private school is for) but I feel that not ONLY Evolution should be taught. I just get frustrated when people fight against creationism being taught in school because it goes against their rights, but yet if I am to argue that Evolution not be taught in school I am a Bible Thumper. Personally, my son & I discuss what he learns in Science and they also discuss it in church, so I don't have a problem with him learning something we "don't believe in". I believe I am lacking in making my point here though which stems from my lack of writing skills. I am not sticking up for any religion - I am simply trying to point out that we all have opinions, we all have beliefs, we should be able to have discussions (or teach them in schools) without arguing over which is correct.

  • At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree Gwendolyn that religion should not be taught in schools (that is what private school is for) but I feel that not ONLY Evolution should be taught. I just get frustrated when people fight against creationism being taught in school because it goes against their rights, but yet if I am to argue that Evolution not be taught in school I am a Bible Thumper. Personally, my son & I discuss what he learns in Science and they also discuss it in church, so I don't have a problem with him learning something we "don't believe in". I believe I am lacking in making my point here though which stems from my lack of writing skills. I am not sticking up for any religion - I am simply trying to point out that we all have opinions, we all have beliefs, we should be able to have discussions (or teach them in schools) without arguing over which is correct.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Gwendolyn said…

    Tami...I am with you 100% :o) I would have even said that in my original comment if I had not felt like I was about to launch into something better dealt with in a blog post on my own blog.

  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    I might know exactly how you feel.

  • At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I find this post ironic because in many ways I could have written it myself. I'd have to make some changes though. I lived my entire life in the South and moved to the Midwest (northern Indiana to be exact) eight years ago. I still haven't found my "best friend" or even group. I've joined a mom's group that meets once a month for dinner and met some really nice women, but no one I've really clicked with. Sometimes it feels like I'm back in a high school clique when I'm with them.

    I find this area to be much more stridently Christian and much less welcoming of any other belief system than anywhere I lived in the South. We might be more sensitive to the focus on religion here because my husband is athiest where as I believe in a higher power, but I think organized religion is populated with hypocrites and fools.

    My support system consists of my husband, my sister in Atlanta, and my sister in Austin. I miss having a close female friend, so I really do understand how you feel.


  • At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I understand your frustrations with the PTSA and grading system. I've taught for 20 years and it seems that my paperwork load has doubled in that time. When do I get to do that home in the evenings on my own time and on the weekends. No Child Left Behind has ruined education in this country. When will we realize that testing kids to death after we have taught to the test is not the way to get well-educated citizens?

  • At 9:45 PM, Blogger crazymumma said…

    Oh honey. i would feel so out. Wish you could be beside me.....and mine in our hallway.

    we are a fun lot. And everyone knows that Canadians are heathens anyhow.

  • At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have taught for 15 years and I totally agree with Anon.

    I said as recently as tonight that the public school system in the US is horrible right now. I am so sad that my son is going through it.If ever there was a time to homeschool this would be it. sadly, it is not the fault of teachers and they are getting blamed.

    As I was reading your post I totally related to the teacher worried about how much work it would be. You have no idea. Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago.

    And things have not gotten better, worse I'd say. And that post did not even mention all the ARD meetings and paperwork for that or the forms that must be filled out when special ed student fails. It did not mention e-mails or phone calls to parents or team meetings with parents. It didn't even mention team meetings - the ones with other teachers and all the planning that goes on for dealing with the kids or plannning field trips.

    Every parent thinks their child is the only one and that whatever is best for their kid should be implemented. I understand that. I am not too happy with some stuff at my kid's schooll right now. It is just hard to have it all.

  • At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm sorry that you've wound up in a place with mostly opposing viewpoints. It is hard to maintain friendships with people who hve such wildly opposing viewpoints on hot button issues - especially when it constantly comes up in conversation. Just keep working at finding someone like-minded!

  • At 12:09 AM, Blogger jess said…

    Wish I didn't live so far away!

    What a hard place to be in. I can completely understand where you're coming from and sympathize with you. I read a book recently that made a great deal of sense. The thesis was that part of the US's national mythology is this idea of being a "Christian nation," which goes against the whole idea of Christianity, frankly.

    I feel like there's a small part of the church who are starting to speak out against the religious right crowd and big changes are coming.

    I would agree with others that if you speak up you might find that you're not the only one with a differing opinion, just the bravest. ;)

  • At 8:08 AM, Blogger The Woman Formerly Known as Jenn said…

    Debating this subject is the equivalent of beating one's head against the wall. It's pointless and all it does is give you a headache. However, I'll put in my two cents anyway, because I'm obstinate like that.

    Evolution has scientific evidence to back it up. Creationism does not. Therefore, evolution belongs in a science class whereas creationism does not. It's as basic and simple as that.

    I'm all for creationism being taught in school, *in a religious education class* that covers all types of religions. But in a science class? No way. Show me the same amount of *scientific* evidence that evolution has to support it and then we'll talk.

    BTW, I am a Catholic in the South, which, while not as ostracizing as being agnostic is still quite looked-down upon in my area. It's been so much fun adjusting to the religious snobbery here (I moved here from California, where I lived my entire life without feeling snubbed because of my religion).

    This comment is starting to turn into a book, so I'll just say that I am with you on the new school evaluations. I am shaking my head at the thought that something like that would be a bad thing.

  • At 8:11 AM, Blogger Terri said…

    Well, I think you are right about the South and I've lived here all my life. The South has always been decades behind the rest of the country in every way. I say this as a Christian and a pretty conservative person. I agree with Gwendolyn. I don't have my kids in public school (I homeschool), but if I did I wouldn't want any type of religious teaching going on. That's my job.

    I live here in Columbus, GA a bit south of you and in the county I'm in the school superintendent (who is supposedly a Christian) went so far as to say the the public schools were basically Christian schools. She of course said this for political reasons as our county is very "religious." I always assumed things were much more opened-minded and liberal in the bigger metropolises even in the South, but I guess not.

    Hang in there and if you're ever passing through Columbus let's have coffee. :)

  • At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, I feel your pain and I am so sorry. I'm an East Coaster who lived for three long years in the middle of the Deep South and although I did meet some wonderful people in general the experience was a lesson in slow torture. Because of my religion I was told I was "damned." Because I had the temerity to open my mouth and express an opinion I was "mouthy and opinionated" (this, by the way, in supposed place of higher learning). Because I did all kinds of "unladylike" things (strength training) I was unacceptable. I knew how uncomfortable I was but it wasn't until I came home again that I realized how much I had been holding my breath, censoring my speech, monitoring my every move. It was exhausting, and it was wonderful to come home and be able to breathe again.

    I hope someday you have that feeling, too.

    And on a separate note, creationism is a belief system, in which people can choose to believe or not believe. Evolution is a scientific theory, which people can choose to accept as valid or not accept as valid. These are two very different things. Saying you have to teach creationism if you teach evolution is like saying you have to teach Shakespeare if you teach Geometry. Apple, meet orange.

  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    I'm sorry that you experienced what you did at the meeting... I'm in a similar boat but not living in the South. When I did live there, I wasn't a parent and hung out with other non~religious people so it didn't seem that bad. But I don't envy your position... I would be so sad without my girlfriends that love me despite my heathenism. I hope you find some cool gals to hang out with that won't judge you!

  • At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really wish that groups of women didn't feel it okay to exclude or excuse another woman from their social circle simply for differing opinions. It's one thing I love about blogs, the opinions are loud and wide open and yet they spark discussions. It's not such an open and shut case as it appears you've run into where you live. Can't they just accept that in some ways you're different from them and if they're not comfortable taking the opportunity to learn from your point of view, then at least they could try to see beyond just that difference and keep up the friendships?

    Seems to me they're very narrow minded, not out of ignorance so much as just discomfort with stepping outside their normal boundaries. I wish it weren't so.

  • At 8:36 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    You know, I have that same 'outsider-don't-fit-in" feeling in my town too, although, thankfully, I'm not dealing with the crap you mentioned here. I'm just 'weird' b/c of the homeschooling thing---the women are polite but most keep their distance.


  • At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, as many Christian readers as you have, I wouldn't write those PTSA women off completely yet. On your blog you write your unfettered opinions, and your readers keep coming back and finding you likable and enjoyable even when they don't agree. So much of friendship seems to happen when we just show up again after the awkwardness. At least it works that way for me. I have no tact, but I have tenacity.

  • At 3:25 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    That must be hellishly frustrating for you. I have never had the experience of living somewhere like that, being a lifelong heathen Californian as I am, but I worked at a place where the manager only hired people from her church (I was transferred in when another store closed) so I had the experience of being outnumbered by people who just didn't get that anyone could see things differently. For instance, I tried to point out that some of our customers might not want to hear Christian rock music blasting every time they came in, but they just wrinkled their noses at me and looked at me like they were Nipper the RCA dog.

  • At 4:38 PM, Blogger Not Afraid to Use It said…

    Oh this post breaks my heart because I see my future mirrored in that meeting. Blech.


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