Perhaps this relationship with peers stems from my first relationship with a peer, my older sister Melody. Melody was eight years older than me, and technically my half sister from my mother’s previous marriage. Even though we were both Capricorns, our birthdays being five days apart, we were opposites in almost every way. There was some sibling rivalry. I enjoyed the fact that I could get all the attention as being the performing, and over achieving child, while my sister was much more about hanging out, partying, and socializing. While I loved musical theater, and jazz, she loved hard rock and heavy metal. While I jammed with our parents in the music room, she was often on the phone upstairs talking to friends or getting ready to go out.
I remember at an early age, despite being competitive, feeling very affectionate towards my sister, and liking the fact that I had an older sibling to look up to. But I also remember when I tried to hug her or show affection she’d push me away, and reject me, as most teenage sisters are wont to do when it comes to their little 5 or 6 year old brothers. Despite the lack of physical affection between us, I enjoyed playing UNO with her every now and then. I also felt somewhat protective of her when I thought our parents were being a little rough on her for getting involved with some mischief. Her mischief included once running away from home with a boyfriend, staying out too late without calling, having people over the house while our parents were gone when she was not supposed to, and partying too hard leaving her in bed the next day with a pot for vomiting next to her bed.
Melody loved life, and loved to talk. She made friends very easily. One time during doing the dishes with her and our mom, I was depressed because I liked a girl who I was afraid to talk to. She asked simply why I didn’t just call this girl. She didn’t seem to understand that I felt stuck in the role as being a social outcast and nerd, and that I assumed most people were jealous of me and hence jumped at the opportunity to make fun of me. I remember getting so angry with her that she didn’t understand how people like me just didn’t get to ask out popular girls like that. I was very upset, and after my sister went upstairs, my mom said that despite my sister’s academic and intellectual challenges, she had the gift of gab, and it was to be respected. My mom said that Melody was one of the few people who could start a conversation with someone at a bus stop, and be good friends with him/her by the time the bus arrived. I was jealous, because I did not have this gift, or so I thought at the time. I also didn’t have her courage to speak to someone out of the blue. And finally, I was somewhat perplexed that despite being better than her in all of these intellectual and artistic endeavors, that she seemed so much happier, that she had a lot of friends to have fun with. I did not want to admit that with all of these material and artistically sensual accomplishments, that my unaccomplished “slacker” sister, Melody, seemed to be leading a better life, for the sheer reason that she always seemed to have a better time. Yet just like Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties, I thought that all my hard work and social awkwardness would pay off socially and status wise later.
Despite what I felt and hoped to be on some level to be a constant struggle between good and evil, nerds and popular kids, me and my sister, I found moments with my sister where we were connected, like when we were both stuck at the holiday dinner table during pretentiously intellectual conversation. During these holiday moments, I could look across the table and we could roll our eyes at each other. And then again she was most comforting to me when I was distraught about not being able to get an erection when I put on a condom for the first time. She shared with me the fact that that happens to her boyfriend every now and then and it wasn’t anything to get depressed about. I didn’t believe her. I thought that since I was always exceptional when it came to talent and grades that I should excel in being intimate as well. Nevertheless, getting advice from an expert in social relations like my sister did make me feel better momentarily and also made me feel like an expert would still talk to me, and accept me despite my self-perceived shortcomings.
A boyfriend murdered my sister and then committed suicide while I was in college. She had been in the process of breaking up with him after being together for five years. She was going to finally move out our parents’ house at 29 and was apparently partly inspired by me living on my own at college. While college was not for her, She had been holding down a stable accounts receivable job for ten years. Besides living at home, she still paid my parents rent and had been an independent adult in every other way.
My sister’s death represented three things to me. First, it was the loss of innocence that my family was so perfect and super-functional, held to a higher standard of morality and mental health than many of the other families I grew up around on the block whose family challenges were more obvious. Secondly, in some warped way, I believed that my sister’s death was the result of her getting involved with people who led an underachieving lifestyle, of living a life strictly for the party and lascivious pleasures, and not staying on the straight and narrow path I had conceived for myself. Thirdly, since I lost my virginity a month before her murder, in my still superstitious mind, I couldn’t help but connect this personal sensual triumph with this family loss. In some ways, because of my superstitious mind, which not only was afraid of getting people’s brains, my sister’s death solidified the physical law of cause and effect, which I had always interpreted to mean that for every good thing to happen, a bad thing must happen in return. I thought this way as a kid in grade school who often got picked on when it seemed I could not go more than a day without being made the butt of some peer’s joke. I never wanted to get my hopes up if a day or two went smoothly. I knew I would always be disappointed. Perhaps in some ways this was a manifestation of me interpreting my mom’s phrase, “don’t get cocky, or I’ll slap ya.” Only instead of feeling overly confident and entitled from being smart and talented, I was afraid of believing that people would actually like me for a significant amount of time without some regular betrayal of trust.
Music still is for me as I think for most people a source of unconditional power, and energy, a force that inspires people to overcome, persevere, or cope as well as any religion or philosophy. This is why so many people walk around cities and in the gyms with their Ipods and mp3 players playing in their ears. This is why people put on music while they cook and do the chores. They find unconditional inspiration from their favorite artists, favorite creators, and often as a result worship them in different ways. I often have gotten confused between the divinity of the force of music, with the mediums that they come through. Mistakenly, I have, as I believe most people, wrongly expected great talents to be as divine as the music that comes through them. Perhaps the most interesting, and even universal and amazing fact is how such perfection can come through such imperfect being. Perfection from imperfection is the most inspiring and often unrecognized religious power of music, without it being confined to one religion.
As I got older, the hardest thing to reconcile was how those people I looked up to musically who felt and created R&B, hip-hop and non-white associated music, and yet also embraced the very white sounds of hard rock, death metal, and white rock. I realized after many years of introspection of why I associated white music as being inferior and fraudulent, that it can take as much talent to create and perform “white” rock as “black” R&B and soul. It took some very talented peers like Burny Pelsmajer from college to show me that rock took conviction as well. While overall, it is still not my first choice for expression or listening, I respect it more now and in many ways respect the memory of my sister more. It’s a process I still find myself going through. Most recently I am inspired by artists like Corey Glover and Vernon Reid of the group formally known as Living Color.
Both of my parents have always been hard working. They also have been dedicated towards supporting each other as husband and wife since they’ve been married. Between seeing how hard my parents worked and how hard workers in television story lines always seemed to come out on top, I believed that hard work would lead to big payoffs, even in the face of being around those who did not work as hard or tried to seduce me into mediocrity. In the religious people I observed, everyone from Jews to Muslims, hard work always seemed to be valued. Hence, whenever I was around parents and grownups as a kid, most seemed to take a shining to me because of my hard working, overachieving attitude. Perhaps it helped that I was the typical innocent looking American, blonde hair and blue eyed, who’s fierce work ethic almost seem to guarantee me a place of status as an adult, an important person for my peers to know.
The physical law of cause and effect I studied in my science classes as early as seventh grade seemed to support a hard work ethic. Since science seemed to explain so much of my physical world, the more I thought about science as it relates to the afterlife and spirits, the more I conjured up different explanations for meanings and purposes of life. I was only part of the Ethical Culture Society briefly for a few years as a youngster, but soon stopped going as a family. Often most of the organizations promoting self awareness, enlightenment, and activism, were never active enough for my parents. My parents often tired of talking about ideas rather than putting them into action and soon as a family were uninspired to attend Ethical Culture Society services on Sundays. Every day of their lives, I have seen my parents have been involved in helping people. Meeting with a group of people who seemed to be content with merely talking about these ideas than putting them into practice I’m sure seemed a waste of time to two people who put empathetic, moral, and pro social values into their actions every days.
Table of Contents
Part I – My Material (Physically Having) History
- Chapter 1 – Race, Money, Fashion
- Chapter 2 – Plants, Pets, and Education
- Chapter 3 – Jobs
- Chapter 4 – Connections, Opportunities, Genetics
Part II – My Sensual (Feeling) History
- Chapter 5 – The Satin Edge
- Chapter 6 – Gifted, Hyper Competitive, and Overly Sensitive
- Chapter 7 – Puppy Love and Status
- Chapter 8 – Busy-ness as Salvation
- Chapter 9 – Karate and Self Image
- Chapter 10 – Homophobia and Musical Expression
- Chapter 11 – Digging a Pond, High School, and Music Camp
- Chapter 12 – Heterosexuality, Self Esteem, Avon Fashion
- Chapter 13 – The Opposite Game, College, and Sex
- Chapter 14 – Cruise Ships, Internet, and Control
- Chapter 15 – Saturn’s Return, Delayed Gratification, and Aging Dreams