Required reading

Ever have someone who articulates things you have been thinking about forever?  Ever have someone who does this on a fairly regular basis in an incredibly eloquent way that puts your own thoughts on the subject to shame at the same time as you sigh with relief and say to yourself, “Ahhh – yes.  Exactly.”?

Marissa Lingen is one of those people for me.  I’ve directed my readers to her previously on the subject of only children.  In her latest post, she discusses the high school experience, advice from adults on dealing with same, and how navigating the difficult waters of adolescence might not just produce a happier teenager, but a more sane, happy, whole adult.

I’ll include a few gems to whet your appetite, but if you like what you see here, please go read the whole thing.  First:

Of course it’s useful if you can simply not care whether people around you are being hostile and nasty. But really, how many of us as adults can, by sheer force of will, make it totally not matter that we’re spending forty hours a week with people who are willing to be as unpleasant as they can get away with? Not many.*


The win condition is that you can only remember the names of the ones who were kind and/or interesting to you. The win condition is that when you get news of something terrible happening to someone who smeared Ben Gay all over your friend’s locker or pushed another friend down the stairs or any of the other lovely things that happened in high school, you are not glad. Because you’re not just a bigger and better person than that, you’re so much bigger and better and have moved on with your life so far that you had to stop and think why that name sounded familiar. That’s what winning looks like.

and last:

But sitting down and thinking to yourself, “What would be interesting to me apart from graduation requirements and college applications and dodging the jerks at school? What do I want to be able to do?” might be a good start. Everyone has to build a life that’s irrelevant of the structures of high school eventually. Everyone has to find an identity that doesn’t involve where your locker is or who you sit with in the cafeteria. No reason not to start as soon as you can.

I was pretty lucky – I didn’t have to deal with the kind of toxic jackassery that Marissa details (in high school, at least.  Middle school was another issue).  But her advice and musings are instructive beyond the adolescent experience, beyond the confines of school and work.  They reach to the core of a human being’s need for dignity and individual identity.  I don’t know if I would have been smart enough to heed her advice then.  I know I will at least try now.

*I would actually extend that statement beyond “people who are willing to be as unpleasant as they can get away with,” to a much lower bar of “people who can’t be bothered to extend the barest minimum of basic human courtesies.”


  1. Mrissa goes to Minicon, you should come next year.

  2. I know – I always enjoy reading about it.

    Did you get to meet her yet?

  3. I don’t remember seeing her this year, but I usually spend some time talking in the group she’s in — Pamela Dean is usually the other focal point. One year, we had a batch of college students and they followed them around like an entourage.

    Hmmm, she’s listed as a member (in her married name) but I can’t find any pictures of her, and DD-B always take pictures of her.

  4. She’s been suffering wretchedly from vertigo for the last several months or so, and this year she was a bit lower-profile on this year’s Minicon scene.

  5. Ah, that’s probably it. Too bad about the vertigo! I haven’t seen her commenting as much, either.

  6. Er, hi. Thanks, Jill. Glad you liked.

    And yah, I had a quiet Minicon, mostly parked in one place for hours on end talking to whoever happened by. Timing just happened to be off on dd-b pictures — we were on the same panel, for example, so he wasn’t taking panel pictures, and like that. But neither rain nor snow nor gloom about falling on my head on a daily basis will stay this Mris from her appointed Minicon. I missed most of it last year due to a chest cold from hell. I was absolutely not missing it this year.

    (Having computer time limited to 15-20 minutes at a stretch before I feel nasty again has limited commenting, too. But onwards. Middle ear reliability or bust.)

  7. Mrissa, is this bppv? Are you doing the exercises?

    DD-B got two pictures of my side this year, which is a little odd.

    I always sit in one place (con sales & volunteers) and talk to people who come to me, but I do have the t-shirts to lure them over.

    No middle ear busting!

  8. Er, hi, Mris!

    Yes, I did like. This is the sort of thinking I fervently believe the world needs more of. “Boys/kids/girls/teens will be [same]” is bad, but so is reactionary, prescriptivist rule-making which may begin with good intent but ends in absurdist theatre, often punishing those it originally purported to protect and/or addressing some tangential matter as if the trappings are the cause. (In its most extreme example, perhaps, the Columbine disaster and the talking heads who pointed at the *attire* of the two perpetrators as something that should have been changed).

    Your advice gives space for people to not only be themselves, but also to find perspective and distance from the hideous behavior that ensnares too many.

  9. thank you for pointing me to her writing – especially the only child thing – which you have given me great advice on before. – you seem well adjusted for an only child :) why i have hi hopes for Max!

  10. Marilee, no, alas, not BPPV; that can generally be fixed much faster than this, I hear. It’s damage to the semicircular canals in my left ear from a truly nasty sinus infection awhile ago. So I’m doing clinic PT once a week and home PT three times a day, and it should get better and then stay that way, barring further damage to the ears from future sinus infections or whatever. Basically the PT is trying to train my brain to filter the data that comes in so that it’s giving the right signals again. In the meantime that involves making the dizziness/vertigo much worse.

    Jill, I think too many of the people whose advice is one-size-fit- all want kids to really be about the same “size,” and we really don’t.