When I was in college I became jealous of my old high school friends who spoke of the “bird” courses they were taking for credit at their respective colleges. It didn’t matter what level college they went to, the artsy one in the Midwest, the north east Ivy Leagues, the traditional, respected state schools, they got the cool classes. Like them, I had a few requirements that first year students had to fulfill, but being that I was in school in Canada, I didn’t have the full load of designated specific classes I had to take. I had “guidelines”.
I had to take at least 2 courses outside my “college”, and no amount of AP credits would get me out of them. Since I was an Arts student, I looked at my options. Other friends had talked of taking a music class, a course they dubbed at their mighty institutions as “Clapping for Credit”. There it was, in the course catalog, Music for Arts students. Yay, I got a GPA class on my list. Now another, since I wanted to get them out of the way quickly. Oh, look, there’s Astronomy for non-Science students, cool, Moons for goons and science was crossed off my list. One more to fill the list, one that had to be outside my “comfort zone” but it could be in the Arts college. The Philosophy department was offering a basic level course, Introduction to Logic and Reason. Sweet, I was set. But I forgot to do the metric conversion, so my calculations were off.
Clapping for Credit, as it turned out, was a music theory course. For those of you just starting out in college, don’t be fooled. When the word “Theory” is used in the title of a course it doesn’t mean it is open to thought, discussion or discourse. No, this is hard core, it means folks, buckle down, here are the basics and you never knew entire schools of work, effort and lives went into forming this nauseating level of detail that no one will ever question you about because the only people who care about the specifics of theory courses are either teaching them or locked in attics because they’re no longer allowed to interact with the society. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, it’s not clapping for credit. Who knew there was so much writing in a music course. Moons for goons was no picnic either. Turned out that one was Astrophysics. I stopped talking to my high school friends. I couldn’t bear the misery of hearing about how they were taking classes about the history of the Beatles tours for pass fail at an Ivy League school, or how they were learning how much alcohol was in toothpaste in a Household Science class at a state school. Besides, I had to study. As least the philosophy one would be easy.
Introduction to Philosophy … no, that won’t do
The class began “If P, then Q”.
I was already confused. Who said so, I thought to myself. But wait, that’s not always the case. What? I’m confused. It just went downhill from there. The logic part completely and utterly escaped me. The reasoning part, holy shit, that was never going to work. I remember learning something about black ducks not existing because the teacher never saw them, and I recall wondering about oil spills and foul fowl. But I said nothing, and let it flow over me. I was lost. I quickly realized I had no comprehension of logic or reasoning. I had no basis to. Thankfully, I was in Canada, and the beer was plentiful.
It was simple. I had never been exposed to reason or logic before, at least not in it’s intended presentation. It baffled me. What seemed normal to me came across to others as hilarious. I can’t explain it, I can only share it, and hope you can see how I couldn’t possibly have known the predictability that logic and reason brought to people.
Introduction to Logic
When I was 7 years old my family moved to Puerto Rico for what was supposed to be 2 years and turned into 3. My parents taught at the private school my brother and I went to. On the plane ride down there my brother and I learned to count to 9 in Spanish. Shortly after arriving I realized I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t the ghostly white skin, freckles, blue eyes or lack of Spanish language skills that made me stand out. No, in the eyes of a 7 year old all that mattered was that I was the only girl on the island without pierced ears. A year later I still stood out. My hair was much blonder, my pale skin hidden by alternating beat red sunburn and an insane amount of freckles and I was now fluent in Spanish, but still didn’t have pierced ears. It was not a time when there were places in malls to have this done. It was still done in doctor’s offices, and for reasons never explained to me, this wasn’t going to happen.
Then one day it did. Mom decided she could do this. She had read up on it and spoken to others, and she figured hey, how hard can it be? All the bases were covered. To pierce ears you needed the right tools: a needle, a marker, a piece of potato, alcohol and ice. I’ve got those, she must have said to herself. All we need now are the ears.
I heard my name called. I waited. After waiting until the calling escalated, as is included in the unwritten child handbook, and you hear your middle name included with the appropriate inflection on the end that noted you’d be in serious trouble if you didn’t respond, I went downstairs to see what the current immediate need was. I was rather horrified at what I saw. The screech that had included the calling out of my full name, punctuated by the high pitched inflection at the end was now replaced with the eerie supportive calm voice that was only recognized as the “I have an idea that you’re going to love” voice that never turned out well. I was sat down on the couch next to her.
She gently reached for my chin and held it, looking at my ears. “Hmmm, did you know your ears are crooked?” she asked? Um, no, how would I know something like that I thought, but knew better. She hadn’t realized she was speaking out loud. The gentle hand on my chin became a grip as it became clear that the dim lighting in the living room was my fault. We moved to the dining room, with all the clutter she had amassed for the task at hand. I still didn’t know what was going on.
She pulled out the ice cube and held it to my ear. At that point I made the mistake of asking what she was doing. “You wanted your ears pierced, didn’t you? Well, that’s what you’re getting.” she snorted. “Here? Now?” I inexplicably asked in shock that I knew instantly was so wrong. Off came the ice. “Yes, here. Don’t you think I can do this? How hard is it?” I knew not to answer, and tried not to tremble.
That should be numb enough, she mumbled to herself. She reached for the marker to mark a dot, designating where to make the piercing. She reached for the alcohol, which in lieu of rubbing alcohol she assumed rum would do. It was Puerto Rico, there was always rum around. Wiped the ear, taking off the marker dot with it. “Oh well, she muttered, I can see where to stick the needle.” My stomach fell to my ankles.
She reached for the potato. The potato slice is supposed to be placed behind the ear lobe to protect the back of the head from having the needle sticking into you. It’s a safety measure. But the potato wasn’t sliced. It’s fine, it’s a small potato, and my ear lobe moves, I’m sure she’ll be fine.
I closed my eyes tight, took a deep breath, and stopped breathing while the next step took place. It would be quick, I said, and it was. I screamed and instantly got yelled at for unintentionally moving. I thought it was unintentional, but apparently I was wrong. I was quickly informed that I did that intentionally so it would be clear to everyone else that she was not good at doing this and did it incorrectly, so I did this to make her look bad. I wasn’t going to argue with a woman who still was holding a needle in my ear and who’s face was so close to mine she could bite the tears out of my eyes. There apparently was a problem.
The needle, which had been driven through my non-numbed ear with the same slippery fingers that had run the alcohol over my lobe was now stuck in the potato on the other side of my ear. Since it was a full potato and not a slice of one, as recommended, it couldn’t be broken in half to free the needle to be slipped back through the piercing and removed from the side of my head.
Even a terrorized 8 year old knew not to point that out.
I also knew that offering to hold the potato while she went to the other room to get a towel, rag or napkin to help dry the needle to get a better grip, rather than following her around haplessly while she held the potato and ran into the other room to get it herself, would be met with sheer anger at the idea that I would say something like that just to make her look stupid when this was my idea in the first place. I went along with this situation, instinctively knowing the imminent danger I was in as long as I was tied to this potato, needle and arm.
Eventually the needle and potato were removed. I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to have the earring or something put in to make the hole heal around it and then let her do the other one. I knew that. Of course, that’s the only logical next step. It is. Or rather, it was in the world I lived in. But I couldn’t abide. I couldn’t do it.
A basic, primal instinct overcame me, likely the heathen primate portion of my being that never fully evolved due to my own insistence on being born earlier that I was supposed to, therefore leading to all the shortcomings I brought on myself, and I ran. I ran up to my room and closed the door. I locked it. I barricaded it with a bookcase, chair and tried to move the bed over to it. No one heard the grinding of the furniture on the marble flooring over the screaming that was coming down the hallway.
Such a disgrace, an ingrate I was. The sacrifice that was made for me to do this, this very thing that I wanted, and now I wasn’t going to finish it. Such a quitter I was. I crawled into my closet and closed the door. I distinctly remember hearing something about being grounded until I was 30.