Tag Archives: teenagers

Alcoholism and Life

I grew up with an alcoholic father. Some might debate this but he drank a fair amount, did terrible things to us and grew violent. It was not pretty and it marred us with scars we bear to this day. My mother went back to school at one point and worked as an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor so she knew the signs well. It’s interesting, before she moved into that line of work, the men she dated were all alcoholics.

I also had a friend who became my best friend and lived across the alley from me. We got into various types of trouble together, went to parties, and drank underage, as most of our friends did. I cannot tell her tale as to what pushed her too far. It could be an easy statement of physiology though easy is not the way it was. By sixteen she was an alcoholic with a host of embarrassing events under her belt, making difficult for her friends to be around her. I asked my mother what to do (and I have to say my mother was very good about not berating us for drinking underage) so she gave me some pamphlets to pass on to my friend. One was a checklist of behaviors that could indicate you’re an alcoholic. Some of the statements were: do you not remember what you’ve done while drinking, do you pass out after drinking, do you feel the need to drink every day–things like that.

Of course, giving a teenager such pamphlets didn’t go over that well and as high school grew towards its end and my friend also became pregnant (facilitating a quick marriage), we also started to grow apart. I couldn’t help her and she was going to need to help herself. I don’t know if she was embarrassed by her alcoholism or felt that I judged her (and I confess that I did at that time) but we eventually lost contact. It was only many many years later that she made the effort to contact me, having been dry for a long time, with grown and growing children. I then had to get past the wall that I had left behind from that time.

In high school I had also started dating a guy who I went with for a year and a half. He was two years older than me so he was finished while I was in grade 11. And he worked at a pub. I looked old for my age and could get into the bars without being ID’d. (Oddly enough, after I turned legal age, I was ID’d often.) He too became an alcoholic, drinking too much and too often. I don’t remember if that’s what broke up the relationship but it was a contributing factor.

I’d seen enough alcoholism by my mid-twenties, including an Irish couple in Vancouver who were on a self-destructive path through their drinking.  We also stopped being friends. And there are others, those with the red splotchy faces, the abusive tongues, the rude behavior that had driven friend and family away. I would often talk to these people, if they were friends, expressing concern but when they continued along their way I felt I didn’t need to be in the path of their abuse either.

I was arrogant enough to think I’d never be an alcoholic because I didn’t like alcohol that much and I was aware of it. That may have been the case but I wasn’t aware of the abyss in my soul and where it was sucking me to. I was unhappy and single, while all my friends were in couples. I hated myself, my eating disorder was out of control. On top of it, I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t love me and inadvertently probably rubbed the fact in my face with his patronizing way.

Before I knew it I was drinking to drown the pain and perceived loneliness. I stood in the back of a poetry performance night one evening, crying (from my broken heart), then going out to my car to drink a cider, then coming in and crying, and repeating in progressively drunken way. I went to a camping event and proceeded to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I did. In essence, I had a blackout. Then on New Year’s eve I went to Blaine to some friends’ party. Bored and feeling the loneliness around all the couples there, I decided to drive back to Vancouver to another party.

Lucky for me, some friends braved my wrath and took my keys away. I later passed out and left the next day. Shortly after that night I was thinking of my life and realized I teetered on the edge of becoming a full fledged alcoholic. The brink was close and I was sliding over it. Also lucky for me, with that realization, I started to reassert control over my life.

And two friends at that time, drew straws to see who would approach me and say I had a drinking problem. The loser got to come up to me, probably expecting me to tear into her. But when she said, we think you have a drinking problem, I said, Thank you for being such good friends to tell me. You have the right, if you see me out of control at any time, please tell me.

And after that, I did try to control it, and not drink to cover my problems. Alcoholism, though, can strike for a number of reasons. Some people are physiologically more susceptible. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Others use to flood the hollow spots. It is the duty of anyone who is friend or family to say to the drinker, You have a problem and you need help. But as always, it is up to the person to change and hopefully have the support of friends when they take that path. I learned some valuable lessons about drinking and about me. I wouldn’t want to go that road again.

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Teenage Sex and Teachers

When I was in high school we had this drama teacher. Big at emoting; surprise surprise. There were a range of us, from those who wanted to be there acting to those who were slacking with an easy elective class. I was still shy but actually liked to act. One of the better “acting” students was, if anything, very dramatic. She and this teacher would emote at each other constantly, to the exclusion of the rest of us. In fact, he barely taught us at points because they were too busy googoo gaaing at each other.

Were they having sex? Most of us thought so. Did we care? Not really. I only cared because my instruction was suffering as this teacher gave one student who didn’t need it all of his time. Were we scandalized? No. Presuming they did have some sort of affair, I have to say that 17-18 year-old girl definitely was cognizant of what she did, wanted it, hoped for it. She certainly wasn’t coerced or influenced and may have manipulated the situation.

Hero worship, big daddy syndrome or whatever you want to call it has gone on for a very long time. Hollywood perpetuates it with leading men often 20 years older than the women. Only in a few cases have they (Hollywood) been brave enough to actually have a female lead older than the male. Harold and Maude is an example of a spring/winter relationship where friendship and personality does not see the boundaries of age. I’ve never had a problem with relationships where one person was significantly younger/older than the other.

A friend of mine is married to a man 18 years older, and friends of theirs just got married and there is nearly 30 years difference. I’ve dated men 15 years younger or older than me. What balances age? Attitude, similarities, wisdom, youthfulness and maturity.

A teacher in their 20s or 30s attracted to an 18-year-old isn’t that odd in our society. Where the problem comes in, today at least, is that there is seen to be an imbalance of power. A teacher could in essence coerce a student into having sex with them for passing grades. This applies as well to colleges and universities. Such fraternization isn’t just frowned on but basis for dismissal. Old movies are rife with college professors married to the young women they slept with, causing their first marriage to fail. Of course, a professor can also be blackmailed by a student in such a relationship.

There have been several cases of teachers being charged; sometimes with true grounds for sexual harassment. Sometimes the instructor was blackmailed or set up without any truth. There are people who will use any situation to manipulate and have power over someone. Doing an internet search will show that there are enough cases of teachers of both genders having sex with their students.

A female Burnaby teacher at St. Thomas More school is now under investigation for alleged relations with a grade 11 student. Tom Ellison was convicted with a conditional sentence for his sexual congress with 17 students (that he confessed to being with). Twelve of seventeen former students complained of their relations with him in the 70s. Because laws for any teacher having sex with a person under 18 regardless of consent were not passed until 1988, the sentence was of a lesser degree.

There are two aspects to teacher/professors having sex with students. The main one for both is the abuse of a position of authority.  For school teachers it is also the issue of underage sex. There are definite cases of rape and sexual abuse, but there are also the nebulous cases and it becomes unclear who instigated and if a student would ever suffer ill effects from the sexual encounters with their teachers. The simplest way to keep it from getting ambiguous is the law as it stands:

The Criminal Code does not now criminalize consensual sexual activity with or between persons 14 or over, unless it takes place in a relationship of trust or dependency, in which case sexual activity with persons over 14 but under 18 can constitute an offence, notwithstanding their consent. Even consensual activity with those under 14 but over 12 may not be an offence if the accused is under 16 and less than two years older than the complainant. The exception, of course, is anal intercourse, to which unmarried persons under 18 cannot legally consent, although both the Ontario Court of Appeal(3) and the Quebec Court of Appeal(4) have struck down the relevant section of the Criminal Code.

Blame can often be shared. There is a bigger difference of sex with a 14-year-old than with an 17-year-old. Coerced sex is never right but consensual sex gets iffy. Teachers are now being tried mostly on the basis that they are going against the law. If anyone asked me in a court of law if that high school classmate of long ago was coerced, I would definitely say not. But if the affair affected how we were being taught, I would definitely say yes. And if one had broken up with the other, there could have been blackmail. It’s better to keep it black and white.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/01/26/bc-ellison.html

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Movies & My First Job

I saw Dark Knight last night and I could go on about the interminable slowness of the movie, the three endings, the poor acting by the minor characters, the tropes and going against the tropes (in the sense that they’re new tropes) but I’m sure there are better and numerable reviews already.

But it did get me thinking about my first real job as a teenager, after the babysitting and selling Regal cards door to door. I worked in a movie theater in Calgary called the Plaza Theatre, on Kensington Rd. Stomboli’s restaurant was next door and they made awesome pizzas. Sometimes, my girlfriend Marie (who had also got a job there) and I would order a piece of pizza and then when we were down to the puffy and chewy crust we’d pour some butter from the butter machine into a cup and dip our crusts in.

Our job was to stock the concession stand, make the popcorn, serve the customers and balance the cash at the end of the night. We would cart large (50 gallon?) buckets of coconut oil for using in the popcorn machine. It gave the nice golden tone to the popcorn that we know and love. In would go the cup of oil and a spoonful of fine grain salt. When it popped fresh and warm, we would pick out all the yellowest kernels because they tasted better and saltier, and put them in a paper towel-lined, chocolate bar box lid. Of course we added butter. With the butter machine we had to pour off the butter milk that would form once it melted. If we poured it on the popcorn, it would melt it into a gooey mess, just like putting water on it. It tended to be saltier and a few of the girls liked to dip the popcorn into that.

At other times we would count through the ju jube bags, the Nutty Club brand, and find the bags with the most red and black ones, and then buy them. We did the same with the bags of red licorice, looking for the ones that had 39 instead of 38, or even a whole two more than the usual bags. Those were our favorites.

The Plaza went from being part of Cineplex (or its equivalent then) to being sold off as a repertory cinema. This meant that we didn’t always show first run movies but ran special or themed films. These included matiness of Godzilla and other kiddy fest delights. This was an old theater that held about 400. Imagine that many unruly, screaming kids on the weekend who would do such wonderful things as smearing Fudgsicles over the walls, leave the taps running in the bathrooms, and turning around in their seats to talk to their friends, hence getting their knees jammed between the back and the seat.

We ran Hindu movies, where all 400 people would come out at once during the intermission (yes, remember them?) and push as one mass toward the concession stand, all waving money at you. Having been to India I know this is a cultural thing where people often do not wait in line but push push push forward. I guess when you have a billion people it might be the only way to get served.

We also showed other eclectic delights, such as The Last Tango in Paris and 2001: A Space Odyssey. My boss, Dorothy, wouldn’t let us watch Last Tango because we weren’t old enough (fifteen when I started). We often got to sneak into the theater in between shows to watch snippets of what was playing. One time, there was a comedy on and a man came out saying he’d laughed so hard, that his dentures had snapped and dropped out of his mouth. We said we’d look once the movie was over. But he came back a bit later and said that he’d found them when he sat down and they bit him.

For the matinees, we ended up getting an usher, a young boy named Rodney who was probably about thirteen. He was tall and gangly, as most boys are at that age, with light blonde hair and a penchant for eating his weight in beef jerky and drinking megacups of pop. One day, we told Rodney that all that beef jerky was dried meat and with all the pop it was causing the meat to expand in his stomach. If he didn’t watch it, he would bloat up and explode. He turned decidedly green at that point. We kept that up for the full day.  

The projectionist, an honest to god person who ran the films and spliced them when they snapped, would sometimes let us up in his garret to peer out at the people below, watch what he did and chat.  I’m so grateful that was my first job and not having to serve at McDonald’s. We were teenagers concerned about ju jubes and licorice and sneaking in to movies. It was a fun time, and I missed the episode where Marie was robbed at gunpoint for the evenings ticket sales. Dorothy had treated us like daughters. She was stern but fair and years later Marie and I visited her a couple of times. It was a good first job, giving me a confidence to join the work force.

That great old theater, the Plaza, with its large screen and 400 seats still exists and is still a repertory cinema. If I still lived in Calgary, I’m sure I’d be frequenting it, for nostalgia if not for the films.

http://www.theplaza.ca/

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Back in the USSR

In high school our gang of girls that would hang around together, spend time at each other’s homes watching TV and discussing boys. Common wardrobe of the era and in Calgary was jeans, T-shirts and those lumberjack shirts worn as jackets, or jean jackets. Marie, Debbie, Kathy, Cathy, Robyn, Leslie, Joanne, Heather and Joyce made up the main group of girls. The guys varied; some were friends and some boyfriends. We would get together at someone’s house and the guys who played guitars would twang away, half-heartedly working on something while the girls tried to come up with band names.

None of us sang. None of us played instruments so we dreamt of our stage careers and how we could play tambourines or rattles while the guys played. It never amounted to much but jamming musically and verbally. I think my boyfriend, Randy, may have been one of the players but mostly we just had a place to hang. There was the guy with the black Beatles style haircut and the somewhat hawkish nose. There was Gordon Amsterdam who had a penchant in school for eating chocolate spread and candy sprinkle sandwiches. Gordon was blond and slim so this nutritious diet didn’t seem to do much damage to his weight. There was Lorne and…I remember so few of the boy’s names but Gordon’s always had that mysterious espionage-spy sound to it. James Bond meet Gordon Amsterdam.

One of the houses we often went to was Ollie’s. Ollie was pronounced like the “O”in Olaf not the “O” in Oliver. Where we knew Ollie from I’m not sure as he was slightly older than our high school going selves and he didn’t seem to be in school. But then my boyfriend was two years older than me, a world of difference in those days. He graduated and worked in a bar. I looked older than I was and would often get into the bar, especially if he was along.

So perhaps Ollie was Randy’s friend. Ollie was quiet, shy really. Most of our boyfriends still fit the gangly filling-out stage but Ollie was solid and muscular, well-formed, dark haired, tall and probably could have had any girlfriend if he had ever noticed them. He didn’t. Even when we were at his place (it might have been his parents’) he seemed oblivious. What mattered to Ollie, the only girl he seemed to care about, was his car. He spent loving hours on it, his head under the hood. I’m sure it was a classic but I can’t remember what it was. Still, Ollie cherished it.

In truth, while we daydreamed about being a band, hanging in Ollie’s basement on old couches and mattresses, taking illicit substances (at least for the age we were) all we really wanted was a place to be. Most of us couldn’t hang out at our parent’s without them checking in. Malls were the only option and got boring pretty quickly. We could smoke, drink, just chat and maybe neck with our boyfriends. And there was Ollie, the quiet one, the guy from Russia, who worked on his car and obsessively played the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR.”

I can’t remember or even picture most of those guys now, but Ollie was a vignette, who rarely participated in a conversation, yet still memorable as a guy out of place and time even then.

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Bookworms 2: Worlds of What-if

Although my family was fairly middle class, my siblings (as well as me) were avid readers. My older brother liked to read about the Napoleonic wars, Roman civilization and who knows what else. He later became a politician in Alberta. He also read science fiction and when he moved out I discovered various SF novels lying around, such as Frank Herbert’s Green Brain. There were other Herbert and Heinlein books and I devoured what I could.

But prior to those pure SF authors, I had fed on fairy tales and Norse myths at a younger age. I remember reading The Water Babies, and one book that illusrated the myths in vivid illustrations. I don’t have that book but I found one by the same author/artists (?–I will fill in the name later) a few years ago in the US and bought it. It was on Greek myths so I added it to my collection: another recovery of the magic from my childhood.

I also read many Nancy Drew mysteries, left by my older sister. My mother bought me new ones and I spent enough nights with the flashlight under the cover reading. There were a few Hardy Boys lying about and I read all of those too, plus some historical and/or romantic fiction that my mother had read.

The true transitional time from fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables to SF and fantasy was when I was about twelve. I had read some Edgar Allan Poe and then went on to Ray Bradbury, and from there straight on to SF & fantasy. I remember having to make a newspaper in grade 7 with other classmates. Our group’s had a decidedly speculative element and I wrote articles or drew pictures of aliens.

Today, my siblings still read voraciously. My older brother still reads about politics and SF, when he has time. My younger brother reads more fantasy. My sister reads true crime and mystery novels. I read SF, fantasy, mystery, historical and literary, from time to time. My mother reads mostly on politics when she reads. She falls asleep more now. I’m not sure what else they read but maybe I’ll poll them.

I guess my fascination with the worlds of what-if began at an early age.

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