Saturday, September 16, 2006

boarding school

I'm going to write about my own experience in boarding school in 1970-71 because my son is having some similar problems and it is bringing up my old shame. All I know that helps shame is to tell the things I feel so much shame about, to stop hiding them.

I went to boarding school with no idea who I was or how to relate to other kids. When another student was unhappy with her roommate I agreed to switch--I guess she had connected with my roommate and I had not. I didn't have any difficulties with the person who was considered an undesirable roommate, but rooming with her made me more isolated. I would have been isolated anyway--I didn't know how to connect with my peers. I just tried to do what was expected of me. I messed up once--we wore uniforms and when it got cold I started wearing a long john undershirt. But I only had one or two, so I wore it more than one day. A note was placed in the drawer of my carrel at study hall saying that I smelled bad. I left a note saying "a skunk smells its own smell first" and then someone else wrote a note saying "not in this case." I had messed up and I felt so terrible about it I couldn't bear to admit it. I grew up in a family where not knowing better was never an acceptable excuse for a mistake.

I don't know if anything could have helped me at that point. In my isolation at that school I discovered a love of science, and that eventually led me to another school and to some success in the world. I have hoped that it would not be quite so hard for my son--he lacks one-on-one social skills with his peers but he has pretty good group social skills. I'm thinking the person who contacted us has overreacted to the situation, but maybe I am just in denial. The frustrating thing is that my son stuck it out with a bad roommate last year and this year his better roommate didn't give him much of a chance before arranging to move to another room.

I've got a race tomorrow--hopefully I can burn up some of my pain then. I wish I had the stress relief of training today, but I think I need to take the day off because tomorrow is a longer distance race (1500 meter swim, 27 mile bike, 10 k run).


Anonymous said...

I feel for you...and your son..
Being somewhat of a natural loner myself, I was an outsider in school.
Tough times...
My son isn't an outsider but he likes his own company and does not invite friends over to the house.
I can't imagine what it would have been like for him in boarding school.
Perhaps your's will develope an inner strength that doesn't depend on being well thought of by a stranger, which is what two boys are who share a room by chance.
Support the fact that he is "ok", know he is "ok" and taht our worth does not come from others but from ourselves.
Let your shame go, it's only the old stale grief of rejection....
What were you rejected for?
A smell?
Isn't it funny how up tight americans are about body smells?
I send a hug your way!

Pem said...

My approach to working with the pain from my childhood is to comfort it, not let it go. Different approaches work for different people.

But I appreciate the encouragement. The funny thing about those uptightnesses is that I've gotten past one, I don't shave. And don't even feel selfconscious with the swim team.

Anonymous said...

I agree.
You have to love it, before you let it go!
You are very brave!
Not shaving?
Like your legs, under arms?
That takes guts!
What brought you to make that choice?