Letters From Freakloud: Heroes for the Socially Challenged

I’m 26 years old.

Twenty-six revolutions around the sun from my birth ’til now. Not only have I managed to stay alive this long, I’ve had the fortune of landing and losing a few jobs, having a few graduations and losing my virginity a few times. I have a pretty decent job now, a beat-up but paid-for automobile and a mortgage that could choke-slam an elephant. In other words, I’m grown.

I don’t usually have to say that much. People that are truly grown never do. That phrase is usually yelled by hot masses of confused sexual energy that are trapped in the Western social invention called adolescence. They’re usually yelling it at real grown people who are laughing at them, out loud or silently. Real adults know that you never have to prove your adulthood to anyone. I, however, have had to prove it to myself, lately.

For as much as my behavior and responsibility level resemble that of a full-grown human American male, there are parts of my mind that betray that level of maturity. One pre-pubescent idea in particular continues to hover up there and lately its been attempting to wreak havoc on the fragile order of my mind.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I still have heroes.

With the shame that I deliver you this knowledge, you’d think that the “o” in heroes was a “p” and I was attempting to be the Magic Johnson of non-lethal sex-sickness. No, my affliction, although significantly less stigmatized, is just as difficult to say out loud.

I’m sure it has something to do with my social skills. I’ve used my $35,000 bachelor’s degree in psychology to diagnose myself as “slightly autistic”. Somewhere in the course of my development, I missed some really basic information about communication with other human beings. 26 years later, the 60% of human communication that is “small talk” causes me much, much agony.

I’ve learned a few tricks over time—little things I can do to hide the awkwardness of struggling for the words. But even if its hidden behind confident gestures and good timing, let it be known that I live inside my head.

How is this related to having a goddamned hero? You may be asking. Well keep your knickers on, speedy. I’m getting to it.

In my active and intended evasion of social interaction, I created a rich, inner life. It’s decorated by inaudible conversations with myself and downloaded archetypes from video games, comic books, music and wrestling. The isolationist foundations of an introvert’s worldview.

I learned about interpersonal relations by observing Scott Summers, Jean Grae, Logan, Remy and Rogue. I studied conflict resolution with Ric Flair, Sting, Savage and Hogan. I shared triumph and failure with Link and Samus Aran. I worshipped John Linnell, Eddie Veddar, Q-Tip, Michael Stipe, Posdnous, Frank Black and Les Claypool as gods.

Infallible gods.

The comic book characters, wrestlers, and game sprites could all be easily disassembled in my mind as they were obviously make-believe. The musicians, on the other hand, could do no wrong. In my solitude, my imagination ascribed to this pantheon, traits that should have gone to successful adults around me. But even when I did go outside, there were none. It was the eighties, so the crack epidemic had wiped some of the best minds of my parents’ generation. Though I was young, even then, I could feel that all of our families’ hopes of the future had skipped a generation and landed in our corduroyed laps.

Where there was no inspiration, I invented it. Better yet, I synthesized it with the on-screen personas of a set of distant humans. If my heroes had been real people, no, people in my real life, my psyche could have felt both edges of the sword. I would have seen them succeed and fail. I would have known much earlier that a human is still a human no matter how tall his or her pedestal rises. Shit stinks at any altitude. But I’m really only learning that now.

I admired people who I could only experience via their best take in the vocal booth, or the video clip that was better than the ones on the editor’s floor. Every picture I saw was from their “good side”. Now I’ve got a foot and a half in the entertainment industry and each day I realize that these people will never measure up to the standards that make-up artists, editors and I fashioned for them.

I should have gone through this when I was nine. Nine is the age to have heroes. Not 26. At this age, the mind has a more difficult time adapting to disappointment. When rugs are yanked at this age, bones break and sprain.

I can’t hop right up and start playing again.