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Missing Out on Life, A Guest Post by Ian

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I was listening to some songs from the late 1980s today. One song led to another, and I started looking at top 10 playlists from ‘88 and ‘89. As I was reminiscing about the songs, I got to thinking about how I used to have to sneak around to listen to these songs.

I loved secular pop music and would tape record hours of music at night, using my boom box, so I could listen in private over the next few days. I would also watch MTV when I babysat, or any other chance I got. During the 80s, there was a heavy emphasis on movie music, so movies and music became tied together in my mind. I missed out watching those movies, and didn’t have constant access to the music I liked, so I was always frustrated because I couldn’t get any fulfillment.

I realized, today, that what makes me melancholy about some music videos and movies is there are huge gaps in my experience with “the world.” There were things I loved or wanted to experience so badly, but they were just out of reach; almost like a mirage in the desert. I liked the styles of clothing people wore. They seemed happy, the boy always had a girl, things just seemed right. Even then, I knew that it was just a video, but I always wanted to have these experiences for myself. An example of this is one of my favorite songs, “How Can I Fall?” by Breathe. It features a very stylized game of stickball on the streets of New York, along with two beautiful girls. I first saw that video and thought it would be so cool to experience something like that, knowing that I would never be allowed to hang out on a street corner and would be in trouble if I was caught with a girl. Neither of those things stopped me from wanting the experience, though.

Video Link

I feel cheated because I was not allowed to have the experiences most other teens had. Even the kids in the churches I attended were given way more freedom than I had. They watched movies (on a VCR, because that was so much different from going to the movies), hung out at the mall, wore stylish clothes, and had friends of the opposite sex. Even those church teens had a more normal life than I did. That was what I wanted, too.

I was told that missing out on those things kept me from trouble. Probably so, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. All of the adults, my parents included, lived through the 50s and 60s and enjoyed the normal freedoms children were allowed to have. The restrictions that were placed on me, and all of the Evangelical/IFB teens, from the 70s until now, are rules created by old white men who were pushing back against what they perceived was wrong with society. The rules were set up and enforced so they could keep their power. Those men are no different from the Pharisees that Jesus condemned in the Bible. Outwardly, they seemed holy; inwardly they hated minorities, were whoremongers, adulterers, pedophiles, drunks, and everything else they preached against.

So, now when I listen to the songs from the 80s and early 90s, it is always with a bit of sadness, realizing they represent a time in life when I missed out on many of the things “worldly” youths experienced. And I understand, now, that I missed out because of fearful men who hated anything new.



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    Ian, I am sorry that you were isolated by religious extremists. What always amazed me, after I got away was how as a child I tried so hard to be just what was expected of me, no matter how much it hurt. I always blamed myself for feeling bad. What would have happened to us with Art in our lives, without the music to hear that let us live.
    Thanks for your very thoughtful post.

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    Ian, thank you for sharing. It was hard being a teen kept away from “the world”. You are correct, some kids were allowed more exposure than others. I also attended fundamentalist Christian school, and there was a wide array of tolerance among families. Some kids were entirely sheltered, down to dress code as well, while others saw every movie and music video they wanted – they just had to comply with school rules. I didn’t have to follow dress code at home, but no pop music was allowed, and most movies were off limits. I used to try to go to my Aunt and uncle’s house because they watched MTV. Sometimes I could see off limits movies too. When I went to work at 16 in a biochemistry lab, one of the post docs played music in the lab so I tried my best to learn Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc. Amazing what you can learn in 2 months. In college I literally remember paying close attention to pop music so I could learn it. I couldn’t catch up on a lot of movies, but I did see some. It was difficult sometimes in social situations to cover up my lack of exposure to pop culture and took years to fill in what I had missed.

    My husband and I used to introduce some of our favorite movies to our kids, and when my husband suggested ET I realized o had never seen it. My mom didn’t allow it because she thought the concept of aliens was demonic. She wouldn’t let me see Return of the Jedi, the last in Star Wars at that time, even though she had taken me to see the other 2 prior. So one of my friends asked her mom to take us without my mom knowing – my friend was allowed to watch Monty Python movies and learn evolution so her mom had no prohibitions like that.

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    Ian, you have hit the nail on the head. This kind of legalism really has nothing to do with following Jesus. It is more about control and based in fear.

    Often it helps to push teens in the opposite direction from what is actually intended by the parents.

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      I saw that happen with a couple of my cousins who were raised by fundie parents who sheltered them from the “evils” of the world…basically, once said cousins got out from under their parents’ thumbs, they spun completely out of control. One cousin actually scored a full-ride scholarship to an out-of-state college, which he basically pissed away by spending two years partying and drinking instead of studying, getting put on academic probation and eventually getting kicked out of school. 15 years later, he was still struggling to get his life together when he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that was ruled an “accident,” but many of us think it was anything but accidental. My other cousin went from being a sweet, clean-cut, model church girl to being a pierced, tattooed meth addict who ran off with her outlaw-biker boyfriend, after mom and dad let her take a job at Walmart. Mom and dad continue to insist that Satan is to blame of their failed children, but those of us not in the bubble believe that Mom and Dad are to blame, because their insistence on keeping their kids sheltered from the world left them totally unable to cope with the messy, ugly complicated reality outside the bubble. Sure, there are parents who give their kids too much freedom, but giving your kids too little freedom is just as bad, and probably worse.

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        Amen, to that. It’s important to find the healthy balance. My husband always felt that it was better if we are going to err to err on the side of too much rather than too little freedom. (He was not reared in a Christian home, and came to faith later in life.)

        His motto, “Stand fast in the liberty wherein Christ has made you free.”

        At times, anyway, I think I could be more protective when the kids were young.

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    I really wasn’t sheltered as much as some of my peers, but there were things I wasn’t allowed to do/see. No R rated movies, for example.

    But my dad was of the opinion that I should be able to read anything I wanted to, even though I was forced to go to church every weekend and bible studies during the weeks. So I did know a lot of stuff my well-churched peers didn’t know.

    You’re younger than I am, MTV was sort of at the tail end of my teen years, and I got married young so a lot of pop culture stuff just passed me by anyway. We were too busy being in love and building a life. 🙂

    I remember a girl from middle school and high school who was sent to the library when we had class parties (JW) and dances. She was never allowed to participate in any of the fun stuff at school.

    I remember talking with friends and feeling sorry for her.
    Sadly, her life still sucks. Lots of shitty decisions, I think partly because she was never allowed to make ANY decisions while growing up. She has very little happiness in her life, last I heard.

    I wonder if people think about what their restrictions and beliefs actually do to their children.

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    Appalachian Agnostic

    I always felt a bit guilty listening to Casey’s Top Forty. If my parents actually knew the lyrics to much of the music that was popular then they probably would have prohibited it. Now there is a radio program on Sundays called Powerline where they play those same old songs but put a “spiritual” spin on them. I don’t know whether to find that funny or sad.

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    I’m so sorry, brother; I know the feeling, the IFB took a lot from me, too.

    They are one of the world’s great scourges, imho

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