Since reading the book I mentioned in my blog od December 14th--okay, let's be out with it; it was The Virgin Suicides--I have been wanting very much to write some kind of rebuttal. Something from the point of view, not of a teenage voyeur with very little empathy, but that of one of the objects of his obsession.
You never understood the suicides, but did you ever ask? To you, we were a curiosity. We did not look like you, talk like you, dress like you. The state of our house brought down the property values in the neighbourhood and you may not have understood why that was important but you knew that allowing this to happen made us other in some undefinable yet irredeemable way. You know this because the culture you were born into--a culture of Debutantes and Country Club lunches, a culture we never were and never could be part of--had already shaped you. And this is a sadness: the lines between us were drawn before we ever met.
And so you taunted us in early days. When we were children in grade school together you pulled pranks, called names. We had no defense. No one stood up for us in that sterile universe. Teachers ignored it. Parents said "get over it." But who is so cruel as a child? And who suffers pain like a child who does not understand what is happening, why every day is a torture? Some of this taunting went on into high school. Barely a day went by that one or another of you did not let us know that we were not part of the ruling class. Even you, dear narrator, when I came into contact with you in shared activities, sneered down your long nose, called me names, joked about my shape and my looks. Some pain of your own may have led you to do this, I don't know. Or it may be, as my mother liked to say, that boys tease you because they like you. I could never understand that. I could never feel affection for someone who inflicted that kind of pain on me.
And then you say you tried to reach out? And were rebufffed and it was our fault? Put yourself in our position for a moment. After years of daily torment, how were we supposed to trust? How were we even to distinguish what was meant as a real friendly overture and what was meant to draw us, unsuspecting, into yet another trap? We suspected everyone by then. How not, when even a compliment on an outfit might, if accepted with thanks, led to gales of laughter, as if to say how stupid we were to believe? How stupid we were to think we might fit into a different circle? How stupid to trust.
It galls and offends me that you blame us for not recognising your interest. That you blame us for not giving up on pain that you inflicted. You are like a small boy who tortures a spider in a box and then writes about its reactions. And it galls and offends me that you have been lauded for this experiment. That no one has called you on not taking responsibility for your own part in the outcome. You could go to the Debutate Ball and forget all about what you had done; for us there was no forgetting, even now. It leaves me nearly wordless with rage. It sickens me in my soul that all your speculation has not led you to your own part and that it probably never will.
You want to understand the suicides (or the near suicides, for none of us actually did the act, although we thought about it daily and several came close)? Then think about what it is to be hopeless and helpless, with no one to stand up for you. Think about what it could be like to be tormented day after day in that hell of a private school and to have the adults around you only add to the torment by telling you that you're bad, that you;re not living up to your talents and potential and that the pain you feel is imaginary or worthless. That what is happening to you is not happening. There was no way out. In our perspective, there WAS no hand reached out. Even in your sorry book, the boys had no concern for the girls beyond the idea of them. The true girls were lost, ignored. You could not rescue us because you never saw us, and we knew that.
Suicide is not a selfish choice. It is not a choice at all. It is what you do when there is no other option: when the walls of your pain close around you so tight that you can't even draw a breath without knives stabbinginto your vitals and you would do anything at all to escape the pain. It has nothing to do with the others around you. They cease to exist. And lest you label this self-centered, let me say that if there had been any genuine concern shown, others would NOT cease to exist. You can recognise that. And hold it as a rope. Who wants to die if there is any other option open? If there's any hope that things might improve? But no one threw us a rope. They simply watched as we slipped farther and farther into a pit that we could not crawl out of.
We stuck together because we were the only ones who understood this. We shunned you because it was obvious that you didn't. And yes, we laughed at you behind your backs because you thought yourself enlightened, sensitive, artists, and all that goes with it. Yet you lacked the one quality that makes all those real: empathy. In the end, all you could to was wash your hands and get on with the blame. I hope it made you feel better.