The stories we tell shape us as people and both inform and express the culture we belong to. Those stories aren’t always consciously held nor do we always stop to reflect on the implications of what we tell each other. From our earliest days, people tell us fairy stories full of ideas about what the world could be, and mostly isn’t. As a child I let go of happily ever after and poetic justice fairly early because it was so easy to see those things as unreal. There was one fairy story I held on to for a long time. Putting it down is hard.
It may seem odd to suggest Clive Barker as a writer of fairy stories, but for me, he always was. I came to him in my teens, and under the veneer of horror, found something I had until then been missing: Fairy stories for those who do not fit. Fairy stories for little monsters whose emotions, bodies and minds are not a tidy match for what’s around them. The greatest fairy story of all was of Midian. A home for monsters. A place for the magical, funny looking rejects where there could be home, community and companionship. Where being a little monster qualified you for entry.
I carried that story, and I believed in it as I believed in few others. As a possibility, and a metaphor. I hung on to the belief that somewhere out there was a place, or a tribe that would look at me and say ‘welcome home.’ A tribe that wanted me as I am, and that would be as horrified as I am by the idea of creating a fake shiny surface to fit in. A tribe of wild, open hearted people, not merely unafraid of things being serious and intense, but welcoming that, feeding on it, wanting and needing intensity and meaning as much as I do. A tribe where people think about things, and care, and don’t do as they’re told, and aren’t afraid of difference.
I thought, if it does not exist already, I will build it. I will find those people who dance to other music, and I will hold a space for them, and maybe if I hold that space, I too will be acceptable, I too will belong somewhere.
There is no Midian.
What I thought was a promising space turned into yet another social fail. Yet another wounding experience that sends me scurrying back into my hole, unable to cope with the light. This weekend, had I been able to fake an enthusiasm for sport, there are any number of places I could have shown up for camaraderie. I’d need to be ok about drunken shouting for that, and like Grendal, I find the drunken shouting difficult to take. Although it may be worth mentioning that I’ve never trashed anyone’s mead hall.
There is no Midian, and the fairy story that had given me hope is just another illusion and try as I might, I cannot make it real. I’m very tired this morning. All the other stories, I realise, have us as lone witch women deep in the forest, lone black knights. Outsiders who help insiders work out who they are, because they are not Other. Perhaps belonging is more meaningful if you can see the shadows of those who do not belong and know what is at stake if you do not conform to the requirements of the tribe. Look, act, dress and speak the part, uphold the same values and never question what they do. It’s not the case that if you act out, the wicked witch or the bogeyman will get you, it’s the case that if you fail to fit, that is who you become.