The Problem with The Brantley Blog

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To anyone who is still here after my year long-hiatus from this blog, I feel like I owe you a big apology and an explanation.

The Brantley Blog was discontinued for two primary reasons.

Bad Feelings

What began as select drinking stories and misadventures from college slowly turned into a broader story arc of my coming of age after leaving home for the first time.  This was a natural evolution, but it came with a price.

I struggled with a lot of loneliness in my first semester of college.  During my second semester, I finally made friends and I got really close with a lot of people who didn’t have much in common with me other than our shared affinity for inebriation.  This didn’t end well.

Petty conflicts, jealousies, and certain individuals’ affliction of talking about people behind their backs led my group of friends to a boiling point.  We all met on top of a parking garage to air out our grievances with each other in a structured act of full disclosure.  We called it, I kid you not, a “Pickle Pow Wow.”   Instead of the kindergarten classroom tool of a “talking stick” with which speakers take turns so that they don’t end up shouting over top each other, we passed around a pickle in a pouch.

Tears were shed, hugs exchanged, bandaids applied to minor emotional scratches and wounds, but deep down we all knew that the group of friends was doomed to collapse in on itself.

I know that this is all incredibly stupid and “high school” dramatic, but it really genuinely mattered to me back then.  A lot of people that I cared about stabbed me in the back and friends that I tried to help resented my efforts.  It left a sour taste in my mouth.

Needless to say, the fun of mocking my youthful naivety and the joy of embellishing drinking tales were far preferable to describing how I lost numerous close friends over the course of just a few short months.  When the story that I was telling one blog post at a time reached this point, I suddenly found myself unmotivated to continue.  These events weren’t much fun to write about and I assumed that it wouldn’t be much fun to read.

I had it in my head that someone out there was piecing these individual posts together and reading them like a book; that this heavily foreshadowed climax was hotly anticipated.  I put a great deal of imaginary pressure on myself to get the story right.

Now I know that this was a silly thing to think.  I understand that blogs are typically consumed piece by piece rather than as a unit and that I could have neglected the hard parts of the story and nobody would have noticed.  But it was still enough to suck the fun out of The Brantley Blog for me.

Brantley:  The Great Disappointment

A recurring problem that I had with weaving my underage drinking stories was the looming presence of my parents in the back of my mind.  Both mother and father had recently joined Facebook and had dropped comments (Mom especially) here and there that made social networking lose its luster.  Thoughts of the shit storm that would arise should they find my blog and read about my youthful mistakes (most of which were intentional) prevailed over every revision and every edit of every post.

Over the last month or so, I’ve come to realize that it goes much deeper than fear of my parents finding out that I enjoyed being a little troublemaker in college.  A big part of my tendency to hold back in my writing has been knowledge of their inevitable disapproval of what I have to say.

You see, my parents are very religious.  As a kid, I remember my Dad making this objection throat clearing noise every time a character in a movie swore.  I remember him changing radio stations and calling certain pop songs “garbage.”  I remember my Mom forbidding me from seeing certain movies and how upset she was when she found out that I had used Napster to burn CDs with cuss words in them.

I, on the other hand, have more or less oscillated between atheism and agnosticism ever since the day that my parents decided that I was too old to get away with napping during church services.  I used to lay my head down in the pew every Sunday morning and rely on my family to wake me when it was all over.  Once that was no longer an option, I found myself increasingly uninterested in the entire body of rituals.

Every part of my worldview is so radically different from my parents that it makes for awkward silences during the holidays.  It would be stupid to let my political opinions alienate me from them, but at the same time, there are certain things that I feel very strongly about and it becomes really difficult to see any basic human decency in differing opinions on some issues.

Really, the worst part is that I get the feeling that they don’t even notice these awkward silences, these times that I shut my mouth in polite dissent.  It makes me feel like they probably don’t know very much about me and who I am, who I became once I left their house.

All of this is in the back of my mind during every keystroke, every sentence.  These things that I write, they are an extension of me.  To hate my writing is to hate me.  When it comes to my parents, that’s a lot of stress to handle every time I push that “publish” button.

It isn’t easy suspecting that a falling out with my parents will inevitably be a big part of my artistic journey.  Some days, it’s enough to keep my fingers from hitting any key other than “Backspace,” but I just can’t live that way forever.

I’m 26 years old.  I’m smart, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, and patient (though I struggle with this one sometimes).  I’m stubbornly optimistic and I don’t want to accept defeat, not for myself, not for society, not for the human race.

I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of my writing.  My parents should be too.  And if they aren’t, then that’s an issue upon which I can’t courteously keep my mouth shut.

From Here   

I plan on continuing to tell my stories, to laugh at myself and the things that have happened to me.  I plan on sharing my insights on petty injustices that I encounter in my day to day drudgery.  I plan on trying to make readers laugh or smile, to entertain a person or two if only for a few minutes out of their day.

I plan on doing these things on a wider level.  I’m going to share this blog with actual people that I know and if my parents find it, I hope they enjoy it.  No.  I hope that they can’t help but enjoy it, even though they disapprove.  I hope that they are just as proud of me as I am of myself.

Parents Weekend

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Parents weekend snuck up on me every single year of college.  Luckily, my parents only chose to participate for Freshman and Sophomore year.

Being the decent, moral, religious folks that they were, I had thoroughly expected it to be a distressing weekend in which I tried to hide the byproducts of my debauchery from their judging eyes.  I was an adult and I didn’t need anymore of that “I’m so disappointed in you” crap.  In the days leading up to that weekend, I knew that I would need to clean up the beer cans, take down the beer pong table, and kick all of the beautiful naked coeds out of my bed.  Then I could feel guilt-free when I put on my best know-it-all teenager face seeing as how I wasn’t actually rubbing their noses in my sinful lifestyle, just walking around like the new man that it made me.

Given my well-documented social struggles, there wasn’t a ton of clean up necessary.  I hid my fancy bourbon and shot glasses away behind some stuff under my bed.  I folded up the barely-used ping pong table.  Most importantly, I hid my fake ID, which I never kept in the same place as my real license anyway.  Seeing as how they would be in my room and I didn’t want to leave it somewhere obvious like a drawer, I put it in the console of my car underneath a lot of other junk.

My family and I met up with some friends from back home at dinner the first night.  Our parents were friends from the swim team that their daughter and I spent so much time with throughout high school.  I felt like such a failure that I didn’t have anything to hide from the adults as we discussed our adjustment to college life.  Afterwards, my parents turned in early.  They wanted to be well rested for the football game the next day.

I picked them up from their hotel the next morning so that they wouldn’t have to pay to park on campus.  It saved them a huge nightmare of circling the garages on game day.  My dad mentioned that he needed to go to the bathroom, so we stopped at my dorm building and he and I ran up to my room.

At this point, I was sweating a little bit.  My mom had no reason to go through the console of my car, and I had my fake hidden in such a way that she would really have to dig to find it.  Still, it was stressful to picture her alone in the car with an item that could get me into deep trouble with my parents.  Granted, I would have done my best to pretend not to care that I was in trouble with them, but it really would have bothered me.

There's no shame in not wanting to disappoint your parents admitted no teenager ever.

My dorm was parent-friendly and my dad looked around before settling in at my desk chair.  This wasn’t the bathroom.  I wondered what he was doing.

“Your mother is under the impression that you have a fake ID.”

My performance must have been convincing enough, “What?!”

“I know.  I don’t know where she gets these things.”  He studied me.  “Give me your wallet.  I will just tell her that I looked through it while you were in the bathroom.”

I handed it over, thankful that the ID was in the car next to my mother, who was assuming that my father would find it in my room.

He didn’t find it.  The room got more comfortable.  He went to the bathroom and we went to the game, which he and I were more or less enjoying.

I knew that I would get under my parents skin if I joined the crowd chant of “Bullshit!  Bullshit!” when UCF was hit with a questionable penalty.  Naturally, I became one of the loudest voices in the student section.  My mother hit me and scowled.

But that was it.  It was all that she could do to me.  I was a grown-up now.  I couldn’t be grounded for using colorful language.

She didn’t want to stay for the second half.  She said she had a headache, and I wondered if I had shattered her heart with my profanity.

That was probably one of my dumber thoughts that weekend.

I’m proud to say that the UCF student section is insanely loud.  Brighthouse Networks Stadium is not a fun place for the away team.  We jump up and down on the metal bleachers, creating a racket that drowns out most communication on the field.  We howl during every defensive possession.  Fan forums love to boast about this, but I was always skeptical about the true impact of the ruckus until this year.

This season, my girlfriend and her business partner got press passes so that they could shoot pictures of the game.  They watched the home games from down on the end zones and she was shocked by how much of the student section’s cacophony polluted the field.  It’s no wonder my migraine-prone mother couldn’t handle a full 60 minutes of football.

The twelfth man actually does make a difference.

On a side note, Ben reached out to me a few days prior to parents weekend.  He let me know that his folks would be swinging by the dorm.  His solution to the fact that they were paying good money for a bed that he wasn’t sleeping in?  Well, he just figured he would put some sheets on it and lie, and he asked that I corroborate his story.  By now, I realized that the room was way comfier with him not in it, so I was thrilled to play along!

Do you have any awkward stories to tell about your college’s Parents Weekend?