I binged on Sex Education this week, an energetic coming-of-age series out of Britain about teenagers and adults obsessed with (surprise) sex and relations. The entire show has an exceptionally talented cast, crew, writing staff, and music managers. I’m invested in the characters and was happy to hear that we’ll be seeing Moordale High in Season Four.
There is an emotional cost to me here because the writers spare no prisoners in stripping bare the worst parts of high school. Physical and mental bullying, cliques, abusive adults in positions of powers, adults who should not be parents, and the eternal and emotional trauma that comes with being a teenager. Sex Education works because the writing is honest and lays bare this pain, but more than once, I was transported to my own horrific high school life. If I had an ounce more courage, perhaps I would have dropped out, and maybe I should have. As it is, I stuck it out and used the experience to trampoline into the rest of my life.
When my nerves and emotions are raw from that kind of entertainment, I retreat into my “library of comfort food,” so to speak. I have go-to movies and books where I retreat because I know what is going to happen, and for me, this is a safe place. It’s taken me a few decades to be strong enough to admit I need such a place, and my life would probably be simpler had I realized this earlier. As they say, experience is earned from mistakes.
Here’s a short list of my comfort food (I have lots more munchies):
Music: Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits and Frank Sinatra’s Duets.
Books: Herman Wouk’s Winds of War, Robert Heinlein (either The Moon is Harsh Mistress or Stranger in a Strange Land), and Stephen King’s IT (except for THAT chapter).
Movies: The Best Years of Our Lives, Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightly), the first Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy (Brendan Fraser), Pleasantville, and Constantine.
Nothing too deep and all of them are good candy for when my soul is stressed and triggered by real life or bad memories.
All this skips the most important point. As I told a good friend online: no form of entertainment or person has permission to insult you or denigrate you or make you feel less than who you are. It’s perfectly fine to change the channel or push that person away. Your good mental health and self image are not on the auction block to the highest bidder.
Reality being what it is, sometimes escaping is not an option. When that happens, lose yourself in your own comfort food and find peace. Tomorrow will be better. Trust me. I’ve been there.