You don’t need to have an iPhone to shut out the outside world. Kids these days have it so easy! Before the internet, people had to come up with creative ways to avoid social interaction. Keeping people away was important, especially if bullies saw you as a target. I carefully picked quirks and habits that would deter any normal human being from interacting with me, but I knew that I needed to add some essential tools to my anti-social arsenal.
Here are a few items that helped me reach maximum anti-social status:
Everything R.L Stine
Sure, in the 90s everyone read Goosebumps–but I devoted my young life to reading everything that R.L. Stine spewed out, and it didn’t matter when or where I was. If I wanted to tune out the people around me–all I had to do was pull out one of these babies. I couldn’t tell you how many Goosebumps books I read. I eventually got tired of the juvenile horror and moved up to the Fear Street series.
This young adult series ran a little darker, and the covers always looked like a romance novel gone wrong. It was Catholic School student repellent. I loved it! I often opted to read instead of participating in recess activities like Red Rover. I would even take these books with me to restaurants, whipping them out whenever my parents started to talk about something I didn’t care about.
Historical Comic Books
Oh–comic books are cool now, huh? What about comic books featuring historical figures like Abraham Lincoln? Oh? That’s not cool?
I would check these comic books out of the library at my grade school and read them instead of paying attention in class. I would tuck these comics into my textbooks, and cleverly tilt my book towards me…concealing the comic from my teacher. If I was reading Superman or Batman, I’m sure people in my class would admire me, but they tended to ignore the history buff altogether.
I remember getting caught once. My teacher noticed my tilted textbook, and that I was paying far too much attention to it. She clacked up the aisle towards my desk in that classic rushed teacher’s pace. I looked up to see her lips pressed together, eyes bugging out as she reached down and swiftly pulled the comic book out from my textbook. She looked to see that-no-I wasn’t reading about Wonder Woman–but actually trying to learn something on my own.
She handed the comic back to me saying, “Come on Jo Anna, keep this in your desk. Put it away during Religion. ”
Fisher Price Tape Recorder
As a senior Millennial, I feel it is my obligation to remind the world of our once archaic times in the dawn of this technology-dependent age. This is the ultimate “you kids don’t know how easy you have it” nostalgia-inducing paragraph. Back in the day, to build my music collection, I had to record directly off of the radio.
You heard that right. I listened to the radio. In the 80’s, my parents gave me a Fisher Price tape recorder for Christmas, and it allowed me to create a plethora of mixtapes. (Another ancient cultural tradition lost to iTunes and Spotify) I would take my small tape recorder and place it directly next to my father’s boom box for hours listening for my favorite songs. Once I recognized a hook –I would hit record and hope the DJ would just shut the hell up.
I did this for hours –sometimes days at a time, recording little audio sketches in between a block of songs. As you can probably guess, it took up most of my free time. Leaving me in my room with the radio, and everyone else outside playing run the bases. After producing an acceptable tape, I would actually go outside to walk around my neighborhood blasting my tapes. Unfortunately for everyone else around me, the Fisher Price tape recorder didn’t come with a headphone jack. It’s hard to carry a conversation with someone when they’re blasting Weezer’s The Sweater Song on repeat.
Which brings me to my final item:
The Sony Walkmen changed the way I listened to music and interacted with people. I was born well after it’s release date in 1979, but my parents didn’t invest in one until I was about 12. I was working hard on compiling my mixtapes, and I’m sure they were tired of listening to Smashing Pumpkins’ Today for the umpteenth time.
So they bought my brother and me ONE Walkman. You read that right, a singular Walkman for two children. On long car rides, I had to share the unit with my brother. We would trade every 3-4 songs, but sometimes I would try to stretch it to 5. Matt always caught me because I preferred my headphone volume at a comfortable”eardrum piercing”–so he could tell when one song ended and another began. While I was plugged into my Walkman, I didn’t have to listen to my parent’s shitty music, and I didn’t have to talk to anyone in the car either.
When I wasn’t fighting over the use of the household Walkman while in the car–my brother let me monopolize the device. Which made avoiding conversations with other people incredibly easy. Nowadays, everyone is listening to their own music and shutting out the outside world–but I invented that shit. Now I feel like I fit in too much when I’m isolating myself behind my headphones…
Ignoring other people at whatever age in whatever decade is easy. Just make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. In no time at all– you’ll successfully sabotage any potential interpersonal relationships with your peers.
Apocalypse…Now? is a podcast exploring the possibility that we’re heading toward the end times. Join comedian and filmmaker Jo Anna Van Thuyne for a weekly discussion with people just as nervous as her that this might be the end. Click here to subscribe.