Mourning a friend I "lost" to religion.

So anyway, I had a friend in High School, well, more of a friend of a friend. Actually more to the point the girlfriend of a friend. Let's call her Lynn. Not her real name, but as I describe her, people who know me will know exactly whom I'm referring to. Lynn was Class of '87, if I recall correctly, while I was Class of '89, as was my friend Jay (not his real name), who hooked up with Lynn his sophomore year (her Senior year). Some of us thought Jay was he luckiest guy in our circle of friends, since he clearly lost his virginity before any of us. Lynn had a very nice body, pretty face, and she was smart, too, and bookish, always reading (mostly fiction, though). Other guys had crushes on her (including me, sort of, for a time anyway, and a mutual friend Garth [also not his real name]), and Lynn previously had a different boyfriend from her own Class who she ultimately dumped in favor of my friend Jay. Since we all liked to hang out at Jay's house to play strategy board games, Star Fleet Battles, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Lynn became a regular fixture at such gatherings, though she seldom participated herself; she mostly contented herself with a book in the corner of the room while the rest of us socialized like the teenage boy geeks we all were.

Lynn's family was nominally Catholic but not particularly observant. Jay's family was mainstream Methodist, and Jay never talked about religion in High School or hanging out with us.

The only overtly religious friend in our circle was C.R., and C.R. was active in his church, but when I razzed him a little about his religiosity he just told me politely but firmly to "drop it", that it was personal and none of my business. I said okay, and that was that.

Jay was also one of the few self-described Republicans in our circle of friends, and I nominally considered myself a "moderate" Republican as well. But as an atheist, the GOP's open embrace of the Religious Right in 1992 pushed me irrevocably leftward into the Democratic Party. I never knew Lynn's actual political affiliation, but she talked like a moderate to slightly liberal Democrat most of the time.

I didn't ever actively seek out conversation with Lynn, but I did always enjoy talking to her and listening to her converse with her (older) friends, etc. She was intelligent, belonged to our High School's National Honor Society, etc, and was also friends with a younger girl I liked, etc. Lynn graduated very high up in her Class and started attending the University of Houston, which for many of us in Sugar Land was a commuter school, so Lynn didn't leave her parent's home when she started college, so she remained in our social circle and continued dating my friend Jay while we all finished up High School. Lynn majored in Russian at the University of Houston (not an easy language!), spent a semester in Moscow, and eventually graduated with Honors from the University of Houston. In the meantime, our Class (1989) graduated, and started going to college ourselves. My friend Jay headed off to the University of Texas at Austin, like most of my friends, while I headed off to Texas A&M, to try to become a Navy officer through their NROTC program and to participate in their Corps of Cadets. While I earned a 3.5 GPA and won a Navy scholarship on the basis of academic merit, my friend Jay played elaborate Role-Playing Games and Computer games and got bad grades and eventually failed out of UT-Austin and moved back to Houston. Lynn made regular trips to visit Jay in Austin all the while. Jay didn't mind moving back to Houston per se because at least he would be closer to Lynn again. Jay is a clever guy, and largely self-taught in computer stuff, and works as an IT professional to this day.

As the years passed, Jay and Lynn eventually married and started living together. As a couple, they seemed to be happy, but would act almost child-like to each other. I mean, in retrospect, really infantalized regression here. The became almost obsessive with collecting Walt Disney Memorabilia. They couldn't afford a proper honeymoon at the time but did eventually take a belated honeymoon on one of the Disney Cruise Ships. I wrote it off as harmless eccentricity at the time, but I'm far less sanguine about these trends now, looking back.

Sometime in the late 1990s to right around 2000 or so, Jay and Lynn "got religion", big time. I suspect this had a lot to do with the arrival of their first daughter. Happens a lot, I'm told.

Where the story really gets weird is a few years later, when their marriage falls apart, and we find out that Jay is actually having an affair with a former '89 Classmate Sharon (not real name), who we all seemingly found annoying in High School, including Jay (so we thought) but in later years she mellowed out and could actually be funny and fun to be around. Sharon had been married then divorced and had a son already from her first marriage. Jay had tried to get back together our gaming group and invited Sharon to join it to fill out the ranks. We had some fun times gaming there for awhile. But as the story emerged, it turns out Jay's affair with Sharon actually stretched all the way back to our High School years and none of us had had ANY clue. Eventually Jay and Lynn divorced and Jay and Sharon remarried to each other. Lynn is now a single mom, living with her own mother (or very close by), over in Florida now. Jay and Sharon moved out to Florida only a few years back, I suspect to have better visitation rights for Jay's kids by Lynn.

What depresses me, though, is that since the divorce Lynn is now more religious than ever, instead of less. Her mindset is very child-like and it just depresses me. She used to send us regular newsletters detailing her family news every year at Christmas. When I read about her giving religious instruction to her 4 year old daughter, teaching her "how Jesus died for her sins", I wanted to throw up. What sort of sin has a 4 year old racked up? Oh, right, that whole "original sin" bullshit. My bad. I had kept in nominal contact with Lynn after her divorce, but my own wife at the time didn't like it and so I had to quit. After I separated/got divorced myself in 2004 I had resumed contact and that was when I got that aforementioned newsletter that so unsettled and rankled me, about her 4 year old being taught about sin, etc. (My mom had tried to raise me Presbyterian, but I don't think they got around to talking about sin & such until I was like, eleven or twelve!). I rapidly lost patience with Lynn and her religion soaked gushings and sent her a cassette tape of my two favorite speeches by Robert Green Ingersoll that I had bought from; It was basically my way of ending contact with her, and I've not heard from her since. I don't think she listened to it, or at least certainly not all the way, but I felt Ingersoll was saying some things she needed to hear whether she liked it or not.

Anyway, when I think back to the Lynn I used to know, the curvy brunette, very smart, sexually liberated Honors student with kind blue eyes I used to know...the one who learned Russian and graduated with honors...I feel only a deep, deep sadness. That Lynn is dead to me, dead and gone forever. And I feel a kind of grief and regret that feels almost identical to how I've reacted to the actual physical death of (older) friends. While I do believe that Jay and Sharon are happy together and I do wish them the best, I can't help but harbor some anger towards Jay for screwing over Lynn the way that he did, and for two-timing in High School like that. If he was going to end up with Sharon anyway, there were other guys who would've gladly gone out with Lynn, maybe even me.
Lynn's intellect started going, I now think, when she was enabled by Jay in her regression to infantile behavior and obsessions, living with a partner that encouraged and never challenged such childlike behavior, and it was killed off by lastly by extreme devotion to religion and tangentially by the burden of child-rearing. She no longer speaks any Russian and I'd be very surprised if she's even able to read any writing in the Cyrillic alphabet anymore.

I really miss the Lynn I used to know, and it is surprisingly almost as painful as a "real" death when I mull it over in my mind, because that separation from the Lynn-that-was from both me and from the Lynn-that-is really is as permanent and irrevocable as that. The world has lost what was once a truly promising and gifted intellect, and only a few people know this, and even fewer feel it as acutely as me.

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Comment by Tori on August 15, 2009 at 1:55am
That's sad. I'm sorry for your loss, but mostly I'm sorry for Lynn's loss.

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