Jen: So, before we delve into the consuming of mid-90s pop culture, which I’m very excited to do,
Micah: Fill in those black holes, pop culture blind spots, if you will?
Jen: Yeah, yup. I thought we should give a little bit of context about what it means when we say that I was sent to Montana, not by choi- or, that I lived in Montana for two years, not by choice.
Jen: So, we’ll just briefly talk about that I guess.
Micah: To start, what do you mean when you say you lived in Montana from ’94-’96, like do you know, we don’t need exact dates but just a general…
Jen: I know the exact date that I got there.
Jen: Which is, yeah you say “wow” because you know I don’t remember dates for shit. I don’t remember dates of a-ny-thing
Jen: but for some reason I remember that one. August 16th, 1994.
Micah: That’s the day you arrived in Montana?
Jen: That’s the day I arrived in Montana.
Jen: And I left in August of 1996, I don’t remember the exact date.
Micah: And you grew up in Olympia. You were living in Olympia at the time, with your family.
Micah: Just to give people an idea of, so you have literally a two year gap, from August 16th, 1994 to August 1996, where you were out of your
Jen: Removed from the world, yeah.
Micah: Right. And, why? That seems really extreme.
Jen: That’s a big question to answer and I don’t know how many details to give about that.
Micah: But you weren’t just sent to boarding school.
Jen: no no no no no no no no…
Micah: We’re not talking about, like, a posh little school where you wore uniforms and played field hockey and learned the classics.
Jen: No, when I say “therapeutic boarding school,” or what they meant when they said that was, you know, one of those schools, out in the middle of Montana where you’re forced to do a lot of hard labor and exercise and there are no fucking regulations and nobody’s, uh, qualified to do anything but they’re calling it therapy.
Micah: This was like a “scared straight” situation, kind of
Micah: No, that’s not a good question. This was like a, this was like a, we’re taking you out of your home town and your situation, we’re removing you from that and putting you in this intense therapy situation.
Jen: To get better. Yeah.
Micah: That’s what it was sold to your family as.
Jen: So that the problem can be solved.
Micah: And we’ll get into other parts of that in future episodes probably, while we talk about what was…
Jen: Yeah. Well the bottom line is, because you asked “why? That seems really extreme” is that I was, I had been, I was doing a lot of drugs, like daily basis, I was not going to school, when I left school I had a 0.04 grade point average.
Micah: And you were what, a sophomore?
Jen: I was a sophomore.
Micah: You were 15?
Jen: I was 15. So at one point I ran away from home, it was the summer before my sophomore year, don’t need to get into all the details around that, but I lived with this group of people, I found a sense of belonging there. It was like this group of misfits.
Micah: Kids, other kids who weren’t going to school..
Jen: Kids! Yeah. Most of them were a little older than me, but anyway, so I got close to some of the people there, and then just before my 16th birthday one of my close friends from that living situation committed suicide. And, that I think was the point when my parents started freaking out, for real? I don’t know how freaked out they were before that.
Micah: That’s what kind of pushed them to make the decision to pluck you from your home.
Jen: Yeah, and then I agreed to go to this other program beforehand. So I went to this 6 week thing in Bend. It was this, therapy thing. And at the end of the 6 weeks I thought I was going home, but at the end my parents and my brother showed up and told me, “No you’re not going home, you’re going to Montana.” So they drove me to Montana. I didn’t get to go home, I didn’t say goodbye to anybody, I had no idea at all that I wasn’t going home.
Micah: So you signed up for a 6-week deal and
Jen: I agreed to do it! I was like, yes, I will try this, I want to get better. I was really depressed, I was really struggling, you know, and I didn’t want to end up like my friend and, yeah, so I agreed to do that and then I was so excited about the progress I’d made, and I just… (sigh) that was rough.
Micah: So, while I was growing up and just hanging out and watching T.V. and listening to music with my friends, and just being kind of an idiot because, I mean, all teenage boys are kind of idiots,
Micah: You were taken to Montana.
Jen: Taken. I was taken. (both laughing)
Micah: And so you guys, you lived at this school, there were, I know there were like horses, and you guys lived in a dorm, or a bunk house?
Jen: Little cabins. Cute little cabins with bunk beds.
Micah: I’m picturing “Little House on the Prairie” style.
Jen: Well kind of, yeah, as far as the surroundings. The place where it was is actually unbelievably beautiful. I mean, it was between two mountain ranges, and it really is in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere. There’s nothing within an hour of there that you would call any kind of town.
Micah: So did you have T.V. up there?
Jen: No no no. So we lived in little cabins, we had, no. There was no T.V., there was music but it was music that was allowed by the staff that worked there. So, and actually when I got there, this was another thing on the topic of pop culture I missed. When I got there I had all these tapes. You know, back then we listened to cassette tapes, so I had all these tapes and CDs and stuff, and they took them away from me because they were “not appropriate for me to be listening to.”
Micah: And you had them in Bend with you?
Jen: No, I was just thinking that too, my parents packed up my stuff, because I didn’t…
Micah: They packed up stuff they thought you’d want for two years.
Jen: Yeah. Well, they didn’t know I was going for two years, but anyway.
Jen: Yeah, so I missed allllll, I missed everything.
Micah: So they took away your Guns ‘N’ Roses…
Jen: Yeah, they took away my Nirvana, they took away everything. Even stuff that you wouldn’t think, I don’t know, it was weird.
Micah: Did you get them all back in a plastic bag at the end, like I’m picturing a prison movie.
Jen: No! My parents threw them away. It was like a Christian… you know, like a Christian music bonfire.
Micah: Oh, yeah, one of those things. We all know about those.
Jen: Where you like, burn records…
Micah: Right. So they threw them all away. They were told “you need to destroy all this stuff” because she can’t, this is all a bad influence.
Jen: Yeah. I mean, think about it, it is so ridiculous. I mean, they got rid of… NIRVANA! What the fuck?!
Micah: It was kind of like, “you need to purge Satan’s influence on your daughter,” but it wasn’t like a Christian school, it was a
Jen: No. It wasn’t Christian
Micah: It was more 12-step based
Jen: It was 12-step based, which is higher power based, but they weren’t Christian at all. It was all about image. When you showed up you had to get rid of your image, whatever that was. And so, the music you listened to and the clothes you wore and all that shit were part of your image, so upon arriving there they just assume that nothing you have with you is part of who you really are, so you have to get rid of all that shit.
Micah: So they’re going to break you down, figure out who you really are, and build you back up how they want you. OK.
Well so, you don’t have T.V., they took all your music, I’m imagining there wasn’t like a Regal Cineplex right next door (Jen giggles), because there’s nothing there.
Jen: There was a T.V. I don’t remember where it was kept. It might have been in the lounge all the time. The lounge was this big, log building where we would have group therapy every every every night. And, eventually, I think after about a year of being there, I’d already been there at least a year when they started showing movies once in a while. But, most of the time, so they would do movies on Sundays, and most of the time I didn’t get to watch them because I was on work crew.
So, the way it worked is that you had chore check every morning. So, we’d get up at 7 exactly, we had 15 minutes to get dressed and get to the kitchen, we had breakfast, then we had to clean our rooms, and they had to be spotless. And I had this issue where this one woman who kept checking, she always found dust behind this one fucking picture frame, and I mean eventually other people in my cabin started coming to my defense, like, “I watched her dust it! There’s no way!”
Micah: So she’s packing a little, a little envelope of dust
Jen: I don’t know what the f– No, I mean she loved me and I loved her, it wasn’t like that.
Micah: It’s a frame up!
Jen: It was so strange. And it felt almost like, I guess this is… this was the mentality of the people there, right? Like, nothing happens by accident, so it was like “I guess this is what I need right now. I need to be on work crew when everybody… So on Sundays, if you had not passed a chore check
Micah: One chore check?
Jen: Well, I think…it might have been two
Micah: Then you don’t get to watch
Jen: Then you don’t get to watch a fucking movie
Micah: What movies were they showing you?
Jen: And it was like the most special… I was so jealous of the people sitting in there. Just sitting, on a floor, watching a movie. You can’t even imagine how luxurious that was.
Micah: Oh right. If that’s your one chance to check out, and have some entertainment, and just lose yourself in
Jen: Yeah that didn’t exist. At all. And honestly I don’t remember a single movie that they showed.
Micah: And it’s a privilege that they’re taking away from you. It’s one of the only privileges you could earn probably.
Jen: Yeah, the only one that I can think of. (sigh)
Micah: So do you remember these movies you didn’t get to watch? Like what were they watching?
Jen: Well I did get to watch them eventually
Micah: Right but
Jen: After a while, I mean I did watch some of them. I’m telling you, I don’t remember at all. I have no memory of a single movie we watched there. But I think they were mainstream movies.
Micah: Girl, Interrupted? I don’t know when that came out but
Jen: No. I don’t know. I’ll have to get in touch with some people and see if they remember what movies they showed.
Micah: But the point is, you didn’t have access to any of this media so you have like a 2- year
Jen: I didn’t have access to current movies, that’s for sure.
Micah: And people talk about their pop culture blind spots, or their pop culture black holes, and things they’ve never seen. Like every once in a while you come across someone that’s like, “I never saw Star Wars,” and it’s like “What? That’s weird.”
Jen: Right. And we all have those. Everybody has those.
Micah: But yours is a little different, because it was a very specific 2-year time period that was kind of forced.
Jen: Where I missed everything. And, of course, a lot of that I ended up discovering later. But there are certain things that I feel like defined this certain moment. And that was like my junior and senior years of high school. Those are significant years in your life. I was 16-18, I went straight from Montana to college, so, you know, I missed the end of high school, and a lot of that had to do with pop culture.
Micah: Yeah, a lot of your relationships and your personality sometimes are defined by the music you’re listening to, and the things you’re watching with your friends, the inside jokes you develop watching
Jen: The thing about being in Montana was that I was removed from the entire world. It’s not like they just said, “No you don’t get music or movies or TV.”
Jen: You know, it was like, “You’re going to live in the middle of nowhere and wear these really ugly matching L.L. Bean t-shirts with all these other girls.”
Micah: Yeah, so you missed out on a lot of things there. And we can’t go back and fill you in on all the fashion trends that you missed, although we’ll try, we could talk about that a little bit.
Jen: Yeah, but I don’t think fashion trends come and go that fast. I mean, it was a 2-year… Was there anything that was only big in 1995?
Micah: Oh god, there might have been. I don’t remember what they’re called but those dumb hats we used to wear when we snowboarded? Oh, they were so ugly and stupid.
Jen: OK, well we can research that.
Micah: I’m sure there were things like that.
Jen: But yeah, so, this experience of being sent there, and all the stuff that happened while I was there and before I went, it’s a part of my life that I’m always going to be processing, and I feel like… You know I’ve never, this idea came to us really recently, and I’ve never thought about going back and trying to experience all those things that I missed. But I’m excited to do it because it just seems like a fun way of acknowledging that time without it being too dark. You know?
Micah: Yeah. And we’ve talked about things in the past, it’s come up, like you’ll say, “No I never saw that T.V. show or I never saw that movie.”
Jen: Yeah I’ll be like, “What year did that come out?”
Micah: So we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past, but I think it is an interesting way of working through this and processing, because you’ve been to other forms of therapy since then, you’ve been through a lot of stuff, you talk to your parents about it, every once in a while it’ll come up. There are things that you’ll always be thinking about this and working through this, and it’s part of who you are, but this is a way we can kind of fill some of the holes, and talk about Montana at the same time, and talk about what else was going on in the world that you maybe missed.
Jen: Yeah. And I mean, I need therapy to recover from the “therapeutic” experience I had. That’s really in quotation marks, the word therapeutic. But, the thing about it is that it’s such a weird experience. So I’m always wanting to talk about it and write about it, and I try to do that but I get so overwhelmed by memories that start– I mean there are so many weird details about stuff that was going on there. And yeah, some of that will come out in this podcast. But that’s part of the reason too that I feel like it’s worth telling, and I want to be really clear that this is not a “woe is me” kind of situation, and that’s not where I’m coming from at all. And I want to be clear too that, I mean I was in a bad bad place when my parents sent me away, and I was suffering, and I suffered in Montana for sure, but you know, my suffering was not any more than other people’s suffering in other places. I’ve thought a lot about the fact that I was this white, privileged brat whose grandparents could afford to send me away to have the problem fixed, so that’s what they did. And there are tons of kids and people out there who would never have that option, or that opportunity. And it’s weird to say that too because it’s not like I think I’m lucky for that.
Micah: No, but you were fortunate in ways.
Jen: Yeah, it just brings up the fact that I was so privileged. So, I know that people go through way more difficult stuff than I went through and that I’ve been through, so I just want to make sure I’m clear that I’m not coming there, but it is so weird, and soooo few people have had this experience that I just feel like it’s
Micah: Right, it’s still a significant experience that affected who you are
Jen: Oh yeah. But it’s not just about me I guess is what I’m trying to say, it’s not just about who I am, it’s just, how unique it was.
So, that gives you a little bit of context about the Montana side of this situation, and now that we’ve talked about that we can get into the fun part of talking about mid-90s pop culture, which is what we will do from this point forward.
Thank you so much. Please check out our episodes. If you’re interested, you can get them on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. We also have a website, it’s called ineversawthat.com, and a Facebook group that we would love for you to join. We’re very excited about this and SO appreciate your support, so thank you so much and we’ll see you in the ’90s.