I don’t like it when people hostile to me are right. My wife, my father. She was going to a psychologist, a therapist, oh, 20 years ago, when we were still technically married. I think it was Carl Faber, well-known, a mythology guy -- used to hear him on KPFK, the gay communist Pacifica station -- quite eloquent and passionate, died sometime in the mid-nineties -- just looked it up … thought he’d killed himself, but it was cancer. Using the evidence of my wife’s testimony, he concluded that I, her estranged and unloved husband, “wanted to be taken care of.” So she triumphantly informed me, as a trump in her on-going suit against me and my failure as a man and husband. I was scandalized at the breach of professional ethics, to diagnose the husband of a client based solely on one-sided evidence. He must have uncritically swallowed her side of the story. Seems naive.
I would never have admitted it to her, but he was right. I did want to be taken care of. What she didn’t ever see, and so could not have communicated in her rants and complains about me, and men, was that I also wanted to take care of her. I wanted us to take care of each other. Seems like what a marriage is supposed to be. I wasn’t good at it, broken vessel that I was, but I find myself right now needing to believe that people who get to know me see that I am highly motivated to help -- a weak word, but it will have to do. It wasn’t any different then. I wanted her to be happy, and tried in my frankly clumsy way.
These past few days I’ve been mulling over a memory, about how, in the early days of my marriage, in Australia, we visited some friends of hers who’d just had a baby. I saw the baby and laughed, and said in my loud gauche American voice that it looked like Uncle Fester. Now, 25 years and more later, I am astounded at what a fool I have been. How the parents refrained from slapping my face I don’t know. How they must have hated me. And I simply, blithely, didn’t get it. Had I been slapped, I would have been outraged. You see how unprepared I was for the adult world.
Aside from the usual, I married her, largely, because we both believed she had healing powers. I was sort of New Age in those days. She had no healing powers, which fact must have fed her hostility towards me. Turns out I was more insightful than she was, for all my profound blindness. But intuition and lack of trust may in this case have been the same thing.
Some other time, between these two events, in the early nineties, when I was trying again to have a relationship with my father, he, out of the blue, for no discernible reason, told me in a tone that brooked no disagreement that I did not like myself very much. This was just another criticism from him, disguised, and I had the wherewithal, no longer being a vulnerable child, to respond that, no, it wasn’t that I didn’t like myself, it was that he didn’t like me. “Oh, no, I like you.” “Right, so you, who don’t know me very well, you like me -- but I, who know myself really well, dislike myself.”
Problem is, he was right. I didn’t like myself very much. Still don’t. The other problem is that he didn’t like me either. I mean, some other occasion, occasions, he told me in those very words. Thrice, as I vividly recall. “I have to love you, because you’re my son, but I don’t. Have. To like you.” Once when I was a teenager, again in my twenties, and then in my thirties. I’d forget it if I could. Like I’d forget the Uncle Fester thing. But such memories burn. One of the things I don’t like about myself.
We are what we are made to be. I was raised to dislike myself. Something about no-win situations, about constant criticism and hypocrisy. Double-binds can make you crazy. I’m only neurotic, and someone else’s craziness made me pretty good at resolving contradictions. Free will and election aren’t all that hard for me. I’m good with meta-solutions. I understand terrorism, fanaticism, mass murder. I understand evil, as much as is possible without submerging oneself in it. It’s just a matter of thinking you’re right. That’s milk to me, wrong people who think they’re right.
So tonight someone I’ve known for some years offered to fix my back -- just a few quick pushes between the shoulder blades. Well, I’d have to be crazy to pass up a chance like that. And indeed, a few things popped into place -- not vertebrae, but some sort of muscular stuff. Not fixed, but it is significantly better, enough to lighten my mood. Couldn’t expect anyone to start digging in on what I euphemistically call the hip thing -- it’s really deep in my right glute. It’s so bad it spasms if I sneeze. Last month I needed a cane … didn’t get one, but I needed one. It’s not touching I mind, it's vulnerability, which is another word for intimacy, also known as trust. See? It all ties together! Specifically in the fact that I have the phone number of a recommended chiropractor, but, in love as I am with my pain, I may delay indefinitely setting up an appointment.
I want to be taken care of. But I don’t like myself very much. One of those paradoxes I’m so good at accommodating.
I hope you appreciate how skillfully I pulled all that together. For something free you found on the internet, you’re really getting something special. So sad that you don’t like me more.
This latest school murder-spree atrocity, I said my piece on it. Here’s something to ponder -- call it a party game: which is more evil, what happened Friday, 20 little ones killed all at once, or this same killer, killing 20 little children, only just one, every six months or so over a ten year span? And then he kills himself. Sudden magnitude and national grief on the one hand, isolated family doubt and loss on the other. Posing it thus, it’s just another clueless and insensitive blurt from me. I don’t mean to be glib. My point is, how is this current spree less evil than serial killing? He was crazy only briefly, albeit monstrously. Had his life been longer and the number of his murders the same but wiped over more of the calendar, would the pundits be calling him “troubled”?
Please note that I was exactly right about him -- living in a basement playing death video games. No word yet on the pornography. Do not let people who are highly interested in actual guns spend all their time alone with kill games. Not good parenting. Good parenting is patient, clear, firm, consistent, supportive, affectionate. I admired my son, and didn’t keep it a secret. I took joy in him. He valued my approval so much, that he earned it. I like myself as a father very much indeed.