Friday, March 24, 2006

Three Ways of Knowing

The Professor and I went to the Murphy Loft for lunch yesterday and both got the chicken salad wrap. I will tell you that their chicken salad is the least noteworthy thing I regularly eat. It literally tastes like nothing--not chicken, not Miracle Whip, not whatever else is in there that I also don't taste--nothing. The only reason I continue to eat it is that, nestled in the nothing are grapes. The genius of putting grapes in chicken salad is so monumental that I'm willing to overlook the blandness of the rest of the chicken salad in order to enjoy the surprise of the grapes. If there were just a few walnuts or pine nuts in there as well, you might have a perfectly weird but delicious chicken salad. Hmm... I should try that. Anyway, I was trying to tell the Professor that I feel like I have three levels at which I know something. There's kind of the "I'm semi-aware of something" level, the level where I know it intellectually, and the level at which I know it in my heart. It's not until I really know something in my heart that I feel like I really, honestly, know it. To use an example unburdened with emotions, let's talk about the Butcher's friend who lives on Blair by Harris Teeter. I have a friend who lives on Blair just down the street from there, so I know that part of town. I also used to know someone who lived on Love Circle, which is between here and Blair. And, in a kind of ephemeral way, I knew that you ought to be able to get from here to that part of Blair by way of Love Circle, but I didn't know how. The other day, the Butcher showed me. Now, I know it in my head, that it can be done and done easily. If I get to the point where I can drive it without thinking about it, I'll know it in my heart. That's the way the flow of information usually works, from out there to head to heart. Sometimes, though, you know something in your heart first. I think this is what people mean by "intuition" or "reading between the lines." You can see a situation and some deep part of you makes sense of it even if you don't know it in your mind. The Professor was saying how I'm pretty good at that--understanding the deeper currents of what's going on in a situation. And I said that I thought it was because, growing up how we did, I had to find some way of reading situations in order to protect myself. It's a good skill to have; it's not fun to have to develop it. Here's the thing. None of my friends like my dad. Some of them tolerate him better than others. But none of them, I don't think, would choose to spend time around him except for the fact that they care about me. Intellectually, I've understood this since I was in junior high. But it hurt me; it hurt my feelings. Because I really love my dad. But the other weekend I was telling Divalicious about the two things he said to me that I just cannot get past--1. That being with me will be some man's personal hell and 2. That I'm a good daughter and all, but the recalcitrant brother is the oldest son and that's the most important position in the family--and she said, "Wow, that's really emotionally abusive." It caught me off guard. I think if someone I knew better had said that to me, I'd have been really pissed off at them. It's weird, but I would have felt betrayed by them. But hearing it from someone I don't know that well? For the first time in my life, I really finally knew it in my heart, this thing I'd known intellectually but couldn't just say to myself. My whole life, I've been saying to my brothers and the other reverend's sons and the Super Genius and even lately to the Professor that, considering how my dad was raised, he was a pretty good father. And he was. I mean, that's true. But that's not how it works. You don't get to get out of being fucked up by a fucked up person because the fucked up things he's doing to you are less fucked up than the fucked up things that were done to him. But I have been insisting my whole life that I'm not fucked up, especially not because of the fucked up things he did to me, and getting pissed at anyone who tried to tell me differently, who tried to express concern about the fucked up things I was doing. In my adult life, all my first kisses and fucks with a person have been while I was drunk. I've never had sex with someone as an expression of our mutual caring for each other. I'm not sure I even know how that's done. And thank god Sarcastro is so fucking obtuse because I pulled the biggest fucked-up nonsense on him twice this week and he let it slide. But I will tell you. Sarcastro is one of my favorite people on the planet. I'd trust him with my life, if it ever came down to it. He's dropped me off at my house on average once a week for the past seven or eight months. He's been in my house three times, two of which were this week, when he was here fixing the door. And both times when he was here to fix the door, he had to push his way past me to get in the house. Seriously, what the fuck? But there I was , standing in the way of him coming inside. Someone I know and trust and I'm so uncomfortable with him coming in my house that I physically put myself between him and the fucking door? That is fucked up, folks. But you know what? It totally is fucked up. Because I am fucked up. And just saying that outloud and admitting it and knowing it it my heart is kind of a relief. It's not some failure on my part that I'm fucked up. It'd only be a failure if I didn't try to stop being fucked up in ways that hurt me or keep me from doing what I want. Ha, you know, it's been a worthwhile vacation just to have the time to work that out and articulate it for myself.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I love your dad. I loved the way he brought his guitar and sang for all the people at our graduation from grad school party. I also like the fact that he gave me that corkscrew that is a little man whose penis is the screw. He is a reverend full of surprises.

I totally understand the fucked-uppedness of such father/daughter relationships. I love the hell out of my own paunchy dad, but, damn, I hate him too sometimes.

Miss J

3/24/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger saraclark said...

Two major league epiphanies in one week! This is a lot of self examination and acceptance, but also well thought out and well said.
I've always thought it is a huge grown up step to give yourself permission to love your parents but not like them very much. I always love my mom but sometimes I can't stand her. Those two emotions can be completely seperate.

3/24/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

I just figured you were being a dingbat and let it go at that.

3/24/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger indifferent children said...

Aunt B., I don't know what kind of culture/sub-culture you father was raised in, but in some cultures the 'number one son' phenomenon is thoroughly ingrained. In Korea, the number one son gets *everything*. Some families could barely afford a phone or TV, and if they could only afford one of each, you often found it in number one son's bedroom.

The flip-side of the deal is that when the parents get old, not only does the number one son provide for then financially, but he is expected/required to take them into his home (where is lucky wife will take care of them, along with the couple's children).

What your father said sounds horrible to us 'modern' kids with our introspective ways. Is he just trapped by his upbringing?

3/24/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Indifferent Children, it's not some ethnic belief, it's a religious belief. I guess I should have put it in that context; it wasn't just about the recalcitrant brother being more important to my dad, it was supposed to be a lesson to me about my worth to his god, too. I'm just a girl and as such, I need to stay out of the way of the important, sacred stuff that goes on between fathers and sons.

I learned this important life lesson when I tried to talk him out of smacking the recalcitrant brother around when they fought.

Believe me, the quickest way to run into trouble with my dad is to believe that he doesn't know how hurtful what he's saying is, that he doesn't know any better on account of his upbringing. He knows exactly what he's doing and it's designed to be maximumly painful.

It's complicated. He's a smart, funny, charming, charismatic guy who took care of us when we were sick and busts his hump for us when we're in trouble and went broke trying to show us a world larger than the small shitty towns he was assigned to.

He's also spent thirty one years taking every opportunity that presents itself to let me know how fat, ugly, bossy, and unloveable I am, how the bad things that happened to me were my fault, how I'm not nearly as important as I think I am, how I'm constantly misjudging the situations around me, how I'm too judgmental in the first place, and how my primary and most important responsibility is to keep house in order to land a husband, should I find someone willing to put up with me, and how miserably I'm failing at that.

Like Miss J says. It's fucked up. I love the hell out of him, but damn, I hate him too.

3/24/2006 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger indifferent children said...

Aunt B., it's not your fault that you haven't found a husband. Your father just needs to cough-up a good dowry. Two camels and an axe-head (bronze for 'progressive' monotheists, stone for animists and polytheists), ought to do it.

3/24/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger bridgett said...

Oh man. Yeah. My father died not quite 11 months ago and I've been all this time trying to be honest about the entirety of our relationship. He is, in my memory, simultaneously a raging philandering drunk who terrorized my mother and me nightly and the gentle man who never saw a hurt animal that he didn't try to tenderly fix. He was both a physically domineering man and a deeply abused little sharecropper boy orphaned at ten. He trivialized my scholarly ambitions and every day went to a job that destroyed his body and killed him too young to keep a roof over my head. There was not an ounce of easy love in him anywhere, but rather a fierce instinct of possessive care that you had to learn to duck like a left hook.

About the best I've managed thus far is to croak out something about "humans being complicated" and "parents can be wrong" and try to let the palpable love refract off the occlusions in the old man's character. Not yet forgiveness nor peace, but getting there. After all, he'd dead and I'm aging and what good does it do to treasure someone's meanness when there are other memories to hold?

If it's any consolation to you, B, my dad's nickname for me was Lucy Van Pelt -- loud, bossy --and I, too, was victimized by the "no man in his right mind would ever want you" thing. Certain men try to break the things they can't bend.

3/24/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I got Lucy, too, when I was younger. Once Rugrats debuted, I was Angelica.

I honestly suspect that, subconsciously, my dad wants me to both be the perfect housekeeper and to never get married so that, if anything happens to my mom, he can move in with me and I can take care of him until he dies.

3/25/2006 08:54:00 AM  

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