Thursday, March 10, 2016
You don't really understand what women are talking about when they talk about male privilege until you hear a (male) judge bellow at a woman that it really is true that if your (male) ex doesn't give his permission to you to move, you have to hand him your kids, and it doesn't matter whether he's ever cared for them or whether he is capable of caring for them or what's actually best for the kids. All that matters is he forbade you.
And I know you might say, well, the woman can forbid the man, right? Yes but here's the thing. When the woman leaves, everyone expects she'll take the kids. Men don't say, oh, I should keep the kids and you should run free. Do they? Even today, we assume the kids will just stay with the mum.
And you know, I've read in many places how terrible them Muslims are, because they think a man's opinion is worth the opinion of two women. But I'm left thinking, at least they have the decency to make that their law. In Queensland, we treat everything the man says as true, and everything the woman says as suspect because she's crying and we all know if you're crying, you're lying.
The worst thing is, this privilege is not just built by men. You are not just passive victims of a patriarchy, ladies. You help build it. The woman who shares that man's bed goes to court and hears lies told on his behalf, and she knows they're lies because she abets him in them, and she stays with him. The children's grandmother will swear to the world he's a wonderful human being (and I'm quoting verbatim) to get what she wants when she knows who he is. She can have no illusions. She's seen him hurt a child, physically hurt it, and lies that she did not. Not that the child is confused about what happened. Not that it didn't amount to what the child thinks it did. That she was not there, did not see it.
It is hard for me to hear lies and say nothing. It has always been hard for me to lie. I mean, I have lied. I was talking to the kids last night about honesty and they pointed out I had lied to R about smoking. I said, yes but that was a white lie. It was nothing to her that I had the occasional ciggie and she shouldn't have made such a big deal out of it. If it had gotten serious, I would have given up (as I have now). So it wasn't a real issue. But other things are black lies. And then of course I got into how this is just a minefield and it is. But still, even if there are "good" lies, we know there are bad ones, and hearing people say what is wholly untrue is hard. I do not know how these women are able to do it -- not just to lie and broadcast lies but to hear others lie and say nothing, do nothing.
Ultimately, so much of human relations relies on honesty. It really does. There is so much to gain from lying though that the temptation overwhelms some of us some of the time. I realise that most of us are not like me. Most do not torture themselves over the lies they've told; most do not have the need to tell the truth and cling to it like a liferaft in a world that doesn't make any sense.
I don't know where I was going with this. Trying to distract myself so I don't have to think about two little girls crying when their life is destroyed. Trying not to think about the possibility that a man decides that it is absolutely right that a woman should be punished if a man decides she should not be happy. Trying not to think about another man relishing the sorrow that he sows in her life and theirs.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Honest reportsThe past few months have been hard. My wife, whom I love dearly, has lived in a shitstorm for many months now. On the day of our wedding, her eldest child ran away from home to live with her abusive stepfather and that is just one part of a custody battle that has raged for the whole time we have been married. I have been powerless to help in any way except to be who I am (and I've learned some things about who I am). I've had to stand by while people have lied not just to get what they want but to hurt Ally. And I don't have any way to say, that's not true, that's not her, because no one cares what I think.
And that's very hard for me because of who I am.
When I was a child, my mother would say to me, you're not tactful and that rubs some people the wrong way. And I didn't know what she meant so she explained that I would say what I thought when I should just keep quiet, or should soften the message. The few people who read this blog know exactly what she meant. I have a compulsion towards honesty. I can't help myself. If I lie, I feel disjoint from the universe, ill at ease. I only regain my equilibrium when I can tell the truth. As I see it. I don't claim that my truth is particularly valuable or "right". It's just what I see.
I'm not stupid. I know that being honest has never done me much good. I've seen people lie to get what they want and they get it. I've lost jobs to people who lied about their experience; I've lost money to a girlfriend who lied about our relationship; I've been the fool many times.
But still, I believe in it. I tell my children to be honest, even though I fear that it will be useless to them too. But I can't stop believing that it should be worth something, that you should win in life if you approach it honestly.
One thing I am proud of myself for is a time when I chose honesty at great cost to me. In the last few months of me and Mrs Zen's relationship, we had agreed to move together to England. It was what I wanted more than anything and I am still homesick, that has never gone away. I miss my home and my family so much. I feel sadness that I cannot close out or really come to terms with that I was away from home when my mum died, that I cannot be physically around for my sisters when they need me -- and particularly for S, who is suffering her own relationship hell. And when we were close to breaking up, people in my life said, just get her to England, then figure it out. But to do that would have meant an act of dishonesty that I couldn't indulge in. I would have to pretend to Mrs Zen that I believed in the future and then abandon her in a foreign country, to deal with things on her own, more or less, the way she had me.
I wouldn't do it and I still think I did the right thing, even though it hurt a lot to make that choice and I could easily have had what I wanted and who knows what the outcome would have been.
The other people in Ally's case have no such compunction. They do not care. They have lied, quite brazenly. I won't name names but it's enough to say everyone on the "other side" has told lies that I know personally, purely on what I know, to be lies. And not just things to put themselves in a good light, not like the one I could have told to get a good outcome. Lies that are harmful to the children, that have harmful outcomes that they are quite aware of and simply do not care about.
Ally has not lied. She has relied on the truth. She is terrified that she will lose because of it because she too knows that often in life honesty does not serve you. But like me, she cannot look her kids in the lie and tell them that they must be honest, decent people if she will not be that person herself. And she is.
Look. I've been hooked up with women I wasn't able to feel proud of. Women who I felt I had to excuse, to explain, even to myself, women I had to find ways to be able to love, whom to be able to love I had to rely on the principle that everyone deserves love in this world, rather than feeling that they were someone I just loved.
But Ally is not like that and that is why when I think about her it is with an effusion of love, overpowering love that is real to me, does not need analysing, is not a story I tell myself. She is worth it.
And I do feel proud of her. Win or lose, she has not let anger and hatred be her guides, although she's angry and -- I wish I didn't have to feel this but I do -- hateful towards more than one person involved. And she is right to. I would not lie to myself about that and I would not lie here. (I have never lied on my blog because I write it purely for myself and it would be pointless to lie to myself because I know what's what.) I'm not trying to convince anyone that Ally is a good person -- no one cares what I think -- because what matters to me is that I know it. I know it for sure. No lie that anyone tells means anything to me because I can judge that for myself and I do.
So it's been hard. I have watched this amazing woman -- a great mum, a fine friend, sometimes lacking the resources to deal with the shit life throws but courageous and forthright in trying to deal with it the right way, loving and generous, I could go on... -- get smashed to pieces by people I wouldn't scrape off my shoe if I stepped in them, people whose goal was to hurt her, to punish her, for not being what they wanted, and who have achieved that goal. And all I can do is sit and watch and hold her when she cannot keep it together, cannot be brave, which is very rarely because she can pretend to be tough, and tell you, tell anyone who will listen, that she is one of the best people you could ever wish to meet, that she is every inch the beautiful person I insist she is.
I am not anything special. I am not a particularly good or particularly strong man. I have weaknesses as we all do. But I am honest. I will be able when I die to look back on my life and know that was one virtue I really did have. And my honest report is that my wife is who I say she is and the people who have lied about her are not who they say they are.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
My best yearLike all years this had its ups and downs. And it's a bit down at the moment. But I'll tell you what, I had the most amazing up this year and nothing can spoil it.
I met the woman of my dreams and I do have some pretty spicy dreams. In this particular one, I find a woman I didn't even believe existed-- well, wait, look no one reads beneath the fold even if they read the first bit, so I can say this.
I have never known anyone I could believe would fulfil me. I have never known anyone I could believe could help me find happiness -- not just the fleeting joy I have sometimes known but is all I've known -- but genuine lasting contentment. I have long had fancy ideas about love, about its value, about redemption, about there being people we can meet, naked and real, and not shy away. But I have never known anyone like that.
I have never known anyone who I want to have sex with -- I mean, I generically want it like most men, but I've never got much beyond yeah, okay, with any woman; I've never felt burning desire or anything that could even begin to be labelled passion.
I have never known anyone I could trust, that I didn't need to keep everything wound tight, that I could tell the truth to rather than say nothing for fear of making a constant liar of myself. I have never known anyone who can make me laugh easily and often.
Outside of my family, I have never known anyone I could not bear to lose.
Now I have.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
HollowWe have all done it: found ourselves asking the universe to give us a break. Just give me a week and I will be awesome after that. Just let me get through this thing that is stopping me from it and then I will be the superstar I promise myself I am.
After enough weeks though, it dawns on us that there is no superstar waiting to be revealed, that after this week, we will beg another week, and another, and we will never be anything but the pathetic losers we are begging the universe to forgive us for.
This is why I do not make new year's resolutions. Because I have made so many resolutions throughout the year that I can't even pretend I had any real intention to keep.
I sometimes think about how people -- women mostly because they are the people I have cared what they thought or did, the people I have expected something of, and yeah maybe that's part of the problem -- look at me and see what they want to see. And sometimes if I'm in a quiet place or I'm feeling honest enough, I think about how I am just the same. I look at myself and see someone who never makes a promise he can't keep. And that's true when I'm talking to you. I will not say I will do something I won't, no matter what the cost is. I won't lie to make someone happy.
My promise is golden. I am stupid enough to think that's a virtue when most people would rather have hollow promises because that's what everyone builds their lives on.
Except I will endlessly lie to myself, make promise after promise, and the worst of it is that I tell myself that's because I am the only person I can't care about, and the truth is, I'm the only person I do care about to give the gift of a worthless promise.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
ShameIt's difficult to be a bystander as Ally tries to retrieve her daughter from an abusive man for several reasons.
The simplest is that I am powerless. I can't do anything to help bar be there for her. I read the lies he tells about himself and his children and I realise that although I know them to be lies there is no way for me to show that (for instance, that his new stepson is great mates with C and they spend time together listening to music in her room: the truth is that C is an aspie who doesn't like sharing her space, and the stepson intrudes in it; she shouts at him to get out but he won't -- I know this because I have heard C say so and the other girls say there was shouting between them every night -- but there's no proof, just his willingness to lie and when it comes to it, hers: it's distinctive about her that she overcommits to emotions and has to cast things in her life as black and white to be able to understand them: Daddy good, Mummy bad, there cannot be shades, so if reality does not match that simple frame, she will lie about things even when she knows the person she is lying to is aware they are not that way; or that he encountered the younger girls in a shopping centre and they were unhappy and unsettled, looking around the whole time, and he left them there because he didn't want to run into Alison and cause trouble: the truth is that they were at the shops with me and Ally, and had been happy and relaxed with us -- just moments before laughing at me as I tried not to weep in the brow-threading shop -- and were in my sight the whole time, he spent a few moments with them, looking around the whole time himself, furtive, and left when he saw me approach -- and what upset them was his presence, stirring them into an autistic meltdown, in which they spent an hour telling Ally how his new partner was horrible to them, didn't care about them, gave them smaller lunches than her own sons, how scared they were that he would kill their dogs -- but when you present this to an outsider, there are just two stories and if you do not know us, how can you tell which is true? When you do know us, it's simple: I very rarely lie and of course I have no real reason to invent a story about him, since the plain truth is he is what we say he is and we don't need to lie about that; he has a history of lying in sometimes ridiculous and transparent ways). I fear for C, a confused, angry child, who I have looked on as this man has poisoned her. I know this for a fact because I've seen messages he sent her, I've heard her repeat things he's said, I've helped Ally word emails in which she begged him to stop, to support her, to be a man. Some nights I can't sleep because I'm worried for her: I remember her email, in which one of the most shocking things she said was that he slammed car doors near her fingers to scare her. I see the one time he misjudges it and her fingers are broken. I see him driving recklessly, which he does, again to scare the children, and losing control. I see him picking her up and shaking her, which she confirmed to me herself he had but heartbreakingly said "he didn't mean it", and fear that one time it will be too hard of a shake and she will suffer a counter coup injury and lasting damage.
The worst of it is that we asked him to talk this over and I feel that if he had been willing to talk to me, to listen for just an hour, I could have helped him. For all that I'm sorry for Ally and the kids, I cannot help being sorry for him too. I understand feeling stressed. I understand not coping. I understand how hard it is to not give in to being an arsehole, to cope with noisy kids who won't do what you want, to deal with the pain of a relationship ending, feeling you have failed, that you have "lost". When Mrs Zen found new love, I was not bitter and I wished her well but I think I can understand how painful that may have been for him. Not everyone is as able to let go as I am. I feel like what he has needed in his life is a clear voice that would tell him, you're doing wrong, this is the right path. And from reports, he is capable of it. People tell me he can be a decent guy, loving and warm, although every person I have met -- in person and online -- who knows him has also told me he can come over as an arsehole, a brusque, ignorant fool who upset them on one occasion or another -- on one account, a couple of weeks ago he went to a school disco where one of Ally's friends was present, and he came and stood right behind her, obviously to intimidate her; when she didn't acknowledge him, he went away for a while, then came back and stood even closer -- this is who he is at least sometimes -- a boor who imposes himself on others because he thinks he should matter. When he takes his medication and can cope with his rage issues, he is able to deal with the children without losing his shit. But he hasn't taken his medication in months. He doesn't even feel he needs it. And people around him of course sense his weakness but instead of seeing that they should help him find strength, they think he is like a child, in need of coddling and cocooning. So he can never grow; he is condemned to be a tantruming child, stamping his foot because he can't control others' lives the way he wants. She left me, boo hoo. She dares to move home, boo hoo. The child won't listen, boo hoo.
I say that's the worst of it but there's worse for me. Seeing how C is reminds me of myself and something that I rarely think about because it is so painful. When I was a child, I loved my dad more than anything. When he was at sea, I would push pins into my map to show where he was and where he had been. I would scour the newspaper for mention of his ship in reports on the Cod War, although there rarely were any because no one really cared. I missed him and like Ally's kids I sometimes cried because I couldn't have him in my life.
But he too was an aspie who could not cope with stress and found kids hard to deal with: the noise, the confusion, the doing things wrong. And he would lose his shit with me. And sometimes I would see him be rough with my mum. One time I saw him hit her. One time I saw his hands round her neck. He was moody and difficult, dominated us, scared us. He had no idea whatsoever how to be a father.
(And I want to say, you wouldn't believe this if you knew Dad now, because now he has flourished to allow himself to be the gentle, caring man he also was, and although he is still the centre of his own universe and expects others to fit him rather than the other way round, it's expressed in much more benign ways. I have long ago forgiven him because I understand that he did what his nature compelled him to do and what he was capable of. You cannot despise a person for what they cannot do; only for what they can but won't. What happened to him was that long exposure to a person capable -- not just capable but powerfully able -- of love made him able to change. My mum loved him so much that eventually he had no real choice but to love her back. And I also want to say that the flipside of him was that he could be very kind, very generous. He would give up his time to take me show me things -- things that interested him, for sure, but things he wanted me to share his love for. He did what he was capable of to show me he loved me and I don't want you to think that he didn't love me because I knew he did, at least until I reached my teens, when he found me too difficult to love.)
They had a separation. In the home because no one had the money to live elsewhere. And there was talk -- by which I mean real talk, plans being made -- of them ending their marriage.
I wanted to go with him. I loved my dad so much, so much that I would choose him over my mum. My mum, who had sacrificed so much for me, who had created so much warmth and kindness in my life, who had dedicated her life to me, given up dreams for me, never let me feel unloved or unwanted even on her toughest days. I can only imagine how painful it was for her to hear me say I wanted to be with him more. It's only now when I see Alison in deep deep pain, shaking with sobs, unable to come to terms with how hurtful C is to her, when she has done nothing to deserve it -- and she has not; she is a good mum -- she has her limits as we all do and being who she is she sees only those limits, she refuses to see the warmth she shows her girls, the kindness, the thoughtfulness, the sheer effort she has poured into three sometimes difficult children, to understand them, to give them what they need, to cherish them -- that I understand how much you can hurt a person.
Sometimes, when I was grown, my mum would say to me how guilty she felt that she had smacked me a few times, how she had never been a good mum, how she wished she had been better. And of course I would say, you were a great mum, because she was. She truly was. She was an inspirational mother. Everything good about me I learned from her. Everything good about my sisters -- and they are both good women -- they learned from her.
And what I didn't say, what I wish I would have said but it's like a secret now, a whisper, a shard of ice that we pretend isn't there, and I will never be able to tell her and I wish so much I could, not that it would do anything because the hurt I caused was so long ago, buried, almost vanished, is that I am sorry. I am sorry for how much I hurt her by choosing him, by saying your love was for nothing because because because I don't even know. I do not have any insight into my young heart. I do not know why I wanted what I wanted.
I wish I could speak to C. I wish I could tell her, you do not know it now, you think it's impossible now, but you have no idea that the hurt you are doing your mum will visit you too. A day will come when shame will creep into your life and haunt you and you will not be able to ignore it. And all the pain you caused, you will feel it too. Because you will not always be cruel. A time will come -- I believe it comes for all of us -- when we are reminded that we are not islands remote from each other, we are not inured to one another's pain, we are not monsters. And she is not. She is a lost, confused, hurting child who one day will know that's who she was.
Sunday, November 08, 2015
Practical advice on your path to becoming a huge arseholeSo I promised to guide you in the task of being an arsehole, and typically for me, instead I talked about myself and neglected to do what I'd offered.
Which is lesson one, really.
There are of course different types of arsehole. There are your irredeemable types: thieves, killers, rapists. But these are not the arseholes you're looking for. To be any of these things you really need to be a full-blown sociopath who simply doesn't care a less about other people because you're made that way. In fact, can you even be considered an arsehole if you're not making a choice? There surely has to be the notion that you know better. I do believe that it's central to arseholery that you have a sense you are a precious flower who the rules don't quite apply to, rather than that you don't even know what the rules are.
The quickest route to being an arsehole is to do things you know are wrong: punch your wife, take a stick to your kids, tie up your dog and hit it repeatedly until it is crying with pain. Only full-blown sociopaths don't know these are wrong acts and feel no remorse for them. They're arseholery but the bottom line is, everyone knows it. You can't pretend to yourself that you are that special person you know yourself to be.
Personally, I have never done any of those things and never would. I'm far too precious for that. I would at least like some style points for my arseholery. You're probably the same. You might even have some notion of a scoresheet: you do enough good, it will balance out your failings. But gross acts of cruelty cannot be cancelled out, so you end up something more than an arsehole. You end up having to conclude you are an irredeemable cunt. Which is an uncomfortable feeling, I daresay.
And you miss a nuance of arseholery that the true fucking arsehole insists on: your victims know for sure that they do not deserve what you're doing. They know just as well as you do that you're doing the wrong thing. Well, where's the fun in that? You need another layer, a deeper subtlety, that only the to-the-bone arsehole can delight in. You need your victims to feel guilty about what you're doing. If you are particularly adept, one of the victims will be yourself. You'll never quite be sure whether you are doing the right thing, although you'll keep telling yourself you're trying to. And you'll have an uneasy sense of guilt about it, a nagging sense of ill-ease that won't go away. But you have to be really good at it to achieve that and most arseholes are amateurs who are not really good at anything and cannot hope to be.
So how do you achieve this nuanced arseholery that really hurts other people? There are many ways and I'll outline a few for you. If you find yourself doing these things -- and for some reason want not to be an arsehole -- then stop doing them.
Make promises lightly without any consideration of whether you'll keep them. On a Sunday, promise your child you will take them somewhere midweek, then have something "pop up". The arseholery isn't in having to break your promise: sometimes things pop up, that's understandable. It's in making the promise without even thinking about what might pop up. The delicious nuance here is that the child thinks they are not as important as the thing that popped up, that it's their fault they trusted you to do what you said you would, that they deserve to be neglected because really they're not that important to you.
Repurpose good acts. This is expert level so bear with me. Everyone likes to be shown love. (Unless you are a huge gaping twat, in which case you may prefer "respect" and you might even say things like "better they respect me than love me", which is wrong and if you think that, you not only have love wrong, you also have respect wrong. Respect is not earned. Whoever told you that is a fool. It can be lost but it isn't earned in the first place. You respect people because they are worth something intrinsically. You respect their space, their safety, their desire to have things for themselves because these are essentials to a happy life. And if you don't want other people to be happy, you're an arsehole.) A good way to show love to others is to be affectionate -- not always of course: there are some among us who don't enjoy being touched and that's okay -- you show them love in other ways, beginning with respecting their touchophobia and not making them feel bad about it, which in itself is a super way of being an arsehole -- have a child who doesn't like hugs? Fuck 'em, make them hug you anyway. Revel in their feeling of discomfort and more importantly the sense you are growing in them that they are wrong, not normal. But we are not talking about this simple arseholery. We are looking for something more subtle: using cuddles as currency.
A good father will sometimes need to berate his children. There's probably a golden mean somewhere between not bothering (which makes you an arsehole because you are neglecting the child) and being constantly on the kid's case, a leering, looming presence that tries to inculcate moral lessons by instilling fear (and seriously, what better way of producing your own mini arseholes than imbuing them with a moral code that is based on fear of punishment, rather than a desire for reward?). After you have berated them, a quick cuddle demarcates the lecture from the normal course of your warm and loving relationship.
We all lose our temper and shout at a recalcitrant child from time to time. That's just how it goes. I mean, maybe you don't ever, have never, and if so, congratulations. (Unless the reason you never get upset is you just don't care enough about what anyone else does, in which case, you may be an arsehole.) I don't think you need to beat yourself up for it and it doesn't make you an arsehole. It's a wrong thing but you recognise that and you say sorry to the child, demarcate it from the rest of your relationship and move on.
However, this model can be repurposed. Junior-level arseholes will let the child know there is no demarcation between their anger and everyday life. First, they yell at the child for its stupidity, its clumsiness, its poverty of moral rectitude, and then they will maintain an angry disposition, a mood, for some time after. The higher achievers will find it possible to extend a mood for days, weeks, an entire relationship if they try hard enough. The child is faced with curtness, gloominess, demands for silence and so on. And they are confused. At first, they believed they had infracted a code they don't understand in some minor way. They must have done right? A person who loves them wouldn't be yelling at them and calling them stupid if they hadn't done something wrong, even if the person isn't really explaining what it is. But as the mood extends, the child starts to feel that the infraction must have been more serious. The parent is exhibiting an extended trauma.
(Quick digression on small children and how to read them for my more aspie friends. I learned this from observation and experience and it wasn't easy. You have probably noticed that small children are quite volatile. They get upset easily and their upset is expressed quite dramatically. They are signalling trauma to you because they want attention and they haven't learned well to modulate the signal to the upset. But they get over things quite quickly, usually needing not much more than a bit of reassurance, a kiss on the grazed knee, a big hug. But they do have a different way of expressing upset. An enduring sullen low mood. They reserve it for deeper emotional trauma. It's not always easy to discern because as children get older, if you model it for them, they will learn to sulk instead of storm. The key difference is that a child's sulks are generally short -- just like the storms -- and can be alleviated in the same ways. This becomes less so as they age but essentially it's true: a teen may sulk for longer and may more reassuring but their sulks are different from the expression of deeper emotional trauma.)
When a parent is sulking, the child will try to please them: to offer the kind of reassurance that would work for them. They draw you a picture. They bring you a flower. They are quiet when you ask them to be. But for this kind of arsehole, that doesn't work. They carry on sulking. Nothing can alleviate the mood. So the child begins to fear that the parent is psychically damaged by something they have done. The child is forced to be guilty and it doesn't really know what it's supposed to be guilty about.
This is just the junior level though. You can go one higher. When you are sulking, the child will try to show you affection. You're hurting; it caused it. It wants to make it better. It knows that emotional hurts are eased with affection. So it will come to give you a cuddle. Shrug that bitch off. Let it know you don't welcome affection. If you're a master, tell it, Don't bother me.
This is how you get to the next level. But you are not quite a master. To achieve the eighth dan in affection arseholery, you must do this. Give children grudging affection or affection they don't really welcome. Coerce them to sit on your lap, to cuddle up with you on the couch when they don't really want to. Hug them tighter when they're stiff as boards. Do things that for other kids would be delightful but for them are unpleasant or ambiguous. Kiss them on the lips instead of the cheek. Tickle them until they cry and beg you to stop. When they're bathing, scrub them a bit too hard so they're not sure whether you're angry with them. Unexpectedly smack them, then grab them in a rough cuddle and on release tell them, Don't do it again, so that the demarcation between harshness and warmth isn't clear.
But don't stop there. Once you have ensured most of your affection is grudging or unwelcome, paint yourself to others as a warm and loving person. Make sure people see you do these things so that they, like the child, are never quite sure what is motivating you. If you are adept, you can pass yourself off as a fundamentally kind person with a bit of a problem with impulse control. You are special, which we noted in the first part is the cause and aim of arseholery. But what you are is an arsehole of the highest order.
Don't stop there! A child treated this way is merely confused and unable to process the ambiguity of your behaviour. But you can do worse.
We mentioned smacking. Of course hitting someone you love is the mark of an arsehole. It's unambiguously wrong and you should feel bad if you do it. You are conveying a message to the person you love that the currency of love is violence, that your feeling of love is transmitted to them as pain. Or worse, you are informing them that you do not love them at all. I say worse, but I truly believe that the saddest outcome of parenting is a child who desperately loves you and is forced to try to rationalise the violence you visit on them, that this actually is love. But that is the risk in simply hitting people you love. They might come to believe that you do not in fact love them at all and consequently exclude violence as the currency of love. They stop thinking you're special and just think you're some cunt who hits them all the time.
And you're better than that. You can achieve arseholery without leaving a mark and you can unambiguously destroy love as a feeling for your children. Sounds great hey? But how do you do that?
Not just make them fear you: hitting can achieve that. Not just control them: there are ways to control kids that don't involve being an arsehole and if you actually cared about them you'd have learned what those are (but of course, you cannot do that because you are special and there's no way anyone could actually teach you anything -- it's a curious fact about us that the smarter we are, the more we come to believe others might know more than us, and the dumber we are, the less: the most stupid among us believe they know everything already, and lack the awareness -- probably because it is deeply humbling -- that there are so many things to know, so many different ways to know, that you cannot possibly have all the answers).
What you do is make your relationship coercive. You make those bitches fear you. You make them afraid when you enter a room, afraid that they will upset you, afraid that they will do a wrong thing they cannot predict beforehand, afraid that they will displease you. Because this is the height of arseholery, the pinnacle, that you are the centre not only of your own universe but of everyone else's within your world. This precludes respect so don't respect your children. Don't respect their space, their needs, their fears. Encroach on them when you want to. Give them what you feel like at the lowest cost to you. Make them afraid. Force them to listen to you. They want to run and play but you haven't finished yelling at them? Make those bitches sit like dogs. Yank them into a chair and stand right in front of them. Get your face near to theirs (like dogs, most children do not like faces near theirs, they fear you will bite them -- if you can manage a bit of spittle at this point, it's doubly effective, saliva signals a drooling mouth, one that will shortly bite -- unfortunately, the lesson you are hoping to impart, if you in fact have something you are trying to impart rather than just expressing your own impotence and rage, will be lost on the child because their reptile brain will have taken over -- having a large animal loom before them that is giving signs of preparing to bite, while they are completely unable to escape, will induce elemental terror, deep fear that is entirely instinctual and cannot be assuaged by rationality -- see how this is truly the master level of arseholery? You are not just hurting a child -- you are hurting it in the core of its being). Make threatening gestures that they can't be sure aren't going to turn into slaps. Cow them. Let them know how small they are and how big you are.
Now I'm not saying restraining a child is always wrong. Most of these sorts of behaviour are within limits fine. The arseholery lies in exploiting that ambiguity. For instance, if a very small child is having a temper tantrum, sometimes it's the right thing to do to hug them tight. This keeps them safe and allows them a steady warm presence to get their bearings from. And those trained in dealing with autistic kids will be aware that there is a safe method of holding a child who is having a meltdown and it is sometimes desirable to deploy it. This is something you are doing for them though. But when you use physical force to make a child be somewhere, you are not doing it for them. You are doing it for you. Even if you convince yourself that the high-volume moral lesson you are imparting, which you want them to sit still for, is truly improving for them you are forcing them to listen for your sake. Perhaps you should reconsider the strength of your moral lessons. If they were that compelling, you would not need to force children to listen to them, right? (But of course, if you want to be an arsehole, you are going to need to acquire the belief that your moral sense is absolutely unimpeachable, that you unerringly know what's right and the more forcefully you share that unquestionable moral sense with children, the less likely they will be to do the "wrong thing" -- and let's face it, children do the "wrong thing" very often -- how could they not? They have excellent role models who are displaying precisely the kind of behaviour we deplore in them. It never ceases to astonish me that people who wish to raise children to be honest, loyal, kind and peaceable adults think the best way is to achieve it is to lie to them, betray them, be unkind to them and be aggressive towards them. We have probably all found ourselves saying from time to time, Do what I say not what I do. But that's one lesson a child will never learn.
One of the most powerful ways to let someone know you control them is to control their space. We send children to their room because we are delimiting the space they can inhabit as well as letting them know we don't want them near us. We can make them come to us so we can talk to them. This is fairly benign. We make them inhabit a particular space to demonstrate our control and the tone is properly set for expressing something to them. In fact, I think that you can clearly demarcate types of interaction by manipulating space. If you are planning to indulge the children in your fine moral wisdom, make them come to you. If you are reassuring them when they are upset, or giving them something a bit less Victorian, go to them (don't invade their space if they signal to you not to, however, and never force affection on them: as we noted, that's what arseholes do -- and yes, this does not just apply to children: imposing sex on a woman is the same kind of arseholery -- and we're not talking you just rape her, boys; we're talking about making her feel she has to; guilting her, carrying on when she is clearly not into it but won't say no, pretending consent is enduring rather than episodic -- it's not your fucking entitlement, bro, it's hers: she is entitled to have sex if she wants to, not obliged to because you want to).
But these things are benign and you want to cause pain. Here's a good way. I have done it once in my life and I'm deeply ashamed of myself for it. I learned then how painful it is and how undesirable. Back then, I didn't want to think of myself as an arsehole so I seared the lesson into what I try to pass off as a conscience.
Well, before I do, let's have a think about the concept of space. We understand it on the animal level and lots of how we manipulate it and use it is quite unthinking. Earlier I was talking to Ally, expounding a theory, and I stopped and realised, she had her back to the back door and I was quite close to her. I had "invaded her space". In a benign way, to be sure, and she wasn't showing any signal of alarm. But I had instinctually tried to reinforce the importance to me of what I was saying by crowding her.
I don't think that makes me an arsehole (plenty of other things so I'm excusing that!). I think it's something we understand in each other without feeling it as coercive or ugly. People talk with their heads together. They get close to one another to talk intimately. They position themselves dominantly or submissively depending how they see their roles in conversations. We naturally manipulate space as a paralinguistic tool and I think that's fine. Even things like putting up your hand to signal stop and saying "no wait" when you want someone not to interrupt you are only a little bit arseholey. (I know I sometimes do that and when I think about it, I realise the held-out palm does not just say "stop talking" -- it is intruding into the intrapersonal space and it is also saying "do not move".)
If you want to be an arsehole, dominating space in conversations is not enough. You can certainly get to a low level if you loom over people, if you're intrusive, if you gesture in ambiguous, perhaps slightly threatening ways. And you can certainly be a fucktard by baring your teeth and thrusting your head into someone's space, as men often do when preparing to fight -- this unambiguous invasion of space is meant to provoke the fight or flight reaction (the same reaction that instils the deep terror children feel when restrained by someone shouting at them) and is often coupled by other intrusions into personal space such as pushing. I've often thought that it's wrong to feel that the person who throws the first punch begins a fight -- very often the person they punched began it with the intrusion of space.
So you could push a person or grab them, to intrude into personal space, and at the same time control or change the space someone inhabits. Why push your wife?
Well, you are not just intruding in her personal space, which is always arseholey when not welcome. We're not always clear on this. If you lean into kiss your missus, and she flinches or raises her hand as if to say, no thanks, get the fuck out of her space stat. Unless you want to be an arsehole. Then you need to go ahead and kiss her and if you want to put sauce on it, go "Oh come on" as though to tell her that wanting personal space is the crime here, not intruding on it. Oh that delicious feeling of confusion you give her, as she attempts to process whether she should in fact feel guilty for resisting your intrusion. (BTW, ladies, no you shouldn't. Your personal space should be respected when you want it to be respected, period. That is fundamental and anyone who suggests to you that it isn't is just wrong, probably an arsehole.)
You are also changing the space she inhabits, exhibiting control over where she is physically located. This is psychically painful for us. Studies have shown that being unable to control your environment leads to stress: in some cases, to sick building syndrome. Office workers are stressed because they cannot control the temperature in the office. Windows are much better than aircon in the temperate world. You are unambiguously demonstrating to her that you can decide whether she stands or lies on the ground, whether she is here or there. You provoke the fight or flight response in her, as her underlying brain begins the process of getting its body somewhere it can control its space.
Delicious arseholiness. But don't stop there.
When she tries to flee, as most will -- after all, you were only able to push her to the ground or slam her into the wall because you're stronger than her, and more importantly, regardless your relative strengths, you are more aggressive. When stressed, and your fight or flight response is provoked, you are not as strongly conditioned as she is towards flight; you are more willing to impose physically, whereas a woman is conditioned by society to believe herself physically weak and to prefer flight -- block her exit. Stand by the door. Now you control her. Now the bitch has to listen to every fucking word you want to yell at her. She cannot avoid it. You choose for her the space she inhabits. It's better than deciding which house she lives in (I remember being strongly moved by the story of B's sister, whose husband, an exemplar of an arsehole who certainly wouldn't need the lessons I have to offer, when they were thinking about maybe moving, sold the house they were living in and bought a new one without telling her -- he simply told her one day that they were moving to another suburb, start packing, I'm "going to the gym" (he wasn't going to the gym as such because some time before he had met a woman at the actual gym and by this point, "going to the gym" meant he was going round to her house for sex). Now it may amaze you to learn they're still married but it shouldn't -- when a man is this coercive, this controlling, a woman doesn't feel she has the power to leave him -- it's her fault he fucks other women, it's her fault he shouts at her, it's her fault he has her by the throat -- there is just no way to empower yourself to leave a husband who sells your family home without consulting you) and it's better than trying to coerce her into living in a particular area of town.
It's the ultimate. You have a terrified, panicking human being who wants nothing more than not to be in the space with you -- in that moment, it is their greatest desire, the only thing they want, they have completely lost track of what it was that provoked your rage in the first place, all they can think is "run run run", the adrenaline has shut their thinking brains down -- in fact, you do not even have a human being, you have someone you have reduced to nothing more than an animal consumed with pain and fear.
Only an arsehole would not step aside and let that poor creature gain relief. Only a huge fucking arch-arsehole of the worst kind, a contemptible worm, barely worthy of the proud name "man".
I have been that worm once, just once. It haunts me to this day. I say I'm a fucking arsehole because I know I cannot lie to myself. I did that. I didn't push, hit or otherwise physically hurt my gf. I just wouldn't let her leave a room. And I was introduced to an abyss that I could pour my moral sense into and annihilate it.
Now. You say you want to be an arsehole. And you are. But how are you able to look into that abyss and know that it is all you are?
Thursday, November 05, 2015
How I became a fucking arsehole in three easy stagesWhen I was I don't know 11 years old or something like that a boy who wasn't that nice of a kid said I had a milk gut, maybe I was 13 though, it's hard to recall.
Neil Wildgust, he was not that nice of a kid and you wonder whether he grew to be not that nice of a man because biology is destiny or some rule like that but I'm not sure if I read it or just made it up but certainly I don't understand it because you do have choices don't you?
He was not that nice of a kid and I justify it by peer pressure I justify it by bad parenting I justify it by he didn't understand the redemptive power of love or some rule like that but I'm not sure if I read it or just made it up but certainly I don't believe it because I never got redeemed and I justify every other sinner's bad choices but not mine.
When I reached 14, 15, it became apparent to me I had been marooned on a planet inhabited by another species and not a pleasant one. Mind you, are there any pleasant species? Isn't nature red in tooth or claw? You'd certainly think so if your education in biology consisted of drawing a few cells, skin and what in a generous mood you might describe as male and female genitalia, which, if my memory is to be trusted, mine did.
(Not that I think my memory can be trusted. It's like a poorly designed rummage sale in there. I mean, I did two years of "additional mathematics", which I have a vague recollection was largely to do with trigonometry, but I still couldn't tell you what a sine is.)
I scored 0/10 for female genitalia btw. Which was harsh but fair because you would not wish to be encumbered with what I was trying to pass off as a uterus, I can tell you. I assure you my practical knowledge of that area is quite decent though. I can find a clitoris with the lights off, or at least get within cooee of it. That's not much of a boast though. I've often thought that the idea that men cannot find clitorides was risible since even if they do come in an array of shapes and sizes they are at least relatively in the same place on most women, at least as far as I know. They just don't care to. I say often but I don't remember thinking it more than one other time. There should be a word for that: the memory of memories that you do not actually have. I mean, I remember often thinking it but can't recall any instance of thinking it bar one. There probably is a word in Greek but I learned Latin.
And I remember Neil Wildgust throwing a paper plane at Mr... Mr... Mr... well, at whoever the Latin master was and it's strange, I can remember how his hair was and that he had a certain kind of face but I don't remember his name at all. He was poorly equipped for inspiring young men with the knowledge of the language of ancient Rome but I don't hold it against him: I have been poorly equipped for nearly everything in this life and I expect people to be generous to me about it.
So stage one I never believed I was human. Okay, you could argue that I strongly resembled my "dad" but that just goes to show the cunning of my alien forebears, galactic gypsies who brought babies to Earth like space storks and fooled you people into thinking cuckoos like me are like you by fiddling with our genes -- if we have genes as such -- so that we grow to look like you.
And why would I believe this story about myself (and I did; I'm not even lying -- I very rarely lie, which is one thing that marks me out as not from this planet, since you guys spend practically every waking minute dreaming up new ways to be dishonest about yourselves and to each other)? Because everyone expressed how they felt with a shared emotional language that I did not know how to speak. I learned it, of course, but only by studying you, and I have to be honest (I do have to be honest -- my Earth mother used to claim I had no tact when I was a teen because she didn't understand that I was yet to learn that people expect you to lie to spare their feelings) I have never really become fluent.
The second stage in my becoming a huge bellend was acquiring the belief that because I was not like other people, I should be better than them. I should do better, know better, think better. Which would be admirable if I had coupled it with actually doing better, knowing better, thinking better or in any other way being better than the next guy. It's lucky for me that the next guy is so often a gaping arsehole that simply occasionally remembering to be kind or gentle or thoughtful is enough to vault into the higher percentiles of men.
I mean, shall we not pretend? That is the truth about us, isn't it? It has taken me years to realise I have led a sheltered life. Most of the men I have known have been varying degrees of twat but they have not been particularly dangerous to other human beings. They've been thoughtless, lazy, uninterested, stupid and banal but they have not been pernicious. You might not be able to trust them to take the bins out but they won't thieve your wallet if you leave it lying around.
But they'd probably fuck your girlfriend if you left her lying around. Not that I'm suggesting we can or should control our girlfriend's (or in my case, forgive me for not yet fully having made the adjustment, wife's) sex life.
And yes, we are rapists, thugs, liars, alcoholics, unrepentant dickheads, neanderthal fucktards who walk around thinking the world was created just for us to live in and everyone in it, and in particular women, invented to serve us if we can somehow compel them to, prone to aggressive, poor at handling stress, idiots who find thinking more than one thought an hour too hard, unless we are thinking about pussy (or cock: I don't imagine for one instant that gay men are any less inclined to be ridiculous cockwombles than straights). And on that subject, very few of us are inclined to be in any way accomplished at sex. It's enough that we turn up, whether invited or not. We have centuries, millennia of history of not giving a fuck whether women actually enjoy it and we're not inclined to go against tradition.
I mean, this is what I'm led to believe. Because if I'm anything, I'm a bit naive, and what I've learned, if I've learned a single thing, since leaving my first wife, is that men are on the whole scumbags. I have heard a litany of scumbaggery and downright shittiness that has me almost continually shaking my head, like one of those bobblehead dogs you might have on your dashboard if you're a bit dim. I never even realised what wankers we are. But we are. I have heard about it in excruciating, embarrassing detail. I mean, I want to throw out a blanket disclaimer: it's not all of us because it's not me. Then I get to thinking, has it been me? And from there it's a short step to it's me it's me it's me.
But I think if it really was me I'd recognise it rather than feeling like I definitely am from some other planet.
And I do care about a woman's pleasure btw. I'll freely admit I only care because it's a way of exalting myself: that I can please, that I can serve, that I can be wanted. And I know that nearly the worst experience of my life was having a girlfriend who I couldn't please at all -- and no matter that rationally that was her fault, if fault is the right way to look at it, and I'd be willing to accept it isn't but it feels that way, I felt diminished in a way that was novel to me. I mean, I had to face two ideas I didn't much care for: first, that I only wanted to please if I pleased as is, if it was easy, just a function of who I am. Because that's me in a nutshell: always wanting to be praised for being whatever I am, rather than doing anything praiseworthy. And second, that I am losing vigour, that my body is betraying me, that I am no longer young and -- this is the important thing because becoming old is not a problem in itself, since it has its benefits -- however I feel, will never be young again.
Which leads me to the third stage. Which is nameless and formless and I don't think I can ever really put it into words but what it feels like is that even though I don't care about what you think and I don't care about you at all even if I can do a passable job of looking like I do (and ffs Alison, that "you" is not you; I care about you in a way that I don't think you comprehend since you've never had it, not from anyone in your life, I care about you in a whole-of-being way that has taken me by surprise but you know it when you feel it; I mean the other cunts, darling, so no need to pace round the garden over that one word that you will misinterpret), the only thing I really do care about is that women love me.
Not enough to be loveable obv.
I mean, I suppose I care that my children love me. I mean, I do care about that. But my being isn't created by their loving me. I am not a dad. Being a dad is something I do.
I don't know. I've actually never thought about this and now I do, I realise that isn't wholly true. I can ask, is it integral to me? Did anything change when Zenella was born? And it feels like, nothing inherent, nothing intrinsic did.
But of course some things did. I discovered something powerful I had not known existed before. And I gained an element in my life that will last for all my life. I am not saying a purpose. That's silly.
I think I am trying to say that it doesn't feel precisely like a part of me, not like my liver, or my penis, or my ears. I am trying to say it feels like something I do, like breathing, or eating chocolate, or picking my teeth. Something I couldn't not do. I might try but somehow I'd find myself doing it despite myself.
But I don't think of it as being me. Although I could. I mean, I am a being that breathes. If I gave up breathing, well, I would not be able to be this kind of being. But it doesn't seem intrinsic.
In fact, be honest, your body doesn't always feel like it's intrinsic to you. It often feels like a coat you wear, you have to wear, and not always a comfortable one. And doesn't that suck and suck hard? When you feel like your body is a wet jacket you wish you could just shuck off and let dry by the fire.
But women have defined me, marked out the limits of me, the space that I exist in, and I have only felt able to live when one, or more than one, has loved me.
Yes I'm that needy. I told you I was a fucking arsehole and I wasn't lying.
Sometimes I've settled for grudging acceptance and pretended that was love. Sometimes I've allowed a pale shadow of nothing much to pose as love just so I could feel worth while.
I mean, in the past few months I've had a pretty strong demonstration of how shallow "love" can run, as a succession of women who've spent several years wishing I was happy so long as someone else made me happy have cried bitter tears and sidelined me because they fear I am happy and someone else has made it so. (Which she does. Hey Ally, next time you're agonising over how you can't make my life better, how about you consider this? I'm the kind of arsehole who makes his own life rubbish, who creates enough angst to power a small town without anyone else needing to intervene, and nothing bad, nothing bad at all, has been brought into my life by you, and you are the source, the wellspring, of so much good in my life that seriously I make myself a bit vomity when I think about how awesome I think you are.)
Anyway fuck it. I'm bored. I was going to say more but if you read all this you probably need to read more about as much as I feel like writing it. You got the gist anyway.