“Kubrick viewed the institution [of marriage] as an existentialist hell where each partner dutifully plays a ‘role’ inimical to the other … ‘Hell is other people,’ Sartre famously said. In Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining, each family member is an ‘other.'”
—Beverly Walker, in Anatomy of an Actor: Jack Nicholson (Cahiers du Cinema, 2013)
“I talked to my mother today,” she said, before catching herself with the next beat of thought: “Oh, why did I just say that?”
It was pretty clear: “Um … I’m a ‘free’ best friend?”
(Like the function I had to perform for each of our parents — all the while, of course, juggling the necessity of helping them avoid the embarrassing implication of their needing to — I had to serve as “in lieu of” outside-the-family-and-thus-risking-failure social “significant other” placeholder for them. You know: just for “practice.” Just ’till they got the hang of it. Just ’till … )
BY MY COUNT: If memory serves, once in person; once on the phone before that; and — this is jogging memory, right? — since those didn’t strike me as being the only times, this gets us thrice, maybe four times, over the 10+ years after graduating college.
She’s a big girl, now, though!
(“Am I done? Can I go? No? Well, I still have to recoup all this lost time—“)
“As [Marie-Louise] von Franz reminds us [in her book, The Problem of the Puer Aeternus], it is a familiar plot of the unconscious to distract the hero (human consciousness striving towards wholeness) by proposing philosophical questions at the very moment when he most needs to confront the demands of his instinctual nature.”
—Sallie Nichols, in Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey (1980)
THE RUNNING GAG COMES HOME: At the college, we were so aware of the blank looks you tended to get from people (not at a peer university, grad school, or professional level) when you told them you went to the Univ. of Chicago that some t-shirts (lamely, I’ll admit) were printed up: “ANY IDIOT KNOWS ABOUT HARVARD / [kids’ crayon drawing of a school] / BUT ONLY SMART PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT U OF C!”
I should have got one for my parents.
Near as I can figure it — 20 years after graduating, 19 yrs. after attempting suicide, presaged by a year-long decline upon return to my “nest,” and, at that, at the female parent’s behest — the thing that must have occurred, was, “Since we live in arbitrary, fixed, roles; and Boston College’s a good school; he must be making a fixed, arbitrary decision — including looking resigned to it, going so far away, to a place he’s hardly heard of, in the nation’s 3rd-largest city — for no real reason at all!”
No: you get into a good school (1990 rankings, see previous, “other” choice), a top school (1990 rankings, behind 6, ahead of 2, that makes 8, you wanna tell my mom & dad in 1990 there are eight schools in the Ivy League?), you’ve got no choice (those are “what’s available”): you go to the top school!
“I’m a loser, so why don’t cha kill me?”
“He’s my son, so I’m intent on coddling him?”
“He’s pissing me off, ’cause my husband’s humoring him?”
“How do I tell him I sat there for two years at the dinner table and didn’t dare reveal I only found out when I failed to follow him, inexplicably, out there?” [HINT: A “legacy” is what it’s called when your parent goes there; if you’ve got a shot of getting in, you get in. See how I’m supposed to fill more than one (1) role for these people, and others just bleed in? I am, too … by now!]
Too late to learn, by the time I tried to off myself, or close — or could have, for less than nothing, for something that was contra-accurate — that just because your fixed role became your way of coping, then became what you saw other things as, that, yes, there was, had been, every single “tell” in place, every red flag, if you chose to interpret them, about why I’d no intention of going to B.C.
(Arbitrariness sees only arbitrariness . . . once it gets that far gone!)
“Delusion is, after all, something writers of fiction try to encourage in their readers, at least during the time that a book or story is open before them, and the writer is hardly immune from this state of . . . what shall I call it? How does ‘directed delusion’ sound?”
—Stephen King, in his “The Importance of Being Bachman” Introduction to the 1996 ed. of The Running Man
That means on purpose, though, folks.
(“Deliberateness,” is, after all, achieved!)
“He has entered into a zone of hidden disorder, one in which imaginative hallucinations of worldly fortune as well as fame somehow morph into reality.”
—Anthony Walent, in Communicating Vessels #26, “Shadows of Noir Theatre”
It was fun, recognizing that dude who couldn’t play drums, after he got kicked out of the band I was in, when he strolled onto my [parents’] lawn, with his then-girlfriend — “Hey, you again!”
So, I waited, until I broke, and he ate beer & wings and played “Dad” a few times (camp, school for wayward girls, etc.) until the “big day” (my all-told,’till-then, Best-Friend Deirdre’s funeral — she was 31) when he revealed, nonchalantly: “I still think about you a lot.”
Like, I’m supposed to suppress the obvious response: “What, do you tell your wife that? Hey, honey: remember that guy who was one of the guests at our wedding? [TRUE!] Well, I know I’ve got this life with you & the kids and everything, but … boy, I still think about him a lot!”
Work left undone? Someone else’s burden, am I?
Cat got your tongue?
(Go on living, with your full days, Mr. beer & wings “Dad” … no-one (least of all me) will reel you in!)
“Writers are never self-generated, but come from somewhere.”
—Günter Grass, in On Writing and Politics: 1967-1983 (1985)
When I was about 11, I had a dream — too vivid, detailed, and totally unsurreal — to have any doubts, left, afterward: I woke up unambivalent. (I had not been asked my “opinion” on the matter!)
I still had to go to school that day.
“Creative work is very hard, and some sort of self-deception is necessary simply in order to begin.”
—Sidney Lumet, in Making Movies (1995)
“That was one thing you could never be certain of with Mrs. Semprill—whether she told her lies consciously and deliberately as lies, or whether, in her strange and disgusting mind, she somehow succeeded in believing them.”
—George Orwell, in A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935)