Extended Adolescence

I recently read an article by a married woman, a mother, who publicly outed her “eccentric” Dad as a disappointment in her life, with glorious derisive details. She seems to believe that all people feel as she does, when she says, “Here’s the thing about kids with eccentric parents: we never stop holding out hope for normalcy.” I am reminded of the joke and the quote with the punch line “what do you mean we white man.” [see quote below]

As a child of truly eccentric parents, I did go through a phase in adolescence where I burned for normalcy. Then I grew up, realized my parents were mere humans and unique individuals, with stories and lives of their own, unrelated to my fantasies and desires, which were shaped more by peer pressure and the media than they were by need or sanity. It is a rough go when you are perceived as different by your peers, and this is particularly difficult in adolescence, a period of time when young people have very little control over their social accoutrements, and suffer immeasurably from social pressures, however unreasonable they may be. On reaching adulthood we make our own choices, our parents are no longer legally or morally responsible for us, although they usually maintain a loving concern for all that we experience.

So, I was rather disgusted that this adult woman, a parent herself, publicly displayed her father as living a misguided and undesirable lifestyle, living alone and ardently pursuing his harmless hobbies. She concludes that an imperfect relationship is better than no relationship at all, well how generous. That woman is luckier than she deserves to be, that her father is willing to extend himself for such a relationship. That poor man has been waiting a long time for her to grow up.

That she, at her age, still harbours these false standards of acceptability, reveals that she suffers from extended adolescence. That she publicly displays herself as the arbiter of social acceptability, and her father as unacceptable, seems downright arrogant and disgusting.

I consider the woman to be disrespectful of her father, who she acknowledges loved her, cared for her, and laughed with his children. He was not violent. He was not neglectful.

Being loved and cared for by our parents is enough! If they provided that for us, they deserve our respect.

I will avoid reading any other articles by this woman, as I find her ongoing adolescent angst unworthy of serious consideration. I wish her luck with every tiny step she takes towards personal growth, and I hope for her sake that she moves past blaming her Dad for her own shortcomings, and begins to take responsibility for her own inner life.

There are mature, balanced individuals in the world, writing insightful and intelligent articles and posts. I am pretty sure they all felt, for the most part anyway, some version of adolescent angst, and have learned from the experience.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Little House in the City
-11°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Saturday 28 March 2015
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -10.6°C
Dewpoint: -17.4°C
Humidity: 58%
Wind: N 23 km/h
Wind Chill: -19

Country House
-14°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Saturday 28 March 2015
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -13.6°C
Dewpoint: -19.2°C
Humidity: 63%
Wind: NNW 15 km/h
Wind Chill: -21

Quote

“A very popular joke during the 1960s involved the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The joke goes as follows (this is a quote):

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are watching a horde of Indian braves bear down on them in full battle fury. “Looks like we’re in trouble, Tonto,” says the Lone Ranger to his pal. “What you mean ‘we,’ white man?,” Tonto responds.
It has become very popular in recent years as a rhetorical device for essay writers who wish to write about situations where someone takes for granted that someone is his/her ally.

And amazingly enough, this joke appears to have been coined by a classic Silver Age comic book creator.

However, you’d be hard pressed to imagine WHICH one, as it was written by E. Nelson Bridwell, longtime assistant editor to Mort Weisinger at DC Comics! Before Bridwell went to work for DC (where he helped introduce a number of innovations when it came to the world of comic book continuity), he wrote gags for Mad Magazine. And the Lone Ranger joke was one of them.”
Source: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/08/26/comic-book-legends-revealed-329/

12 Comments

  1. I’ve always thought of myself of an adolescent who never grew up emotionally, kind of like that woman you read. But I attribute it to never having had offspring – I missed out on all that experience that parents have to go through, so my personality has, thereby, suffered a great deal from that lack of defining experience. I still find myself blaming my mother for my faults/idiosyncracies/foibles/warts/bunions! Especially my bunions because she forced me to be a young toe dancer when I would plead with her to let me stop! The pain was horrendous! My feet were forever damaged/deformed. But it’s silly now to “blame” anyone… I did get one bunion surgically repaired, so now I only have one…

  2. Bex, quite honestly, that your Mom forced you to be a young toe dancer, that later caused you painful bunions, is not really the kind of thing I was getting at. You are describing a situation realistically, and even when you provide the details I detect no disrespect for you Mother, and an acceptance that she made a mistake. I see nothing adolescent in nature about what you have described.

    I didn’t want to include details about the article, as I couldn’t find it online to quote, and quite frankly, this woman does not deserve to be read, in my opinion. She described her fathers home, what he ate, his interest in his hobbies, all with an air of seething contempt for his wrongness of person.

    You see the difference? You described a mistake your Mom made, respectfully. She described her fathers personal life choices, tastes and values, with contempt. Apples and oranges as far as I can see.

    That woman I read is a mother, and the experience was not defining for her. I think you may have found your defining experiences in other areas of life Bex, other than being a mother, parenting is not the only experience that offers opportunity for personal growth, in my opinion.

  3. WendyNC

    Maggie, I suspect you hit a chord with more than one of us. I was fortunate enough to figure out at a fairly young age that blaming my father gave him continued control over me because I was still applying his views of the world to myself.

    It’s work to assess things on one’s own and then make conscious decisions based on the information gathered (and to be prepared to adjust one’s views based on changing information), but it is so worth it.

    I made a decision not to have children because I didn’t want to repeat the behaviors of the prior two generations (and perhaps farther back than that)–and I had my hands full bringing myself up all over again!

  4. Wendy, what salient points you bring to light, very refreshing.

    You are so right, that to react is to give control to someone else. Your decision to move out of victim mode (if you ever were there), and into self-motivated mode, would have been monumentally difficult at a fairly young age. I think some circumstances “offer the opportunity” (a euphemism) to move quickly through adolescence, sometimes even skipping it altogether, and into full adult style decision making at a very early age, ready or not!

    You are also right that it is work, to assess things on one’s own. Hard work, and sometimes painful work. The work can be made much more challenging as a result of circumstances beyond the control of the individual. There are no magic bullets when it comes to achieving personal balance. And as you say, “it is so worth it.”

    I also find it completely refreshing to hear your views on the decision not to become a parent.

    When it comes to the “Motherhood” issue, I find that social pressures are such that “you are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don’t”… making the only right decision your personal decision.

  5. Maggie:

    I really enjoyed this post.

    Several years ago, the Chattanooga Times did an article about my home – the art, as well as The Sanctuary I’d installed on the back of my property. Everything about my life screams eccentricity and I wear it like a pageant sash.

    I do agree that growing up with my eccentric mother had its very difficult moments, but I had many years when I so highly admired her courage in the face of schizophrenia and alcoholism… an extremely toxic mix. She overcame the drink – schizophrenia haunts for a lifetime.

    There was a moment in the interview when the reporter paused and looked around my home. We were seated in my living room. He stammered a bit and then asked, “How did you become this way?” I remember thinking that no one had ever asked me that question, but I instantly knew the answer.

    I asked that my answer not be included in the article. I gave my mother full credit for my creativity – that my mother had taught me to be fearless. I explained to him that my mother had been an un-medicated schizophrenic. I explained that she didn’t have to think outside the box because she never had a box.

    I gave her all the credit. She taught me to be fearless.

    After he left, that evening I sent him an email and asked that he include all that I’d revealed about my mother in the interview… that I was so proud of her and felt no shame… that I’d only been thinking of protecting her. But after some thought, I realized it wasn’t necessary and that my own courage could perhaps help someone else.

    I agree – the woman you refer to in this post is a donkey. 🙂

    I should in fairness add that any struggles I’ve had with my father have probably been anchored in the fact that I remind him so much of my mother. There have been hurts that every so often need licking again.

    This is something I wrote about a year ago:

    My father rarely thought outside the box. My mother didn’t believe in boxes. This was the alchemy of my childhood. I loved them both madly.

    Much love to you, dear Maggie.

  6. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    It’s sad that someone who appears to have such a harmless parent attacks him in such a toxic manner. It makes me wonder what other people were in her life at a young age that she should be the way she is.

    When it came to growing up, I’ve never really had anyone to blame for who I am – except myself. I don’t remember my father. My mother died when I was 10. I was raised by her parents but they were rather absent in their focus and, while I was loved, I always did feel that I was raising myself from the time my mother died, so I’ve only myself to blame for who I’ve become.

    I hope that woman’s father is blissfully unaware of what she writes about him. There are a lot more important themes out there that need to be written about and presented to the world at large than derisive tales of one’s aging parent and his hobbies.

  7. Reenie, you are a quintessential individual, that you can appreciate what you gained from your mother, rather than focus on the infinity of what was not there. What a tender, balanced approach to life. Awesome.

    I love your sympathetic understanding of your parents familial dilemma, “My father rarely thought outside the box. My mother didn’t believe in boxes. This was the alchemy of my childhood. I loved them both madly.” Your compassion for both your parents shines.

  8. Teri, it is sad, isn’t it! I too wonder about the other people of influence in her youth, who seem to have offered no guidance whatsoever towards a state of maturity.

    I hope her father remains blissfully unaware as well, but since she published her article in a newspaper, under her own name, and provided not only is name but the city where he lives, I have my doubts.

  9. I have to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who have commented on this thread. You have taken the ball and run with it, enriching my words with life stories, and adding more breadth and depth than I could have imagined possible! The world is a warmer, gentler place with you in it!

  10. Thanks, Maggie. Your good writing inspired us. Good writing connects – perhaps the reason our comments are called a thread. They seam the humanity that connects us.

    I wanted to mention that my mother was no longer alive when the article was written.

    My entire childhood she was in denial of her alcoholism though she drank more than a bottle of vodka every day. So, you can imagine the denial about her mental illness.

    I was lucky to innately know never ever to argue with her. Her delusions and insanity were her truth. To argue with a schizophrenic one becomes the enemy. I didn’t enable… I just listened. I treated her with the utmost dignity – it wasn’t always easy – not easy at all. One of my favorite phrases ever ever is: My mother was a lunatic, but she was my lunatic. And I loved her dearly.

  11. NORA

    Hi Maggie,

    I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.

    I would really have to read her article before I could comment.
    Hope this finds you feeling better with spring in the air. x0x0x0x

  12. Nora, I hope the article gets buried where the young woman’s poor Dad will never see it.

    Glad your getting back into the swing of things!

    I saw a robin last week, and another yesterday!

    Spring is in the air! A lot of the snow is melted here at the Little House in the City, but Attila says that Mother Earth is still snuggled deep beneath the white blanket at the country house.

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