I don’t know.
Is it fashionable to be a mess? Take the briefest of looks at the world around us, our celebrities, our sensations. I think the answer—maybe more so than ever—is yes. A mess is interesting, entertaining—again—fashionable.
But is it healthy? Is a messy kitchen healthy? A messy bathroom?
“Forgive me. I’m such a mess!”
“Cool, but I caught Salmonella from your cooking and Hepatitis E from your shitter.”
Knowing you’re a mess doesn’t excuse it. Just, like, clean up. Other people exist.
As for the brutal honesty card—“Mom and I basically suck, kid. Sorry.”—I have no problem with it; it’s just that I think it should be played less like an apologetic Wild Card in UNO—“This is all I have!”—and more like a card requested in Go Fish.
I view matters like these through a rosy lens, I know. My parents were wonderful when I was young. They clearly loved me, loved each other, never came close to fighting, indulged my interests, all that. Probably because of them, I am—or at least I consider myself—a good parent. I have plenty of personal failings, sure, but Grammar will remain unaware of them for a long time to come. When he’s old enough to realize that I’m just another person, then out with the brutal honesty. When he wants to hear it, he will hear it. Before that point, though, I think professing my weaknesses would be more for my benefit than his—excusing myself for being shitty in front of him, <quote-01>letting myself off the hook<quote-01>, something like that. Besides, if I’m aware of a personal shortcoming to the extent that I can name it, I should go about addressing it.
There’s also the fact that I revere the sanctity of his—or any—childhood so zealously that I’d never willingly do anything to tarnish it. I am, thus, by default and enthusiastically on my best behavior in front of him, at my most loving and selfless.
Do people with shitty childhoods act shitty in front of their kids more often? I’d guess they do. Can they help it? I think they should try.
Little ones deserve the best versions of us, their parents. The cement is setting forever right now. We should keep our goddamn careless footprints out of it.
I guess I conceive of it all like I do a romantic relationship: a person’s childhood should be like the honeymoon stage of their life. As a parent, I think my foremost job—beyond the absolutely essential feeding, clothing, sheltering, and loving—is to help maintain and prolong this honeymoon with life as long as possible. And anyway, aren’t we <quote-02>head-over-heels in love<quote-02> with our young children? Shouldn’t it be, like, easy to be that most wonderful version of ourselves, at least until our kids become shitty teenagers? If you can’t treat them like you would a person you’re newly in love with, then, maybe, don’t have kids. You’ll probably be a happier person, right?
Maybe this dovetails with your fear of failure, Wuck, with your urge toward responsibility. A question for you: which fear is greater? <quote-03>The fear of failing in an arts-related career or the fear of failing as a provider?<quote-03> What, do you think, are <quote-04>Sarah’s expectations of you?<quote-04> All I can say is that your current plight resonates deeply with me, and that I hope something wonderful goes your way soon. I don’t, like, root for all of my friends. I’m rooting for you.
<quote-05>For what it’s worth, I think you’ll be a tremendous father<quote-05>.
I have no idea about Sarah as a mother. I think it’s a difficult thing to guess about a person without knowing them intimately. I’ll just say <quote-06>I hope she loves it<quote-06>.
In a not entirely unrelated note, I never realized how much I actually do for work until this pandemic mess. Running a day’s class session, I see now, is the sum of all the similar sessions that came before. I haven’t had to worry about, say, tomorrow morning’s English 102 class for years because I’ve taught similar sessions for a decade, making little improvements every time. Proust has a lot of disparaging remarks about habit, but when it comes to teaching, habit and repetition have made my life much easier; I’d dare say happier. But now, every fucking day, two or three times a day, I have to reconsider my previous successes, deconstruct them into their essential components, and reconfigure those components in an utterly novel online package. I was, for the sake of comparison, like the most efficient and simultaneously most unruffled gallbladder surgeon in Orange County. I could slurp out that thing on autopilot. But now I’ve been asked to start using a laser scalpel and robot forceps remotely from my home office, and the newness is taxing, reminds me constantly of the many moves I’ve been taking for granted. Add to all this that I no longer have office hours to knock out grading and lesson planning in peace and quiet, and that I now have to barter at home for time to fucking work as opposed to goof off, and it’s a <quote-07>bummer<quote-07> of a scene.
And, man, do I miss baseball—for so many reasons. Right now, though, I miss its ability to underscore the mundane and menial. How easy it is to grade papers to a lopsided ballgame on mute! How quickly I can respond to student emails in the commercial break of a close one!
July 4th is a date I heard today. Never would I more sincerely God-bless America.
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