Tag Archives: complicated

Complicated

11 Aug

I am a millennial. A twenty-something. A whatever-you’d-call-it. Mostly I’m just a young adult trying to get her shit together. This is my general impression of most members of my generation, whatever their current socioeconomic status. We might have a good job with lots of money and work we love to do, or we might have no job and no money and be getting really fucking bored of the wallpaper in our parents’ basement. But no matter what, for the most part, we’re trying.

The world got a lot bigger for us than it was for previous generations. Sure, the same is true for those other age cohorts as well, but the internet was really quite an impressive thing when it came to exposure-expansion. My generation saw phones go from pixel bots you played snake on to life boxes you can somehow use to do your laundry. On the scale of what’s available to us to see and know and do and talk about, the world got blown pretty fucking wide open.

And we’re trying really hard to put all that shit together and figure it out.

We’re willing to work with gray areas. We’re willing to question and re-think and reconsider. We’re willing to toy with paradigms to stretch discrete units into spectrums. We’re willing to rewrite the rules. We’re willing to rewrite a lot of things, actually.

Let me talk to you about Harry Potter fanfiction.

As someone who fancies herself a writer, I resisted the idea that fanfiction carried any sort of legitimacy for a while. “It’s just copycat. Unoriginal. Cheating. Usually just a facade for slapdash porn, at best.”

Okay, at the point I was thinking those things I hadn’t really read any fanfiction yet. But that’s how stigmas work. You don’t approach the taboo thing because the thing is taboo because… it’s… taboo… because…

*endless loop of unreasoned fear-avoidance*

And then I spent more time on the internet and was exposed to a lot of the “best of” snippets that people posted on facebook and tumblr and such, and my pretension about this genre of writing that can be as good or as bad as any other sector of writing slowly faded away.

Yes, some fanfiction is unoriginal. Cheating. A cheap facade for shitty porn full of too-quick nudity and broke-back sentences.

But some of it is brilliant.

I like what books do to people. I like seeing how my generation has grown up and whipped out our own pens (or, ya know, keyboards) and managed to occasionally add on or change up the writing that was already given to us, in a way that doesn’t feel strange or blasphemous but real and clever. I like seeing how my generation gets to creating, when it comes to the Harry Potter story. I am delighted by the number of good writers it’s gotten talking, because they wanted to put their own spin on our favorite childhood narrative.

But I am delighted, most, by the way it shows how my generation is thinking.

Here, let me show you the particular piece that got me blathering:

prismatic-bell:

cinematicnomad:

aplatonicjacuzzi:

crazybutperfectlysane:

So I was rereading Harry Potter, when I came across this and thought- what if instead of Cedric Diggory, Cassius Warrington had been chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament?Imagine Dumbledore calling out the name of the Hogwarts champion and it isn’t a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw, or even a Hufflepuff, but it’s a Slytherin. A student from a House most people hate.Imagine Cassius Warrington getting up, and three out of four Houses are booing at him and shouting things like “NO!” or, “We can’t have a Slytherin champion!” or demanding a retry. But he’s a Slytherin- he’s been dealing with this shit since he got sorted, so he keeps his head high and joins the other champions.Imagine Harry trying to catch Warrington alone because he doesn’t really want to associate with Slytherins (plus Malfoy has this tendency of being around the guy ALL THE TIME since he got chosen), but at the same time he’s also fair enough not to want him to walk into the first task unprepared.Imagine Warrington walking over to Harry a few months later, and Ron and Hermione both jump into a protective stance, wands out, but instead of attacking Harry he just tells him to stick the egg underwater. (Because Slytherins don’t forget those who helped them out).Imagine Warrington and Harry helping each other out in the labyrinth.Imagine Harry being devastated when Peter kills Warrington- because Voldemort doesn’t care what house they’re form, a spare is a spare.Imagine the uproar that causes among the Slytherins, because some of their parents really are Death Eaters and they know what really happened.Imagine Slytherins fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts and shouting “This is for Cassius!”

Imagine Harry returning with Warrington’s body, and the crowd realizes what’s happened, but Warrington’s parents don’t show up. There’s no one to mourn him, to cradle him in their arms and cry for their son. The Slytherins know why. His parents were Death Eaters, too.Imagine Slytherins reaching out, asking for help from classmates from other houses. They’re terrified, truly terrified because the being their parents claimed would never hurt them because they’re pureblood, they realize that he does not care.Imagine Slytherins in the 5th book sneaking off to join Dumbledore’s Army, to learn more about who Voldemort is without their parents acting as a filter. Imagine the shock when they’re told what he’s really done.Imagine that a few talented Slytherins went with Harry and the others into the Ministry of Magic. The others are a bit wary but they prove themselves as friends.Imagine them being confronted by Lucius Malfoy in the the Hall of Prophecy, and when the Death Eaters descend, they know that any one of them could be their parents.Imagine the shocked gasp of a Death Eater as they realize their own child, a pureblood, is standing defiantly with Harry Potter. They choke back a cry. They can’t let their child know that they were about to duel to the death.Imagine a DA Slytherin facing off against their own Death Eater parent. That they make the decision to let their child defeat them, because in that moment, they realize that they love their child more than they fear Voldemort. They go down, mask unveiled, and the Slytherin kid has to be dragged from the fight before he gets killed.Imagine Book 6 Slytherins getting more friendly and cooperative with the other houses. Two years of Voldemort terrorizing the muggle and Wizarding world, two years where their parents just up and leave some days, cringing from the pain in their arm, two years after the death of the first Slytherin pureblood, Cassius Warrington, killed by Voldemort’s right-hand man, and they’re slowly hitting the breaking point.Imagine Slytherin kids keeping tabs on their parents, sending the information to Harry, who shares it with the Order of the Phoenix, and hoping that their parents won’t be killed.Imagine Book 7 Slytherins low-key rebelling against the new oppressive Hogwarts staff.Imagine the final siege on Hogwarts, where Slytherins stand proudly by their fellow houses, knowing full-well they could be fighting their own parents. Some Slytherins know their parents were in the fighting. They hope to find them first and sneak them away. Their fellow students understand. Professor McGonagall allows 7th Year Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson, to duel a death eater in her stead; her father is under that veil. She knows it.Imagine the aftermath of the battle; every house suffered loses. Slytherin students crying over the deaths of friends they made in every house.Imagine 

 a Cassius Warrington statue made in his honor, the first Slytherin to fight and die nobly with Harry Potter, the boy who lived, in the face of ultimate evil. He was a true Slytherin, and it’s in his name that Slytherin children and their families have cut all ties with the Death Eaters, denounced Voldemort, and are finally living in peace.

#i do enjoy cedric #but this would have been immensely wonderful in many ways (via batty4u) 

Imagine a story in which Harry wasn’t in love with his fellow champion’s girlfriend, but after her boyfriend’s death just hugs her so long, so hard, and says “he wanted to win for you. You should know–you should know he won, he did it for you” and gives her the best hug and shoulder he knows how to be because her parents aren’t there either and she must know why.Imagine Harry staring over her head at everyone else until Hermione steps up–it doesn’t take long, but it takes long enough that when she does all eyes are on her as a source of motion–and says “we’re never going to forget this. They’re not going to get away with it” and the girlfriend just latches onto Hermione and everyone is in wands-out stance convinced she’s about to attack the shit out of Hermione, and then the girlfriend stares into her eyes and says “do you promise me” and Hermione just gives her this super-firm nod and says “I promise” and the girlfriend just collapses on her, sobbing. Imagine Dumbledore trying to give some flowery speech about inter-wizard solidarity while glossing over why, because Slytherins have always been a touchy subject, and Ron gets to his feet and says “Professor, I need to say something important” and Dumbledore is so surprised he just cedes the floor, and Ron–after that awkward moment when he realizes everyone is staring at him–says he didn’t know Warrington particularly, but he knows how Warrington and Harry played. That each was always cheering on the other. Both wanted to win, but neither was willing to undercut the other by underhanded means. He finishes up saying “I think–I think it’s important everyone should know he died being what a champion should be. Because he could have abandoned Harry and instead he stood up with him to play the game the honest way, and he died for it. And–and Slytherin House should be proud, and we should all be proud, because Warrington was a good bloke.” He sits back down all flustered because he didn’t actually stand up meaning to make a speech. And then Pansy Parkinson stands up before Dumbledore can take back control of the room and says “I want to tell Weasley thank you.” And all of Slytherin House raises a glass–to Warrington, to Weasley, to Potter–and the other houses follow suit. Many years later, Wizarding scholars will say that was the moment Voldemort truly lost.Imagine later that summer. Harry gets several owls on his birthday, all unsigned. The birds are plump and pretentious and well-cared-for. He will never know which Slytherins sent him their treasures: parchments with hexes developed by the Death Eaters; a strange locket that will only open if he whispers a special spell but that always shows him the picture he most needs to see; a page torn from a potions book that, brewed properly, will allow him extra time to summon a Patronus by giving him a few crucial seconds not just of happiness but of bliss. It doesn’t matter. Harry knows these gifts not as birthday gifts but for what they really are, and he treasures the locket and copies out the potion to send to Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, and when first summoned by the Order of the Phoenix he marches straight up to Dumbledore with the hexes and says “I can’t tell you where I got these, Professor. But they’re in use by the Death Eaters and I think you should have them.” Months later, Sirius will recognize the spell Bellatrix shoots at him, and will dive out of the way just in the nick of time.The final battle. Everyone is there. Sirius somehow ends up herding a group of Slytherins. They all stare at him and he at them, across a centuries-old divide Voldemort has only succeeded in deepening. Then he remembers the hexes. Harry’s locket, now tucked under Sirius’ shirt because Harry’s friends are with him in this battle but most of Sirius’ are dead. The moment that happiness potion saved Remus’ life, his very soul. Snape’s final words to Harry, finally seen not as mockery but real true advice. What Harry said Voldemort said–his first words in his new form. They are kids, and they are sharing the same kind of hurt he once wouldn’t admit to, watching his mother burn his name off the family tree. “When we go in there, it’s going to be hell,” he tells the Slytherins. “Some of you are probably going to die. I might go down too, and if I do I want your best curser in the front. But I want you all to remember one thing. There are no spares.”  Later retellings of the battle never fail to mention the moment a group of angry, screaming teens burst into the Great Hall, wearing their green and silver as the badge of honor it should be, shouting NO SPARES, NO SPARES at the tops of their voices in between hexes and curses and the occasional physical punch. When Hermione is present, she always interrupts the storyteller to be sure everyone knows about the moment Blaise Zabini shoved her to the floor, dropped on top of her, fired off three curses in rapid succession and said “stay alive, Granger, we need you” before jumping back to his feet and vanishing into the melee–how, for all anyone knows, those may have been his last words, and she will not let his sacrifice go unnoted. The aftermath. Malfoy holds out a hand to Sirius, badly injured on the floor. Sirius asks how Malfoy is willing to trust him. Malfoy nods at his chest. “You’ve got my godfather’s locket,” he says, and when Sirius and Harry finally speak after the battle Harry gives his full agreement to the very first thing out of  Sirius’ mouth. They give the locket to Malfoy. Sirius grits his teeth and closes his eyes and opens them and says “He probably saved my life, giving Harry that.” He doesn’t say thank you. Malfoy hears it anyway. The school reopens under a single banner: the four Houses united. The House rivalry is reduced to just that–a competition in fun–with those deep divides slowly healing to scars, and eventually away to nothing at all.Imagine it.

prismatic-bell:

cinematicnomad:

aplatonicjacuzzi:

crazybutperfectlysane:

So I was rereading Harry Potter, when I came across this and thought- what if instead of Cedric Diggory,Cassius Warrington had been chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament?

Imagine Dumbledore calling out the name of the Hogwarts champion and it isn’t a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw, or even a Hufflepuff, but it’s a Slytherin.A student from a House most people hate.

Imagine Cassius Warrington getting up, and three out of four Houses are booing at him and shouting things like “NO!” or, “We can’t have a Slytherin champion!” or demanding a retry. But he’s a Slytherin- he’s been dealing with this shit since he got sorted, so he keeps his head high and joins the other champions.

Imagine Harry trying to catch Warrington alone because he doesn’t really want to associate with Slytherins (plus Malfoy has this tendency of being around the guy ALL THE TIME since he got chosen), but at the same time he’s also fair enough not to want him to walk into the first task unprepared.

Imagine Warrington walking over to Harry a few months later, and Ron and Hermione both jump into a protective stance, wands out, but instead of attacking Harry he just tells him to stick the egg underwater. (Because Slytherins don’t forget those who helped them out).

Imagine Warrington and Harry helping each other out in the labyrinth.

Imagine Harry being devastated when Peter kills Warrington- because Voldemort doesn’t care what house they’re form, a spare is a spare.

Imagine the uproar that causes among the Slytherins, because some of their parents really are Death Eaters and they know what really happened.

Imagine Slytherins fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts and shouting “This is for Cassius!”

Imagine Harry returning with Warrington’s body, and the crowd realizes what’s happened, but Warrington’s parents don’t show up. There’s no one to mourn him, to cradle him in their arms and cry for their son. The Slytherins know why. His parents were Death Eaters, too.

Imagine Slytherins reaching out, asking for help from classmates from other houses. They’re terrified, truly terrified because the being their parents claimed would never hurt them because they’re pureblood, they realize that he does not care.

Imagine Slytherins in the 5th book sneaking off to join Dumbledore’s Army, to learn more about who Voldemort is without their parents acting as a filter.

Imagine the shock when they’re told what he’s really done.

Imagine that a few talented Slytherins went with Harry and the others into the Ministry of Magic. The others are a bit wary but they prove themselves as friends.

Imagine them being confronted by Lucius Malfoy in the the Hall of Prophecy, and when the Death Eaters descend, they know that any one of them could be their parents.

Imagine the shocked gasp of a Death Eater as they realize their own child, a pureblood, is standing defiantly with Harry Potter. They choke back a cry. They can’t let their child know that they were about to duel to the death.

Imagine a DA Slytherin facing off against their own Death Eater parent. That they make the decision to let their child defeat them, because in that moment, they realize that they love their child more than they fear Voldemort. They go down, mask unveiled, and the Slytherin kid has to be dragged from the fight before he gets killed.

Imagine Book 6 Slytherins getting more friendly and cooperative with the other houses. Two years of Voldemort terrorizing the muggle and Wizarding world, two years where their parents just up and leave some days, cringing from the pain in their arm, two years after the death of the first Slytherin pureblood, Cassius Warrington, killed by Voldemort’s right-hand man, and they’re slowly hitting the breaking point.

Imagine Slytherin kids keeping tabs on their parents, sending the information to Harry, who shares it with the Order of the Phoenix, and hoping that their parents won’t be killed.

Imagine Book 7 Slytherins low-key rebelling against the new oppressive Hogwarts staff.

Imagine the final siege on Hogwarts, where Slytherins stand proudly by their fellow houses, knowing full-well they could be fighting their own parents. Some Slytherins know their parents were in the fighting. They hope to find them first and sneak them away. Their fellow students understand. Professor McGonagall allows 7th Year Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson, to duel a death eater in her stead; her father is under that veil. She knows it.

Imagine the aftermath of the battle; every house suffered loses. Slytherin students crying over the deaths of friends they made in every house.

Imagine a Cassius Warrington statue made in his honor, the first Slytherin to fight and die nobly with Harry Potter, the boy who lived, in the face of ultimate evil. He was a true Slytherin, and it’s in his name that Slytherin children and their families have cut all ties with the Death Eaters, denounced Voldemort, and are finally living in peace.

#i do enjoy cedric #but this would have been immensely wonderful in many ways (via batty4u)

Imagine a story in which Harry wasn’t in love with his fellow champion’s girlfriend, but after her boyfriend’s death just hugs her so long, so hard, and says “he wanted to win for you. You should know–you should know he won, he did it for you” and gives her the best hug and shoulder he knows how to be because her parents aren’t there either and she must know why.

Imagine Harry staring over her head at everyone else until Hermione steps up–it doesn’t take long, but it takes long enough that when she does all eyes are on her as a source of motion–and says “we’re never going to forget this. They’re not going to get away with it” and the girlfriend just latches onto Hermione and everyone is in wands-out stance convinced she’s about to attack the shit out of Hermione, and then the girlfriend stares into her eyes and says “do you promise me” and Hermione just gives her this super-firm nod and says “I promise” and the girlfriend just collapses on her, sobbing.

Imagine Dumbledore trying to give some flowery speech about inter-wizard solidarity while glossing over why, because Slytherins have always been a touchy subject, and Ron gets to his feet and says “Professor, I need to say something important” and Dumbledore is so surprised he just cedes the floor, and Ron–after that awkward moment when he realizes everyone is staring at him–says he didn’t know Warrington particularly, but he knows how Warrington and Harry played. That each was always cheering on the other. Both wanted to win, but neither was willing to undercut the other by underhanded means. He finishes up saying “I think–I think it’s important everyone should know he died being what a champion should be. Because he could have abandoned Harry and instead he stood up with him to play the game the honest way, and he died for it. And–and Slytherin House should be proud, and we should all be proud, because Warrington was a good bloke.” He sits back down all flustered because he didn’t actually stand up meaning to make a speech. And then Pansy Parkinson stands up before Dumbledore can take back control of the room and says “I want to tell Weasley thank you.” And all of Slytherin House raises a glass–to Warrington, to Weasley, to Potter–and the other houses follow suit. Many years later, Wizarding scholars will say that was the moment Voldemort truly lost.

Imagine later that summer. Harry gets several owls on his birthday, all unsigned. The birds are plump and pretentious and well-cared-for. He will never know which Slytherins sent him their treasures: parchments with hexes developed by the Death Eaters; a strange locket that will only open if he whispers a special spell but that always shows him the picture he most needs to see; a page torn from a potions book that, brewed properly, will allow him extra time to summon a Patronus by giving him a few crucial seconds not just of happiness but of bliss. It doesn’t matter. Harry knows these gifts not as birthday gifts but for what they really are, and he treasures the locket and copies out the potion to send to Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, and when first summoned by the Order of the Phoenix he marches straight up to Dumbledore with the hexes and says “I can’t tell you where I got these, Professor. But they’re in use by the Death Eaters and I think you should have them.” Months later, Sirius will recognize the spell Bellatrix shoots at him, and will dive out of the way just in the nick of time.

The final battle. Everyone is there. Sirius somehow ends up herding a group of Slytherins. They all stare at him and he at them, across a centuries-old divide Voldemort has only succeeded in deepening. Then he remembers the hexes. Harry’s locket, now tucked under Sirius’ shirt because Harry’s friends are with him in this battle but most of Sirius’ are dead. The moment that happiness potion saved Remus’ life, his very soul. Snape’s final words to Harry, finally seen not as mockery but real true advice. What Harry said Voldemort said–his first words in his new form. They are kids, and they are sharing the same kind of hurt he once wouldn’t admit to, watching his mother burn his name off the family tree. “When we go in there, it’s going to be hell,” he tells the Slytherins. “Some of you are probably going to die. I might go down too, and if I do I want your best curser in the front. But I want you all to remember one thing. There are no spares.”  Later retellings of the battle never fail to mention the moment a group of angry, screaming teens burst into the Great Hall, wearing their green and silver as the badge of honor it should be, shouting NO SPARES, NO SPARES at the tops of their voices in between hexes and curses and the occasional physical punch. When Hermione is present, she always interrupts the storyteller to be sure everyone knows about the moment Blaise Zabini shoved her to the floor, dropped on top of her, fired off three curses in rapid succession and said “stay alive, Granger, we need you” before jumping back to his feet and vanishing into the melee–how, for all anyone knows, those may have been his last words, and she will not let his sacrifice go unnoted.

The aftermath. Malfoy holds out a hand to Sirius, badly injured on the floor. Sirius asks how Malfoy is willing to trust him. Malfoy nods at his chest. “You’ve got my godfather’s locket,” he says, and when Sirius and Harry finally speak after the battle Harry gives his full agreement to the very first thing out of  Sirius’ mouth. They give the locket to Malfoy. Sirius grits his teeth and closes his eyes and opens them and says “He probably saved my life, giving Harry that.” He doesn’t say thank you. Malfoy hears it anyway.

The school reopens under a single banner: the four Houses united. The House rivalry is reduced to just that–a competition in fun–with those deep divides slowly healing to scars, and eventually away to nothing at all.

Imagine it.

(via sci-fantasy)

(original post here)

JKR gave us these books, seven wonderful, complex books with a story about bravery vs. cowardice, right vs. wrong, light vs. dark, and they were good. Really good. Something we could all pretty much get behind.

But then we readers grew up and came of writing age, and while we all appreciate what was given to us, I see in our fanfic how we also sit down and look at the world and look at each other and go, “Yeah, but what if it were more complicated than that…”

And that makes me really goddamn proud.

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Parents

27 Jun

I don’t write normal parents. Not that I write parental figures with seven limbs, or serial killer tendencies. I just don’t write “traditional,” functional relationships between parental figures.

Yeah, hi there Freud. I see you smirking over there in a corner.

The more I’ve written, the more I’ve come to notice about my abnormal parent figures. The fathers, for example – most of the time, they just don’t exist. My earliest stories, written in the big, round handwriting of an eight or nine year old, they just didn’t have father figures in them. The absence wasn’t a key component; it just was. Without explanation or ado. It was just the norm for my characters, something they didn’t think twice about.

Makes sense, seeing how for a very long stretch of my life, it was something I didn’t think twice about either. Business trips, golf trips, hunting trips, gambling trips, affair trips. My father’s presence was an anomaly, not a rule. I simply didn’t know how to write about present fathers. I had no material.

Mothers, however… Even before I hit puberty, they got a broader ranger of characterization. They were present, for one thing. Sometimes, they were caring. Or neutral, at the very least. NPC’s there for the main character to interact with, if not exactly salient actors in and of themselves. Other times, though…

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three pieces of writing with abusive mother figures in them. Around thirteen or so, I spent my nights angrily scratching out a story of a nineteenth-century, Sarah-the-little-princess-esque near-orphan girl whose central conflict was with a physically abusive mother. The narrative was basically F. H. Burnett’s novel boiled down to a purely familial relationship. The horrid school teacher became a sort of evil stepmother figure – minus the “step.”

Abusive mother figures have shown up again and again in my writing. Left alone to parent because of an inexplicably absent husband, they take out their anger of what life has dealt them on the children life has dealt them as well. They cause silence in their daughters. They cause their girls to withdraw and go insane. They yell. They hit. They degrade.

They are not my mother.

My mother has always been more of a passive victim, or inactive co-conspirator at worst, in my eyes. My worries around her have been of the protective sort. When it came to the battles between her and my father, my mother is always the one I have sided with. I have been frustrated with my mother, yes, but more for her inactivity. She has accepted my father’s maelstrom. She has not fought back. Even when I needed her to.

And yet she, in her many literary representations, is the one that I have made the abuser.

Perhaps it’s because in some way, I do hold her responsible. She didn’t stop my father. She taught me to shut up and keep quiet about it. She passed on a sense that I must just deal with whatever shit I’m served. That having someone and taking their blows, emotional or otherwise, is better than having no one.

Over the course of my childhood, I asked her again and again to do something about this father of mine. Tried to make it clear how it was hurting me. Hurting my younger sister. Hurting her.

Her response was largely to shove her head in the sand.

With the life experience and therapy and psychology education that I now have at 23, I can rationalize her actions. I understand victimization. I understand co-dependency. I understand the fear that leaving something bad will only result in something worse. I understand. I do.

But I think that growing up, and perhaps even now, some part of me still holds her responsible.

Why not write father figures that are abusive? Why not assign the blame where blame is more truthfully do? The defensive answer is that it’s my writing, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please, thank you very much.

The more truthful answer is that I’m not sure I could handle it. Not sure I want to have to handle it. I already dealt with one abusive father, thank you very much. Why would I create even more, in my writing? I have a mother that I love. That I want in my life. Even with all of her fretting. So even if I write a culpable mother figure in my stories, I still have a less culpable one to return to.

I cannot say the same of my father.

So much of writing is a sort of authorial wish-fulfillment. While 99% of my narratives barely involve a father figure at all, the 1% that do feature fathers that look nothing like my own. In a YA manuscript I begun writing at the the age of 14 and have been editing ever since, there is a father figure that I am fairly shocked by. He is calm and gentle. Scholarly and patient. Quiet and fiercely caring. He cares for both his daughter and his wife. He might disagree with his well-meaning but overly-fretful wife sometimes (the fictional mother who comes closest to my own), but he does not belittle her.

Ah, hello there, fairy tale father.

I find it somewhat comforting to know that in the narrative that contains the most real version of my own mother, I would assign her a partner much better than the one she’s got. Even with all of the frustration I channel at her through those other less-realistic mother figures, when it comes down to the “real” her, I would wish her more happiness than what she has, rather than punishment. I want better for her.

I want better for myself.

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.