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Telephone

Wednesday 12/2/20

I took a peek at Twitter, as I was posting something about Nicholas Ray and his 1952 film, The Lusty Men, and saw a kerfuffle pertaining to Aubrey Huff, ex-MLB ballplayer, hardcore conservative, and, frankly, kind of like a cruel Chad. Chad, in Meatheads, is destructive and often selfish--in part because of ignorance--but he's not cruel. My sense is that Huff has little in his life, despite his wealth, craves attention--as so many people do, wealthy or otherwise--and takes to Twitter to express his boorish opinions. Then other people get very upset. They take it very personally. I don't understand this. What Huff said, prompted by no one--which is how Twitter in large part works--was that men who marry or date women with children from another man are not sufficiently masculine themselves. Cue lots of rage. Why would you care? It's like me with the ballet. I love the ballet. I go to the ballet often by myself. I am sure someone like Huff, who is boorish, crass, simple, stupid, angry, and, clearly, afraid of much, would term this less than manly. So? I find that a pretty innocuous thought. A stupid person's thought. A scared person's thought. It seems like I should be offended by this, given that I'm adopted. My late sister was also adopted. My surviving sister is not adopted. In one way, I had a biological mother who did not wish to have me. She gave me life, which is more than she might have done. Then she gave me up. She was sixteen when that happened. Then my parents were my parents. But what happens when you watch something like this, is you see how everyone twists and distorts to wring max offense, and to make remarks pertain to them, even when they don't at all.


Do I think it's stupid to think this way that Huff does? Yes. Could I see how someone, who does not think, might think this way? Yes. I can go through the remedial, limited thought process, even if it's highly flawed. It's not some completely foreign, ungraspable concept. I mention it because though this looks extreme, a statement of this nature, you'd get a similar result if you said that you wouldn't wish to date or marry someone who already had children, leaving out the "you're less of a man" part. People would say the same thing. "My biological father was a drunk, he left, my stepfather stepped up, you're saying he shouldn't have." Etc. I personally envision myself with someone who does not have children. Somewhere in the twenty-eight to thirty-two range. For me, I'd not be interested in kids, because there is just so much in life for me, and I'm going to need all of my time and energy to explode into all of that. And I'd like to find someone who feels that way within the context of "us," if you will. When we know each other. I feel like I'm unlike someone anyone will ever know. I was talking to someone recently about this, and they asked me what if a woman had a child like the girl I used to mentor. First off, I'd say that's pretty unlikely. The girl I mentored--and the family turned out to be a group of bad people--possessed more mental acuity than anyone I've ever known. And we had a connection that was uncanny, and maybe the one real connection I've had in my life. I don't think that's very repeatable with a young person. The experience changed my life. I wrote about it enough in these pages. Changed me as an artist, too. Which really is my life.


Earlier this week I wrote a short story for Longer on the Inside called "Telezone," which is about a game of telephone, and the girl who is last in line in the game hears something, twice, in her ear that is dreadful. Terrifying. Truly disturbing. We have the impression that she didn't actually hear this, in that it wasn't what was actually said, but she thinks she heard it. She is going to be sick, excuses herself to go the bathroom, and when she's coming back to her classroom, she stops at the payphone, to play another game of telephone, to make a real call. We don't know exactly how old she is, but I'm not a writer who has to say what the age number is. I'm a writer who gives you enough info. Then it's up to you. The teacher could ask the class, the people in the class could raise their hands, and they could say what they think the girl's age is, and if the teacher asked why they thought that, they could give reasons why, in this story, the girl is probably in second or third grade. Tell tell tell tell tell tell tell tell tell is not writing. But that's what everyone does. Her mother is gone. We don't know exactly what happened to her mother, but, again, given the way that the initial game of telephone plays out, we also have an idea. The point is she's gone. And this girl, with a very real concern, fear, terror, she cannot shake, calls her father--her step-father. Who we understand is her caregiver now. She has to ask something, and when he answers her, he has a statement, and a question. She goes to answer the question, but the game of telephone rears its head again, and what comes out of her mouth is not what is in her head. That's how telephone works, right? The phrase at the beginning gets turned into a different phrase, unintentionally, by the end. It's a brilliant story. But it's partially on this same idea that everyone is discussing today.