Saturday, October 2, 2010

the art of defense

when i was freshly twenty-one, living on my own for the first time in atlanta, i made a giant mistake.

i called my father for father's day.

normally, father's day is set in place by the creators of all the holidays in america, hallmark, to be a day that dad's can revel in their dadness. "look at how my sons have grown... big and strong and tough..."; "i may not have had a rulebook, but i sure did raise some good kids..."; etc.

"i hope you have a great father's day dad... how are you playing today? mmhm. yup. what's that? um, well, i'm serving at a restaurant downtown. yes, i'm dancing too. no, it's paid performances, unpaid rehearsals. well... well, no, i hadn't really - but i don't want to get - dad. dad, i don't need to - can we not do this right - ???"

a wish for a happy father's day went downhill fast. effect... me on my couch, in tears, listening to him tell me that my whole love for ballet as a career was a sham, and how i would never make enough money to survive in the real world.

and here i am, surviving, and writing about that memory.

i share a peculiar relationship with my father. we are two ducks in a pond, siskel (rip buddy) and ebert, martha stewart and robert morvillo. if god existed, he would have pulled a rib from my father and made me out of it. he's a writer, and a bullshitter, and an athlete. a damn fine lookin man, as well.

but even though there are so many similarities, we have a grand canyon in between us, one that will forever separate us from ever seeing eye to eye on lots of different topics, however insignificant or controversial they may be.

my father gave up being an artist to do "the right thing", which in the seventies, translated into marrying a beautiful woman, having babies, buying a house, and owning your own business. because if you didn't have any or all of those things, you obviously were not a contribution to society and don't deserve to be a part of it.

growing up, i was expected to basically be a stepford child; things are perfect! life is good! i love my family! sort of phrases. but my alcoholic father, my miserable, jobless mother, my socially retarded older brother and me, the "let's fake a smile even though i haven't eaten for three days" child made a portrait of things to come. dad came home drunk for most of my life and fell asleep on the couch. mom sipped her wine and stayed tight-lipped when he berated us for nothing in particular. brother retreated to his room like a beaten puppy and immersed himself in sci-fi adventure books. and what was i to do but starve myself and hope for the day i could leave the whole trainwreck of a family for a clean slate. all the while, we posed pretty for pictures and said our please and thank-you's like proper, well-adjusted functional families do.

my father's pension for scotch fueled his harbored anger he never knew how to release, and verbally punched our guts for years. i thought i hated him for years, because i didn't understand why he was so angry at us for everything.

maybe he was angry that marty was a scholar and not an athlete.
maybe he was angry that his daughter didn't like golf and country clubs.
maybe he was angry that he gave up on his dreams to provide for a family he wasn't really ready for.

the cocktail just got stronger with all of the alchemy.

when i was kicked out at 24, tattooed, pierced, raven-haired... i told them i wasn't going to do it anymore. the pretty bobble head smiles; the acting; the lies. i didn't want to put my energy into something that just kept on letting me down. my family wasn't familial; it was just a portrait of what we were supposed to be.

and yes, for many years, i blamed him. i took out my frustrations on myself. control what you eat, punish yourself for who you are. ink your body, dye your hair. put steel rods through your skin, drink, fuck, and fight. and the day came when we all had had enough. so they kicked me out, and i didn't see them for half a year.

i'm not innocent in this, so don't misconstrue it as me being a victim. i pushed buttons, i sneaked out, i smoked cigarettes on my balcony and pot in my car. maybe i was trying to get them to see that the idea of who i was to them was not the manifestation of who i really was. i don't know. i do know that as an adult now, i have taken my past and grew a garden. the mistakes i made when i was young, whilst repeated in older years, have guided me through decisions i've made as an adult.

my father is a good man. he worked hard for his family and provided for us even if it was like pulling teeth from a donkey without anesthesia. and i recognize that. the providing part, i mean. had he not, i wouldn't be writing this from a computer i bought with money i earned dancing to prove to him that i could make it as a dancer and an artist.

the whole point is, we butted heads because he saw himself in me, and he was scared i would fuck up my life with my parallel vices. understandable worries. bad way to remedy them, but understandable nonetheless.

i will forever be my father's daughter, and i'm proud of it. he may never realize how much he influenced me, and that's alright. sometimes, i think it's better that way, so we can still have the same broken relationship we've always had.

it makes for good writing, and even better memories.


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