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Congratulations

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 3/2/2005

Iím a middle-aged straight man, divorced, with several fine adult children. Iím OK-looking and sociable, and I believe life is better shared with another. But Iíve never been able to make a lasting commitment. A lot of women have given me more than the time of day, and Iíve walked away from all of them. Iím aware that at least one reason is that Iíve been chasing a figment of my Freudian imaginationósome kind of ideal of feminine beauty. Iím always holding back from the woman Iím with because I want to leave the possibility open of meeting the figment. I see these ideal women everywhere, but when I connect with them they become real people, and soon Iím yearning again for the figment. Now I have a new woman friend. She loves me and is right for me in every wayóbut sheís not the figment. Iím struggling to stick with this relationship, because I know the figment doesnít exist, and that if I leave this woman Iíll be back at square one. Iím sharing this story in the hope it might help others, male and female, who suffer from the same syndrome. Meanwhile, wish me (us) luck!

A Monkey Off My Back

Iím happy to wish you (both) luck, AMOMB, but thatís not why you wrote me. You want me to pat you on the back and congratulate you for your newfound maturity and wisdom. You want me to say that your new lady friend is lucky she caught you now, while youíre willing to take on this fearsome struggle to accept her despite her non-figmentness, instead of when you were still holding out for your imaginary ideal. Crap. The truth is, now that youíve lived long enough to be married at least once, produce ďseveralĒ children, and reject the affections of ďa lot ofĒ women, itís about bloody fucking time you grew up. Iím not so put off by your daydream of the perfect galówe all have fantasiesóbut that you kept believing not only that you would eventually meet this paragon of pulchritude, but that she would actually be interested in you. A certain amount of self-confidence is sexy, but what really turns a gal on is a guy with enough humility to consider himself lucky to have her. No woman wants to think the man she loves is settling for her or keeping her around because itís too much trouble to start over. If this new gal is as good as you say, you should thank her every single day for loving you enough to put up with your arrogant ass.

 

My parents, who are in their 60s, are bigots. It isnít just that they love racist and ethnic jokes; they actually believe theyíre superior. They have no tolerance for anyone who dresses differently, has different religious beliefs, or, worst of all, isnít both heterosexual and chaste before marriage. Pretty much everyone they know feels the same, so all their beliefs were pretty much ingrained in me. It came as quite a shock to me when I moved to a large city and started meeting people who looked different but were regular people with families and lives. Itís like I have to unlearn a lifetime of prejudice. I still donít understand a lot of choices people makeófacial piercing baffles me, and Iím easily embarrassed by overt sexualityóbut I try not to be judgmental. I love my parents. They never deliberately harmed anyone and, except for teaching me to despise everyone but white Christians, theyíve always tried to be good people, but itís hard for me to be with them now that I realize how negative and narrow their views are and how they damaged me. Should I try to educate them, or is it better just to accept that theyíre too old and too set in their ways to change?

A Kinder, Gentler Daughter

Every religion touts itself as the one, true path to salvation, and when people limit their knowledge to only what a particular faith wants them to know, ignorance and intolerance are the inevitable result. Your parents are just like millions of other people, believing exactly what theyíve been taught. Theyíre comfortable that way and they feel no need to ask questions. Youíre lucky to have escaped and that youíre bright enough to accept the evidence of your own experience over your childhood conditioning.

If you want to change your parentsí thinking, which wonít be easy, try starting with a subtle approach. Next time your dad tells a racist joke, tell him youíve met some African-Americans, or whatever his target is, and the joke doesnít make sense. This tells him he canít count on you to appreciate his humor without making any direct challenge. If the soft approach doesnít work, you could tell them you find their jokes offensive, but donít be surprised if they get mad or accuse you of being disrespectful. Youíll have to take this one step at a time. If you make absolutely no headway, remember, it is possible to reject your parentsí prejudices without rejecting your parents. I despise Catholicism, for example, but I love my Catholic mother. We know that neither of us is changing the otherís mind, so weíve agreed to disagree and we just donít bring it up.

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Think Mink archives

More from Mink Stole

Pick and Choose (4/12/2006)
First of all, homosexuality isnít like snake handling or Catholicism; it isnít a cult or a religion you can be recruited for or converted to.

Territorial Rites (4/5/2006)

Family Guy (3/15/2006)

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