Infantile

My post on Mary Winkler really stirred things up yesterday, in ways I did not expect.  It really was just supposed to be an academic exercise in demographics; a field of study which I really enjoy.  But, the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. There was unexpected hostility from some quarters, and from others I had expected much hostility, but received reasoned and thoughtful responses. It was probably the most topsy turvy response to any post I’ve ever written.

But, sometimes God takes some silliness that we intend, and uses it for His own purposes to teach us.  I want to take a step back and learn a few things.  I’ll probably have several heart to hearts with newscoma.  Not long ago, someone used a term about me that stung to the bone: infantile.  In other words, if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  Being a grown man, thinking I’m somewhat intelligent, that hurt horribly.  No man like to be condescended to.  However, I’m slowly starting to think it’s an appropriate word.  Let me explain.

My father is a big bear of a man.  Six foot seven, around 240 lbs most of his life.  He was a machinist, which at the time was both a very technical job, while at the same time involved much manual labor.  He was a very large, strong, hard, intimidating presence.  With all of the troubles in my childhood, nobody messed with me when my dad was around.  He looked like the kind of man who could kill another man with one punch.

Combine that with a very young marriage and fatherhood, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Yet, looking back, he never, ever raised his hand to any of us in anger.  Granted, the situation didn’t arise much.  His mere appearance meant he could walk into a room, and we’d behave.  “Wait till your father gets home” had added meaning for us boys.  There were controlled, physical punishments, and I know some of y’all consider that violence and abuse, but I do not.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but my father is a man of great restraint.

And his relationship with my mother?  Y’all, they could make a movie about those two.  Granted, most of it would be boring, but as they approach 50 years together (OMG!), their relationship is awe-inspiring.  There is so much I could tell you, but to stay on point, I’ll say that my father would rather chop off his own hand than strike my mother.  I  know many of y’all take offense to this word, but he cherishes her. There is much that I could go into about their history, about how it would have been quite easy to give up on her (especially in the 70’s, when everyone else was dissolving their marriages),  but this is their own business.  So, starting out, you could say I have no frame of reference for abusive relationships.

I always thought the way my parents would never  spend a moment apart if they could help it was kind of creepy, yet, as time goes by, Lintilla and I are becoming the same way.  How could I possibly hurt the other part of me?  I truly do love her more than myself, I cannot imagine striking her or even saying hurtful things on purpose (I say plenty of hurtful things, not on purpose, as many of you know; the polite thing is to admit it and apologize).  I can be an idiot, but it’s really something I can’t imagine, hurting my best friend, the love of my life.

And now, we get to the third generation in my frame of reference.  There’s one rule in our household that Zaphod used to hate: no male can ever strike a female, even if she hits you first.  I tried to explain to Zaphod that, it might be a fair fight now, but in just a few years he will be so much bigger and strong than the girls; if he’s used to hitting them then, it will be hard to stop.  He would get quite angry with me when I would punish him for fighting back when a girl hit him on the playground.

Y’all, this is hard to write without tearing up.  I am SOOOO proud of him!  He’s a big boy; he’s taller than most of his classmates, and heavier than all of them.  I’ve seen situations lately when a little holy female terror would provoke him physically, needling him, pushing him.  Yet, he’s only ten years old, and he shows an incredible amount of restraint.  He follows my wishes; he never, ever strikes a girl. It’s hard to explain just how proud of that boy I am.  Just thinking of it, I feel my heart might burst.

So, the situation is set up for my frame of reference to be “infantile”.  Lintilla, before she met me, had come out of an abusive marriage (the idiot was in jail by the time I met Lintilla, in fact).  But given my frame of reference, my assumption was that “doopy-head”, as she called him, was a rarity amongst men, that the vast majority were like my father and me.

Yesterday’s discussion makes me think I might have been wrong.  There is a dark, dark underbelly to the world that I know nothing about.  I’m wondering if men like my father are in the minority.  I know my theology speaks of the depravity of man, but we Methodists throw that term around, not giving it any weight.  What if the depravity is not some theological academic concept, but a real thing where real people get hurt?

If I walk down the street, how many men that I pass are slapping their wives around at home?  I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not a majority of them.

And it breaks my heart that there’s little I can do about it, except to spread the transforming love of Jesus, give money to battered women’s shelters, and to raise my son to be a real man, and behave toward my wife in a way that shows my daughter what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. Then, maybe my grandchildren will be just as infantile about these things as I am.

I’d like to thank Aunt B, who wrote a post that moved me to tears.  Like I said, I have a lot of thinking to do.

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18 Responses to “Infantile”

  1. newscoma Says:

    Heart to heart conversation available at any time.

  2. Eric Says:

    Slarti,

    What an inspiring post! You moved me to tears, man! And I’m not one to cry – just ask my wife. There are times that I have been an idiot – and I wish I could go back in time to change them…but I can’t. The only thing I can do is start now and not do those idiotic things anymore, like say things I know I’ll regret later.

    Restraint is a very hard thing to accomplish, especially when you grew up in a household where it wasn’t emphasized. But I’m working at it. It sounds like you had an excellent teacher, Slarti. A lot of people aren’t as blessed to experience that. I just want to commend you.

  3. lasthome Says:

    One thing you said stood out to me as puzzling,

    I know many of y’all take offense to this word, but he cherishes her.

    Who in the world could object to the word “cherish” in the way a man loves his wife (or vice versa)? What’s the possible basis for that word being offensive?

    The only thing I can think of is if by cherish we mean elevating someone over God, but that’s it.

    That’s puzzling, and disconcerting.

  4. Slartibartfast Says:

    lasthome, I’ve had many conversations where the argument was advanced that, cherishing, what we oldsters used to call “putting her up on a pedestal”, is in its own way sexist, because it sorta-kinda makes the woman into an “object”, even if it is in a positive way.

    Of course, I disagree.

    Kind of like the phrase “the little lady”. I see no harm in that, but sometimes when discussing these things, people get their claws out, ready for a fight, when no harm was intended. There are some very angry people out there.

    Of course, I think anger is counterproductive – many times I’ve simply wanted to discuss a subject, and had my head bitten off. But, part of this post is just the realzation that the anger doesn’t just appear out of thin air.

    Anyway, I’ve got a couple of “pre-emptive” disclaimers in the post, based on past conversations, to keep people from going off on angry tangents.

  5. hutchmo Says:

    Personally, I enjoy being cherished. And, I don’t think Lynn is putting me up on a pedestal.

  6. lasthome Says:

    That’s interesting. I’ve never thought of “cherish” to be an objectifying statement.

    To me, cherish means to care for and love everything about her about as much as you possibly can, to the point that she is the most valuable thing in the world to you. A total love, possessive but not binding or smothering – a love that if it was necessary to let her go you would, willingly, because that would be what was best for her.

    I’d like to meet some of these people that misunderstand that definition…

  7. nm Says:

    Well, I’d say that ‘cherish’ means something completely different from ‘put someone up on a pedestal’. Putting someone on a pedestal makes that person a statue. It makes that person unreal: this person is faultless! this person never changes! this person is my ideal! Which leads either to blindness to the point of idiocy about the person being idealized or to constant anger at the person for not living up to what the idealizer wants.

    If you mean that you see a person as s/he is, accept the faults, still figure that you could never be half as happy with anyone else in the world, and therefore want to make everything as wonderful as possible for that person in every way you can, that’s cherishing. Not the same thing at all.

  8. Ginger Says:

    I love the word “cherish”…and would love to be cherished…I don’t see how that is an offensive word.

  9. lasthome Says:

    Makes perfect sense to me. I wonder why someone would confuse one with the other? Maybe it’s a regional/cultural idiom.

    Ah, English, the language of total comprehensatilability.

  10. Slartibartfast Says:

    Dang it, I did it again.

    I should have just left the disclaimer out 🙂

  11. Katherine Coble Says:

    In other words, if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

    That’d be better known as “object impermenance.”

  12. Kate O' Says:

    I know you already struck the phrase out, so I’m not trying to belabor the point, but I just wanted to add that
    I think nm has it spot on with the difference between cherishing someone and putting that person on a pedestal. I feel cherished by Karsten a lot of the time, and it makes me wiggle with glee, but sometimes when I feel like he’s putting me on a pedestal it flusters and even frustrates me, because I feel like he’s not seeing me for me, with all my flaws and imperfections and loving me anyway, but instead seeing some bizarrely perfect version of me that I could never be. And I don’t feel cherished in those moments, but rather kind of alone and nervous and misunderstood.

    As further anecdotal evidence, a while back on a women’s mailing list I used to co-own, there came to be a pattern of sharing stories with each other about difficult things we were going through, followed by many of us reassuring one another using the acronym “YDTBFC,” which stood for “you deserve to be f’ing cherished.”

  13. CE Petro Says:

    Slat, you’re right on the money that cherishing is objectifying. As an individual woman I want to be treated with humanity, and in a marriage I want to be treated with equality. when you think about marriage being a partnership, a partnership (in a legal sense) is equal, in the most simplest of terms. why shouldn’t’ that carry through to marriage.

    MM, what image comes to your mind, when you hear/read the word cherish? A cherub? The Madonna? or loving hands being upheld (palms up)?

    I think we can trace objections to words and phrases to the images we associate with a particular idea (word/phrase), as is the case with idea of being cherished.

    In my mind, any man that would “cherish” me is not my equal, thus would not make a good partner for me. Yes, I find being called “cherished” objectionable, as much as I find the phrase “you’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” equally objectionable. No woman (or man) is a “thing.”

    Overall, Slat, I’m glad you learned something from this whole episode. Kudos to you for opening your eyes. I just hope more people follow your lead.

  14. Ginger Says:

    sheesh. According to Webster, the definition of “cherish” is: to hold dear : feel or show affection for; to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.

    How can that be a negative? I think we are splitting hairs, aren’t we?

  15. Barry Says:

    I think some of us are assigning meanings to words than simply don’t belong.

  16. CE Petro Says:

    Ginger, to me, a marriage is much, much more than holding someone dear to them, or showing affection. That’s only one element of a marriage or relationship, at least in my marriage. My husband and I are lovers, we’re friends, we’re critics, we’re partners (literally in business and at home). And, quite frankly, if my husband was to just cherish me, it limits the relationship that we actually have. Our relationship is far more encompassing than just loving each other.

  17. Barry Says:

    Who said that had to be the only description of someone’s love for another? To cherish someone doesn’t mean they exist in a vacuum – indeed, it’s a jumping off point to that whole list you just gave, CE.

  18. Ann Burlingham Says:

    Hitting other people is wrong, even if they hit you. The sex of the people involved is irrelevant.


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