23 May, 2012

Nothing else for it, I guess. (Part two.)


‘Well but see Mitch it’s not the time and effort that I’m worried about, strictly speaking. It’s the T&E [sic] combined with the fact that young children and especially infants have no idea the exorbitant mental and emotional and even physical toll they’re taking by means of their constant need for assistance and attention, which need is I submit perfectly selfish, because infants and young children have no idea they are not the centre of the universe; that people might be interested in other things besides themselves, or just plain get tired of responding to their need for food or comfort or attention or something to play with or whatever. Mitch it seems to me pretty plain that infants and young children are big giant doughnuts in the consideration for others department, which makes their bottomless pit of dependence just exponentially more difficult to bear.’

‘Well just a second there Karp…’

‘Not quite Mitch because as we’ve talked about and work-shopped about many times before, I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life treating people in precisely this way. As in I’ve been a big time emotional infant. I’ve just sucked the life right out of all the people closest to me that were, by definition of which closeness, willing to be emotionally open and vulnerable with me by giving me all kinds of attention and seemingly unconditional affection, which I never once reciprocated or even acknowledged, at least not intentionally. And Mitch these people, especially GFs, even told me that was OK, my being almost flawlessly self-involved, because nevertheless they knew I loved them but just expressed it in my own special way, which of course no one else but them could see or understand an explanation of because no one else knew me and loved me like they did. [FN3]


‘Mitch what I’m saying is I’ve seen first hand the kind of nuclear winter that is living with an emotional infant, who just takes and takes and takes and offers nothing in return, not even the acknowledgment of their taking, and does this so naturally and unthinkingly that the person from whom they are taking eventually begins to feel guilty even for wanting some basic or entry-level recognition for the more-than-generous attention and consideration they’ve always given the taker, because the taker sure isn’t acting like anything’s at all out of the ordinary, behaviour-wise. And so the giver starts to feel like some kind of monster, like that to desire or even just feel good about being recognized for one’s giving is the worst kind of selfishness, potentially obliterating the very possibility of charitable or non-self-interested behaviour, and thus triggering one heck of a cyclone of bitter self-loathing mixed with slow burning resentment.’ [FN4]


‘And Mitch I just don’t want to be on the receiving end of that particular forecast, even though karma-wise it’d be a pretty fair balancing of the old life scales.’


‘Everything OK Mitch?’

‘Just letting all of that sink-in Karp, which BTW [sic] was beautifully shared and articulated.’

‘Many thanks for that acknowledgment Mitch. If you’d just excuse me for a second.’





‘Mitch you’d better put that ‘Out of Order’ sign up on the gents door for a few minutes, ‘cause I just napalmed your toilet.’

‘No problem at all Karp, thanks for letting me know and I’m sorry to hear you’re stomach’s giving you difficulties.’



‘I appreciate your acknowledgment and your concern Mitch, thanks very much.’

‘Don’t mention it Karp. But so response-wise to what you were just saying there a minute ago. I think the problem here is simple and in reality you’ve got nothing to worry about, by which I certainly do not mean to imply any correlation whatsoever between the simplicity of the solution I think I’m seeing and the seriousness of your perceived predicament and the awful anxiety I can imagine that perception might entail, and I definitely want to thank you for sharing something so personal and poignant and obviously disconcerting and which sharing was done with as abovementioned beautiful perfect eloquence.’

‘Thank you Mitch, I’m grateful for your saying that and for receiving what I’m sharing so gracefully, as is your inimitable way.’[FN5]

‘My pleasure Karp. Now it seems to me there is a crucial and exculpatory difference between your young child’s apparent indifference to your offering and demonstrating basically unconditional love and affection by indefatigably responding to their needs for physical and emotional sustenance, and your own grown-up version of that same horrific indifference. To wit: a young child and especially an infant doesn’t really know what emotions and feelings are, or what the consideration of same even means, in which case they (an infant or very young child) are basically incapable of disregarding your feelings and emotional needs in the same way that I or another adult could, i.e. [sic] in a way that should make you feel demeaned or slighted.’

‘I think I need an In other words here Mitch.’

‘Coming right up Karp In other words, before you can feel badly when your child fails to recognize and/or reciprocate your attention and affection in the same way you so heartlessly did to so many previous friends and especially GFs, you first have to teach your child what it means to pay attention and be affectionate and why and how those are emotionally significant gestures and how and when it’s appropriate to make those gestures and so on, which knowledge you and I and other grown-ups have, this being one of the main reasons we are called grown-ups.’

‘OK so Mitch what you’re saying is I can’t really feel badly when my young son or daughter presents me with what under normal circumstances would be considered the retort churlish, when I haven’t yet taught them about feelings and empathy and the whole beautiful and delicate fugue of human interaction. In other words when they don’t know any better.’

‘Precisely Karp. You might say it’s a matter of mens rea not just actus reus.’



‘Well now Mitch straight up no gloss I think if that’s the way it goes with raising children then we’re going to encounter some problems, although I’m not at all suggesting that you’re avenue of approach here is not well-lit with good intentions or lacking the guard rails of reason, and I definitely appreciate you sharing with me your thoughts so candidly.’

‘Thank you Karp, you know I like to go hard or go home, honesty-wise.’

‘No disagreement here Mitch but now nevertheless let’s just think for a moment about what all you’re suggesting. Because let’s assume that I raise my child in a home environment that’s a veritable surfeit of love and affection and just choc-a-bloc with beautiful respect for and attention to emotional openness of all kinds, basically the kind of home environment that breeds emotional acuity like so much Midwestern corn, producing like steroidic growth of the emotional awareness capacity to something almost grotesquely distended by present-day standards…’


‘…and so even if we assume I’m able to raise some kind of emotional avatar, which BTW [sic] this outcome seems to be the Prime Directive of all the parental literature currently occupying the centre of the stage on the Ellester’s nightstand, it seems to me that all of my child’s attention to and respect for the emotional lives of others, and especially his or her expressions of love and affection and even just respect for me and the Ellester, well Mitch none of that’s really going to mean anything. Because my ur-loving child's just going to be doing what me and the Ellester have taught he or she to do in various familial and social situations, or what they’ve learned from watching us in same, and internalized through countless demonstrations and instructions and admonitions until eventually (and unconsciously) the right sort of behaviour just sort of inheres in the child, as they gradually figure out that the easiest way to get on in the household – and so also life, or that’s the idea anyway – is to be polite and respectful and caring, and in other words just demonstrate the highest possible level of emotional awareness possible.’

‘Not sure I’m following you there Karp, though I am paying close attention.’

‘I know you are Mitch, and it’s appreciated.’

‘Karp I noticed your appreciation as part of my paying close attention.’

‘One hand washing the other.’

‘It’s the Virtuous Circle.’

‘Initial caps ours.’

‘Carry on brother.’

‘I guess what I’m saying Mitch is that there is really no difference between my infant child having no understanding or comprehension of feelings or emotions and thus being unable to express real or indeed anything other than accidentally what looks like respect or recognition of these in others, and my non-infant child having been brought up in textbook fashion to be basically just the most emotionally dexterous child any two parents could hope to raise, because such a perfectly raised child will only ever be doing what he or she’s been taught to do, because how else do they know what to do except what they’ve been made to practice over and over again to the point where they Just Do It.' [FN6]

‘What you’re saying then Karp is that when you acknowledge my sharing and emotional daring-do, and express gratefulness for same, that’s significant to me because I know that in a previous life you wouldn't have done so and indeed were a perfect class A jerk in the whole feelings of others department, or as it were a drop-out from the Caring About the Feelings of Others and Being Comfortable With Your Own Desires Collegiate Institute, and so when you do the beautiful things that you now do, feelings-wise, I know it’s a conscious choice and that’s what makes it significant. You recognize there are a range of mostly hideous ways to treat people and your choice to respect and care for and acknowledge me as someone deserving and desiring of the same respect and attention as yourself conveys something important to me about how you feel about me, which something important is not conveyed by someone who does exactly the same thing but only because that’s what they’ve been told to do.’

-I-N-G-O Mitch, come on down to the prize table because that’s a BINGO.’


[FN3] Up until K met E and indeed for a short while thereafter K was an absolute D-bag to just about every person he ever met. His few male friends were all massively insecure, even more so than K, and were more than happy to agree with and endorse whatever K said he wanted to do no matter how ridiculous or illegal or even semi-harmful to their own persons, out of (perversely) sheer gratitude for K’s sticking his chin out and making decisions. It’s true, if you ask the little guys who follow around bullies or otherwise boorish brutes, the followers will admit they're fearful of their leader but not just because of his physical strength or malignant temper. It’s also because they see him as a kind of hero, blessed with the courage and fortitude to do the things they themselves are terrified to do, even if those things are pretty garden variety (like any kind of talking to females, for starters), because, and as already mentioned K’s crew was no exception, these pathetic cabals tend to be electrical storms of personal insecurity. This is why the followers in these groups tend to say of their leader, ‘That guy’s got balls.’

And if you think K’s male friends must have been one seriously dysfunctional set, just imagine K’s GFs, who were female versions of his male friends, basically. In which case you can further imagine what kind of catastrophe was K’s love life pre-E, and also how miraculous it is that K has not confronted the child issue inadvertently at some earlier time(s), which he has not. 

But so what happened when K met E is sort of hard to say, because if we knew how to reform (or, as will become very pertinent in the main text later on, to retrain) a guy like K don’t think we’d be giving that kind of gold-plated wisdom away for nothing. The best explanation we can offer is that K was so determined to conquest E that he was initially willing to play-along with all E’s the importance of feelings crap and reciprocate with his own sharing, awkwardly at first (which made E laugh affectionately but in response to which laughing K was surprised to find he didn’t feel slighted or dissed and so need to re-establish his admittedly meager self-conception, physically if necessary), but because he was so intent on and subsequently beguiled by E his guard came down long enough to really try what she was saying and practicing about and with her emotions, which if you’ve ever really given emotional openness a fair shot you know it feels ecstatically good and liberating and empowering, especially compared to the garish and ablating self-doubt to which K was previously accustomed and to which he was in no hurry to return. QED.

4] The E’s influence should now be obvious.

[FN5] M doesn’t really have a back story; just an ineffable understanding of the ways of the world, the kind that bartenders seem always to have from sources unknown.

[FN6] In particular here K has in mind the previous Saturday morning, when his neighbor down the street came around with the neighbour’s six year old son, which son was selling apples to raise money for his Grade One class’s charity drive. K bought a half-dozen apples for five dollars, handing the kid a ten dollar bill and smiling and saying ‘Keep the change’, which philanthropic largesse was received with a good four or five seconds of Dead Air before the kid’s father said ‘And what do we say when someone makes a donation?’ Which was followed by a further four or five seconds of D.A. before the father put his hand on the kid’s shoulder and said ‘Kyle?’ Which seemed to indicate young Kyle didn’t understand what ‘donation’ meant but certainly did understand what ‘Kyle?’ meant because then Kyle said ‘Thank you!’