Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Knowing people

One does what one gets recognition for. This is why a job is so rewarding; even a bad job. If you do it with reasonable effort, someone notices every single day. You are around people who do the same thing, so you know that your efforts are not only appreciated, but also understood. It is also one of the things that makes internet communities so compelling-- you can find groups of people that share your passions both generally and specifically. There is no sense of the kind of patronizing "support" one gets from friends and family members (oh, Xan's making art, that's so important to her, here's a hug); you don't need hugs or specific praise to know that these people approve, support and understand what you are doing.

When we were young, we found these communities live, by creating cooperative efforts. Galleries, critique groups, activist efforts, community gardens, neighborhood associations, play groups. I wonder, given the ease of finding communities on line, and the safe barrier of anonymity, if people still do this to the same extent.

I find on line communities nearly addictive-- I know if I post a comment or make a journal entry or put up a picture here and here, someone who shares my interest in or love for this thing will see it, and maybe even tell me why they liked it. I don't need to hear from them directly; I can tell from the page views if people have looked at. An irresistible combination: love and statistics.

I think this is what motivates the near-frenzy of young people to get away from their parents. A parent's approval is suspect, and tainted. The approval and support does not spring from shared passion or understanding, but from the uncritical stance of love. It cannot help but feel belittling and condescending. Your parents' pride excludes them from your community.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Matriarch

What makes a matriarch? Is a matriarch the oldest female in the family, or the wisest, simply the one who usurps the role? We often conflate age and wisdom in our society, possibly because no one ever feels quite "wise," but it seems safe to assume that age confers wisdom. I think my own mother would have resisted the role of matriarch; it would not have appealed to her sense of the ephemeral. Julia, Liz's mother, made a classic old-world matriarch, but probably just because she was Old World right down to the accent, the home-cooked Hungarian meals, and the house dress persona. We all try to shoehorn May into the role, but she also resists it. This leaves me or Liz. Or really it just leaves Liz, because I think she covets the role. Which is maybe what makes a matriarch.

The concept of the matriarch, the crone, the wise old woman is very appealing. I am too young for this role, of course, and don't have enough of a satellite system, so to speak-- no young 'uns, and not much of an extended family. (Which brings up the other question of how large your tribe needs to be before it requires a matriarch.) I'm not sure people would really view me this way either. I suspect I am headed more towards Crazy Old Lady than Wise Old Lady.

The matriarch is the unanswerable Mother, the person with the final say. This is the appeal-- that someone can say- stop. Someone can say- do. That someone actually has the final answer and the right to an expectation of obedience, or at least compliance. It is this expectation that confers the power of the Matriarch, and by extension the wisdom. This is a feedback loop that reinforces the power-- if I give you power over me, I need to justify that with a belief in your wisdom, which gives you power over me.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Today is the 61st anniversary of my parents' marriage. I cannot say "my parent's 61st anniversary" because that seems to imply a continuing relationship. I would better say, "my parents got married 61 years ago today," which seems to put it in its proper context of an event and consequence that were and remain in the past.

I don't know the anniversary of their divorce. 1976? So my father has been not-married to my mother longer than he was married to her. What does that mean, when one life passage exceeds another, related one. I have been without my mother longer than I was with her. I have lived with Bill longer than I lived without him. I have known Bill longer than I knew my mother.

I don't know Robert and Marilyn's anniversary, but I know that they have been married 17 years. If my father lives to age 91, he has the potential for being married to Marilyn longer than to my mother; this bothers me. I want my mother to be the most important relationship in his life. Of course, I'm not really sure if that was true, even when it was on-going. So I suppose what I want is an understanding that our family was the most important relationship in his life.

It comes down to this: you should not know anyone longer than you know your mother. The family you create, with your spouse and your mutual children, should be the central one in your life. You cannot replace these relationships with new ones, because shreds of the old one linger.