On Photo Etiquette and the Modern Family

@When robot unicorns attack Wow. I commend you. I haven't been able to get there myself, and don't know if or when I ever will (I am still so angry, and from what I understand, to progress to forgiveness or relationship I have to stop being angry).

I think what I also hear in LW3's message is, "Can we ever get back to normal?" and that question (as well as her "Do I need to be?" friends with him again query) has an answer that has a lot to do with what kind of expectations does she have of relationship with and to her father. If normal is whatever normal was in the past, I think it's likely not to be that. If normal is a new normal where, her expectations of him are non-existent, and she accepts that she may never be heard or validated but is willing to understand and forgive that in exchange for whatever kind of contact is possible, then yes, that kind of normal is achievable. And maybe it will be a whole lot better than that, but color me cynical.

I admire what you say at the end of your comment, your unwavering conviction in the validity of your own feelings, even if they'll never be validated by your father. That kind of stunning compassion is a really amazing goal to reach for. I miss my dad and reading your answers give me a lot of pause. But I also know that what I miss is largely a construction of what I want "dad" to mean and be, and which he actually has not every really been or is capable of being in my life.

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm 3

On Photo Etiquette and the Modern Family

LW#3--Like others piping up here in the comments, I, too got to be party to the "gray divorce" of my parents and the subsequent new marriage to a younger woman the week after the divorce was final. Like you, I also had what I thought was a good relationship with my dad prior to this, and even though I was conflicted I was willing to give his new life/wife/choices a chance. My story doesn't end so well; I am now on year two of No Contact with my father. I met his new wife twice, on my time and my dime, and tried to be accepting (gave them wedding gift, inclusive Christmas gifts, etc). She was very threatened by him having contact with his "old family" and basically sabotaged me to him on my last visit. My dad's judgement had been seriously impaired, as he suddenly believed all the crazy things she had made up about me, but what I've learned is this:

You have a right to feel how you feel. You also have a right to not know how you feel, what you want to do, how you want to act, when and if you even want to be around them. You have a right to take things slowly, to be cautious and suspicious and angry and hurt. You can explain this to your father or not, you can set up some boundaries and ask for them to be respected or not. One strange aspect of our parents divorcing when we're adults is that we are still caught in the parent:child dynamic, while at the same time being expected to be peers, collaborators, enablers and dumping grounds for some very adult and hard emotional scenes. I hated that my parents thought they could open up about every sordid detail that I DID NOT WANT TO KNOW about their marriage and missteps. I say all this to say that it's important to know that you *do* have agency and power in these situations, and you can shut them down when and if you need to. "I don't want to talk about this," is good and direct, as is, "I'm not comfortable spending time with both you and New Wife right now." State what you need and what you can and are willing to do, and if you get push back or emotional manipulation on that front, stand your ground with firm kindness.

My relationship with and to my father went through so many upsetting and painful twists and turns, and every conversation we were having over a period of six months or so descended into rage screaming and tears. He would never take any responsibility for anything being wrong--even when some things clearly were--and he would ALWAYS side with his new wife. At some point this became unacceptable and untenable, and it became apparent to me that whatever relationship was going to be possible was always going to be on his terms, and part of those terms were that I would always be someone that was trying to undermine his new wife and his happiness (according to her, and by extension, him).

One of the most maddening aspects to me of this happening in my life, and reading it in your letter here, is how crazily PEDESTRIAN middle-aged male behavior this is. Like, TEXTBOOK. I still can't quite get over it. I wish you lots of quiet and calm space around yourself and your feelings, and emotional strength. I found a therapy during this time of my life to be very very helpful.

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm 13

On Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Exquisite Garbo

@maginot_line Word. I was wondering if I was the only one swooning in equal parts to Barthes and Garbo.

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm 0

On On Adding or Keeping Distances

@carolita Word up, woman. It took forever to realize that people I let into my world and life were about me trying to replay the dynamic of my family drama/trauma in order to fix it. I am also on the other side of teaching myself healthy relationships. Congratulations to both of us for DIY emotional health!

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm 0

On On Adding or Keeping Distances

@Summer Somewhere I'm so sorry that you're going through this, and wrestling with the mortality issue with a parent that causes so much emotional upset. I've only recently come to understand that both of my parents have NPD. I've since cut off contact with my dad, and intended to drastically reduce contact with my mother, but nearly a week after that decision she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I struggled a lot with what to do, how to feel and whether (and if so how much) to be involved. I've learned--with the help of a very good therapist that understands these kinds of personality disorders--that it's perfectly fine to make decisions for your emotional health and sanity, and then to alter those decisions later for a period of time or for good as the situation and your emotional response to the situation, warrants. I know people who if they were told their N parent had cancer, it wouldn't make them flinch. That does not mean they are bad people, or that I am weak because I decided to react differently. It is more about really delving into how you think you would feel when they are gone about being in their lives or not. What can you and do you want to live with? Grief will be complicated no matter what. I have been mourning the mother I never had for decades now, and I will still mourn that when she dies. My husband and I are trying to start a family now, and I like to think that if and when that happens, some major healing will occur as a result of me giving my child that kind of parent that I did not have (it took so long to get the messaging I was programmed with--"You will be a terrible mother" or, variations on the theme "I hope you have a child that treats you the way you treat me"--out of my head and into perspective, and realize that because she said those things (and that I believed them for a long time) did not make them true).

My thoughts are so with you while you navigate this terrain and figure out what is best for you. Also, it may be helpful to read this: http://www.lightshouse.org/characteristics-of-narcissistic-mothers.html

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm 0

On The Best Time I House-Sat for a Ghost

My ghost story comes with a picture.

A friend of mine who is Czech has a family home in this town on the Austrian-Czech border, called Český Krumlov. The house is this amazing place that dates to the 16th century, and sits directly outside the castle gates (a castle that has a moat with LIVE BEARS in it). When you enter the house, there are 12 foot wooden beams that have bowed and are smoothed with age--that kind of house.

Annnyway, when I've stayed there with her, I am always installed in a roll-out couch bed in a library room. The library room is adjacent to another room with glass doors, called The Christmas Room. The room is very ornate: velvet wallpaper, velvet upholstered chairs, old furniture, etc. It is always closed off (but you can always see it through the glass doors), and they only go in there on, you guessed it, Christmas. They exchange gifts in there, drink a Christmas drink, and then leave it until next year. It always smells like pine trees in there, even when it's not Christmas and there are no pine trees.

When I first stayed with her, in that library room, I was told about the Christmas room being haunted. Not much in the way of any explanation, no discrete, individual, charismatic or otherwise ghosts. Just, "It's haunted." And that the few times she's had to sleep in that room when the house was full (the Christmas room, not the library), she couldn't sleep at all and was anxious all night. Which is how I felt sleeping on the fold-out bed next to the Christmas room.

One winter afternoon, I was left alone in the house. I decided to see if I could take a photo of these ghosts. I had a medium-format camera and a tripod, and so I went into the Christmas room (at least it was full daylight), set up the camera with a manual shutter speed, and took a roll of film of various lengths of time with the shutter open for a minute, two minutes, etc.

This is the photo I got out of it that showed orbs of light (and one elongated form of light).

At the time, I worked for a photo service bureau and we did high-end photo processing (rack processing). I knew what every kind of processing glitch looked like, and what light flares looked like. This was neither, and the orbs of light were contained in the negative itself, not on the edges of the film.

The room felt very, very creepy when I was in there (about 20 minutes), and the whole time I was alone in there I felt like I just kept feeling the message, coming from outside me not within me, GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!

Posted on June 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm 2

On The Finger-Wave Hair Tutorial

I love you for doing this video, Jane. This is the hair that low-maintenance me always wants when I look at hair style ideas in the salon, which in turns causes my hairdresser to tweak her head to the side and say that I am not the kind of person who would ever do what it takes to maintain that kind of look. But! Now I know how to do it, and can myself be the judge of when I'm feeling that maintenance-y.

Posted on May 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm 0

On Mad Men Season Five, Episode One

I've been in love with Tom & Lorenzo's commentary of this (and many other shows I watch) for years. Sometimes their 20/20 hindsight has better lines than the episode, and they actually do great character/plot analysis. Take, for example:

"Last season, when Don proposed to her, it felt like a bad idea on his part; an impulse born out of fear and designed to prevent him from dealing with his own demons. Now we come to find out it’s a bit more complicated than that. Number one on the list of shocks last night was the revelation that he not only told her everything about his past, but that she’s so comfortable with the situation she can make jokes about it. What once consumed Don to the point of almost destroying him – and what destroyed his first marriage – is now a passing joke; something to be shrugged over. But this is Mad Men, and one of the primary characteristics of the people who populate this world is that they never really get over the dark parts of themselves; they just move on."

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm 1

On On Female Desire, Part Two: Pornography

I second and third (and OH MY!) the James Deen recs. Specifically, our household pays for subscription streaming content at $20 a month to the production company that he stars in the most for, joannaangel.com (also, same company, same subscription, more porn: burningangel.com). I like it because you can choose what kind of scene and look and combination turns you on, and I REALLY like it because everyone always looks like they are having real, truly real, fun having sex. And there are often scenes where you just *know* that those actors involved are truly turned on, and getting hotter for each other as the scene progresses. It's billed as "alt porn" but I don't really find lots of ink on skin all that "alt" anymore.

Also, favorite male smut-writing site: http://monmouth.blogspot.com

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm 0

On One of Those Things Nobody Talks About


I am so sorry for your loss. The sadness is immense and strange for its very quality of being so very private. The days have felt surreal. I just went back to the hospital today to give another blood draw, and will likely have a follow-up sonogram in a week to confirm. I wish the only thing I read on the internet about any of this was this Hairpin piece...truly the web is full of highly variable and horrifying stuffs.

Be kind to yourself. While it's hippie-ish advice, I've found it to be the most true thing that's helped these days.

Posted on February 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm 1