“People get really irritated by mental illness. ‘Just fucking get it together! Suck it up, man!’ I had a breakdown, and a spiritual friend came to visit me in the psych ward. And they said, ‘You need to get out of here. Because this is the story you’re telling yourself. You know, Patch Adams has this great work-group camp where you can learn how to really celebrate life.’ It’s something people are so powerless over, and so often they want to make it your fault. It’s nobody fault. I started thinking of suicide when I was 10 years old—I can’t believe that that’s somebody’s fault. Like, ‘Oh, you’re just an attention getter.’ Mental illness isn’t seen as an illness, it’s seen as a choice…. I have a joke about how people don’t talk about mental illness the way they do other regular illnesses. ‘Well, apparently Jeff has cancer. Uh, I have cancer. We all have cancer. You go to chemotherapy you get it taken care of, am I right? You get back to work.’ Or: ‘I was dating this chick, and three months in, she tells me that she wears glasses, and she’s been wearing contact lenses all this time. She needs help seeing. I was like, listen, I’m not into all that Western medicine shit. If you want to see, then work at it. Figure out how not to be so myopic. You know?’”
A few years ago I lost my temper with my kids and in my anger I told them that they were lucky I was their mom. I yelled that if when I was their age I’d behaved the way they were behaving, my father would have hit me with a belt. They went silent and looked at me. They were so young. They’d never heard about anyone being hit by a belt. The moment after I said what I did I wished I could unsay it, but I couldn’t. So then I apologized and told them a bit about my why I’d been afraid of my father when I was a kid.
They laughed. They actually believed I was joking. Even upon further explanation, they refused to accept what I was telling them was true. It could not be true. They knew how grown ups behaved and it was not the way I described to them—’like monsters and ghosts’—my son said. Like monsters and ghosts.
I had to sit down. It was like after all those years of moving on and processing and letting go and forgiving and coming to peace with and not even giving a shit about it anymore disappeared and everything I ever had to feel or understand or release about who my father was to me was right there and finally decipherable, thanks to the unadulterated and perfectly reasonable perception of my two children, who had such a perception because they’d never in all of their lives encountered a grown up who’d hurt them. Because of this they could concisely and without reservation scoop the last remaining maybe-I-really-am-to-blame bullshit out of my innards and set it on the table so it wouldn’t any longer live inside of me.
My children gave me a new story to tell myself. Not that my father is a monster or a ghost—he’s neither—but that, like your mom, some of things he did don’t make sense. And they never have to. Those things might as well have been done by some fantastical figure in a scary story that has nothing to do with you or me. We can let it sit like that. We can put it in its proper place.
Bee:Hi there friend! How are you today? I'm just doing my job, pollinating flowers and all, no need to be afraid of me, I'm just happy I get to enjoy this wonderful weather with you.
Wasp:Oh hey motherfucker, wanna go? I swear I will kill any cunt stupid enough to get 3 feet near me, I can sting you, and it will be the nastiest feeling you've had in awhile. Buzz Buzz, asshole. Bet that hurts doesn't it? Stupid fuck.
Here is the thing, okay? Coming into a feminist conversation with, “Have you considered that sometimes women acquire free drinks at bars?” is like walking into graduate school during Philosophy finals and saying, “Have you considered that the color blue that I see may not be the color blue that you see?”
Imagine you are the guy who just walked into that Philosophy class and laid that shit down. Imagine the class full of students who have worked very hard and committed themselves and sacrificed to be here, students who have spent several years of their lives learning about this subject. Imagine now their feelings when you go to the head of the classroom with a smirk on your face and demand the professor give you an A for effort. Imagine now that they think you are a douchebag asshole, because they do, and because you are. You are a douchebag asshole because you are obviously so self-centered, arrogant, and completely ignorant of the world around you, that you thought you could walk into a high-level course with no background and no work and say something profoundly simplistic and totally unrelated and also everybody should congratulate you for having done this thing, so brave, so provocative.
You are not asking us a real question. You are simply illustrating, for all to see, your own ignorance. You are saying, “I have not considered the implications of the question I have just asked. I have not taken the time nor effort nor commitment to sit down and ask myself this question. Instead, I have come into your philosophy classroom/office/feminist blog and shat out my question with a smirk, because I believe that my two seconds of thought are worth more than your long-term analysis, because I believe I am worth more.”