A Doubleheader: F-words, Followed by Falling Down

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

We went to see The Other F Word last week.  Going in I was extremely excited, because here was a movie which seemed on the face of it to be deeply about engaging fatherhood in the context of a highly non-mainstream life.  It was unsurprising but delightful to see that the common thread among all the punk-dads they featured was a deep respect for the job and a commitment to being a better parent than they had had.

What I did not expect was the degree to which many of those interviewed have settled into a middle-class, soporifically-comfortable consumerist existence.  I have always equated the punk ethos with DIY, with rejection of the dominant paradigm and a rage born of disgust with the world corporations have built.  So to see people touted as icons of what I thought was this mindset being comfortably asleep in the midst of their piles of gak was a bit of a surprise.  However, it’s worth remembering that the real common thread in the punk world was simple nihilism, rather than theory or action as with many of the movements born of it (such as riot grrl music with its intense, unapologetic, highly motivated feminism).  For every Jello Biafra, there were ten Fat Mikes.

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On Thanksgiving, I noticed that some fellow party-attendees brought with them a brand new human.  I tend to notice these things more often now that I’m expecting one of my own in a few short months, and we talked a bit about parenthood and new-babyness and all of that.  My questions tended to be pretty open-ended (“What’s that like for you?” and “How are the sleeping arrangements working out?” and so on).  Their answers told me much about their own experience and predilections, in that it tended toward giving advice, and exhortations not to be so worried.  I had not mentioned anything about my situation beyond that I was expecting a baby in May.  Granted, it’s likely a bad sign if an expecting parent is not worried about anything at all, but I think there was some projection happening there and that these folks were extra-stressed during their pregnancy.

There was a moment that I felt a bit ashamed of, though.  They asked me where my wife was, and I did not bother to correct them.  In the moment, it wasn’t precisely germane to the conversational topic that S and I are not married and do not intend to get married, and I did not want to make the conversation about that.  For the sake of social friction-reduction, I compromised and let that slide by.  But in hindsight, I wonder if situations like that are not in fact exactly the time to be having that conversation.  I suppose one reason I hesitated was that it was meant to be a fun, lighthearted time, and I tend to get pretty het up when making points about principle.  It’s a major weakness of mine that in the dogged pursuit of Rightness (in whatever sense that might be meaningful in a given situation) I can, in the moment, lose sight of the people involved.  This makes me less sweet and kind than I would like to be, and knowing this I will sometimes choose not to champion an idea just to avoid that dynamic.

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