Do you realise your parents are full of shit? I don’t say that flippantly and I’m not an Emo (although I do like cry-wanking). Our parents are full of shit in the same way we and our friends are full of shit, and our children and their friends will be too. But our parents, our creators, are full of shit. Sadly parenting waits until our instincts are fully developed before it stops being instinctive and starts being considered. The most rational descendants of rational parents have anxieties, angers and faiths. My hippy-fascist-left-wing friends tell me Conservatives vote Conservative “because their parents did”. Generally, they were given that opinion by their hippy-fascist-left-wing parents. It’s only my parents’ blind-individualistic-unthinking-traditional-fearful-assumed right-wing position that makes me certain my Borderline Communism is real. That and the Replica Stalin Moustache superglued to my Perineum.
Knowing a trap exists doesn’t protect us from it. “Rational” parents – What is it they’re rational about? There are 2 possibilities –
2) Not Everything.
Presuming it’s 2) Not Everything, then their indoctrination only differs from an irrational parent’s in that it’s less conventional and thus less supported by healthcare, art and other people. If it is 1) Everything, then the child is cold and overly rational with inescapable analyses and calm. A truly 100% rational person would attempt to systematically indoctrinate herself with 10% irrationality in order to at least become a realistic lump of humanity.
Early Adulthood can make you feel like your essential “worth” must be permanently on display, and you consequently define yourself by controversial opinions, cynicism, or disliking things most people like. Obviously, it’s fine to dislike football, or the Beatles, or Star Wars. But there are people who take a weird adrenaline-anger-joy from telling everyone how much they don’t like those things, as if to say “I’m different – go on, I challenge you, exclude me from the tribe, cook me and eat me – I dare you.”
Questioning our parents internally isn’t enough – That uses the same brain they made and the good and bad they fed it. The solution is to be willing to hear peer criticism. Even though our peers are are fucked up by their parents, we’re not fucked up by their parents. Their contrasting indoctrination and scars aren’t contagious and can’t damage us, but can peel off the unnecessarily-controlling-iPhone-screen-protector-sheen of our parental brain-jail, allowing us a brief glimpse of how things really are.
This Autumn, a combination of pains, brains and an afflicted friend convinced me I had testicular cancer. My worrying, problem-solving-gone-wrong, emotional indoctrination was a potent shortcut from noticing a twinge to speculating on potential obstructions to being prescribed anti-emetics during Chemotherapy. With no need to move from my position, lying awake watching Alan Partridge on my iPad, under the covers, one headphone in, I lambasted myself for being about to die, having achieved nothing. Why didn’t I get on with creating something worthwhile earlier, like Steve Coogan did? Then maybe it’d be finished by now, and I’d be successful and therefore sort of OK about dying, because I have a legacy. Quite a leap. I thought about one of my young Ukulele students’ Grandmother I’ve spoken to in her pallor and her Chemotherapy wig, me wondering why she seemed so fine about it all. Maybe it’s her legacy – Children and Grandchildren? How was I supposed to have created a Grandchild by age 27? It’s not fair. I should’ve at least tried, because it’ll be impossible to reproduce next year, when, if I’m fortunate, both my testicles will have been replaced by The Royal Free Hospital’s Staff Room’s Table Tennis Balls, or whatever they use nowadays. Drifting from Partridge for a moment, I have an internal debate about the Etymology of “Testis Prosthesis”, a memory of my Dad speaking into a dictaphone in 1997, making notes to aid his boss’ adoption case as a referee, then back to ‘reality’ as my stomach sinks, reminding me I may already have cancer. In those 7 seconds, it has become a thing I’m suddenly and stomach-joltingly reminded of.
Here lies the semi-illuminated limbo of being aware of our indoctrination. We try to rationalise our way out of corners we’ve slept in forever.
I was seeing a Psychotherapist at this point, for Emetophobia and Anxiety. My girlfriend, weary from a week living with a distanced, worried, scrotum-mad, irrational crusader planning his own funeral (somehow managing to do so without an AXA Plan, or the free Parker pen just for enquiring), ordered me to “Tell the fucking therapist about your fucking balls, cos this shit is mental” – She doesn’t have a way with words, but she does usually know what to do. I’m drawn to people who know “what to do” – Because I don’t – I know “what to say” not “what to do”. So, embarrassingly, at the session, I had to say “Before we open YouTube and watch some Americans vomiting, then eat our Wotsits off the floor, can we spend 5 minutes discussing my balls please?” If the NHS had for its Mental Health Professionals an incremental (pun unintended, noticed, retained reluctantly) pay rise scheme based on patient review, this lady would be sleeping on a bed of solid gold straitjackets.
I told her about my testicular pains, how I felt, my friend with testicular cancer and my unusual previous testicular scans – I’d just written about it, was dwelling on it, and my Girlfriend had said “Every time you get stressed out, you start moaning about your fucking balls.”
“And do you think that’s true?”
Then it came to me.
When I’m showing off, or making a joke, my goal is an externally focused reaction. My indoctrination is bypassed – I skip my resentful, bitter, self-censoring, scornful filters, and it’s the closest I come to the truth.
“It must be, because how would anyone ever wrongly come to that conclusion about a person?”
The pain disappeared the following day.