Monday, April 28, 2014

Standing Around Being Defective 2

My father was unhappy with social rules that he simply couldn’t comprehend. He sympathized with my complaints about female socialization and gave me a pass on conforming to what we both judged to be ridiculous and humiliating demands placed on women. Once in awhile, at some critical stage when my mother would insist that I dress up “like a lady” and attend some social function, he would sacrifice me to marital peace and order me to obey.

When I directly contradicted his strict adherence to the triumvirate of science, technology and mathematics as the only worthwhile human endeavors, he withdrew angrily. When I defended art, literature, foreign cultures and music as areas of growing interest to me, I witnessed the rigid and deranged male vision of superiority. I was swiftly demoted from being an equal and temporarily cast out as one of them, a category that included all lesser beings: women, minorities, artists, musicians, writers - literally, anyone who was not a white male engineer or scientist. It hurt terribly and compounding his vile attitude was the equally legitimate observation that my father was not an unkind man. His kneejerk hatred toward categories of lesser humans did not play out in daily life. He was helpful to neighbors and to strangers regardless of category, to the point of exasperating my mother with his generosity. He was an unrepentant chit-chatter with any and all who came his way. I never heard an unfriendly word in his conversations unless the topic turned to politics. It was then that the conservative white male monster emerged and we had to drag him out of the situation to avoid a confrontation. In the 1950s such unhinged political behavior was rejected as out-of-bounds, but today it has become main stream political behavior spread by rabid and irrational media ‘news.’

One of the highlights of my father's career in engineering
was the monumental leap from slide rule to the HP 35.

I was stuck with a schizoid model: Everything human was on the other side of the divide in my father’s male world. Female thoughts and opinions simply didn’t matter, and worse, formed some kind of cosmic threat to men. And yet, my father did not impose the standard “women are stupid, emotional, and should never attempt to think” regime on me, but encouraged my heresy. I think he also grasped that any censure of my particular interests would be fruitless. This conflict set me up for a lifelong interest in human behavior.

My hidden analysis of the family proved that both my father and mother were extreme cases of people who were locked into behavior they could neither understand nor modify. It turned out to be not that simple. Although their extremes were dysfunctional, each parent reflected common cultural beliefs promulgated by a particularly unhealthy supernatural script, which had been enacted over and over with tragic success for two millennia.  
When I look back to my childhood I see it ironically. The painful dysfunctional predicament in which I found myself provided material for a favorite type of Asperger challenge. What a mess! I bet I can figure it out. I'm still working on it.  

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