On Mute


I am visiting one of my parents this weekend, who lives in a town that I used to romanticize past the boredom of adolescence.  I figured once I could legally drink, I would eventually find the gems of the town (I was in high school in the nineties, when the coffee shop culture was burgeoning but ultimately less interesting than what must be going on in more intoxicating environs).  I figured I would become one of the adults that seemed to have it all as I viewed them from my teenage periscope (I would have tattoos, live in a house with blue bordered windows, wear men’s undershirts every day, and have acess to all cool things). Now I come back to this town and am unenchanted. 

But that is another story.  Instead, I write with a quick list of the chilling and mundane revelations that pile up with a visit home:

  • Our parents make us into the best version of ourselves, because as we watch them from our adult periscope, their foibles are immense and excruciating.  We are assured that we know better.
  • Our parents are used to not fully listening to us, mostly out of the domination that comes from parenthood.  We are their pets/infinite toddlers. We need policing, cuddles, attention, but only when convenient or in emergencies.
  • The parent child relationship might be the only relationship where it is worse to have clear communication because the power balance is so inherently off kilter that ideas of respect and understanding are counter-intuitive.
  • Jodie Foster’s mid nineties mini-masterpiece Home for the Holidays was made for our parents’ generation, but is balm for every generation. I keep thinking of the floating fish.  
  • The lurch for invisibility (if I sit in the back seat…if I give one word answers…if I can find an errand to run outside of the house).  I am texting in ways that I have never understood before (at restaurants, during family dinners).  Pockets of breath.  If we were in a smoking age, it would be that instead. 
  • I have a hard time watching any movie in a theater with my parents.  Where it used to be the sex scenes that made me squirm, now it is any perforation near what my life might be–the dreadful encapsulation of “youth culture” that is unreal, and yet cannot be explained away.
  • Cable television is a divine drug for family visits.  Easier access, less worry than alcohol, often creating long nights on the couch that will warp us back to the equally laden, though perhaps more wrought, adolescent years.
  • And from my time with the television: Keira Knightly is a hungry man’s Kate Winslet; I am only about 2 centimeters away from appearing on What Not To Wear (last night’s episode was about a 29-year-old who loved hoodies). 




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