Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Year-Ending Spasm of Self-Loathing

As a shy, timid kid, I never went to summer camp, nor ever slept over at a friend’s house, and no one ever slept over at my house. I was 19 by the time I finally ventured out alone — specifically, to San Mateo, California, south of San Francisco, to try to ensure that my second girlfriend wouldn’t go back during Xmas break to the boyfriend she’d left three months earlier when she came down to Los Angeles to go to college. 

I rode a succession of Greyhound buses, and felt quite the bold adventurer. All on my own was I!  At one of the places I stopped, a concerned father urged his teenage son not to befriend me because I was wearing a Mr. Zigzag button to signify that I had experimented — extensively! — with marijuana. As soon as the bus was out of sight of the station, the young man and I became friends. 

I spent three days with Second Girlfriend, who wasn’t so easily talked out of Old Boyfriend, and headed back to Los Angeles. I was melancholy, of course, but felt quite the worldly young hotshot, having undertaken an 800-mile round trip all on my own. I decided to get off the bus where Topanga Canyon Blvd. meets Pacific Coast Highway rather than continue all the way, as my ticket entitled me to do, into Santa Monica. As I walked the mile or so to the house in which I’d spent the second half of my adolescence, I sang the Stones’ “Going Home”, making myself feel even worldlier. Guess you’d say I’ve seen the world, but I’d rather see my girl. When I finally made it up the hill, I discovered that my dad, who’d driven to Santa Monica to pick me up, was a little peeved about having done so in vain. Feeling my oats, all worldly and self-sufficient, I suggested he fuck off.

I can still see the shock and hurt his eyes, and to this day I’m tempted to punch myself, hard, in the face. Behold the worldly, self-sufficient tough guy, being awful to one of the two people in the world who loved me most, and who I was pretty sure wouldn’t punch me in the nose! 

Two years and change later, a record company flew me to New York, New York, to show one of their biggest acts that not everyone at the company was a middle-aged embarrassment in far too much men’s cologne and a lurid polyester leisure suit, matching white plastic belt and patent loafers. Hanging out with Big Act made me feel a hotshot again, especially after I persuaded one of its groupies, who hadn’t enchanted any of them, to escort me back to my hotel, for what turned out to be the worst sex of my life to that time, thanks to her being SO not into it. Nonetheless, when I flew home to Los Angeles, and my dad met me at LAX, I said not a word to him on the drive home. I’d just cavorted with major British rock stars, and balled, however badly, with a groupie in a black lace top that had left little to the imagination. And now I was supposed to chit-chat with a Hughes Aircraft lifer whose idea of excitement was going out in front of the house to sneak a smoke? Oh, fat, fat chance!

You unspeakable little monster, I say to myself around 1000 times a week. But there’s a sort of upside to the guilt and shame that sometimes threaten to suffocate me. When I think, in view of how fervently I adored her and what a good job I did of how deeply unfair my 15-year estrangement from my daughter is, I remind myself that I deserve every bit of pain I’m in. And more.

I’ve got similar confessions to make about my cruelty toward my mother, her mother (my grandmother), and her brother, for whose suicide, when I was 16, I hold myself partially responsible. I’m pretty sure he was miserable and alienated before I was even born, and I was only a punk teenager, but a punk teenager who could have been a much better friend to him, rather than an eager conduit of my mother’s censure.

It wasn’t that I thought they’d all always be around, so much as that I felt they would. The feeling turned out to be inaccurate. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to be able to tell them how deeply regret my cruelty toward them, and how much I love and miss them.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, we've all been there. Well, not necessarily hanging out with rock bands and shagging groupies in New York, but being obnoxious adolescents who were horrible little shits to our parents. Not much point in beating ourselves up about it now, no matter how much we regret it.