feeling unable
feeling unaccepted - feeling unacceptable
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One entry found for unfeeling. Main Entry: un·feel·ing
Pronunciation: -'fE-li[ng]
Function: adjective
1 : devoid of feeling : INSENSATE <an unfeeling corpse>
2 : devoid of kindness or sympathy : HARDHEARTED, CRUEL <an unfeeling wretch>
- un·feel·ing·ly /-li[ng]-lE/ adverb
- un·feel·ing·ness noun

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i just saw this post on a blog thing & i just can't believe this....
who said life was fun or fair?

Am I A Bad Parent?

So I've got two kids now, a 2 year old and a four week old. You know what? It's not fun anymore. It's work. It's incessant work & sometimes I envy people who don't have kids.

I feel like my every waking moment (it seems like all I have anymore are 'waking' moments) are spent serving The Kids. I wake up in the morning & it's

the kids
the kids
the kids
the kids
the kids

until I go to sleep . . in two hour bursts. . . until dawn.

Kidless folks can just hop in the car whenever they want to go to the mall, or out for drinks with their friends (Friends? What are friends?!?) or to a movie or anything they want to do at any given moment. This is an amazing luxury that should never be taken for granted.

Before you leave a comment like, "You unfeeling A-hole. You should love your kids and thank your lucky stars that you've been blessed with the little rug rats." Well, I know that. I'm not saying I want to put them back in, I'm just feeling like I'm their indentured servant. With the 1st one it was fun. This time, it's a full time job that requires 24 hour shifts. Will it become fun again, you parents of 2? Right now I'm just. . .well. . . jealous. Am I a bad person?

just in case you want to read that for yourself or make a blog comment - click here to go to the source site!



The Disenfranchised Father Syndrome
Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
December 2, 2002


A little over 3 decades ago,
Holmes and Rahe published the Social Readjustment Rating Scale which ranked life events as to their stress factor on a scale of 1-100.

The number 1 rank was "death of a spouse" (death of a child might be presumed as very nearly equivalent) at 100, followed in 2nd place by Divorce (73) 3rd place, Marital Separation (65) then; Changes in financial state (38) Change in Living Conditions (25) Change in residence (20). Compare these event ratings with: Christmas (12); Minor violations of law (11).

For a divorced dad, that's a stress value of 221 points (plus the loss of the children) out of the starting gate. Over time, those events may be compounded and reiterated with each court trip and/or visitation sabotage. All too frequently, we must also factor in the devastating effect of false allegations of abuse.

Other research findings from the Holmes & Rahe scale:

The more life events one experiences, the more likely they are to get sick.

Individuals who have heart attacks had more significant life events in the 6 months prior to the attack.

Individuals who became depressed had a larger number of life events, particularly losses, than those who didn't.

The gradual chipping away at an individual by stresses that wear him or her down leads to susceptibility and precipitates dramatic jumps in illness.

What distinguishes hospitalized groups from the non-hospitalized is the number of "uncontrollable" life events in the preceding year - "helplessness-inducing" life events.


This is the key variable - "uncontrollable". To the degree that a dad is involved in an adversarial divorce, the number and frequency of the accompanying stressful life-events and the impact of the repeated experience of helplessness is virtually inestimable in terms of describing what may be an exponential experience of distress.

That some men are virtually or partially immobilized by emotional pain that is bound up in a closed system, comes as no foreign notion to me, both as a function of my research experience and of that experience outlined in the comments that follow.

But there is more to the Divorced Dads issue than emotional distress, as Maggie Gallagher has so aptly articulated in the linked column. I'd point particularly to the stats that indicate that an average of 56% of white males, whether divorced or single, make less than $18,000 per year - or about $8.00 per hour.

The post-divorce schedule posted elsewhere on the DA*DI pages demonstrates how vulnerable these men are to the potential for becoming "deadbeat dads" when the court follows the "standard" award for child support.


In my experience working with more than 8000 divorced Fathers and in some cases their second families, through the DA*DI network, I originally outlined what I then called the Defeated Father Syndrome.

In listening to their personal experiences and emotional responses to the experience of divorce and the attendant loss of their child or children, these Fathers almost universally shared a symptom cluster that bridged those symptoms associated with both Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Their depression derived from loss of positive reinforcers, a sense of helplessness and a growing negative world view. Their PTSD derived from the battleground of the adversarial family court system in which they repeatedly found themselves on the losing end of a losing proposition - attempting to maintain their roles as Fathers.

It's not hyperbole to associate this experience with the battleground. A 1995 headline in the Detroit News blared: "Declaring War on America's Deadbeat Dads". The war is real, as are its casualties - children and fathers, but the "deadbeat dad" is largely fictional.


Recently, Dr. Sanford Braver published the results of his exhaustive 8-year study of divorce. And in that account, he not only "shatters" the many myths surrounding America's divorced dads, but he also explores the notion of the disenfranchised dad.
In a glaring refutation of cultural perception, Dr. Braver found that "men have more trouble recovering emotionally" from divorce. He notes that "most often the man - feels utterly powerless because he can do nothing to prevent the breakup of the marriage."
This is entirely consistent with my experience in dealing with the DA*DI dads. Hence, I attached the label Defeated. But this is an outcome-based label. It fails to encompass the whole of the divorced, battle weary father experience and what precipitates that sense of defeat.

Dr. Braver more adequately captures the precipitating event in using the label Disenfranchised. He reports, "Fathers are often obsessed with what they perceive as the profound bias against them displayed by the courts and the legal system." And the fact is that such a bias does exist, including the presumption that all divorced dads are or will become deadbeat dads.

Expanding on Dr. Braver's findings, Parke and Brott in
Throwaway Dads takes us another step closer to understanding the degree to which the contemporary myth of the unfeeling, macho, uninvolved, "deadbeat", if not "dangerous" dad belies the frequent, tragic-reality of the post-divorce, disenfranchised, "visiting father."
To their credit, Parke and Brott take note of the fact that "hammering men over the head" with their "wildly exaggerated ... shortcomings only fills them with feelings of shame that serve to drive them further from their families" ... and developing a sense of "being worthless and powerless."


The definition of disenfranchised is "to deprive of political rights", "to enslave", "to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity". Such is the process of becoming a divorced dad - a disenfranchised parent. These definitions are becoming even more relevant as the Child Support Enforcement statutes become more egregious - e.g., depriving Fathers of their licenses to drive or practice their professions.

The following stressors are common in Fathers who have been exposed to divorce and the deeply painful loss of marital attachment and daily involvement in their child(ren)'s life:

the psychological shock of discovering that one's spouse has filed for divorce.

the initial exposure to the prospect of divorce, and the attendant losses including financial and lifestyle stability.

the extreme trauma of being compelled to psychologically separate from the marital relationship while simultaneously maintaining the parenting role.

the perceptual transition of the object of one's affection to one's adversary.

the perception of betrayal.

the emotional trauma of establishing a new home and alternate lifestyle.

the added economic hardship of legal proceedings and separate domicile.

the associated and unrelenting punitive experience of the family court system when attempting to maintain some form of parental involvement in an adversarial divorce.

the shame and indignation surrounding false allegations of abuse.

the immediate separation from their children.

the extended separation from their children.

repeated defeats in legal actions.

repeated accusations and investigations of alleged abuse.

repeated denial of court-ordered parenting time.

sabotage of the Father-child nurturance relationship by the custodial mother.

the perceived or real ineffectiveness of legal representation.

the increasing perception of distance in shared emotional and life experiences with one's child(ren) - a growing sense of separateness.

an increasingly punitive association between the attachment to their child(ren) and the hostility or indifference of an adversarial spouse.

emotional and physical exhaustion from frustrated attempts to sustain a Father role.

  • the increasing realization that a Father has no legal rights in the family court system.


Most Fathers who become non-custodial parents struggle on valiantly for several years after the epoch event, attempting to maintain some kind of normalcy in their relationship with their offspring. But they gradually & realistically, come to realize that what is lost is greater than what is preserved. They increasingly feel helpless to have a prominent influence in their child(ren)'s lives. Consequently, in many cases the motivation for career success is significantly diminished.

To the degree that the non-custodial Father was involved in his child(ren)'s daily activities & played an active & nurturant parenting role, the levels of stress will be concommitantly exacerbated.

Almost immediately, however, the stressors listed above begin to form symptom clusters that are most often associated with the following clinical syndromes. Because of the singular & shared association with the trauma of divorce & the loss of the Fatherhood role, as well as the frequency of occurrence, a separate diagnostic entity is warranted - the Disenfranchised Father Syndrome: 



  • Significant Appetite &/or Weight Change.

  • Sleep Change: Too Little or Too Much.

  • Agitation or Lethargy.

  • Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Usual Activities.

  • Decrease in Sexual Drive.

  • Loss of Energy; Fatigue.

  • Feelings of Worthlessness or Inappropriate Guilt.

  • Slowed Thinking; Indecisiveness; Poor Concentration.

  • Recurrent Thoughts of Death, Suicide, Wishes to be Dead.

  • diagnosis of either disorder requires the presence of only 4 symptoms.

P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Symptoms:

  • Presence of a Significant Stress Event.

  • Recurrent, Intrusive Recollection of the Event.

  • Recurrent dreams of the Event.

  • Sudden Feelings that the Event is Recurring.

  • Numbing of Involvement with the External World.

  • Markedly Diminished Interest in Significant Activities.

  • Feelings of Detachment/Estrangement from Others.

  • Exaggerated Startle Response; Hyperalertness.

  • Sleep Disturbance.

  • Irrational Guilt.

  • Memory/Concentration Impairment.

  • Avoidance of Activities that Arouse Memories of the Event.

  • Intensification of the Above Signs by Exposure to Events that Symbolize the Traumatic Event.


How do we defend Fathers against the relentless societal juggernaut that drives them into becoming portrayed as psuedo-felons & fictitious-deadbeats?

We must first accept the fact that the historic male caricature of the strong, unfeeling & impervious patriarch is a myth in today's society. Many divorced Fathers are the battle-weary casualties of a culture that no longer finds value in Fatherhood & a court system that is engaged in the self-fulfilling prophecy that they'll become deadbeats.

We must acknowledge that men can be weakened & that they frequently become disabled by the same emotional bonds that they have been enculturated to develop with their children - before becoming divorced & disenfranchised.

Mental Illness, such as PTSD &/or Depression is disabling, displaying a continuum of severity that substantially limits one or more of a Disenfranchised Father's major life activities.



As the nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker has so aptly surmised,

"The solution to deadbeat dads isn't criminalizing fathers, but allowing them to be part of their children's lives. Tonight, in a nation where fatherlessness is recognized as one of our most serious social problems, 42% of all children will sleep in a house where their biological father does NOT live. ... The wonder isn't that we have deadbeat dads, but that we don't have more."

It's likely that today's Disenfranchised Father is in many, if not most cases, exhibiting an emotional disability deriving from the divorce experience that substantially limits one or more of his major life activities. Direct evidence of that disability, other than psychological tests for disordered mood, often comes from a sketchy work history, &/or the inability to function at optimal employment capacity.

It's highly likely that Fathers who have been imprisoned for failure to meet egregious support provisions, are in fact being imprisoned for emotional disability - the Disenfranchised Father Syndrome - a self-fulfilling by-product of a profoundly biased legal system.
Where is the Americans With Disabilities Act then? In the medical & psychiatric professions, when the administered treatment inadvertently produces a negative impact on the patient's well-being, it's known as an iatrogenic illness.

In the case of Divorced Dads, I don't believe that there is anything inadvertent about this sometimes profoundly disabling iatrogenic outcome. Rather, it's a deliberate & biased, jackbooted application of the full power of the State.


We must continue the struggle to restore equity and the Fatherhood franchise - for the health of our Dads, for the health of our Kids and for the future health of our Culture. But we must also be ready to recognize the symptoms of DFS in our brotherhood and reach out to those deliberately damaged Dads that desperately need our support.

Finally, it's important to remember that a man's grief, unlike a woman's, is more likely to be expressed as rage than tears. And all too often, that rage is turned against themselves, in the form of suicide. Even then, in the irrational reaction of guilt and the uncontrollable reaction of grief, they're ironically engaged in protecting others from their fear of their own rage.

Inspirational quotes from English poet and playwright, John Dryden 1631-1700

Deserted, at his utmost need,
By those his former bounty fed;
On the bare earth exposed he lies,
With not a friend to close his eyes.
     - Alexander's Feast (st. 4)

Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.
     - Maxim 911.

A man is to be cheated into passion,
but to be reasoned into truth.
     - unsourced but attributed to Dryden

The gates of Hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But, to return, and view the cheerful skies;
In this, the task and mighty labour lies.
     - Spoken to Aeneas, in his quest to find his father.
     - Aeneid, bk. 6, l. 126-9, trans. by John Dryden.

Forgiveness to the injured does belong;
But they ne’er pardon who have done the wrong.
     - The Conquest of Granada. Part ii. Act i. Sc. 2.

Either be wholly slaves or wholly free.
     - The Hind and the Panther, pt. 2, l. 285 (1687)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call to-day his own;
He who, secure within, can say,
To-morrow, do thy worst, for I have liv’d to-day.
     - Imitation of Horace. Book iii. Ode 29, Line 65.

The brave man seeks not popular applause,
Nor, overpower'd with arms, deserts his cause;
Unsham'd, though foil'd, he does the best he can,
Force is of brutes, but honor is of man.
     - Palamon and Arcite (bk. III, l. 2015)

Self-defence is Nature’s eldest law.
     - Absalom and Achitophel, pt. 1, l. 458 (1681).

Must I at length the sword of justice draw?
Oh curst effects of necessary law!
How ill my fear they by my mercy scan,
Beware the fury of a patient man.
     - Absalom and Achitophel (pt. I, l. 1005)

(DFS: reprised from the original, 6/21/2000)


Starting Out Right
by Maureen Cech

When the October class photos arrive, it's always discouraging to see how few of their classmates the children can remember. How can this be? They play together, share lunches, collaborate on projects and often go to the same child care centre.

Since September, they have spent almost 200 hours together - together yet sometimes very much alone. Without the focus of inclusion, the children have learned very little about their playmates.

Often, they don't know the name of today's supply teacher; the aide who helped out at nap time all last week; or the musician who came in every Friday to do a music circle. Are our children callous and unfeeling or do they lack social skills?

Are we remiss in naming children and in introducing ourselves and our colleagues?

The answer says a great deal about inclusiveness. Children may hear a name once, make a quick connection, then go off to the subject of play and away from the players. They move in many groups -flexible groups with transient members. The teacher who helped open their canned peaches on Monday was gone on Friday and someone new came: "I'm not sure who."

That's why September's child care priority must be inclusion. By making connections, we can help children get acquainted with their teachers and their friends in child care. These connections, in turn, will help children develop positive self-concepts by making them feel like an important and valued member of the group.

Play an inclusion game at snack time or just before going outside. The next morning be ready to talk to the children about the game. This is one way of debriefing. They'll say what they liked or didn't like, a funny thing they remember, or when they want to play it again. The 5 games that follow always provoke calls for encores!


What's in a Name?

This game lets children share their own name's history, its meaning or significance, a nickname derived from it, their feelings about it and what name they might prefer. Play it while the children are sitting together waiting to start their snack or lunch. They may want to make a placecard for themselves too. A follow-up job is to ask a different child each day to hand out the placecards, thereby combining a reading and memory game all at once.

This is an opportunity for you to talk about losing names. Sometimes a person's name is lost by being taken away or changed; this has happened to some people who were put in prisons and concentration camps. When they lost their names, they lost their personal identity.

That's why it hurts so much when people call you by another name, mock your name, or shorten it to a name they prefer. Losing your name just isn't fun!

Culture Collage

When children choose to draw, encourage them to draw a collage that includes all the symbols that are special to them. The next day, let them change their collage if they choose. At the end of the week mount all of the pictures together. Try to see how many symbols are shared and how the pictures reflect the artists.

You might want to ask the children to guess whose collage belongs to which artist. The children usually want to re-draw their pictures at this point. Their culture collages have already changed in a few short days. This experience reminds the children not to stereotype their friend's culture, or say that they know all about it.

I Can't Eat That

Eating lunch together is a springboard for playing a game about food preferences. Have each child name a food they didn't like when they were very small, a food they didn't like before they started school and a food they don't like now. You can act as the group recorder with a felt marker and a piece of flipchart taped to the wall.

This shows the children how their own tastes and those of their friends have changed. It also tells them a little more about their friends. You can share your own food preferences with them too. Tell them why, "Yuk that stinks" hurts your feelings when you offer someone your favorite food. Suggest that they say instead, "I don't like that now, I may try it someday."


Feeling accepted and appreciated by the group is very important for school-aged children. This game is a chance for them to feel appreciated and to learn names too. It's also a positive alternative to the habit of passing notes.

Encourage each child to write a positive note to each of the other children in care. The note can be simple: "you can skip"; "I like your pink shoes"; or "you make me laugh" are some of the ones I have read.

Fold the paper and help put the child's name on the outside fold, then put it in that child's cubby or take-home file. The gifts are lovely to give and lovely for the recipient to read at the end of the day.

Standing Ovation

This is a good game if someone in the group has had a very frustrating day. It's easy to play - just have everyone stand up, put their arms out and brings their hands together quickly 10 times. Thank them for the standing ovation. Then ask them to close their eyes. Tell them you'll count from 10 to one.

The people who have had a great day sit down when the number 10 is called. If they've had an average day, they sit down when the number 6 is called and so on. Inevitably, only a few will remain standing.

Have everyone open their eyes and clap hard for those few who have had terrible days. It helps!

September is a great time to meet new friends and become part of the group. These 5 games will help children feel included and learn how to include others as well. Maybe this October, when the class photos arrive, you'll have a wonderful surprise!

These are just a few of the 40 games from "Globalchild Growing Up," a forthcoming publication by Addison-Wesley. The book will help school-aged children look at bias and become active advocates for equality.


'Do you not see the heart in the stars?' - Lighting Candles for the Missing
UN Chronicle,  Sept-Nov, 2001  by Kevin M. Cahill

Many of the victims of the terrorist attacks of 11 September were young people, often at the beginning of their professional lives, as indeed were many firemen and rescue workers who lost their lives when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. Around the world, people, trying to make sense of the tragedy, experienced the days and weeks following the attacks with "grief approaching despair and overwhelming, abiding hope."

In many places around New York spontaneous memorials telling the victims' stories help those left behind find ways to cope with the senseless violence.

The UN Chronicle presents in the following pages, 3 perspectives of such memorials for the missing. At a recent memorial service at New York's Pace University, which is located near "Ground Zero" and had lost several of its students, Kevin Cahill shared his own personal experiences of humanitarian tragedies in other parts of the world. The service ended with the lighting of candles.

Lawri Moore, President of the United Nations Jazz Society, shares her conversations with many jazz musicians in New York about coping with the tragedy. Finally, we include a silent tribute to one of the many young New York City firefighters lost in the rubble, Jonathan Ielpi, 29, first assistant chief of the volunteer Vigilant Fire Department in Great Neck, New York.

It's a privilege to be asked to share in this memorial service at Pace University, but also and just as important, to be present at your time of renewal. These emotions - grief approaching despair and overwhelming, abiding hope - aren't contradictory or mutually exclusive.

Particularly for the young, hope for a better future, contradictory or mutually, is a fundamental part of your being. It's why you study at a university. To learn, to expand your minds, so that you can contribute to others and maybe, just maybe, make a more sane world for your children and their children.


Today, it's both your solidarity with the dead and the injured, combined with your determination and commitment to begin a new era, that offer the finest tribute to the memory of those we honour. To you who have lost loved ones and to you who are physically or mentally scarred by this trauma, don't be afraid, don't underestimate your capacity to heal and to grow, for you can and you simply must go on and we all must learn from this disaster.

My own perspective on tragedy is somewhat unusual. Every day most physicians deal with human tragedy, for pain and death are a part of medical life. But usually these are individual events and few physicians are prepared for enormous catastrophes. But for over 40 years I've had the good fortune to work in troubled parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

I began my career in tropical medicine in the slums of Calcutta and first saw widespread starvation there. Later, I worked as a doctor in refugee camps in Somalia and the southern Sudan and lived with disease and death on a massive scale. I've been caught behind the lines in conflicts & seen senseless slaughter in Beirut and Managua and all across the scarred landscape of modern Africa.

My perspective on human tragedy, therefore, is tempered by such experiences and may offer a necessary balance, as we Americans ponder the terrorist acts that destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, killed thousands of innocent people and disrupted life around the world.

Because I deal with epidemic diseases and the potentials of bio-terrorism, I have been at the emergency command post and down at the ground-zero site. No words - at least I don't have words - can describe the rubble there, with fused body parts strewn across a landscape we knew so well.

We had been spared such scenes in the United States. Geography isolated us from recent conflicts; the First and Second World Wars passed our land by, but we must remember that the spectre of death and destruction is well known in almost every other part of the world. We must not forget that London and Stalingrad, Dresden and Hiroshima, Dubrovnik and Grozny have all been almost obliterated and yet, with courage and hard work, with help from friends and former enemies, they came back to life as cities and societies.

In our sorrow today, as we honour our thousands dead and missing, we must also remember that a million people were hacked to death a few years ago in Rwanda.

I worked in Somalia when hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children starved to death. Every one of those dead had a father and mother, sister or a brother, child or a lover.

Somehow, keeping that perspective has always helped me to carry on, to try to help others to heal. I firmly believe we are all part of one world. We in America have been the most fortunate and we have every right to defend our way of life. But we would indulge in an obscene and dangerous deception if we think this is the only tragedy to befall mankind.

It will begin - as your University proudly does every day - by mixing the wisdom & efforts of all cultures, races & religions in an endless struggle to find better ways to root out hatreds & end the cycles of violence, part of which exploded right here in your neighbourhood on September 11th.

Those are not, I hope, unfeeling words on a day when one rightly expects sympathy. But healing will take more than mere expressions of sympathy.

It's important that the world outside of this nation also understand that America is a nation of caring and compassion. If we're perceived as only a military power that will seek our vengeance, then violence and retribution will inevitably continue. For many years I've been, as my wife sometimes suggests, obsessed with the idea that health and humanitarian affairs ought to be central in our foreign policy, not peripheral afterthoughts.

We have failed, as a great nation, to let the outside world understand the goodness of our people, to be as proud of America's heart in the stars as we are of our undoubted strength.

The solutions that America uses in responding to the terrible terrorist acts we have endured must reflect, as President Bush has indicated, our resolve and our power to punish and destroy those who tried to end our way of life. But, as any physician knows, a surgical excision is but a tool in therapy. The first obligation is to define the root causes of a disease and know how it evolves before devising a rational therapy.

Even in mental illness, one must try to understand the bases of disturbed thoughts if one is to penetrate those terrible dark areas of paranoia and hatred. I pray that our national response will be based on all the unique qualities that make America great. The world must see the heart of America as we have seen it here in New York in the last few days.

This memorial service will end with the lighting of candles - the flame has long been a symbol of the search for knowledge and truth. You, in your university years, are the new generation that must carry on that search and you now know that here in New York you're no longer alone. You've lived through an incredible period that binds us together. It's important that you go forth in confidence and in love, using the power of the mind and the heart rather than the tools of revenge and violence. I wish you well in this difficult endeavour.

RELATED ARTICLE: In a small examining room in my medical office, there is a drawing of an American flag done by the distinguished artist Louis Le Brocquy. Many years ago, he was sitting on the porch of our home and looking at our flag, suddenly said, "Do you not see the heart in the stars?

I show you this image because in a way I think it captures what I feel today. America has demonstrated its heart in remarkable ways in the past fortnight. We all know the stories of those who rescued the disabled and then went back into the burning buildings to save their fellow workers. We know of the heroic work of police and firefighters and one has only to see, as I lust did, the people in the command centre and down at the ground-zero site to know that America has a very big heart indeed.

There are lines of good people donating their blood and their money and their time as volunteers. We've had a tireless mayor lead this city out of chaos and encourage life to return to normal. America demonstrated a heart that we may have always known was there, but, as is our fashion, was too rarely seen.

Kevin Cahill

COPYRIGHT 2001 United Nations Publications
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group


Published on Thursday, September 9, 2004 by the Easthampton Star / Long Island, New York
The Unfeeling President
by E.L. Doctorow 

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice.

He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.

A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills - it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

E. L. Doctorow is an American novelist. His works are noted for their mingling of American history and literary imagination through the interaction of fictional and real-life characters.

Copyright © 2004 East Hampton Star


To Francis Bacon, Henrietta Moraes was

model and muse

      To her son, Josh, she was

an unfeeling addict.

Henrietta Moraes left very little behind when she died a fortnight ago at the age of 67: namely a handful of possessions and a stack of unpaid bills to be met by her only son, Joshua. There was no will.

The artists' model made famous by Francis Bacon had wanted a church funeral near her beloved Cheyne Walk, in Chelsea - it was there, after all, that she had been happiest, glugging away her money in the house left to her by the painter Johnny Minton. This was to be followed by a burial at Brompton Cemetery.

Josh briefly considered having his mother cremated and scattering her ashes around her favourite haunts - mostly pubs. But in the end, Henrietta got her way, as she always did. She made her final journey through Chelsea in a coffin, hand-made by her old friend Mark Palmer, in a glass carriage drawn by a pair of plumed horses.

The funeral cortege consisted of all those who had cared for and been driven to distraction by Henrietta during her extraordinarily debauched life. In spite of her shortcomings - she was demanding, devious, often downright dishonest, selfish, heroically hedonistic and self indulgent - many people, it seems, still loved her.

Also in attendance were the same upper-class hippy friends with whom she had travelled in a cavalcade of horse-drawn caravans in the early Seventies: Mark Palmer and his wife Catherine Tennant, the designer David Mlinaric and his wife Martha, Penny Guinness and the antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs. During the service, Henrietta's literary agent, Alexandra Pringle, read an extract from her autobiography, Henrietta - a compelling account of almost 40 years of committed alcoholism. No one, however, could be found to read the address.

"I must have asked five or six people," says her son. "But they all refused." It seems that nobody could think of an anecdote suitable to be recounted within the walls of a church.

The funeral left Josh feeling empty and defeated. "I was surrounded by people telling me how wonderful Henrietta was - how clever and visionary and rare - and all I could think was: 'But where was she for me?' "

Josh, an artist, has three sons of his own, from two marriages: Peter, 17, Amos 11 and Hamilton, nine. But it is only through their childhoods that he has started rediscovering his own. He has flashes of memory, and occasionally recalls a fleeting sense of love from his father, Henrietta's second husband, Norman Bowler. But he cannot remember his mother ever putting her arms around him.

      "I remember her stroking my hair, once," he says. "And, as that's all there was, it almost has to be enough."

Josh was eight when Henrietta drunkenly implored him to look after her when he grew up; an idea that so terrorised him, he never forgot it. "For years, I ran away from the nightmare surrounding Henrietta because I knew that when it caught up with me, it would be total chaos."

Last year, Henrietta, addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol, was sectioned for attacking a policeman; her liver packed up; her friends dived for cover. Only then, when she was faced with a choice between death and sobriety, did she querulously agree to get on a plane to Dublin.

Josh, who has battled with his own addictions, then spent a year drying her out at his cottage in the Burren, in the west of Ireland.

"For the first time in my life, I felt I had the strength to stay and face her," he says. Henrietta, however, managed to remain sober for only four months; then she returned to London where, shortly afterwards, she died from a heart attack.

When Josh's younger sister Caroline rang to break the news, he found that he could feel nothing but relief. "I think I stopped laughing - really laughing - when I was about eight, and I didn't laugh properly again until just a few years ago."

Josh Bowler was born in 1956, when Henrietta was 24. When she met his father, Norman Bowler, she was still married to the film maker Michael Law. Bowler, then a body-builder, was the lover of one of her best friends, Johnny Minton. But neither age, marital status nor sexual orientation was ever a barrier to Henrietta. She immediately divorced Law and, when she married Norman on a boiling hot August day, was already eight months pregnant. Nobody could have been less equipped to be a mother.

Henrietta had had no experience of being cared for herself. She was sent to boarding school at the age of three and, in the holidays, was looked after by her grandmother, who was sadistic and often violent towards her. Through most of her childhood, she felt alone; unwanted and unprotected, what she craved most of all was a sense of belonging. She found it, briefly, among the artists and drinkers of Fifties Soho.

Most of what Josh remembers of his childhood is fragments of a chaotic life played out against the backdrop of his mother's drinking and partying. He was two when Henrietta left Norman - there were affairs on both sides - and decamped to Johnny Minton's house at 9 Apollo Walk; for eight years, she lived there with Josh, Caroline and Nana, an Irish nanny.

"Nana was the only solid thing in our lives," says Josh. "In some ways, she was a mother to all of us. When she died, Henrietta went on a bender, which is what she always did when painful feelings surfaced; she buried them again with drugs and alcohol. She attached herself to ever more dissipated friends. My sister and I looked after ourselves."

Josh was forced to sit, naked, for various artists, from whom Henrietta received money. He was also sexually abused by one of her acquaintances. The house was filthy and filled with junkies; "Dustbin" Joyce, covered in abscesses and sores and so called because she lived in a dustbin in the Fulham Road, took over his bedroom. There was no food, gas or electricity and, from time to time, there were police raids. He remembers creeping out at night in the rain to collect wood from skips to make a fire.

"There was no chance of ever bringing a friend home from school," he says. "I was too ashamed. The only way I could survive was to put up a barrier between myself and the world, and between myself and my sister, too. We took all our anger and frustration out on each other. The mother I wanted was honest, clever and beautiful, and she loved me. The mother I had blew everything, including our house, to buy drink and drugs."

When Josh was 14, Henrietta was arrested for cat burglary. High on amphetamines, and with a basket over her arm, she had been climbing into other people's houses for kicks. "She would never have stolen for money - it wouldn't have occurred to her," says Josh. "Although, God knows, we needed it. She just adored the danger."

After a two-week spell in Holloway prison, she left the children with a series of "guardians" - for a time, they lived with George Melly and his family - and hit the road. For four years, she lived a hippy way of life, first in a caravan, then in The Den, a tiny cottage Mark Palmer found for her in Wales.

"She was clever and she liked toffs," says Josh. "Which was fortunate, because she could very well have been a bag lady. I think her friends realised that she didn't have an emotional or financial safety net. She was almost childlike. She gave her trust and her vulnerability and people loved her for that."

But Henrietta's judgment was so badly skewed that, as a parent, she was lethal; in her autobiography, her children merit fewer mentions than her dachshunds.

"She simply didn't have the right equipment," says Josh. "No one ever really cared for her, and perhaps it's just too hard to give your own children the very thing you didn't have yourself."

He admits that the pattern continues; at times, he has found it hard to love his own boys in the way he so longed to be loved as a child. "When you shut down early on, you don't acknowledge emotional pain. You don't feel anything. It's a form of self protection. For years, I carried on dampening everything down with alcohol and drugs, as Henrietta always had, and, for a while, that works - but I'd rather be sober and face everything than piss my life away."

Of the time he spent with his mother in Ireland, he says: "I could feel this huge well of anger and frustration rising up. I wanted to smash my fists into the furniture. I wanted to shake her physically." He did neither. "My mistake was in expecting something back from her, because she really couldn't give it. I knew if she went back to London, she'd kill herself. She went, ranting and complaining about how I'd treated her, and I never saw her alive again."

When Henrietta died in her bedsit off Fulham Road, her new friend, the artist Maggi Hambling, was holding her hand and Max, her adored dachshund, was by her side. In her last months, Henrietta had been Maggi's muse: "Telling her off, nagging her about her painting, bossing her about," says Josh.

Like his mother, he is extraordinarily trusting, desperate to belong and overly sensitive to slights and knocks. But he has a strength of character Henrietta lacked; with the help of drug re-hab and AA, he has been clean for seven years. He has found peace in Ireland, where he is working on a series of installations, and even some longed-for security in his current relationship with Marina Guinness, step-daughter of his mother's friend Penny Guinness.

Friends have asked him why he felt he had to try to save Henrietta. "I didn't do it just for her," he says, with brutal honesty. "There was a pay-off for me, too. I faced my deepest fear - the fear that one day I'd have to look after my mother. The ultimate pay-off is that whatever wrong she did me, I've done the right thing by her.

"I don't feel any guilt - I feel freedom. I kept my promise; I've been a good son and I've survived."

Caroline Scott
The Daily Telegraph
- United Kingdom
22 January 1999 


Chemical Dependency & Family Relationships by Herbert G. Lingren, Extension Family Life Specialist

If you've grown up or lived in a family where one or both parents drinks too much, or takes drugs, your family may have learned some negative coping behaviors.

For example, where there are alcoholics, there are spouses, relatives and friends who affect and are affected by alcohol-related behaviors. If, however, the spouse, or some other family member, doesn't confront the alcoholism, he or she is referred to as a "codependent" - someone who allows or enables the alcoholic to remain dependent on alcohol.

Alcoholism isn't just one person's problem and for the family to recover, all family members must confront the alcoholism and their own codependent behavior.

The nonalcoholic partner (and sometimes the children) often assume overly responsible and dominant roles, becoming "overfunctioners." In this view, the alcoholic's drinking is seen as a way to neutralize the overfunctioner's control. Thus, alcoholic marriages often become struggles for control. Here are some common functions that alcohol provides for the family:

* Signals stress and strain. Drinking is an attempt to minimize the stress from internal or external events. Of course, using alcohol to cope with problems only adds more stress to family life.

* Stabilizes a chaotic system. Drinking functions as a smoke screen for other marital and family problems. Families try to hide or avoid problems through alcohol. If the drinking abates, these underlying problems may surface and the family will have to face them. Drinking creates an illusion of predictable family interaction.

* Regulates emotional intimacy. During the drinking phase, alcohol serves to create emotional distance between family members (especially between partners). During the sober phase, they typically re-establish emotional closeness.

Additionally, partners in alcohol-troubled relationships often have difficulty expressing either anger or intimacy (and frequently both). Alcoholics, unable to express anger directly, resort to drinking to express frustration and rage. They drown their anger, as well as their sorrows, in a bottle. The mounting anger and resentments also can lead to sexual dysfunction as a further defense against intimacy.

Despite all this, the drinking continues, because alcoholics maintain two core beliefs:

(1) I am not an alcoholic

(2) I can control my drinking.

Similarly, their families have two beliefs:

(1) There is no alcoholic in the family

(2) We shouldn't talk about the drinking.

A shared fear of separation keeps these beliefs alive. This fear prevents alcoholic couples from talking about the drinking and any underlying problems. Couples often fear that risking a confrontation will lead to the end of the relationship.

However, for a lasting change to occur, both individuals must be willing to confront separation as a possible solution to relationship difficulties. This may free them to talk more honestly with each other instead of skirting around their problems.

Children living with the chemically dependent parent

If you grew up in a chemically dependent family, you may have learned how to be the "perfect" child to avoid conflict. If you think one of your parents has or had a problem with drugs or alcohol, ask yourself the following questions:

(1) Do you work extra hard in school and other activities, leaving little time for yourself?

(2) Do you find yourself trying to second guess your parent's reactions so that you will not upset them and "make" them drink or use drugs?

(3) Are you willing to accept blame in an argument to keep others from, getting upset or angry?

(4) Do you drink or use illegal drugs?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably learned in your family to put other people's needs before your own. Adolescents with drinking or drugging parents often learn to recognize the feelings of others instead of recognizing their own feelings.

Such families are called a chemically dependent family system because if a parent has a problem with alcohol or drugs and the rest of the family will adjust to that person's moods and behaviors. An adolescent may work hard to try to control the family environment, even instructing siblings on how to behave to keep from upsetting Mom or Dad.

Chemically dependent families have 4 common, destructive traits. They are:

(1) Denial. Denial is the common denominator in every chemically dependent family. Chemically dependent parents deny their addictions and their children are encouraged to cover it up, to deny it, too.

They grew up learning that the family didn't talk about its problems. The family didn't deal with feelings either, therefore individuals may not have learned how to deal with them either.

(2) Guilt. Children get the message that they're responsible for the behavior of their chemically dependent parent. They feel the blame for their family's pain and that it's in their power to control what happens in their family.

The guilt over their inability to control the family will stop only when they drop the notion they're responsible for it. Children need to experience their own feelings and not feel guilty about having feelings, whether they be anger, sorrow, shame or happiness.

(3) Fear of anger. As children in chemically dependent families grow up, they often have difficulty in expressing what they want in relationships. They never learned they can express anger without losing a relationship or making people uncontrollably upset.

Children need to understand that their frustration or anger didn't cause mom or dad to drink or use drugs - it was their parent's own problems and insecurities.

Likewise, children need to understand that expressing their own needs and anger in other relationships will not turn their friends to drugs or alcohol. In a healthy relationship, people can talk about their wants and needs and can work together to find workable solutions to their problems.

(4) Relationships. Young adults often become involved with people who are cold and unfeeling because their chemically dependent parent was unable to respond to their emotional needs?

Adolescents growing up with an addicted parent tend to form overinvolved, enmeshed relationships, often with chemically dependent peers. Very often they have alcohol and other drug problems themselves.

To establish healthy relationships, people must learn to reject the overriding family myth that taking care of others is more important than taking care of themselves. Self-protection and appropriate self-interest isn't "selfish."

Adolescents need to accept their own vulnerability to drugs. Family involvement with those substances puts them at great risk. Many adolescents with chemically dependent parents will test their ability to drink or experiment with drugs again and again if they don't come to terms with the increased danger involved.

When people learn they can't control other people, when they no longer feel guilt from expressing anger and when they learn that taking care of themselves is a healthy approach to life, they have begun to "own" their feelings and have begun to be their own person and take charge of their life.

If they have difficulty with relationships, with being "codependent", with challenging their chemically dependent family, perhaps they should consider family therapy.


An Unaffectionate Spouse
From Pat Gaudette
Several people have written to complain about their spouses being cold and unfeeling toward them. In a couple instances, they're strongly considering divorce as the first step toward finding someone who will show them affection.

Not everyone is comfortable showing affection toward another person and sometimes a person never learned how to show affection toward those they love.

Carol explains it far better than I could so here's what she had to say regarding her husband's inability to display affection toward her:

"When Steve and I got married, I thought I was the luckiest person in the world (what woman doesn't on her wedding day?). He was warm and sweet and thoughtful. Not to mention all his other good qualities that made me feel so lucky to be his bride!

It wasn't long after our honeymoon that he went from warm, sweet and thoughtful to a man who didn't think it was important to say he loved me, bring me flowers, or give me a hug just because.

When we were dating, he used to call me all kinds of silly little names (in place of calling me 'Carol') but now, the silly names were gone and I was just plain 'Carol'. Darn it, I enjoyed hearing him call me 'babyblue' (I have blue eyes) when I was feeling a little low...

I won't go into detail but the man he turned into after we got married wasn't the man I thought I was marrying. I needed affection and he just didn't want to give it!

I took the 'rejection' (that's how I felt) for almost 5 years and then I met someone who seemed to know just what I was missing. He was a guy at work and we'd have coffee together once in a while and of course there'd be times I'd be a little down and maybe it wasn't appropriate for me to talk about what was going on (or not going on) at home, but I let it slip about Steve being so cold.

He shared that his wife was the same way and he felt the same way as me.

Yes, we certainly were primed to move into forbidden territory and quite frankly I'm a bit amazed that we didn't at that point although maybe the love I felt for Steve was just strong enough to keep me from doing something really stupid and deep inside me there was a little voice that said getting involved with George would be the dumbest thing I'd ever done in my life.

I did think about George and I was flattered by his increased attention after that day. But something happened to keep our relationship from moving from casual friends to involved. Steve's kid brother was killed in an auto accident.

I had never had much contact with Steve's folks so there hadn't been much chance to see how he and his family interacted toward each other. His brother's death brought everyone together and gave me an insight into his family history. What I saw was a father who felt displays of affection were unmanly and a mother who was uncomfortable with terms of affection - even at such a terrible time as the death of their youngest child! If there was ever a time to hug and hold hands and whisper terms of endearment, this was it!

There was love between Steve's parents, I was sure of that, but they didn't make any outward displays - the typical hugging, kissing, sweet words, the kinds of things my family had done when I was growing up. This was the example Steve had set for him as he grew up.

It took me a while to understand that Steve was more comfortable when there was no hand holding or hugging or silly words. But he and I were able to talk about what he needed and what I needed and when he understood that showing affection was very important to me and when I understood that he wasn't really rejecting me by not showing affection (in the way I needed it), we were able to start working on a more loving and intimate and mature marital relationship.

Nothing is perfect and neither of us expect to find ourselves matching the 'Brady Bunch' for family of the year, but we're at least more in tune with each other's needs and when I need a hug I just ask. And Steve is getting better about little surprises such as flowers for no reason or silly gifts just because.

And George? Well, I decided he could end up being trouble so I cut the coffee breaks. It didn't take him long to find someone else who was more 'needy' and I'm sorry to say that he and she are now involved in a messy relationship.

Thanks for hearing me out." -- Carol


Carrying Courtship into Marriage

From Pat Gaudette

You might wonder why Carol would have fallen in love with Steve given her need for affection and his inability to display it in her terms. The fact is, many people do display affection during courtship because they recognize it to be a part of courtship. They learn from books and movies that hugging, kissing, hand holding, gifts and sweet words are all part of the courtship ritual.

What they don't learn is that all of those things should continue when the relationship moves to commitment and marriage. How they will relate to their spouse is more in terms of what they observed in the relationship between their parents.

It can be just as uncomfortable for a spouse who was raised in a household devoid of open signs of affection to show affection, as it is for a spouse who was raised in an openly affectionate family to not show affection.

In Carol's case she was lucky enough to get a clear look at Steve's family situation so that she could better understand what was happening in their relationship.

Not all marriages are as lucky as Carol's. It's easier to look outside marriage for someone to provide what's missing than to work on the marriage itself. Sadly, as an outsider becomes increasingly important to the wandering spouse, less and less true intimacy is given to the marriage.

Having an understanding about the problem is a good step toward finding the proper solutions to the problem.

It can be difficult to feel loved when our need for affection isn't being met. The fact that our spouse is unable to show affection doesn't mean that he or she doesn't love us with all of their heart.

Please take care of yourself.


HIS Midlife Crisis! Will Your Relationship Survive?

by Pat Gaudette, founder of The Midlife Club
©1996 Pat Gaudette. All rights reserved
You're in a committed relationship, married or involved on an exclusive basis. You thought everything was glorious. Or, at least as glorious as it gets - all relationships have some rough spots.

It seems that you're always fighting. Or he just doesn't act like himself anymore. He doesn't like his job. He wants to sell the house and get a little place in the mountains or a sailboat and sail to the islands.
You're too fat or too thin or too short or too tall. He doesn't like being home. He wants a sportier car. He changes his hair style, starts a diet and joins the local gym. He says his clothes are too old for him. He says you and he have grown apart. He needs time to think about 'things.' He wants space. He wants something but he doesn't know what. He wants a divorce.

If he's between the ages of 40 and 60 (give or take a few years), your man is blazing a trail thru male midlife - he's having a crisis.

We're not talking about the man who has always been a womanizer, a schemer or generally not the nicest person in the world. We're talking about the man who has up to this point assumed responsibility and been the person you could depend upon in time of need.

What you must keep in mind is that he really doesn't understand what he's doing, he isn't deliberately hurting you he just knows that something is wrong in his life and he's searching for the answers.

Of course you're sitting there saying, "Whoa! I'm supposed to just be quiet and tolerate his forays into other-woman-land and let's-junk-it-all-and-sail-around-the-world-land or ditch-the-station-wagon-I-need-a-red-sports-car-land?"
Well, yes. Of course you do have options here. You can rage and make demands that he clean up his act. And probably shortly thereafter you'll find yourself in divorce-land.

You see, men don't plan on turning unpredictable. It happens when they look in the mirror or in the eyes of their grandchildren and see themselves as old men. They have, up to this point, believed they were 25-year-old boys. One mid-50's midlife graduate says it made him a better person. He remains with his original wife and their relationship has been redefined to better meet his needs.
He has his space and a home in the country that allows him to "entertain" when he feels the need and she has her space and their home in the city that allows her a place to pound on the walls and scream when she feels the urge.
Another mid-50's graduate traded the pressures of family, home and business to drive a camper cross country supporting himself by doing odd jobs. The wife of a mid-60's executive still waits for a long term affair with his much younger mistress to end but with each passing year she cares less and her community involvement grows.

The Crisis

Male midlife crisis devours relationships. It may be devouring yours. What you must understand and believe is that no matter what you do, or don't do, the outcome will be the same. You don't have control over him, only yourself.

He might not be alone on this search, but you probably weren't invited and you probably wouldn't have been regardless of the circumstances. You may be part of the problem as he sees it. You don't understand, how could you?
He may have met someone else who seems to understand him perfectly, or reaffirms his youthfulness (as with the mid-60's executive, above). But how could anyone understand him when he doesn't understand himself?
He's in an emotional storm that will test the patience and endurance of all those who love him as he comes to grips with the fact that he is no longer 25. He will hurt you. He doesn't mean to hurt you, but he will hurt you.

It's a punch right between the eyes when he suddenly realizes that he is getting older. There's so much he hasn't done. Time is running out. He can't keep up this stress of being husband, father, breadwinner! He's getting older - his hair is thinning, his waist is thickening, his muscles are flabby, his face is wrinkling, he has a t-shirt with little hand prints and 'we love you, gramps' in childish scrawl.
He's feeling emotions he's never felt before. And occasionally he is impotent. It's just too much!! He can't handle it! He doesn't want to be an old man!! Sometimes referred to as 'male menopause,' male midlife crisis isn't nice for any of the players involved. It's difficult to say who hurts more, him or you.

What Now?

Should you try to wait for this crisis to end, for your lives to return to where they used to be? It might take the patience of Job and the result may still not be the one you want. He will do what he must do when he must do it. Once he has made his passage he will not be the same. He is at a major turning point in his life, a normal part of the male maturing process that, should he be successful in navigating thru the storms, will help him lead a fuller and more satisfying life, accepting the normal limitations inherent with the aging process.

Some men aren't successful in the passage. Suicide rates increase for men as they age. Suicide offers the promise of release from seemingly unbearable emotional pain. Women know how to express their emotions, whereas men are taught to hold their emotions back, to 'act like a man!' For some, suicide is the only way to suppress the emotional pain associated with the midlife passage.

His Crisis - Your Problem

You need to be aware of what's happening to your man. Being aware will make you less apt to blame yourself for the things going wrong. He will be blaming you as it is, because he knows he's not at fault.

There's not much you can do to speed up his passage through this crisis in your lives. He probably doesn't want to talk about it, at least not to you. He may believe that you're the whole reason he feels the way he does. It's not true.

You need to understand that this is his problem, it'll have to be his solution - what he's going thru is normal and you aren't responsible. You can't change it or fix it because you didn't break it.

You'll have to step back and let him whirl around in his search to find himself. He has a need to blame someone for the bad feelings he has, for the terrible way he's acting, for the lousy way he feels. Don't believe it if he says everything wrong in his life is because of you. And don't try to explain his feelings to him because you can't and he won't listen.

Men Are From Pluto
Women Are From Macy's

There's no doubt men and women are quite different in how they handle emotional situations and midlife is one of the most notable examples.

As a female, you have been trained to take care of other people, to be responsible for their well-being, to make things run smoothly. You've been taught when relationships don't go well it is your responsibility to correct the situation.
You look inside yourself for the answers. In the case of his midlife crisis, you won't be able to correct the situation - the answers must come from him. You can't change his behavior, he must. If you think you can change his behavior by changing yourself, you're in for a lot of anger and disappointment. This issue isn't about you, it is all about him.

Men are expected to hide their emotions but that doesn't mean the emotions don't exist - they're buried deep in the recesses of how 'real men' act. Men and women are from the same planet, no matter how alien the male of the species seems when he's plowing through his midlife crisis.
When you get angry it's okay for you to express that anger but "society" says he must be in control no matter the situation. Because he appears in control of his emotions it's easy to believe that he is unfeeling but even the most grown-up men sometimes have a need to cry. Unfortunately, it's just not allowed.

His Financial Image

Society measures the worth and success of a man by how much money he has and makes. If he isn't making the kind of money he thinks he should, he'll be angry at the obstacles he believes are standing in his way. He may believe his family responsibilities are holding him back.

He needs more affection now and may reach out to you. If you respond with surprise or rejection because you don't understand this new behavior, he may find the affection and affirmation of his desirability in the arms of a girlfriend.
Nothing personal, you understand, he doesn't know what he's doing. And he certainly doesn't mean to hurt you. During midlife crisis a man will do many things he wouldn't have done before.

He's scared of dying. His friends may be developing illnesses, some may have already died. He's afraid. He's resentful, frustrated and depressed. He feels trapped by his responsibility to provide for his family. He's locked into a job or career that he no longer enjoys because he must keep the kids in college and make payments on the house and car.

If he's like most men, he may be in responsibility overload and desperately in need of a break from financial responsibilities and the daily demands of work that he's probably had since he got out of school. He may resent the fact he can't make the choices that so many women can as far as choosing whether or not they want to work and at what.
He needs a long break from responsibility but he knows that is an impossibility. If he stops, he loses everything he has worked so hard for, but, if he doesn't stop, there's a good chance he will lose it anyway. He's trapped. How he reacts to this extreme pressure can't be predicted. Rest assured, though, he will react.

What Can You Do?

The crisis will not end in a week or two. It may take years to get resolved. You'll need patience to let him learn to cope with the new feelings and emotions that are occurring in his life. You can't do this for him nor can you demand that he seek counseling or talk the problem through with you. You may suggest it but you can't demand it. It will do no good. It's important that you understand and accept the fact that it's his problem, not your fault. Don't take the responsibility for his pain and suffering.

Give him space. No matter how insecure you're feeling, don't cling, berate, belittle or try to push him in a direction he doesn't want to go. If he wants more time than usual to be by himself or with his fishing or golfing buddies, don't complain about how little time he's spending with you. He's trying to think his problems through and he'll find a way regardless of what you say or do.

Now is the time you must develop yourself as an independent person. You must take responsibility for yourself and your happiness without depending on him for the closeness and intimacy that he probably is unable to give right now. Plan things without him. Depend upon yourself, not him. Allow him to do the same.

Do things by yourself and with friends. Make a life for yourself without waiting for him to participate. He may refuse to go to counseling but that doesn't mean you shouldn't in order to better cope with your feelings during this difficult time.

Continue to treat him and all men kindly. This may sound like a silly statement, but your confusion and resentment about his current situation may cause you to "male bash." "Dumb men" jokes may seem funny at the time, but they'll be painful and hurtful to a man in crisis and to men in general.

Reaffirm your love for him, your desire for him, your attraction to him. Tell him and show him that he's the most important person in your life. Do it without smothering, clinging or demanding that he reciprocate the feelings to you.

If you make the decision to demand that he straighten up, to demand that he stop his erratic behavior, to demand that he return to the person you're most comfortable with, you'll be making a mistake.

If you make the decision to nag and whine, you'll be making a mistake.

If you think you can make the choices for him or tell him what he should do to feel better or get his life in order, you'll be making a mistake.

If you make idle threats about what you'll do if he doesn't change, you'll be making a mistake.

You're not to blame for the feelings that are guiding his life at this time, however, your actions will help to influence the choices he makes.

As hard as it may be to stand back and watch him self-destruct, that is the role you'll have to take. Your number one priority as he whirls thru his midlife crisis should be you and your needs. You must protect yourself. Your beliefs will be tested, your faith will be stretched, your love will be bruised and perhaps torn beyond repair.

Like so many women before you you'll discover incredible strengths of you own and you'll come out of this journey amazed to find that his crisis may have opened a world of amazing opportunities for you - whether or not your relationship remains intact.

Coping with male midlife crisis isn't easy. Not every relationship will survive the strain

A Personal Comment: Concerning that of Disenfranchised Fathers....
Kathleen Howe
As I read, slowly & ever so evenly, the unfortunate descriptions of the disenfranchised father, I found myself breathless, sober & instantly empathetic. For who are we, women, who believe that children are ours by simply giving birth to them, that we can deny them the birthrights they so earnestly & respectfully deserve.
For I've been on the same side of the white flag that the disenfranchised fathers must adhere to if they're to see, talk or be in the same county as their kids; as many women who find themselves mute thru the suffering of their souls & the same ruthless betrayal of a divorcing spouse.
As I was married to a police officer, politician, man of money & power can leave a simple mother, lacking in financial & legal skills with nothing to defend herself against the overpowering foe.
I was forced to concede the custody of my son; helpless, defeated & beaten - to a pair of ruthless & heartless liars; including the woman who stole my husband when she canceled our friendship & an abusive police officer ex-husband in the court system in Michigan.
I was forced through their unethical ruthlessness with the help of the family court system, who was easily & pervertedly swayed with lies & thoughtlessness, to give in, finally & allow he and his wife to have custody of my son.
The man who threw me out of the house, naked in front of my children was nothing but a loser in the very deceptive sense of the word. He had been habitually unfaithful in our marriage. His father being a police officer as well, taught his son well to continue the demeaning verbalizations towards his family. He had been emotionally & physically abusive to both myself & my children. He had also coerced me into submissiveness when I felt helpless against them all into relinquishing my parental right to motherhood of my own child. His own mother, an alcoholic, unable to live without her husband who died precipitously from a massive heart attack because she'd been his pawn, always being told how to survive, how to live & was allowed to continue to have her "fits," be an alcoholic - as long as she stayed hidden within the confines of their home.
The day of the hearing they picked him up from school & told him to call her, "mother." A typical case of parental alienation, in fact, caused me to begin showing symptoms of depression and post traumatic stress disorder. I could not sleep, eat or think anymore. My mind, totally lost in the transition, left me vulnerable to more than losing a job, house or car (in which I did lose all) but also left me open to the abusive man that I fell victim to for understanding, kindness and a warm place to fall.
I was naive. I didn't even know that there was a welfare system in place. I had been raised in an upper middle class family with an abusive father, an ill and dysfunctional mother, and had been abused by a previous husband. I never had life skills that would hold me through the difficult times. I had been raised to only be a wife and a mother. To have children and nuture them had been my life's training and I was a very good mother.
I must admit that through my lifetime of abuse, I was dysfunctional in that sense. I never was able to support myself and when it came time for me to do that along with my child, it was desperately difficult to achieve. I had been beaten, struck down and trampled on. I had no where to go. My life was forever changed at their hands.
A woman who told me, "I stole your husband and I'll steal your son!" did just that. Sometimes, I believe I let her do it because of my stupidity. But I was alone, without family, and no one to help me. My children were angry with me because of his abusiveness. They blamed me for allowing him to hit them mercilessly. They blamed me for standing by unknowingly so, that I was so fearful of him that I shook inside as well. I was too afraid of him and emotionally battered to help them or myself.
The only saving grace for me is that I have remained brave enough to have never said an ill word to my son concerning his father and step mother. I have preserved his father's integrity for his sake, and have remained faithful in loving him and caring for him always. My current husband and I have supported his decisions and his journies in life and are proud of his accomplishments. I am forever grateful he has grown up enough to live on his own and has learned to support himself. That is my greatest gift.
Women who take their children's father from them need to be ever so careful. Abusive fathers, take notice, I do not include you in my prayers. For those fathers who are abusive to their children, need great help from professionals and should not be allowed to hurt their children in any way. But you women out there...
Be sure that the other factor that has helped me through my darkest times of grief over losing my son, is that someday, two people will have to stand before God and answer to him for their unjust work towards my son and myself. I can't forgive them yet, but I do wish someday I will. The hate I feel for them perpetuates my mental illnesses and keeps me hyper-vigilent and anxious. Although I've had almost five years of therapy and am currently on medication and probably will be for life, my PTSD continues to keep me from functioning normally. I still cry easily at the simple mention of my son's name.
As if he had died, I feel my heart died as well, the day he left my home. I have been unfair to my younger children because I have feared being as close to them as I was to my son, for fear of losing them in some way as well, then never being able to recover at all. I am aware of that fact, and every day, I diligently try to surrender to my feelings of love for them and let the hate go for their sakes as well as my own. I just haven't been able to do it yet. I loved that unfaithful abusive husband of mine. Through it all, I loved him the only way I knew how, unfortunately it was the key to my weakness. He knew that.
I beg, that if you are reading this and you are in the middle of a custody fight - please, whatever gender you are, please think more of your children than yourself and allow them to have two parents. It's their right.

It wasn't just an attack on me. It was stealing a mother from a son. It was replacing her own son, with someone elses' son who was better at everthing. It was gleaning at the opportunity to steal another's family from her. She continues to this day gloat, but I'm no longer impressed. I'm no longer oppressed by them. I am free. I am happy. I am without their incessant woundings. My son, will know the truth someday of his own accord. It will be completely evident to him, once his father is gone, and he can live free as well - out from underneath his abusive control.
"If you go live with your mother, I'll never speak to you again. I'll disown you as my son. I will never see you again."
I've never had to hold my children captive as he has. In fact, in my times of deepest difficulties, I sent my two first born children to live with their father, 2000 miles away from me, just to be sure that they would continue to live in comfort, without the experiences of the poor, single parent household that would soon become their lifestyle.

The autism controversy
Psychology Today,  March-April, 2004  by Carrie Melchisky,  Mara Schoner

I am the mother of an 11-year-old autistic son. While I agree that my son's social interactions are usually inappropriate, I challenge Simon Baron-Cohen to spend a day with my child and then tell me he lacks empathy ("Autism: What's Sex Got to Do With It?," February 2004).When I stub a toe, my son bends to kiss it; when I cry from frustration, my son dries my tears. These children are not unreachable, not unteachable and certainly not unfeeling. The many unfounded theories that are bandied about, like the theory in your article, are just stumbling blocks in my journey to get the best education, treatment and life for my child.

Carrie Melchisky Brick, NJ

As a therapist who works with children on the autism spectrum, as well as the parent of a child who has Asperger syndrome, I was outraged by the article "The So-Called Epidemic" (February 2004), which discounts the very in-depth, well-researched and respected 1999 study that found a 273 percent increase in autism rates among children in California. Who are the "experts" who question the validity of the study? It states that the increase cannot be explained away through looser diagnoses nor heightened awareness.

Mara Schoner Los Angeles

Epilepsy/Seizures & Autism

Seizures often occur in association with other disorders. This poses a potential challenge for individuals living with multiple disorders. A lack of information about multiple disorders may lead to confusion and uncertainty for these individuals. Therefore, this pamphlet focuses on autism associated with seizures. It presents information about autism and how autism relates to epilepsy. This cross-diagnosis summary was created to assist healthcare providers in providing complete and comprehensive information to the public. For more in-depth information about autism and/or epilepsy, please contact the appropriate association or consult your physician/neurologist.

Dr. Leo Kanner, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, first introduced the term autism in 1943 and it was introduced again in 1944 by an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger (1). Kanner applied the term, "autistic" to children who were socially withdrawn and preoccupied with routine, who struggled to acquire spoken language, yet possessed intellectual gifts that ruled out a diagnosis of mental retardation.

In addition, Asperger applied the term, "autistic" to children who were socially inept and clumsy, developed bizarre obsessions and seemed highly bright (2). Also, prior to the 1970's, children diagnosed as autistic were often classified as having a type of childhood schizophrenia.

Early theories regarding the origins of autism placed fault with parenting strategies. The mothers of children with autism were labelled as "refrigerator mothers" and were blamed for cold, unfeeling relationships leading to the social withdrawal of their children (1).

Interest in the neurological basis of the disorder finally blossomed in the late 1970's and knowledge of the disorder has grown steadily during the past 50 years (1).

Today, autism is defined as a complex developmental disability, which typically presents during the first 3 years of life. It's a result of a neurological disorder which affects the functioning of the brain. The latest studies suggest that autism and its associated behaviours have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 150 children age 10 and younger - a total of nearly 300,000 children in the United States alone (2).

If adults are included in the estimation, according to the Autism Society of America, more than 1 million people in the United States have one of the various autistic disorders (also known as pervasive developmental disorders or PDDs).

The problem is 5 times as common as Down syndrome and 3 times as common as juvenile diabetes. Autism is also 4 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls (2).

Autism impacts the typical development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communications skills. Persons with autism typically have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities.

Some people may be aggressive or may induce self-injury. Others may exhibit repeated body movement (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people, unusual attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines.

In addition, people with autism often suffer a bewildering array of problems:

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autistic Disorder
This diagnosis usually applies to children of less than 3 years of age who have impairments in social interaction, communication and imaginative play. They tend to show stereotyped behaviours, interests and activities.
Asperger's Disorder

Asperger's was previously considered a variant form of autism, it's now considered to be a related but separate disorder (1). This disorder involves impairments in social interactions and the presence of restricted interests and activities, with no clinically significant general delay in language, self-help skills, adaptive behaviour or in cognitive development.
Pervasive Development Disorder
A diagnosis of PDD may be made when a child doesn't meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there's a severe impairment in specific behaviours.
Rett's Syndrome
Rett's disorder was identified by Andrea Rett in 1965 (1). To date, Rett's syndrome has occurred in girls only. After a period of normal development, beginning between 1 and 4 years of age, previously-acquired skills are lost and the use of the hands is replaced with repetitive movements.

This is a progressive disorder, which continues to worsen. As well, children with Rett's disorder often demonstrate respiratory irregularities and seizures usually appear early on. Usually, the cognitive levels of people with Rett's doesn't typically surpass that of a 1 year-old (1).
Child Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
This disorder is characterized by normal development for at least the first 2 years, followed by significant loss of previously-acquired skills. There's regression in bowel and bladder control, language and social skills, as well as regression in play skills, motor skills, or both.

Before the onset of CDD, children can usually speak in full sentences and after the deterioration, they typically can speak no language (1)
General Information About Epilepsy/Seizures & Autism

Approximately 20% to 35% of individuals with autism have a seizure disorder. About 1 in 4 autistic individuals begin to have seizures during puberty. The exact reason for the onset of seizures isn't known, but it's likely that the seizure activity may be due to hormonal changes in the body (1).

Sometimes these seizures are noticeable, (i.e., associated with convulsions); but, for many, they're small, subclinical seizures and are typically not detected by simple observation. Some possible signs of subclinical activity include the following:

  • exhibiting behaviour problems, such as aggression, self-injury and severe tantrums
  • making little or no academic gains after doing well during childhood and pre-teen years
  • and/or losing some behavioural &/or cognitive gains (4)

People with autism are at a higher risk for seizures if they have certain specific neurologic conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis or untreated phenylketonuria. As well, infantile spasms (sudden generalized muscle contractions, usually beginning between ages 3 & 8 months) do occur in association with autism.

Other forms of epilepsy, such as complex partial epilepsy, generalized tonic-clonic epilepsy and absence seizures, may also occur in children with autism. Usually, the seizures can be controlled by anti-convulsants; thus, seizures may decrease or diminish (4).

In autistic children, an increase in epilepsy is seen with increasing age and at the age of 20 about 1/4 to 1/3 of patients show epilepsy changes (3). Also, it has been shown that, when children with autism are put on a specific diet by their doctor, there is a decrease in epileptic seizures followed by a reduction of medication, but there's also a disastrous relapse when the diet is broken (3)
How can Seizures in People with Autism be Distinguished from Unusual Behaviours?

1. Seizures are sudden and don't require provoking events. However, they're sometimes provoked by certain light frequencies or sounds. Therefore, if an autistic person's seizures are suspected to arise from anger, frustration or fear, these episodes are most likely not epilepsy.

2. Seizures usually follow a set pattern, but only range in duration and intensity. If during seizures, the autistic person's movements and mannerisms are varied, these events are probably not seizures.

3. Generalized seizures can be associated with an aura and may be followed by a headache, weakness or exhaustion. Therefore, if an autistic person has had a major seizure, it's unlikely that he or she would immediately resume their regular activity.

4. Absence attacks involve staring mannerisms, brief loss of consciousness, often with some eye-blinking or mild facial movements. These behaviours are also associated with certain types of autism, therefore it's important to determine if there is any response to environmental stimuli and whether there are any associated movements with the autistic individual. During a generalized seizure, the person will not respond to you.

The widow in her weeds - Short Story
Literary Review,  Wntr, 2004  by W.J. Thornton

The Hospital

As soon as she arrives at the hospital she knows her husband has died because the receptionist won't meet her eye. She knows he has died because, when she demands to see him, they tell her she is hysterical and put her in a room by herself. She knows he has died because a nurse tells her the doctor will be in shortly. She knows her husband has died because she can feel it in her empty fists as they beat against the cold cement wall of the telling room.

The School

The school where her husband works is huge. She has always hated it. It reminds her of her own high school, a concrete monolith with long corridors lined with gray lockers, colored banners announcing club meetings, decrepit water fountains & graffiti smeared bathrooms. She has been with her husband to proms at the school, where they chaperoned the students, shooed them and their ill concealed bottles away from the punch bowls & where she & her husband danced together to the amusement of the student body. Her husband is (no ... was) a good dancer. She doesn't doubt that the student who shot her husband missed the proms. He wouldn't have shot her husband if he had ever seen him do the twist.

She thinks of the school as a corporate conglomerate producing a product. The principal, Eddie Dugger, is a former CEO for a bankrupt dot-com who experienced a midlife career change. The principal speaks of education in terms of cost/benefit ratio, statistical analyses, end products. He pays for a counselor to come to her home & help her deal with her loss. The school sends flowers to the funeral home. The principal sends a personal note. The note is typewritten.

The Press

The press camps out on her lawn & points klieg lights at her door. Her relatives pull the curtains. Her sister's husband, Rob, is appointed family spokesman by her parents, who have come to stay until after the funeral. Rob begins talking to the press in a reasonable manner. "My sister-in-law, Gretchen, is devastated by the loss of her husband, Sam. We ask that you respect her privacy during this terrible tragedy." The press doesn't understand respect. By the end of the week, Rob is extending his middle finger to the press & Gretchen's brother, Norman, is appointed the new family spokesman.

The Parents

The parents of the boy who shot her husband call. First the mother calls, crying, to apologize. Then the father calls. "You know we lost our only son," he says harshly. She answers, "I lost my only husband." "He wasn't a bad boy," the mother says. Her voice is pleading, as if she could convince herself by convincing Gretchen. "I didn't know he had a gun," the boy's father says. Gretchen, too tired to reply, nevertheless thinks to herself, "You registered it."

The Other Kids

The other kids at the school admit that they teased & harassed the shooter, that he was an outsider, a geek with a temper. She cannot find it in herself to feel sorry for the boy, even though she herself was tormented by students during her high school career. A dreamy child, she often sat with her head propped on her hand, until the day she looked around the cafeteria & found a dozen people imitating her pensive body language. She blushed as their raucous laughter rattled off the walls. She never, ever sat with her chin on her palm again.

Gawky, too tall for her clothes, she tolerated the whispers of the girls who called her "shut" behind her back. Her skirts were too short and her parents couldn't afford new clothes. Even the school officials got into the act, making her bend down in the hallway to prove her skirts were too short while the other students looked on, snickering. But Gretchen didn't grow up to blow away a teacher.

Cruelty made her tough, taught her compassion. She cannot stand by while someone less fortunate is teased. So she has no sympathy for the guilt ridden students who tearfully confess to the press that yes, they tormented the shooter but they didn't mean it. Let them stew in their culpability.

Flying Objects

Gretchen throws things. Sometimes when she is lying alone in her bedroom, anger overcomes her and she pitches whatever is at hand into the wall. The first few times, her parents and other relatives came running in to see what was wrong. Now they just ignore the thumps and crashes from her bedroom. They plan to stay for a week, to help her deal with the funeral, the press. She is glad they're here because the house isn't so quiet as it would otherwise be. She also wishes they would go home so she can pull the covers up over her head and sleep for a month.

Soon they'll go back to their peaceful little lives. They will no doubt comment on the wretchedness of her luck, the sorrow of her condition. This thought enrages her. She hates for people to pity her. Last year when she lost the baby at 5 months, everyone came and hovered until she begged them to get on with their lives.

Sam took a leave of absence, but his omnipresent worry, his tentative treatment of her, as if she were a porcelain doll laid out on their bed, drove her to distraction. She demanded he go back to school. His kids needed him, she said. It wasn't fair to the substitute to be out so long. Now, oh God, she would give anything to have that time back. She picks up a deodorant bottle off her dresser and pitches it against the wall. As if to defy her, it doesn't break.

The Clothes

She wants to wear black. She wants to be like Queen Victoria, wear black for the rest of her life. The widow in her weeds. But her black clothes are dressy clothes. They have lace, spangles, rhinestones, entirely inappropriate for a funeral. Her mother buys her a simple black knit pantsuit. After the funeral, she'll throw it in the trash. She'd like to burn it but fears the polyester will smoke rather than flame.

She gives her brother-in-law, Rob and her brother Norman, all of Sam's clothes. They insist she hold onto them for a while, think about what she wants to keep, what to give away. "What to keep?" she asks stridently. "What do you think I'm going to do, start running around wearing his sweaters?"


People keep bringing food. She doesn't understand this. Never in her whole life has she felt less like eating, yet her freezer is filled with casseroles and her refrigerator bulges with pasta salads. Her mother rates the food as it comes to the back door in the hands of supplicants. "Who in their right mind would bring a grief stricken woman spinach dip and nacho chips? Sweet potato pie? What were they thinking?"

Her brother, Norman, the family spokesman, is thrilled with the food. He does one interview shaking a turkey drumstick at the members of the fourth estate arrayed on the lawn. They dutifully photograph him from the neck up, leery of alienating their best contact. In gratitude, he promises them that Gretchen will make a statement, eventually. When he comes in the door after the press conference, Gretchen throws a bowl of soup at him.

The Funeral

The minister keeps saying things like, "I'm sure Sam would have wanted ..." and "I feel certain Sam would think ..." because in truth, the minister never met Sam. They weren't big churchgoers, Sam and Gretchen, although some in their extended families could be considered very religious.

Gretchen's parents were lapsed Catholics who had had enough of the church after their parochial school days. Sam's parents were Baptists and complained that Gretchen was improperly honoring his memory by having a Methodist ceremony.

But the Methodist minister was the only one Gretchen knew and that was because he led a Great Books discussion group that Gretchen used to attend every Tuesday night. Sam always laughed when she invited him and said Great Books were something you kept around the house to impress - nobody really reads them. Tuesday was his golf night.

People she doesn't know keep coming up to her in the front pew and hugging her. Her shoulders ache from all the hugging. She hears people whisper, "She's holding up well, don't you think?" and knows that what they really mean is, unfeeling bitch isn't even crying.

But the truth is, she's all cried out. Now she just feels like she's gasping for breath. Sam's mother sits on one side of her, clutching her hand as the minister drones on about Sam's wonderful qualities. Her own mother sits on the other side, idly rubbing the back of Gretchen's neck as if the massage could break down the knot of tension there.

One of Sam's students, Melissa, goes up to the flower strewn altar to speak. At first, you can tell that she's enjoying the spotlight, the drama of the moment. She tells the overflow crowd that Sam was the best teacher she ever had, that he was tough but fair, that all the kids loved him. But then, something happens. It's as if she suddenly realizes the true meaning of what she is saying.

Her face collapses as if melting under intense heat. She cannot speak for a moment & when she regains her voice it's hoarse & choked. "I was one of the kids who made fun of Slim," she whispers. "But we didn't mean anything by it. We didn't know he'd go ballistic & kill our favorite teacher."

She breaks down in sobs. Cries can be heard throughout the huge church. Melissa's mother comes forward & her daughter collapses in her arms.

The graveside service is, for Gretchen, the best part, if there can be a best part to a funeral. Sam would have loved it out here. He would have seen greens stretching away for acres, would have imagined himself putting out here. He often envisioned golf courses where those less imaginative could only see an open field, a patch of burned out woods.

And it is here, at graveside, that Gretchen feels strong, hovering above the pity that has blackened her heart & made her want to escape from all these omnipresent people. Gretchen doesn't cry as the casket is lowered into the ground & the multitude of Sam's students, past & present, drop single wildflowers on it. She doesn't cry when Sam's mother resolutely shovels in the first spade full of dirt & Sam's silently weeping father shovels in the second. She doesn't cry when the students & family members all bawl around her.

She knows, they're getting it out of their systems today. She can cry anytime.


Finally, they are gone. The press, the parents, the friends. She is alone. She still has a week off from work & finally she can grieve. But alone in the house she can't seem to feel anything but a pervasive numbness. She washes a load of laundry & realizes that she will only need to do one load for the whole week. Possibilities open up to her. She can wear jeans & T-shirts all week. She can wear nothing at all if she wants to.

It always seemed to her that Sam was embarrassed when she ran around naked or in her bra & underwear. Not that she was any less repressed. She had dressed in the bathroom for the first 3 months of their marriage & didn't let him turn the light on when they made love until well after their first anniversary. But she'd hoped that together they would grow past their inhibitions, that somehow the two of them would develop an intimacy that extended beyond their childhood upbringing.

It's quiet in the house & she treasures the silence. No television, no music. Sam loved jazz. She wasn't a big fan herself. She likes rock & roll. He thought rock & roll was juvenile, something you gave up with your teen idol posters & funky shoes. He tried to interest her in the mathematical permutations of jazz but she didn't get it. She likes lyrics, the edgier the better. She likes music with a major beat. But she doesn't feel like playing music right now. She sits in her chair in the living room, smoking, drinking wine, watching the changing light patterns on the pale blue walls she & Sam had painted. It had been 5 years since she'd had a cigarette. She forgot how satisfying it was.

It's nice not to have to do anything, not to have to make dinner, not to have to pick up clothes off the ground, not to have to put Sam's math books away from where he had thrown them on the dining room table. Things put away stay put away. No CDs out of their cases. No toothpaste stains in the sink.

What is wrong with her? How can she be enjoying this sterile life? She grinds the cigarette out in the ashtray, picks up the wine glass & stares at it appraisingly. Then she hurls it against the wall. The delicate glass, a wedding present, shatters with a light tinkling sound. Merlot runs down the wall.

The Telephone

The telephone has always been her enemy. Now it's more of an adversary than ever. Sam's cheery voice comes on a dozen times a day, "We can't come to the phone right now. Leave a message & we'll get back to you." She listens to the phone ringing, remembers the conversation she & Sam had about the rings on the answering machine. Four too few? Six too many? Six is definitely too many. Everyone is calling, it seems. They leave messages. She doesn't return any calls.


Friends show up on day four. Enough time for grieving. Grieving time is over. They are quite explicit about this. Her friend Carol says, "I know you're not ready to get out or anything, but you really should answer the phone."

"Why?" Gretchen asks.

"Because people are worried about you. Your mother is worried about you. She asked me to come see how you are."

"How do you think I am, Carol?" Gretchen asks belligerently. "My husband just got his brains blown out by a 14 year-old kid. Do you think I should be dating or something? Maybe I just don't have this widow thing down, yet."

"I didn't mean anything--"

"Tell me how yon think I should behave. Because I really, really want to get this right, you know. Mourn properly."

Carol stiffens. "I'm just trying to help."

Her friend Danielle makes the mistake of saying, "You're not the only one who lost someone close to her, you know?"

"Really?" Gretchen asks. "Were you fucking my husband too?"

"I think I'd better leave." Danielle stands up, clutching her purse & keys with tear filled eyes.

"That would probably be for the best," Gretchen says coldly. You want comfort, she thinks - go buy a dog.


She takes a shower 5 days after the funeral. In the drain, she sees a few strands of Sam's hair. She bends down & picks them out of the drain, even though the very thought of doing so makes her gag. She puts the hairs in her jewelry box, the one Sam gave her for her birthday this year. She hides the strands of hair on the bottom row, wrapped around a string of pearls Sam gave her for Christmas. She won't need the pearls anymore.


Suddenly, she has no money. Her savings account was depleted by the funeral. Her credit cards are maxed out to pay monthly bills because for some reason, Sam's last check doesn't come. The principal, Eddie Dugger, assures her that this is just an administrative oversight, that she should certainly have Sam's last check & he will look into it. He never calls back.

His secretary says that he is looking into it, not to worry, the county assumes all financial responsibility & did she know she was going to be a rich woman? "I don't want to be rich," she snaps. "I just want to pay my electric bill."

She calls the company that handles Sam's life insurance. At first they tell her this comes under the heading of catastrophic accident & they're not obliged to pay out. Now the glare of the spotlight will pay off. She calls one of the reporters who camped out on her lawn. He is outraged by her situation, promises to do a follow up story.

The rep from the insurance company calls back & says, "We're getting a check to you. There was no need to call the press."

"How long?" she asks.

"Six weeks." She groans. "Maximum," the rep adds hastily.

She calls the reporter again. He outlines a story wherein she is the fair victim of corporate greed, suffering at the hands of disinterested bureaucrats. She promises to give him a candid interview. He thinks it might go national. He calls the insurance company. The rep tells the reporter that Sam's wife must have misunderstood, that they said they'd have a check for her in a week. The reporter calls back with the good news & asks her to dinner. She declines.


She calls her boss, McNally & says she wants to come back to work. Work makes her feel better. She is a marketing executive for an association of CPA firms. She is working on an ad campaign for a newsletter, More than Money, that firms can send to their clients. The newsletter will be filled with investment advice. She creates a brochure that features an hourglass with all the sand run out & an open, but empty, safe deposit box. McNally says it isn't upbeat enough & sends her back to her office to think more about it. He doesn't even wince when he says the word "upbeat," for which she is grateful.

The Future

Gretchen cannot see past this day, whatever day it is. She cannot imagine getting through tomorrow. She cannot allow herself to plan what she will do next week, next month, next year. Because next week she & Sam were going camping, next month they were going to a play, next year they were going on a cruise to Nassau. The travel agent leaves a message of condolence. The tickets are nonrefundable.

The Core

She thinks numbness is bad. But now she discovers that numbness is her friend. One weekend, a month after the funeral, she is cleaning her bedroom. She has been sleeping in the guest room. There are no personal items left in the bedroom that belonged to Sam so she isn't sleeping alone to avoid the memories. It's just that the big bed seems too empty without him snuggling up to her in the dark.

Sam slept like a bear in hibernation, snoring softly and deeply, curled against her back. If she moved in the night, he let her rearrange herself and then folded her back into his unconscious embrace. No one has to tell her that the bed is an emotional minefield.

She also avoids the places they used to go, the little pub where they watched Saturday night football, the Starbucks they walked to on Sunday morning where they read the Times. But it has been weeks since his death. She needs to clean the bedroom. She needs to get some clothes. She drags the vacuum down the hall and plugs it in next to the bed. She vacuums quickly. The door to Sam's empty closet hangs open and she avoids looking in. She thinks she might be ready to sleep in this room again. She thinks she might be ready to sleep alone.

Under the bed, something catches her eye. She turns off the vacuum, gets down on her knees and picks up a golf ball. Sam was always so careless with his things. She has no doubt she will find remembrances of him under every piece of furniture in the house. She will throw the golf ball into the trash and finish vacuuming.

But suddenly she sees it, the silliest thing. Sam has drawn a smiley face on the golf ball. And now she remembers, his hole in one ball, the miraculous hole in one he made a few months before when he and a group of fellow teachers had won a best ball scramble. "It's not just that I shot a hole in one," he explained, "it's that everyone saw me. I had witnesses."

He laughed, a triumphant child showing off his best trick. He did magic with the golf ball, pulled it from behind her ear, out of her navel, juggled it with two others. He didn't want to forget which one it was, so he drew the smiley face on it with a black marker.

She doesn't even realize that something has been blocking her breathing, a hard little protuberance just above her solar plexus. Now the core disintegrates and she can finally catch her breath. She gasps, a great sobbing inhalation of air. There is nothing now to touch, no pale skin, no hairy chest. Her fingers yearn for fingers, her body aches for flesh against her flesh. All she has is this stupid, stupid golf ball. She looks out the window, panting. She will throw the golf ball through the window, break the window into a million pieces and crawl around in the glass.

But she doesn't throw it. This will be her keepsake, this sweet little memory that isn't even her memory, only his. She wraps her fingers around the ball, pretends it has disappeared, pretends to pull it out of thin air.

W.J. Thornton writes fiction and poetry and is currently at work on a novel. She is a member of the Gainesville Writers' Workshop.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Fairleigh Dickinson University
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

That's For The FAT Chick
Off Our Backs,  Nov/Dec 2004  by Staton-Prokop, Annie

It was a gorgeous late-summer day. My husband and I had just enjoyed an afternoon walk along Lake Michigan and had begun the steep climb back up the stairs to the parking lot. We paused at one of the landings to sit on the bench and take in the breathtaking sunset over the lake. As we sat looking out over the water a pair of men passed us and one of them snorted at me, said

"There's a real side of beef,"

and elbowed his buddy. They guffawed and kept on going.

I wanted to disappear under the stairs I was so humiliated. People heard. My husband heard.

I've been fat all of my life, so I'm not a stranger to rude comments. I've heard almost every insult you can think of:

  • fatty
  • fat ass
  • lardo
  • fatso
  • cow
  • pig
  • sow
  • tubby
  • chunky
  • the ever-sarcastic "slim" or "tiny"
  • fat fuck and more.

I have been:

  • hog-called
  • mooed at
  • oinked at
  • laughed at 
  • pointed at

I've had people come right up and say something nasty to my face and walk away, I've had people too lazy to even stop their cars drive by and yell, "Jenny Craig, FATASS!"

The scariest thing was once in an outdoor shopping center a truck full of teenaged boys followed me around for 15 minutes as I walked from store to store. They finally yelled

"Save the whales! That's for the fat chick."

I suppose they had to clarify it, just in case someone mistook them for environmentalists and not assholes.

This time it was different. Not only was I an animal to them, I wasn't even an entire animal. I was a piece of meat, not even human in their eyes. I was "a real side of beef."

My fatness nourished their cruelty the way a side of beef may have nourished their bodies. To them, I wasn't alive. I was a dead, unfeeling, cold, fatty chunk of barnyard animal that they could poke and punch and make themselves stronger.

They felt safe saying such a thing to me in full view of many other people, including my husband. Most people feel safe saying something horrid to a person of size.

People who would never walk right up to someone and make a racial slur often have no qualms when it comes to fatness. It's fair game. In my 30 years I have yet to have another person ask me if I needed help. Security has never come over and offered to escort me to my car away from a group of harassing people. People just look away.

That's the life of a fat woman in America. You don't exist except to disgust people. You're a reminder to put that cookie down. You're people's worst fear walking and talking right in front of them.

A co-worker may constantly bombard you with the latest fad diets and you can't complain no matter how trapped you feel. People think they are helpful when they ask if you have tried this brand new diet which is the same old thing in a shiny new book.

Everyone has a weight loss plan, or pills, or a book. You can watch children's television and see the fat kids being ridiculed and made the butt of jokes or you can open a gardening magazine & find that yard work is now a cardio workout. Nothing is sacred and no one is safe from the diet industry.

I used to try the new diets. I bought the surefire exercise videos. I refused to buy myself anything cute to wear, telling myself that seeing all the pretty new things in the store would inspire me to fit into them - I didn't deserve nice things the way was, even if I could find them in my size. I tried to just stop eating altogether, existing on water and exercise, but I kept passing out and I figured I was going to get hurt before long.

Throwing up everything I ate was a drag, too. It's noisy and messy and dangerous. I can't say I didn't try it, though. Yes, I kept on buying the latest and the newest miracle fix and the only thing I was losing was money and pieces of my soul.

I decided to stop trying to lose weight and instead I decided to lose the self-hatred. Most people consider that "giving up," but it would have been a lot easier to keep on stepping on that scale and trying to delicately gag up my dinner. That would have "normal" behavior. Everyone else hated the sight of me, so deciding that I was going to love myself right now was a radical and bold move.

By getting off the diet ride, I was opening my heart to my true self. I was owning my body and not apologizing for it. I embraced my power as a woman who can finally focus on something other than the size of my ass or the sizes of every other ass in the room. I put my mind to work on things more important than calculating calories and points and counting the minutes until I could enjoy a chalky shake or celery stalk.

I didn't let myself go, I was already there. I just decided to get a little bit more comfortable where I was.

I ditched the frumpy fat girl clothes and bought the pretty things in yummy colors that I wanted. I stopped trying to be as small as possible in public. I took up physical space before, but I was so meek and self-loathing it was easy to miss me. My voice was small.

My thoughts were small because I never thought anyone would possibly want to hear them. So now I take up more space because I don't keep my mouth closed and I like me. I found that I had more energy than any miracle diet ever promised me. I had wasted so much of my life worrying if people would notice I was fat that letting that go was like finding 4 bonus hours in every day.

The amazing thing is that now that I feel like I could handle a nasty comment uttered behind my back, people don't make them. I look people right in the eye these days. Maybe it makes it harder for them to insult my face instead of my cringing shoulders. I'm sure plenty of people still hate seeing a fat person-they just don't seem to be interested in trying to smack me down for a quick boost for themselves.

Maybe it seems like too much work for them now that I stopped doing half the job for them.

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Nov/Dec 2004
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

the following web links are provided for your convenience in visiting the source sites for the information displayed on this page:

(1) Glennon, Tara, and Heather Miller-Kuhaneck. An Introduction to Autism and the Pervasive Developmental Disorders. New York: 2000.
(2) Nash, Madeleine. "The Secrets of Autism." Time 29 April 2002.
(3) Reichelt, K.L., and Knivsberg A.M. Can the Pathophysiology of Autism be explained by Discovered Urine Peptides? Stravanger, Norway: Institute of Pediatric Research, [2000].
(4) Dalldorf, Joanna. A Review of Seizure Disorders and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome in the Autistic Population. University of North Carolina, [2002].

Thanks to HRDC (Human Resource Development Canada) Summer Career Placement Program, and to Theresa Sargeson for her work in researching and creating this project.

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