OK, worldwide web. Now that we’re alone, let’s talk about us for a minute.
Listen, I want us to have a really good fake-doctor/patient relationship. I don’t want to be like all those other really fake doctors out there, those aggressively pink-cheeked, white-teethed doctors who get themselves on TV, and authoritatively shepherd you through your parenting problems, and write 9,000-page books for you to buy and then refer to, all while secretly thinking that you guys are the biggest dorks who ever lived, and why can’t you just know the simplest shit already and get with the program.
No, people, that is not me. I am the most honest fake-doctor who ever lived, and that’s why I just want to get this out right here and now, and that is that I, too, think you guys are probably pretty dorky like myself, but this is not because I am a fake doctor, this is because I am a grouch. The difference between me and the other really fake doctors, then, is that I am open about these feelings, and I am, in fact, actively working on changing them, via my many campaigns of love.
My first campaign of love I already spoke to you about. That is the one where me and my savvy investors throw up a love hotel on every fourth corner of NYC and beyond, so that we can just get more loving and less griping going on around here in general, and that will help things for all of us. Anyone who wants in on that, email me now, because I am telling you, this is going to be big. I already have a name for our hotel chain: The Milton. This is in honor, of course, of the author of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, which is pretty much all you need to say about a love hotel, and the other bonus is that we can put those books in the drawer where the Gideon Bibles usually go, and that would be good for poetry, and what is good for poetry is good for you and me, because people and poetry go together like Keats and tuberculosis.
Another campaign is to get the voting age in this country lowered to age eight, because even though I am actively working on loving you, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, and in the meantime, I want the kids to be able to vote themselves out of the mess they are in with you. I mean, me. I mean, all of us.
And the final campaign, at least for right this second, is to heal, because that’s what real and fake doctoring is for, yes? OK, then. Now that we know where we stand, let’s begin.
So on to the subject of today’s column. Now, I myself normally don’t like to get involved in any kind of brouhaha, and just because I would love to wipe the Hippocratic oath right off the mug of my former, nameless, famous-doctor-fraternity-bro’s face and wash my car with it, doesn’t mean I like I get involved when I see people all up in arms about parenting issues.
So I am going to stay out of this whole fray about babies, and how attached they are, or not attached, I don’t know, I don’t understand what makes a baby attached or not attached, I thought it was the umbilical cord. Is it the sling? Because I love those things. You know what you can do with a baby in a sling? You can sit on the couch and order a pizza and watch Henrik Lundqvist crouch like the crouching-genius he is. And you can probably do other things that are a lot less wholesome, things you can’t do when your kids are not asleep in the sling, when they are, say, 17 years old and sprawled around the living room all awake and aware and gigantic and having the ability to correctly identify a jelly jar full of Red Bull vs. a jelly jar full of bourbon just by looking. But I guess the attachment/non-attachment problem is over by then, and the kids just stand and watch as the old people get driven off to the home? Or the parents watch as the kids drive off with the beers and the phone? I don’t know how the hell it works. I just know everyone is attached by then.
But, as I said, I am staying out of that. And I am concentrating on love, because my belief is that parents and teenagers and all other people, including babies, want love. And the thing about people and love that I have noticed is really weird is how badly people want to see love, when it is not a thing you can really see in the first place, it is a thing you feel.
It is understandable that we want this, though, because we want to see everything, we are totally obsessed with what we see to the detriment of all other senses; we really and truly think seeing is the shit. But the thing about the world—and I know this because I read it with my all-seeing, fake-doctor eyes in a lavishly illustrated book called “Weird but True” that I found in the pediatrician’s office this weekend as I was waiting for the crud that was swabbed off the back of my kid’s throat to be subjected to a possibly inconclusive and/or incorrect test to see if streptococcal bacteria Group A was present—is that 95 percent of the world is invisible.
We see all kinds of things in the world like bad art and sad people and coffee cups and trash but I don’t know—our friends the poets have argued about it—if we can really see love. We can see us some loving, that’s for sure, as giant, sweaty swaths of the internet attest. But love?
The old saw that work is “love made visible” is a nice idea, and if you are, like, Wendell Berry repairing the roof of your barn as the cows look on, it is true, I guess, but for a lot of people who are standing at the registers at Duane Reade, I think that is just horseshit.
I wanna know what love is, didn’t Bon Jovi say that? No, Auntie Wikipedia says it’s Foreigner. Well, in any case, “What does love look like?” is an excellent medicalizational question, so let me take a minute to text my intern Josh and ask him to find the answer.
In the meantime, I have a parenting tidbit to share with you. You are probably wondering how you are supposed to find a good babysitter when you arrange to go to The Milton. It is not easy to choose a good sitter, so let me help you.
First of all, is your potential sitter a relative? Because 60 percent of all child molesters are relatives. Second of all, is your potential sitter a friend of the family? Because thirty percent of all child molesters are friends of the family. So between relatives and friends of the family, you have 90 percent of your child molesters right there. But here’s another idea: is your potential sitter a child?
There is no data on this, it’s just an idea I have, but I think children should babysit children. I think we need to get the kids together more often with no adults, so they can have the time/space to drape a blanket over the dining room table and sit under there with a bag of goldfish and plot to overthrow us. Because you know who could probably straighten out something as gummi as the one-percent’s inequality problem, in, like, 10 minutes? Two seven-year-olds. I mean, I am sorry, worldwide web, but some problems we are having, some problems that just seem unbelievably intractable, need to be handled by people with more Smartfood in their lunch. Because I am telling you, sooner or later the kids are going to figure this out anyway, that the world they are inheriting has been screwed six ways to Capri Sun by grown-ups having tantrums, so we might as well start turning over our pirate booty now, before the little ones start milk-in-a-boxing us in our sleep.
Just a thought.
OK, Josh must be making a smoothie, so I am going to do this on my own. I am going to tell you what my vast research has shown me about love and what it looks like, and that is that love and trying-to-love look pretty much the same. This is actually a little bit frightening to contemplate, because, as I said, we are obsessed with seeing love, and if love and trying-to-love look the same, what do we have to go on? What kind of scary magic is love? This is why, I think, we mythologize a mother’s love so much, because we want to locate that overwhelming power in one and only one person, and of course it is true that you only have one mother, but I also know—and I am an official member of the Conjuring Arts Research Center, so I know from sleight-of-hand—that when you break it down, what a mother’s love really looks like, in actual human actions, 99 percent of the time, is what we in the medical/magical/mothering world call “care,” and it is honestly not as complicated as pulling a rabbit out of your doctor kit. It is gently placing the band-aid in the right place and providing a calm and authoritative demeanor while doing so. It is making sure someone is warm, clean, dry, and comfortable, while listening to him/her prattle on about fears and nonsense.
It is possible, of course, that the caring person is thinking horrible thoughts the entire time these actions are performed, but you know what? Even if that’s true, care is still taking place. That’s what we have to go on. And this is why caring actions are powerful and radical things. They are love’s alphabet; its signs and symbols. And the secret is, anyone can speak this language to anyone—men to women, men to men, women to children, children to dogs, dogs to hamsters, and, depending on whom you talk to, hamsters to tongue depressors, and tongue depressors to paper clips. We all have the mother-power, people; children or no children, slings or no slings, and we need to mother this Earth up, I am telling you, so let’s go already.
Let us now pause to admire the wormhole of reader Candy Joyce, who currently lives in Southampton, Hampshire, UK:
Up until about the age of 10 I lived in a Bungalow with my parents and my brother. The Bungalow was L-shaped and my bedroom occupied the short side of the L with a window looking out to the garden and my bed under the window. The garden was long and thin, and the bit under my bedroom window was filled with gravel and stones.
When I was about 7 years old I had a dream where I was playing in the garden and I saw someone sticking out of the stones. He was wearing a bright yellow mackintosh and galoshes, and his head was mostly covered with the bright yellow hood of the mack. He was half buried in the stones with arms and legs sticking out as children might bury each other in the sand at the beach.
I told my brother (who must have been about 9) about the dream and being the sweet brother that he was (and still is) he accompanied me to the stone patch to check for strange men in yellow mackintoshes. As I recall this reality check didn’t really help my fears. I knew logically that it was a dream and that the layer of gravel was too shallow to half-bury someone in but I still occasionally refused, when told to go and brush my teeth before bed, as the bathroom looked out over the stones. I also got my dad to move my bed to the other side of my bedroom away from the window (although I don’t think I told him why I wanted to do that).
I’m almost 30 now and my brother is 32 but I still remember this as being the wormhole of my childhood, although it’s more of a happy memory now as I always think how sweet it was of my brother to check for yellow mackintoshed men in the gravel for me.
Keep those medicalizational questions coming.
Until next time,