“I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization. Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and the selfish planet-wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists. Autism has somehow arisen out of this. Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travelers from the distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.”
— Naoki Higashida
With Violet, she (they) wants me to call her ‘them’ and I want to but I forget a lot. It’s been almost 14 years of life for them with me calling them ‘her’. Calling them ‘she’. Calling them ‘daughter’ where she now politely but firmly reminds me that she wants me to call them ‘kid’.
As in: ‘my kid’.
Not: ‘my daughter’.
Which, again, is a lot to grab onto and recall when the automatic things/ the few things I once could count as truths/ they change. Everyday stuff, sometimes it has to go in different directions. Real change requires new steadfast diligence from the worn-down minds (‘hard-working’, we tell ourselves) that are faced with the reality shift. Which is a struggle, I’m not going to lie. I can’t seem to remember half the time what to refer to Violet as and that starts to get me all flustered about even talking to her or about her at all.
However, there is another part of me, I know, that is bullshitting myself. I tell myself that I’m totally onboard with the pronouns thing and why wouldn’t I be? I mean, I’m the kind of guy who could give a shit about what a fellow human being wants to call them selves or see themselves as or ‘identify’ as, you know?
Of course the fuck I am! I’m an intellectual, dog. I’m white and middle-age and kinda overweight and with that I stand in a big-ass crowd of American people who aren’t as sure of themselves as they once were, yet, I’m a free-thinker. I’m a progressive. I long for the idealistic nation state to finally come sprouting up out of the Georgia pines and up through the ancient Wyoming plains/ come crushing up through the jagged rocky Maine coast/ spiraling up through the sunlit California freeways, right smack dab in the middle of the goddamn day of all times, spinning like an old time barbershop sign. Twirling around as it bashes through the mega traffic like some kaiju narwhale/ tossing buses into the sky like they were lit matches/ smacking whole gobs of SUVs down into the neighborhoods in the shadows of the road/ lifting up out of the earth: a brand new day: a brand new way of living where everyone is equal and everything is cool and medical care for everyone and blah, blah, blah.
It’s not going to happen, huh?
I see that now. I look at myself in the scuzzy bathroom mirror in our house and I can see a fool, played by fools, playing the role of do-gooder across his years. Because what else could I do? What the fuck else was I supposed to do??
It isn’t a certainty to me that I’m really onboard with the whole pronouns thing. Not so much because I don’t agree with it, but more because I think I’m too lazy. Too set in my ways. I think I look at myself in this mirror and I’m a little bit ashamed, honestly, of the frumpy weird selfish figure I turned out to be. Tired all the time. Exhausted. I’ll be 51 in a few weeks and I’m still chasing gunfighter cigar smoke like a young punk. I still have dreams. I still wake up on Friday mornings and hope that today will be the day that a lot of people discover my writing. But it never really happens.
I plod along/ work my jobs/ my ‘gigs’/ working 4 of them these days, I am/ and I sit down on the couch at night and have a drink or two with Arle as we try to decide what show to binge next.
Or talk about why we can’t understand our own kids.
Why we feel so helpless so often when it comes to them. Why we love them all so much and strive to be decent and instill decency and work with them to find interests that aren’t just YouTube and video games and maybe connect with them over some kind of mutual admiration for something deep and beautiful that resonates the rest of all of our days: mine ending first in like 19 years, then Arle’s in like 41 years, and then the 5 kids: way down the line: way in the future which is a towering stack of Polaroids/ snapshots of every moment there ever was and which has already happened but still: we are only able to see/experience one Polaroid at a time: because human consciousness can only handle one meager frame at a time.
Violet in the afternoon/ moving up and down the neighbor’s driveway/ listening to her music on her headphones.
Oh man. I’ve got to get that right. Not for me. Not so I can make the world a better place by stepping up as a purveyor of fine imported fresh ideas that most people don’t even give a fuck about. But rather, to stand by the harmless decisions of my kid, who is just wonderful, and who I would run a sword through your neck without hesitation if that’s what was called for in the heat of the moment. (Watch out!)
It isn’t just a parent thing either, I don’t think. It’s more than that, even though that would probably be enough in my book. Things like this though, these issues of generations colliding and older people failing younger people in the name of what has been instead of what will be, these are things that too many folks don’t seem to care about. People always think the way they were raised is the right way. Or at least the way they understand things and make sense of things.
Which, you know, is pigeon shit.
Things are always intensely different, in true reality, than whatever you or I think they are. Nothing we believe is total truth. Nothing we know as fact is total fact. Because beneath the surface of the shimmering day or the shadowy night there are vast kingdoms of light that are neither day nor night nor anything in between the two. I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
Human consciousness, the very act of you living your life day-to-day, loving your people/ hitting your job/ feeling that tiny lift when your direct deposit appears/ sucking and fucking and smoking that grass/ hating on the Mexicans or loving the Mexicans or never thinking about the Mexicans/ being happy Sunday mornings, filled with old Christ (you)/ or Sunday mornings: hanging in bed: staring at her curves as she sleeps: a Civil War book on my chest: a novel by my side: coffee, coffee, coffee: rain on the window: I can hear the void where Heaven was supposed to go and I like that better (me)/ scared about the finances/ wishing for the death of certain motherfuckers/ wishing that the kids would understand that you are good, that you are trustworthy and should be loved and respected and given small gifts at random moments in gratitude!/ traipsing down through the grocery store/ buying arugula/ buying cough medicine/ buying milk from a cow that isn’t even a fucking cow anymore but it’s probably a cyborg/ like Joe Biden/ hating on Joe Biden/ hating on Joe Biden because he’s old and he deserves the hate if you wanted Trump (that glorious fat idiot that gave you permission to be bad, bad news)/ or loving Joe Biden because he’s East Coast to the bone and he’s elite and wealthy to be sure but he’s- like- Main Line Phillies fan Avalon 18 dollar Italian hoagie on a REAL roll motherfucker wealthy – not DONALD TRUMP JR cunt smirk hateful little manbitch wealthy/ you: holding your sweet grandkids on the porch/ or your sweet, sweet old dog who is going blind and licks you in an inimitable attempt to see again/ to see you not blurry one more time/ but it ain’t happening/ and you: having a pepperoni slice at the dying mall or at the winter fair festival thing/ winter craft thing with portable brick oven pizza in the middle of a so-called recession when the prices at the pumps are enough to make a grown man holler ‘FUCK YOU’ across a chaotic Broadway at the Statue of Liberty as she walks, head down, toward Penn Station like a sad Godzilla leaving town forever.
Two choices, I guess.
The first is this. Pronouns aren’t important. Easy to grasp.
The other one is this. Pronouns are very important. Because your kid wants them to be and need you to, too.
To read the rest of this essay and more from Serge Bielanko, subscribe to his Substack feed HERE.
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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattling around his noggin. Once in a blue Muskie Moon, he backs away from the computer, straps on a guitar and plays some rock ’n’ roll with his brother Dave and their bandmates in Marah.