“The Fun House” refers to living in an environment that distorts your sense of self. I spent lots of time in the “Fun House.” My childhood home was a place all about distortion, often to ensure I spent my life serving only the needs of my family members to the abandonment of my own. In early adulthood, my first marriage was also a house of … fun.
I’ve written long and often about the creative monsters that were my family. From my mother’s twisted view that writing should only be to make money to her narcissistic triangulation where she’d discuss my sister’s lack of motivation as a writer while “praising” me for being the real writer to my father’s insistence that I didn’t need grad school to be a librarian (uh yes, you very much do…) to my sister’s full embrace of her own raging jealousy to the point that she harshly put down any creative effort I produced… it was a fucked up environment. My sister focused her jealousy on me instead of taking risks and making an effort herself. My mother wanted to be an artist but did instead what she thought would please her parents, never understanding that there was no pleasing her parents just like there is no pleasing mine. Dad was just selfish, especially when it came to me and my life.
But I haven’t written as much about my ex. It’s taken a few recent years of therapy… and comments from a friend of mine who knew me then and knows me now…to realize exactly how much of a number he did on me. He used to brag that he wore a T-shirt that said “Kill All Artists.” While I started my writing career while living with him – and wrote rather prodigiously – I was never allowed to identify myself as an artist. It extended from my mother’s encouragement to call myself a “craft person” rather than an artist. Anything I wrote solely for the pleasure of it was pretentious, low-value. I should be writing for others, not for myself. He had this attitude towards creative people, even though he consumed video games and RPGs – artist dependent products – at a voracious rate.
The thing that really stands out in my mind with my ex is that, with him home, I could not listen to music he enjoyed. If it was music that played on the radio, to his mind it wasn’t good. Despite getting my attention by dancing with me when we first started dating, he refused to go dancing with me later – and would often, through inertia, stop me from dancing myself.
After we divorced he used the bait of obligation to continue to entrap me. He never was a generous man. In money and affection he was quite withholding, most of the time. He and his mother both clung to physical objects like they were life rafts – and his family accused me of using him; they were so worried about loss of physical things and I was so hand-to-mouth all the way through college that they just assumed I was in his life for the stuff he had. (He was quite good looking.) I realize now that this expression of hatred towards me was an expression of hatred towards him. He was raised to believe no one could really love him – so he couldn’t really love me. After all, what kind of parents just assume your significant other is just using you as their very first assumption? The kind that want you to think you don’t deserve love, that’s who.
I have had to cut off my monsters because they continuously try to force me into their distorted worldview. Most of the people I know are living with wounds. But these people – the ones that I should have been able to love and trust – insist that I bear their wounds while ignoring the ones they inflict on me, the ones that they manipulate me into bearing.
I’d be very frustrating for them. I’ve been slowly moving from rage to pity. But this isn’t the pity of empathy. This is the pity of disgust.