This Boy (I am allowed to call him This Boy, I am his mother and I am perfectly aware that he has been a man for a very long time, but I am his MOTHER and allowances are made contextually).
This Boy is an Industrial Designer. His Facebook posts consist of photographs of circuit boards printed out in psychedelic colors, incomprehensible out of context which periodically become wall art. He doesn't bother with an explanation. His more outrageous posts are sent in private messages to his sister and me in a group chat called Princess Sparkle Pony. Sometimes we can goad him into posting one or two of these things but generally not. He has one hot button. No, two. The first is vaccinations. I don't know where this came from. He was vaccinated in a time when everyone was vaccinated, no questions asked. Of course, there was no Chicken Pox vaccination in a bottle. First sign of an outbreak and every mother in the neighborhood grabbed any child over the age of four and made a beeline for the the wellspring. Get it over with. Get it done. Don't do it too young or you'll have to do it again but for the love of God make damn sure it's over and done with before adolescence. Let us not have any complications or the tragedy of early adult male sterilization from a prolonged extreme fever. I recall making my mother very, very sick when I brought it into the house at nine. But vaccinations. He is a believer. He is a believer in herd immunity. He has done the math, he has read the history, he has not forgotten. He is incensed.
His other hot button are posts which have not been thoroughly vetted. Did that person really say that? Is that a truth or a twisted mis-truth or an outright lie? Is this hyperbole? Are you sure? Is that a reasonable sample? Surveys of people on the beach being asked if they understand the meaning of a particular date (I think there were more than one (this drove me a little nuts too) drive him batshit. How many people were surveyed? What was the level of education? Where was the survey conducted and by whom? What was your control group? What was the motive of the surveyor? Where is the scientific method behind the research? There isn't any, he says, therefore it is completely invalid, data collected to give credence to a point which may or may not be true but which drives the masses to further hysteria. Masses = non-thinking people.
I *thought* for years that he was a Republican. I really did. I'll tell you why in a minute. I thought this because of something he said to me and because of this I was very respectful about political conversation around him and therefore failed to ask him a single question which was really sort of awful of me. We're sort of polarized in my family. You're either a screaming left wing Democrat or you're an idiot. Seriously. We can't hear you. Best I can tell on my dad's side there's only one of us votes on the wrong side and we never liked him anyway. So I *thought* he was a Republican and I saw how that might have happened. His dad is, so some of those belief systems which are different from mine could have happened and that's perfectly fine but what shut the conversation down was the way he was offended.
I have a book called Goodnight Bush. It's a parody of Goodnight Moon and depending on who you are and when you were or are reading it, it's really very funny. It's also incredibly offensive. Depends on what side of the fence you're standing. If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and have a look. If not, don't. I don't mean to be offensive. What bothered my kid was that he'd about had enough of all that shit from both sides and this was a lot of years ago. And he LIKES sarcasm and irony. Also, Goodnight Moon was his favorite book so that might have been a bit of a problem.
A bunch of years later he went and voted for Obama and when I asked him why he had a fairly solid argument. When he was done explaining himself he asked me why it mattered and I said, I thought you were a fairly staunch Republican and I wanted to know what changed. He shook his head and walked out of the room. I apologized later. We tend to seriously get in your face around here about this sort of thing. I had not, but I'm his mother and he's preemptive with me. I don't blame him.
Back on that in your face sort of thing. We are an in your face sort of family. It's a boundary thing. We don't recognize them. I've definitely gotten better at this as a mother but he was my first so he suffered the most. He took it on the head coming the other direction as well. I don't believe if you sat his father and me down in a room today and asked us what we were thinking when we were 22 and 28 that we'd have said we meant to get inside this poor kid's head and tell him what to think and what not to think, but I do think, well I do know that for separate reasons both of us had boundary issues we couldn't even see yet and the Boy put up walls.
We didn't see them going up because they came up so gradually and he doesn't live in a fortress. The walls are around his most vulnerable places; the things which matter most, these places where we are not allowed to have an opinion until he says so. Also, he chooses his battles. For the most part, he's not going to have an argument with a positioned person; positioned meaning, YOU AREN'T LISTENING. So what's the point? He will, however (I've noticed), listen to you. Silence does not indicate agreement. If you want to take it that way, well that's on you.
It first started when he put play lists in the Princess Sparkle Pony group chat. Just a list of songs.
Mom. Which order should these be played in?
I'm singing at an open mic and I need to know which order these should be played in.
What's wrong with the order you have them in?
Mom. That's completely random and you know it.
Random is fine.
No, it's not and you know it. You used to put CDs together all the time and you were really good at it. The start, the middle, the break, and the finish. It's really important. Which order should these be played in?
OK. Let me think.
You really want to know what I think?
OK, here: 1,2,3,4,5 and drop 6 entirely, it doesn't belong in the set.
But I like that song.
I like that song too but it doesn't belong in the set and here's why. You could go with discord though. You'll definitely have discord if you use it but I don't know if you can come back from that.
It took a year before I asked if I could go to one of his open mic nights and of course he said no. I didn't think he would say yes, mostly I wanted him to know I wanted to go. I would NEVER just walk in there and I would never go if he told me I couldn't. That would be an egregious breach of trust and talk about crashing through a boundary. Not happening.
Then we started getting lyrics.
What do you think of these?
It's hard to tell without music.
I know, but what do you think about these anyway?
I think it's OK but it's really hard to tell without music. OK, listen, that's kind of bleak.
I don't know if his sister ever gave him any feedback or if she just witnessed the interchange. I do know she'll be at that open mic session way before I am. That's a good thing. Siblings are a lot safer than mothers when you care so very much what your mother thinks.
I notice this extraordinary desire for approval in what he *doesn't* say or share and the way he offers up small things. Or maybe it's his fear of disapproval. There isn't anything I can do other than respect the boundaries and give him what he asks for.
Two weeks ago, I think, I received a recording. It's an hour, at least he's on first. It's a bad recording done from the back of the bar but good enough, better than not having it at all. He's moved on from the safe stuff and started experimenting. He's still covering songs but he's stretching and twisting them. He's reaching beyond his range to get at something unique. I didn't recognize him at first because his voice was different and he was sitting and the camera was so far away but eventually I got it.
The kid is willing to risk.
He's not up there looking for an agent. He doesn't want to be or do anything other than what he's doing in the moment. He is an Industrial Designer but it's not enough. He also wants to sing and write music. He plays multiple instruments. He is self taught. All he wants to do is what he's doing up there on that stage right now. Best I can tell he doesn't think of anything else but what's happening in the moment. I know it scares the shit out of him. I can imagine how alive he feels stepping up to that mic.
I am grateful for what he shares. It is enough.
This Boy became That Man somehow when I wasn't looking. One way or another he has been breaking my heart apart for nearly 29 years in his own way, in his own time, despite anyone's attempts to try to get him to do something in any sort of conventional manner. I can't imagine why I would expect anything else of him.