(I'm planning to work on some new material next month that I want to collect into a book of essays for submission to a publisher. In order to keep my writing chops up, I decided to sit down for a bit and come up with some new material for the blog. This was just a one-draft, unrevised piece; I don't expect anyone to take it too seriously.)
“Empiricism, Or: Why There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Soul”
© Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 28, 2010
Sometimes it's the little things that force a certain level of reflection on times gone by. And what better time to reflect on the awesome power of women to simultaneously crush me and rouse me to feats of astounding levels of rage than my ex-wife's birthday? Curse my great memory for dates and history. Useful when writing about wars and keeping the timeline straight when writing down the silly old stories that impress people on message board forums. Not so much when noticing the numbers in the bottom right corner of my computer screen leads my mind astray.
But that's not what this is about. Not directly, at least. Only in the sense that my ex-wife belongs to a long and illustrious tradition of women eroding my naturally trusting nature and leading me into a position where I tend to assume the worst given any sort of situation. I think I hold the record for highest percentage of lying, cheating, untrustworthy, confused, lost, or otherwise broken female souls per unit of relationship (and don't bother trying to quantify that one.)
I've run into so many failures that the mere act of dating reminds me of Rita Mae Brown's dictum (often misattributed to Albert Einstein) that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” To date (pardon the pun), I'd say I have been in various degrees of romantic involvement, from promising-but-never-got-anywhere to flings and one-night stands to full-on relationships to a failed marriage, with something on the order of three dozen women in the sixteen years since I first figured out as a high school junior how to ask a girl to go on a date and not be immediately laughed out of the room. A bit over two a year, some long stretches with one girl, other times a full-fledged swinging bachelor going through women like raw materials through the Memory Factory cranked up to eleven. And in that time I have found that either I'm meeting the wrong kinds of women, the good ones truly are taken, or there is something about me that inspires them to behave in a manner consistent with a misogynist's view of the universe.
Take the girl I dated this summer (as three girls all look up like “huh? You mean me?”) Long-distance relationship through calls and text messages since we had the better part of the whole “from sea to shining sea” United States between us. She was a delightful girl, affectionate, friendly, quick to let me know when she had a free moment...and all was well until she got drunk, slept with a complete stranger she met at a bar, and that was that. At least she had the decency to confess what happened, not that she had a choice when I noticed she'd gotten distant on me.
Then there was the five-night stand. Fun fact, girls: Asking a guy to meet your family and making it a precondition to your continuing to date him when you've been together less than a week is a recipe for scaring him away. Hell if I know what she was thinking on that one.
And of course there was the complete lack of sense of honoring one's commitments that characterized my divorce. I'm pretty sure that “'til death do us part” does not mean “until you have an existential crisis, go in a matter of a couple of weeks from affectionate and loving to 'I don't want this anymore', and leave.” Hard to trust anyone after that one, especially since when I pressed the issue, she flat-out admitted to me that I'd done nothing wrong and been nothing but a dutiful, loving husband. She just didn't want to be with me anymore. The hell?
I could go further. The girl I'd been with three years who met a new guy and left me inside of a month when before she met the guy she'd been talking marriage. The girl who literally went crazy right before my eyes, and I mean that in the DSM-IV diagnosable illness sense of the word crazy. Watching her have an honest-to-gods psychotic episode remains the single most heart-wrenching thing I have ever personally witnessed because after that happened, the girl I'd fallen in love with and planned to spend the rest of my days with turned into...someone else...as sure as she'd been possessed. For a brief moment I completely understood the rationale behind the old exorcisms and witch trials that accompanied such episodes before modern science got its head around the idea that such things were not caused by evil spirits. Were I a superstitious citizen in a pre-modern society I'd have been sending for the priest myself. The net result, however, was that she broke up with me. Nursing her mind back to health was simply not an option presented to me, not that I'm convinced it would have been the same even in the best case. A few months after the breakup, some of our old mutual friends informed me that “you were the only thing keeping her together, she went off the deep end after you left.” I haven't seen her in twelve years, and all I could think of if I saw her again would be that I hope she turned out OK.
Not that I'm completely beyond culpability in the state of my own failures. I've met and been with girls who have left little doubt in my mind as to the state of their romantic loyalties, the sorts of girls about whom I can say unironically that they worshiped the ground I walked on. Those would be the girls whose hearts I've broken. All three would have married me and borne my children had I merely deigned to ask...and in one very notable case my decision, when faced with a choice, to take the other girl on offer was the single poorest decision I have ever made in love and romance. Not that it matters; it's been seven years, it's not like that girl's sitting around waiting for me and even if she were she'd be out of her mind to trust me.
Which in turn makes me wonder if it's less bad judgment and more me still needing to atone for some perceived sin by the goddess of love that makes me sit here, reflecting on a lost marriage on a notable historic date for same when I should be doing other work, and wondering if I'm ever going to come out the other side of all this with not just my sense of self intact but also with the one thing I've wanted that has always eluded me; a girl to call my own and grow old with. It's not like I'm planning weddings on first dates, but it would be nice not to face failure after failure due more to choosing or attracting the wrong sort than to being anything less than a guy worth loving.
There exists the dreadful possibility that I'm simply fated to be alone. Such a fate is too awful to even consider. There will be plenty of time for that sort of reflection when my mind is not thoroughly caught up in itself on other subjects as it stands. But Goddess, if you're listening? I'm not Job. My heart and my faith are not playthings. Thanks.
28 October 2010
08 October 2010
I'm no longer in a position where I can write about history for an actual history class, but that doesn't mean I don't still have a lot to say on the topic. I wrote this in response to my friend Rob from Philadelphia, who mentioned "Imagine" on Facebook and started an interesting chain of thoughts in my head.
1980: The Year Glory Stirred From Its Slumber
Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 8, 2010
Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 8, 2010
Sometimes the mere mention of a year can stir in the mind a whole slew of thoughts about history. 1492. 1776. 1945. I'm going to add 1980 to that list. After Jimmy Carter spent the first three years of his presidency trying his level best to make America a global laughingstock, we got our first indications that even though Brezhnev had clearly won the latest round, we might have a chance in this whole Cold War thing.
It started in February. The Miracle on Ice was symbolic. We had the Soviets on our home turf. They got to see what capitalism could do, and what it could do besides touch off the greatest act of consumer-goods smuggling in history courtesy of blue jeans was inspire a scrappy bunch of college kids to punch way above their weight on a rink against the mighty Red Army team. If indeed the first blow landed, a stunning jab to the face of the monster, the rest of the year would show the world that “you ain't seen nothin' yet.”
Fast forward through the 1980 presidential election campaign. Carter, whose reputation for diplomacy I've never been able to understand since it seemed to primarily consist of ineffectual whining about the Moscow Olympics and rolling over like a subservient puppy in the face of Islamist extremism in Iran, committed a comedy of errors that prompted Ronald Reagan, my childhood hero, to famously quip that “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Landslide is hardly a strong enough word, and the second great blow against Communism in 1980 was struck.
Since good things come in threes, 1980 wasn't done yet. And here is where the most unsung blow against the Soviets was struck not in Moscow or in the global military arena but in an apartment complex in New York City. The end result would deprive the Soviets of a critical part of Communism's propaganda power in the West and lead in some small way to something that nobody in 1980 could “Imagine”, namely the fall of the entire Soviet Evil Empire. This was, of course, the murder of John Lennon and the ascent to heroism in the process of Mark David Chapman.
Chapman's impact on history should not be underestimated. A tireless advocate for Communist ideas in the United States, Lennon's anthem still to this day can be heard in the rooms of idealistic nitwits who sincerely believe that the kind of central planning that led to secret police and bread lines everywhere it was tried (not to mention three million dead Ukrainians and at least thirty million dead Chinese in the Holodomor famine and Great Leap Forward, respectively) will somehow bring about a warm and fuzzy utopia in America.
Well, I say to hell with them. Mark David Chapman was a hero. He cut the head off the propaganda beast in the West, allowing the Reagan revolution and the American resurgence to continue full-bore. America seems to have found its testicular fortitude on December 8. The Eighties were a time of unprecedented economic activity, a boom that couldn't even be interrupted by a stock market meltdown, a boom that had the economic wherewithal to use to power of deficit spending to do to the Soviet military machine what John D. Rockefeller did to Pennsylvania's independent oil refining industry in the nineteenth century. Indeed, had Reagan exhorted Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”, Lennon would have been at the forefront of those telling Ol' Stainhead to keep the thing up.
There are indeed only two moments in the so-called American Century where our nation indeed stood as the world's undisputed champion. The first was on August 6, 1945, when a bunch of Japanese discovered what happens when a bunch of atoms develop a split personality. The second was on November 9, 1989, otherwise known as the most memorable day of my childhood, when even the kids who had no interest in current events spoke animatedly in seventh-grade social studies class. Everything else was just a whole lot of cultural chest-thumping and a bit of fast food.
Indeed, that latter moment, the fall of the Wall, was made possible by the events of 1980. Liberalism was in disarray in the Eighties, much as it was disorganized and weak during the George W. Bush regime recently. This has to at least in part fall on the shoulders of that accidental hero who fired the shot heard 'round the world on that cold December day in New York. It's been thirty years, Mark David Chapman, and I say you're a hero.