Thursday, September 30, 2010

My My My: Spiders and Flies

One great thing about having four Pretend Husbands is you get to adore them for vast, varied reasons. Both Ed Head and Hank Fitz, for example, are maniac readers with whom I spend decades lauding, exchanging, and speaking of books. I need this discourse the way lungs need air.

It’s because I have Ed Head and Hank Fitz that I don’t need to mind that my other two husbands do not read at all. Actually, it’s only Boo who does not read at all. Mack the Cowboy reads when he has to for matters of business, but never sits down to read just for pleasure. This is partly because Mack never sits down, and partly because his work ethic is so huge and eclipsing it doesn’t really allow time for pleasure, but mostly it’s due to this one frightening fact:

Nobody read to him when he was a child.

The first time he told me this, I refused to believe him, which is odd because I never doubt tales of early (or late, or any) atrocity, and not being read to before you are able to read for yourself strikes me as truly atrocious. But it was as if he had told me that no one who’d witnessed his childhood—be it older sibling, parent, or aunt-- had thought to introduce him to chocolate. It was not my experience, I could not take it in.

My mother, who’s been gone from this earth five years today, read aloud to me all of the time and this, I am sure, turned me into a reader. That she might have done so to give me something to do later on while she was busy ignoring me makes no real difference. The point is she did give me something to do, something that saves my life every day.

When Mack finally convinced me he was telling the truth, my heart sank with sorrow and then promptly soared with the self-serving joy of this revelation:

Mack (in this sphere at least) was a virgin. 

And I (in this sphere at least and only in contrast to Mack) was Mick Jagger. 

“Can I read you a story?” I asked him, arranging two pillows behind his sweet head.

“Story?” he mumbled. “What kind of story?”

Reader (dear reader!), did I take my Madeline down from the shelf? Show him the colored drawings of Paris while reading him the same precious lines my very own mother had once read to me?

Little Madeline sat in bed
cried and cried; her eyes were red. 

No, I arranged two pillows behind my own head and said:

My my my, like the spider to the fly!

But of course I did not say those words either. What I did was turn on the reading lamp next to my bed and open up my latest New Yorker.

“Not that damned New Yorker,” he groaned.

“Shh,” I said. “Lie back and relax."


  1. Dear Ms. Gonick,

    Your post today begins, substantially, to do what I have long thought you should do: Simply report your marvelous experiences -- without any reference whatsoever to "insanity" or any other term that, in my humble opinion, does nothing but alienate your readers, however accurate your use of the such terms may be to you.

    You see, I love you.

    No, not like the love any of your Pretend Husbands (such a fine contrivance) hold, but rather as a reader and, moreover, one who recognizes your incisive insight into the modern world. Yes, your own world. (But, please, stop describing it as insane! That's only somebody else's [-bodys' elses's?] view of what you've every reason to consider valid. STOP PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN!)

    For me, your observations as a substitute teacher (where, as I recall, you'd find yourself locked in a step -- frozen, owing to whatever medical condition so froze you), in learning that high school students just "have sex" as a sort of tension reliever, a sort of "aspirin," was FOR ME, a father of a son in high school at the time, ILLUMINATING. It helped dismantle my judgementalism.

    YOU: Such a bright light of insight!

    And it all has nothing (so far as I can tell) with you OTHER THAN YOUR OW INSIGHT. That is, FORGET your diagnoses and handicaps and all the excuses you can make. Put them aside. In their place, write incisively about what you obverse, and make NO excuses!

  2. Dear Anon,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and fervent feedback. Truly, I appreciate it. And I am taking it in. Ed Head read your letter and said: "He's not wrong." And Ed Head would know, so I hope you stay tuned.

  3. I agree-I once wrote you fan mail at the chronicle-I think you have a wise and insightful and most importantly FUNNY-perspective on the world-though I am actually interested in your descriptions of your "insanity":)

  4. Dear Ms. Gonick,

    We, your fans, love you in spite of or because of or by the brave and funny way you face and write about your "insanity." Whether it's real or schtick, you're a brilliant observer with a keen wit and a clever pen. You were a reason to take the Chron and you're a reason to keep checking your blog site. I'm always happy to read you ... it makes my day! Thanks for coming back into my reading life, dear Ms. Gonick.

  5. Dear Heather and My Constant Rose Trellis,
    Thank you as always! I just made a new post, one that, though it will surely annoy the Anon, does make reference to my "being insane", but the thing is, I really AM off my meds, and I really AM in love with a cowboy who does not love me back (a sign of insanity in itself), and I really cannot, cannot pretend otherwise. Although considering my powers of self delusion, you'd think that I could. But so be it.