We welcome back Tim, our resident guest author, who continues to enthral us.
That’s what they do in china doll factories – they smash them. Sure, we’ve heard of ‘seconds’ but that’s for plates, cups, saucers, and for the Outlet Store. China dolls are the perfect collectables; imperfection might make one unique, like a misprinted postage stamp, and thus have inherent value above the rest. Collectable china dolls are not ‘run of kiln’ or ROK items.
I thought ROK was well known until I searched for a link for the definition. Seems not. So here it is:
“ROK means run of kiln, a mixture of bestware grade & good selected seconds grade. When factories have production runs a percentage of the production will have a flaw or imperfection. For example, the glaze is not even, or a speck of dust could have got onto the glaze and shows up as a little mark.”
So, ROK means everything saleable in the output of that firing. The italic bit was a long way of saying it, wasn’t it?
Where was I?
Ah yes. I was at the smashing of imperfect china dolls. When we produce a high quality collectable we do not sell seconds. We sell the best and only the best. We do not allow the rejects to escape into the wild. We smash them.
I know, you think I’m off on one again! Yup, right in one. I am off on one. You never know, this may turn into a rant! It may even start to have a purpose in a blog on emotional and mental health matters. Gosh, I hope so! If not I’ll have written a load of stuff for Bob to thank me politely for and ignore!
Sometimes I promise to get to the point later and leave you hanging. I’d like to say that’s on purpose – to make you think; actually, not true! It happens when my stream of consciousness goes off at a tangent and I can’t grab it back and force it to go the way I intended.
My life’s like that, too. See, I’m rambling already, so let me try to get back on course. I’m struggling to work out how to make this a topic of real use, not just Tim having a whine. Well, you be the judge.
The Raising of Kids
I’m talking about the raising of kids. I’m already reminded of “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin. Now look, there’s a rude word in it. If you intend to be offended by a rude word try very hard not to watch the video, where Larkin reads his own poem. Is it safe for work? You be the judge. Hmm. That phrase is already used once too often.
Now look, I did tell you about the rude word, so you can’t be upset about it now. They do, too. Larkin was right. Mostly they do it with good intent. Probably. You’ve likely heard the following:
- Spare the rod and spoil the child.
- Little children should be seen but not heard.
I’m reminded, too, of Oscar Wilde’s line in The Picture of Dorian Grey, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
I bare my soul here in case it strikes a chord with you and your soul. My motive is simple; I bare my soul for my own very selfish good. I do it because writing this stuff down lessens the hold it has over me and gradually that hold becomes ‘the hold it once had over me’.
Today I can’t quite get started. This stuff is deep and personal and it feels safest to hug it close to me and not let you see it.
That is why I have to let you see it.
I was Raised as a China Doll
I was given all the care money could buy. I had the best pram, a lovely modern wooden cot, enough toys not to feel deprived, a warm and secure home, and parents who expressed love for me. I was the perfect little boy in a perfect life with perfect parents in a house they had built for themselves, designed by my father’s best friend. Here I am at about six or seven years old by the duck pond in the town we aspired to live in but could never quite afford.
I was a very wanted child. There had been ten years of miscarriages before me, and several more miscarriages after me. My parents wanted children desperately. They chose to educate me privately.
You need to understand that my mother was Upper Class. The capital letters are hers. She was born in St. Reatham (work it out for yourself), and she wanted to be better than she was. My father was a refugee from Hitler’s Austria. He had immigrant syndrome, he became more English than the English, despite speaking Accent with a trace of English. These two complemented each other.
So they bought me the best education they could afford, though it may well not have been the best education at all. I attended a private primary school at the end of our road, and moved to a private prep school a train ride away, followed by a Public School in the same town, the town in which we aspired to live, in which my father’s best friend the architect could afford to live in. The box for ‘Education’ was ticked.
It didn’t matter that the education didn’t suit me nor meet my needs, it met their needs. They had checked off Education on their list. They were inordinately proud of my Public School uniform and, to be fair, I was, too.
I didn’t realise, though, that it was to be paraded in front of the family at a wedding even before I could start at the school. Who is made to attend a family wedding in their school uniform, especially when it had shirts with detached collars and a button up fly? Me, obviously! The suit was awful itchy scratchy wool, too. The pictures, now that I’m 64, look interesting. The kid by the duck pond. Does he look happy? How about the 13 year old kid in the school suit?
The atmosphere at home was weird. A short while before that second picture was taken (while I was still 12) I flattened my father to stop him from hitting me. I wasn’t big; I was nowhere near as big as he was. Even so I floored him. I remember it vividly today; he was never going to hit me again or I would die trying to stop him. I was very lucky. As he lay on the floor he must have realised he could never hit me again. Instead he treated me to weeks of silence for any minor transgression.
At my new school, a school I need never have gone to because I’d passed the 11+ and school could have been free except that they needed to be seen to pay for it, I was horrified to find I was falling for another lad my own age. I’d been raised to be the perfect model heterosexual, and here I was, not being one.
I was also a China Doll
My mother was a compassionate woman. Her younger sister had been subject to nervous breakdowns. My mother had, helpfully and compassionately, had her committed for mandatory mental health treatment, the very much in vogue electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Twice.
I researched homosexuality. I found something akin to this, found more recently from a modern document:
Having defined homosexuality as a pathology, psychiatrists and other doctors made bold to “treat” it. James Harrison, a psychologist who produced the 1992 documentary film Changing Our Minds, notes that the medical profession viewed homosexuality with such abhorrence that virtually any proposed treatment seemed defensible.
Lesbians were forced to submit to hysterectomies and oestrogen injections, although it became clear that neither of these had any effect on their sexual orientation. Gay men were subjected to similar abuses.
Changing Our Minds incorporates a film clip from the late 1940s, now slightly muddy, of a young gay man undergoing a transorbital lobotomy. We see a small device like an ice pick inserted through the eye socket, above the eyeball and into the brain. The pick is moved back and forth, reducing the prefrontal lobe to a haemorrhaging pulp.
Harris’s documentary also includes a grainy black-and-white clip from a 1950s educational film produced by the U.S. Navy. A gay man lies in a hospital bed. Doctors strap him down and attach electrodes to his head. “We’re going to help you get better,” says a male voice in the background. When the power is turned on, the body of the gay man jerks violently, and he begins to scream. Doctors also tried castration and various kinds of aversion therapy. None of these could be shown to change the sexual orientation of the people involved.
[sources: Multiple, including The Atlantic, June 1997, Burr, Chandler. Paragraph breaks are mine]
This was not dissimilar, in my thinking, to my mother’s exhibition of compassion for her sister. My aunt, her sister, was a broken person and was sent to be smashed.
I was her son, her only child. I was starting to understand that I must, absolutely must, be perfect. I was exhibited to the family as perfection and I did not dare risk being smashed. I knew about ECT. I also knew about lobotomies; they were once the favoured treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. I had an uncle who had the disease and that quack cure. I had no interest in being rendered a gibbering wreck, especially out of compassion.
This was 1965
In the UK, homosexuality became legal in 1967 – and only between consenting adults (21+) and in private. The media was full of fire and brimstone in that time period, as I was developing a deep and unrequited 13 year old romantic and erotic love for my male 13 year old school friend.
You are meant to be able to turn to your parents for help. A boy is meant to have a mum and a dad who listen, understand and help. I had a ‘mother’ and a ‘father’ but what I needed was a mum and a dad. I needed hugs and to be told it was fine to be in love with a boy, that it might pass or I might be homosexual and either of those things was fine and that they still loved me.
I decided to hide my growing terror that I was one of those filthy perverts the mainstream media was busy tearing moral holes in. Worse, I hid it from the boy I adored; I could not tell him lest he told our housemaster who told my parents who sent me to be smashed with electricity or worse. We had a lad who was expelled for expressing affection, perhaps more, to another boy. It was announced to us all that he ‘had suffered a nervous breakdown’ when he failed to appear the next day. I would have been expelled and electrocuted.
This is not actually about my being homosexual, though. Instead it is about my being required to be perfect. This China Doll failed quality control and must be smashed. That is what it’s about – that and Philip Larkin’s poem.
My mother, to her dying day, believed I had achieved three grade A passes at A Level. She denied the evidence of the certificates she photocopied that I had three passes at grade B. I failed my rather easy degree course. I rebelled against… well, me, it seems!
My parents refused to let me tell anyone that I had failed. I was, you see, the only one in the family to have got to university and thus I was again – perfection. And, to the family, I had a first class honours degree. If not, then this China Doll failed quality control and must be smashed.
All my adult life I have suffered from the need to live up to my parents’ ridiculous expectations of me. Even my father’s death in 1982 did nothing to alleviate my need to appear to be perfect. Can you imagine the stress that caused me?
If you are, maybe, just maybe, reading something from a survivor will start to help, just a little.
I was Outed
At 18 I was made very unhappy. It became clear at school and to my colleagues that I was attracted to another lad (not the boy I adored as he had left by then). I was outed, very badly, in huge graffiti; “Tim Loves Fred” in letters six inches high, in fluorescent purple marker pen, on the emulsion paint of the walls of the prefects’ study. (His name wasn’t ‘Fred’.)
It was written as I watched in horror; I could feel the walls closing in on me as I wanted to die. This China Doll failed quality control and must be smashed. That night, cycling home, I was choosing which truck to die under. [I now often wonder why I didn’t do it.] Early the next morning, I pasted pictures over the graffiti and by the time those pictures came down I had left that place. Those words could no longer hurt me, though I am sure they hurt ‘Fred’.
…hiding more and more of my supposed perverted self; I was afraid. This China Doll failed quality control and must be smashed.
Many years later (many, many years) my mother finally made me angry enough to tell her (with surgical precision) how I had been afraid of her all my life, and what she had done to me. There is a lot more than I can write here that she had done, out of some sort of misguided mother’s love.
I asked her if she would have sent me to be cured of my homosexuality. I needed her to lie but instead she told me the truth. “Yes, dear, probably…” she said. This China Doll failed quality control and must be smashed.
So, what is this all about?
Just me having a good old whine? Perhaps. But, with luck, if you are a parent now (or will be in the future) it will strike a chord with you. I hope you will ask yourself “Does my child feel safe with me?”
I’m not asking you to protect a murderer or a rapist; real crimes have real consequences. I am asking you whether your child feels safe with you, asking you to work that out, and asking you to move heaven and earth to try to ensure he or she feels safe.
Homosexuality is easy. “One day, [insert your child’s name here], you will fall in love and want to introduce us to the person you love. Some people fall in love with boys others with girls. That’s normal. We just want you to know that, whether you introduce us to the girl or the boy you love we will love you just as much as now, and we will embrace them into the family as the person you love.” It’s not so different from any other deeply personal issue.With a bit of thought and you can help make your child feel safe. #emotional #parenting Click To Tweet
Failed Quality Control?
It’s harder if, like me, you are that China Doll which failed quality control and must be smashed. We China Dolls have to find and create our own salvation.
I do it by writing. I write it out and share it with strangers. I share it with you, because I trust you and because I don’t know you.
How do you do it? … No, really, how do you do it? Please use the comments and tell me. I promise to answer you.
That Oscar Wilde Quote
Have I forgiven my parents? No.
I was not mature enough to talk to my father before he died in 1982.
My mother died in 2007. I was mature enough to have talked enough with her before then – ensuring that neither of us had more to say that was unsaid. We were at peace with each other, but I have not forgiven her. I did love her. I loved her enough to be moved to tears at her cremation, though after I had delivered the expected eulogy, not during. I loved her enough not to be a whiny little bitch in the eulogy and make it about me, but delivered it about her, and well, and with love. But I did not like her.
My parents also caused my character to be so odd that my wife almost left me for good – just because she could not stand me. I am working on that continually and am less and less odd. Probably. My wife knows I work on it AND she appreciates it. We are friends again, as well as very much in love. Yes, I am homosexual; love does not respect orientation – nor does it respect the sex of the one who is loved.
I have not been the parent to my son that my parents were to me. I have made other mistakes, but never the one of being infallible.I acknowledge freely when I am wrong and I apologise to him. #parenting Click To Tweet
I remind him that I am simply a bloke who is trying his best.
It’s not always good enough.
And that’s ok.
To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying