I saw a douchebag dad screaming at his kid the other day in public. Out for a family stroll along the California coastline, on the type of pristinely beautiful day I’ve dreamed about my whole life, he grabbed his son by his backpack and started to shake him, eventually shoving him forward while screaming, “You better keep walking or you’re gonna get it, you little piece of shit!” His wife kept walking by his side, strutting in Lululemon yoga pants with her perfectly straightened “blonde” hair, smiling straight ahead in her designer sunglasses.
The dad continued to scream and create a scene, the son looking downward while his dad ordered him to keep walking, apparently completely unconcerned about the costs of his 10 year old son’s future anxiety issues and therapy bills. And the mom kept smiling tightly and strutting along, her thin muscular legs actually looking pretty hot in her overpriced yoga pants, considering that her husband was fully gray and looked borderline elderly, and she had to be at least forty-five.
My new friend and I had just finished swapping stories about our triumphant survival of traumatic childhoods, subtly trying to outdo each other, commenting on our hours spent in therapy or lack thereof. My mom crashed her Subaru into my stepdad’s Suburban, more than once; hers blew weed smoke into her face when she was a child, teasing her and calling her a goody two shoes when she acted upset. I lived in a moldy trailer; her family was homeless for a while and then lived in an RV. Her parents had multiple diagnoses; mine refused to see mental health professionals…
We laughed so much during our hike that anyone eavesdropping must’ve thought we were nuts for finding what we were saying even remotely funny. But that’s the thing about traveling straight through the eye of the insanity storm and making it out the other side – it’s so absurd you have to laugh. It’s so impossible to believe that somehow you’re okay, and that somehow the borderline stranger walking next to you atop an oceanside cliff in paradise has been there before and is okay too, that you nearly trip and fall off the cliff together, guffawing at the unlikelihood of it all.
When we saw the douchebag dad, we were on our way back to our cars and we had just finished off comparing notes, agreeing that most of it probably couldn’t happen these days. “The 80s and 90s were crazy.” “Domestic violence laws are different now.” “The cops came to my house every night and never actually did a thing.” “Today that would never happen.”
Apparently being out of the woods has made us delusional. We’ve lost sight of the fear a parent can instill in a child with a scream, a hand held high, a threat, or even just a few harsh words. We think it’s all better, because we seem to be all better. Or at least we hope so.
Later that night I felt like shit for not saying something, for not somehow standing up for that poor little guy. No matter what he did, or his father thought he did, he didn’t deserve to be berated and belittled, screamed at and shaken and shoved in public. I texted with my new friend about what we could have, or perhaps should have done. And in the end, we somewhat reluctantly agreed that we felt okay about being a couple of girls who had done nothing at all. We know from experience that getting a dad like that all worked up would probably lead nowhere good for that boy. And we know from experience that they both would’ve most likely been mortified and angered by negative attention from a couple of normal-looking, young-ish California girls.
That night I wished I could somehow tell that kid it gets better. Like those YouTube videos to gay teens about their promising futures, the hot college parties that await them, and acceptance from their future peers, I hoped that something would get the message across to that blonde boy in his backpack: “Your dad’s crazy, but you might just end up escaping out the other side okay. Just hang on. It gets better.”
So I’m starting this blog in hopes of gaining a few followers, perhaps some who need to hear that it gets better, perhaps some who have the power to convey that to someone who doesn’t quite believe it yet, and hopefully some who can read my stories about my often crazy life and laugh and relate.
My mom’s a crazy bitch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love her. She probably traumatized me, but she probably also made me stronger, and more creative, and indirectly taught me to be more aware of the impact my behavior has on others.
It got better, and I’m okay now… I think. 😉