Tranquilize Until The Day We Die

Between 1969 and 1972, a television show featured an unusual household, made up of a thirty-something businessman, his freckled and precocious son Eddie, and their Japanese housekeeper, Mrs. Livingston [1].  The television show, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” featured the son scheming and matchmaking on behalf of his father, with the general sympathies of Mrs. Livingston as well as, one presumes, a large part of the audience.  Despite the fact that this show only ran for three years, it looms large in cultural importance, both because a large number of successful actors and actresses got their first break on the show, and because it deals with the subject of courtship in a way that is thoughtful and that pushed the thinking of people towards the thorny and increasingly relevant problem of divorce and remarriage in a way that did not trigger a great deal of hostility for Eddie’s father.  After all, few people will blame a widow or widower from seeking to marry again, after a respectful period of mourning, and few people will complain about someone who shows an obvious distaste for loneliness when they are viewed as blameless in the matter, in stark contrast to those who are blamed for the state that they are in because a marriage has broken down.  Widows and widowers have a lot more goodwill than divorcees have.  The idea of the show to take advantage of this fact was a clever one, and one that is far more important than its short first run on television would indicate in the grand scheme of our culture.

Why do I bring up long-canceled television show from more than 40 years ago?  In many ways, my life resembles a sitcom, but not one that I find very much enjoyment in.  Yesterday morning, for example, I was rushing off to work and opened the car door only to see a paper bag sitting on it.  My first response was to be a bit panicky and alarmed about it, that someone had opened my car, even to deposit something, and upon looking at the contents of the bag I saw that someone had made lunch, and I had a shrewd, and ultimately correct, guess as to who it was.  After returning from a long day at work during dinner there was a part of the conversation where this person had commented on a time she had made dinner for her estranged husband to the ridicule of his coworkers.  I felt deeply uncomfortable about it, wondering if the desire to help prepare a lunch was meant as a way of appealing to a man’s heart through his stomach.  Jokes about poisoning aside, which were made by at least one person, I felt rather uncomfortable with the thought that someone showing an interest in what I enjoyed eating would be attempting to fulfill some sort of personal agenda, one that I found unacceptable on several levels.  Is it right that I should be so uncomfortable about such matters?  Surely courtship ought not to be a matter of terror, even for someone as timid and skittish as I am.  Yet my feeling is of being a prey animal surrounded by predators.  This is not how it should feel like, I am aware of that, but whether I like someone or not, I tend to be extremely sensitive to the way that others behave in ways that I find as predatory.

Yet this is not the only problem I face on a regular basis.  Just this weekend, while playing Payday with the family of the host, one of the members of the family, who happened to be the banker, commented to her sisters that I was too old for anyone to date, and then realizing it sounded rude clarified that I was too old for any of them to date.  Given that I was playing a board game with mostly preteens, I did not think that needed to be said.  I felt it unnecessary to comment or draw attention on what was said, but it is worth pondering about.  What is it that would lead people to tease others about me?  I was playing a board game with people who remind me in some ways of my own cousins, which happens often as that is my sole frame of reference for thinking of younger women who are related to me at this point, and so it happens to be a fairly common frame of reference.  At any rate, I would never make fun of someone else for enjoying spending time with a friendly person of any age, gender, or any other quality.  Nor do I find it just that other people would be made fun of for enjoying my company.  Life is hard enough to enjoy as it is—one doesn’t need to make it more hard to enjoy by making fun of others for who they happen to find enjoyment being around in innocent fun.

A few days ago I happened, by chance, to listen to a song by a band I happen to really like called Finish Ticket [2] that reminded me why people self-medicate.  I tend to strongly avoid the temptation of self-medication, but I can totally understand why people do it.  I get that people do not want to feel neurotic and panicky all the time, and that many people choose the wrong things to calm them down.  We eat too much, drink too much, smoke or do drugs, or try to distract our anxieties and worries with the wrong kind of subject matter to think about.  None of that is hard to understand, because to do what we know to be destructive is seen as somehow the lesser of the evils when the alternative is to feel awkward and out of place all the time.  Yet it is in that awkwardness, in that tension and lack of comfort that we come to a great deal of insight about our lives.  Somewhere between the extreme external restraint and the vibrant internal emotional and mental life there is insight and wisdom to gain from those who can bear the immense burden.  I suppose that it is my burden to bear, as well as I can, because there has to be something on the other side, and the only way to get there is to push on through despite the uncomfortable nature of the issues.

If nothing else, I am led to ponder what life would look like if it was not so painfully awkward.  What is it that makes life so awkward?  Well, for one, I am painfully and obviously aware of those around me.  A great deal of the awkwardness of my life comes from being aware of others around me that others tend to ignore, whether that means listening to others or noticing and showing concern for little ones.  If I noticed other people less, I would be less awkward, but because I cared less about others and was less curious about and interested in them.  That would increase isolation, but would not do much to resolve the essential tension in a worthwhile way.  A great deal of the rest of the awkwardness springs from the tension between intimacy and isolation, much of which springs from matters which are not simply going to go away.  Perhaps I will always be awkward and complicated, always live on that razor’s edge between intense longing and intense panic and anxiety, the sort of existence that does not appear destined to last very long in this life, since it puts a lot of strain on one’s heart, mind, body, and spirit, all of which have lived under some pretty intense stress for my entire life, none of which appears to be going away anytime soon, unless there be some sort of miracle involved.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Tranquilize Until The Day We Die

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