Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Death of Innocence

She’d crafted the mask out of an Almond Joy candy box, the kind of over sized candy box you get at the movies and she’d been to the movies that day, earlier, with her friend Jane, but now she’d been called home to sit in the garden with her mother and her father’s lover, the ballerina.

She’d crafted the mask out of the candy box, had cut two holes out from the center for her eyes and left the rest uncut so that her mouth, the full expression of her face wouldn’t be seen.

She’d planned it with her mother, knew the ballerina was coming and still, she didn’t know what to say. “You don’t have to say anything,” her mother offered, “we just want to get together.”

She’d crafted the mask out of an oversize Almond Joy candy box after she’s picked up her father’s journal a week earlier and after she’d read what he wrote, that the ballerina, her parent’s friend, wife of John, and mother to Jessie, Joseph and Gale, was the best lover that her father had ever had.

“You don’t offend me,” were the first words that came out of her 10-year-old mouth when the dancer walked up the front steps. And when she casually offered up the zucchini muffins that she had brought with her, the girl raised her eyebrows, “muffins?” she said, “no thanks.”

She crafted the mask because she didn’t know what to say now that she knew everything but understood nothing. And did this have anything to do with why her mother had seemed so sad all summer? And how she, the girl had tried to be better, wrote her mother notes like “mom, we love you, who wouldn’t?” How she hoped that if she just loved her mother harder and stronger her mother would be happy again. The girl's love could save her.

Now the ballerina was talking about love, how it was all about love. How she loved her husband, and how she loved the girl’s mommy as well as the girl’s daddy. The woman told the girl that she too, all of the children, were very loved, that there was enough love for everyone.

The girl wears a candy box mask with the words joy printed on the cardboard between the eyes, There is joy between the eyes but not within them.

A ten-year old girl sits in a garden with her mother and her father’s lover wearing an Almond Joy candy box mask.

25 comments:

snowsparkle said...

the visual intensity and emotional charge of this piece is amazing! i see the "joy between the eyes but not in them"! my mind dances with the images you describe. what style! thank you! snowsparkle

brainhell said...

Wow, Dweez! The guilt and anxiety you must feel. And the pride in your art. And how PISSED you must be at hi for writing in a paper journal that he leaves lying around! I could smack him! If I could...

Anonymous said...

this is god-awful gross

what are you doing?

is this really what you have to do just to have a "good story?"

dweezila said...

no, it's not for story, it's just life.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to rethink your relationship with your husband, your lover, his lover, etc. As the innocent bystander in a similar situation as a child, I know that it is more harmful than you might think it is. This is just awful. Good luck getting out, and good luck to your child.

dweezila said...

thank you for your honesty and your concern. I don't take this situation lightly.

Ohmega said...

It looks like you took a real risk in your marriage, and like all risks, personal or artistic, it carried the possibility of failure. You'll have to make that call years from now, it's too close to tell. But I think of Brokeback Mountain: when you remove society's view of the relationship, there is neither drama nor judgement, only love. Thanks for showing us how tough, complex and rich life becomes when you stop playing by everyone else's rules.

dweezila said...

thank you for the comment above. That's how we try to hold it and live it; with love. It's not for the faint of heart, it's a high road for sure. We are heavily supported though, all of us.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break!

You and the ballerina can sit in the garden with muffins and talk about love, love, love all you want. That doesn't mean it isn't still garbage, garbage, garbage and doesn't stink, stink, stink.

Love does not cause a slow, self-destructive slide into depression. Love does not take away your enthusiasm for your work. Love does not make you think that the brave things you do in your mundane life are meaningless. Love does not make you lay in a bathtub and cry. Love does not make you obsessively seek out a substance like nicotine to numb your pain and anxiety. Love does not make you feel inadequate, make you worry why someone isn't calling you or have someone else labeled a better lover than you by the father of your children. Love does not make a child worry about her mother, cause her to lose her innocence or make her want to wear a mask to hide her face and protect herself because the people who are supposed to be protecting her aren't.

This is child abuse, pure and simple.

And this whole scenario is completely beneath you, both as an artist and a human being.

Divine Turpitude said...

Hold on there, anonymous!

my parents had affairs and got drunk and left their pot lying around for me and my preppy friends to find when i was 14 years old. That was confusing, but the real pain of my childhood was that my parents didn't like each other and they got divorced and then talked a lot of smack about each other to me and my siblings afterwards. the real pain was the level of acrimony between them and the chaos (financial near-ruin, moving from one continent to another) that accompanied their splitting. not their imperfect behavior. if dweezila and her husband give their daughter a loving home -- and i don't mean a perfect home but a loving home where their dad is still their dad and their mom is still their mom and their dad and mom like each other and the family does things cohesively, and also a home their daughter’s feelings are noticed and considered -- then i think their daughter finding her dad’s diary is a painful and confusing thing but certainly not an abusive thing.

but i'll bet it's really confusing. when i read it happened my stomach really lurched for her. but life is full of confusion and pain, and it's usually parents that introduce their children to these unfortunate feelings... but for cripes sakes, dweezila is no child abuser. parents can't be perfect. My husband’s parents were and then they got divorced when he was 15, and it totally freaked him out because there had been no introduction to conflict, OR ITS RESOLUTION, in his family life. and if dweezilla and her husband can help their daughter resolve the conflict/confusion they’ve visited upon their daughter then that's one huge beneficial lesson and blessing for her.

for better or worse, all of our parents were/are like god. they give and they take away.

as for love, well yeah, it doesn't cause all those nasty side effects, but the search for it sure does.

Dale said...

In my experience, Anon, erotic love causes all those things you list. Which is why I don't view it with the cheery confidence with which most of my fellow-Americans seem to.

I appreciate where you're coming from. I think it's probably amistake too, for what it's worth, but I don't think my judgement is any better than Dweez's, and I know my knowledge of the situation is less.

I think calling it child abuse is absurd. It hurts, I'm sure, but -- God -- so much of what parents do hurts their kids. I seldom go to the store without seeing verbal abuse that seems to me worse than what's being described here.

Dweez, hugs to you, dear friend.

Anonymous said...

when the girl trespasses the boundary
and enters the black book
of her father's diary
what is there to be but
consequences of transgression....
death of innocence indeed
and
welcome then
the stepping into this garden,
only ten but still now and in her own way, because her own way,
perfectly right
these mysteries of timing, out of eden
and into the circle of three.

"muffins? no thanks."
and by what innate wisdom does this child know
not to eat the candy house of the witch,
the pomegranate seed of the underworld uncle,
or this, that most fruitful of plants that just won't quit--
zucchini muffins to be exact--
from the bountiful basket of the ballerina, still--
no thanks.

and no
you do not offend me.
i do not offend me.
not our appetite and not our dance and not our song and not our love and not our story.
no one and nothing offends me
in this my new found garden where this mask called me and not me will greet you and hide you and,
no, mother, you must not project your reading of the words wrong upon my own eyes who will come to see this day with pure broken open joy beyond and through and behind and under and over and around the story you've cobbled together with the sinewy veins of your own heart
for this always was your great gift.

dweezila said...

whover you are, poet, artist, writer of the above gorgeousness, thank you so much. What an amazing thing to write, to understand and to live. Not an ordinary path at all we're walking here. It's triggering for a lot of people. It's a fire walk and it calls you to do your deepest work. The pain can be great but thus is the stuff of transformation.

And, while reluctant to say this, I do think I'm on the mend, meaning that the deep roots of this lesson, this year, this wound, are growing me in a rich way. But like all deep work, I don't know how I could have gotten here without the pain part, without my own descent into the underworld. That I chose to do this work in the middle of my life, in the middle of my family, that's just the way it went down. I love my children and I let them know this everyday. Thank you for what you wrote, your incredible gift.

Kathryn said...

i wish you posted everyday.

Anonymous said...

I want to know where the MEN are in all of this. Why are they not facing this little girl in the garden and telling her it is all about love, love, love? I want to hear the father tell his daughter that this is all good, that he hopes she has a relationship like this in her life one day.

This is like the women of the village holding down the young girl for her clitorectomy. "Yes, we know it hurts. But this is what you have to do to survive in the world with men, because, God knows, we certainly can't live WITHOUT them!"

dweezila said...

Dear anon, if we were neighbors we could sit down with this one and while it wouldn't be my intention to sell you on this lifestyle, at least I might be able to give you a more full picture of things.

Don't forget, this is a piece of writing and as a writer I get to choose the parts of these stories, these much larger stories, that I want to reveal, that are interesting to me. THese are mere slices of a much bigger pie. When the girl found the journal she went straight to the father, not the mother, and she asked him point blank whether the ballerina was his lover and an entire conversation ensued. It was one of many they have had.

But this is my story and each writer moves toward the material that speaks to them. I like the dark, that's just me. Though I would add, I don't live entirely in the dark, and if you came for coffee you would understand that.

Still, I appreciate how unbelievable this sounds to you. Can't help it. If I keep writing about these things I hope all of the stories, eventually, reveal a more full picture of things. Who knows.

another anonymous said...

dear anonymous

this is how fundamentalist thinking begins: men cause pain so women should live without men. or, arabs don't worship a christian god so let's wipe em out in the crusades, or in a faked up war. if compassion doesn't intervene at some point, we just visit more and more pain upon each other. we all hurt each other in this life. family members especially. which is why families are the ideal place for compassion to be fostered. which, in dweezila's faily, seems to be happening.

Anonymous said...

Well, dear Dweezila. So you will actually admit to the fact that throughout this whole long yarn of yours you have given us a) No history or reason of how or why this arrangement began b) No inkling of what on earth made you agree to it in the first place c) Any substantive information about what has happened in your relationship with your husband since this all began d)Why you feel that this is in any way beneficial path to explore e)What the exact nature of your so-called transformation is, etc., etc. Instead you have clutched firmly your absolute power as the keeper of all this information and only released the most calculated trickle that is designed to shock and provoke. Then it is MY fault for reacting to it because I am not your neighbor? If the genre of personal essay can be anything it ought to at least promote honesty, egalitarianism and a sense of shared intimacy. Yours does not, and this loving relationship you claim to portray does not, either.

dweezila said...

anon,

it's a blog, not a promise of fair and accurate reporting. It's not a book or even a personal essay. It's a room of my own, a chance for me to play and muse and work things out as I choose. I welcome your visits, but that's entirely up to you.

brainhell said...

Dear anonymous,

I hear, and hope I understand the pain of your own childhood experience. Then you come across Dweezila 's story and here's someone making the same choice, or mistake, that your parents made. You identify with the pain her daughter feels. I know I do. Your response was very eloquent and sensitive, (nice poem by the way), and part of your response was: Child abuse! If I read Dweezila's story from someone who seemed more casual and flip about it, someone who mocked the daughter's response, I'd feel the same way. No, I'm NOT saying that Dweezila is 'good enough' and so permitted to get away with this. I am saying that I think she wrote the essay because she's mortified by the trauma this has caused her child. She tenderly portrayed the child's attempt to somehow cope, which, I think, means she understands it and will respond to it to the best of her ability. I think Dweezila is wracked with guilt and doubt. She's not casual about this. But then, my parents, who to my knowledge did not have lovers, were casual about the harmful things they did to me. I guess what I am saying is that there is no guarantee or promise that parents will live up to the expectations of their children, such as not having affairs, not drinking, not fighting, not divorcing or turning out gay. These are all things that happen. I hold parents to only one absolute rule: You must nurture and protect your child. That doesn't mean I think drugs are OK. I don't. I'm not angry at Dweezila and her husband for the ongoing affair, I'm angry at her husband for stupidly writing this stuff down where the daughter could read it. What a stupid chump! I'd say the same thing to his face. He failed to nurture and protect. Failed flagrantly. So what if they have an affair, don't mess with your kids' minds!

I hope I haven't sounded like I've tried to change your mind. You're entitled to oppose the affair. And I think that if you met Dweezila, and told her your views, she would nod, and not try to convince you, either.

Electra said...

When I was sixteen, my father had an affair that rocked the foundations of my parent's marriage. I found out about it be reading my mother's diary. She didn't leave it lying around; I went hunting and found it, tucked under a pile of neatly folded shirts in her dresser, in her room--where I was not supposed to be--and read it.

I am not particularly good at finding things. I can never find my keys or my glasses when I need them. Something guided me like a homing pigeon to zero in on the hard evidence for the inexplicable sadness and tension that had filled our house all summer while Dad was away "on a business trip."

She caught me reading it, of course, and followed me into the bathroom where our processing was brief and awkward: now that I knew--and I shouldn't have been snooping--I was obligated not to tell my younger siblings. I didn't.

My mother's main preoccupation was in keeping her pain and her shame secret. I'm sure she felt she had failed as a wife. I had nowhere to go with my confused feelings--I found the whole thing disturbing and a little titillating: so my perfect parents were sexual imperfect human beings, after all!

And I felt a very unpleasant sense of having the upper hand over my mother (and shame for having that feeling.) And--later--extreme, irrational rage at my father's girlfriend, whom I never met. For years afterwards I would fantasize confrontations with her in which I beat her to a bloody pulp, ostensibly to avenge my mother's honor, but really I think, out of my own jealous rage.

The night after I first found out about my father's affair, I pushed--well, he didn't need much encouragement--my boyfriend to have sex with me for the first time. We were both virgins. That sex culminated a week or two later in a very painful bloody potentially life-threatening bladder infection.

I know it's all related, and I know the difficulties with sex and intimacy that I've continued to have since then are part of that equation as well, but I don't think you can reduce any situation like that down to a simple formula. It's just what happened.

I know my parents--my mother especially--wanted and intended to give me and my siblings a perfect childhood, yet in retrospect I think it was that striving towards perfection, that relentless measuring of ourselves against some impossible ideal, that created the most damage.

When's the right age for children to lose their innocence? And at whose hands? I know adults who still have a kind of childlike naivete, but I don't seek them out as friends. What will it cost this child? No one knows yet. What will she create out of it? That, too, remains to be seen.

burning woman said...

I like the glimmer of this, the sadness and hope of it, the way it suggests a movement toward the larger story, which I wish will include how it all led up to this too. It reminds me of Amy Bloom's short story, 'Love Is Not A Pie," part of a great collection on love, and family, called Come To Me. I think ruthless honesty outweighs political correctness every time. Especially when it makes us stop in our tracks and consider our predjudices.

Kathleen said...

dweezila, you are beautifully honest. you keep it real.
as writers, we want people to connect to our writing. we want them to feel the pain, joy, humiliation, grief, love, etc. that we are trying to put to paper. to effect the reader in such a way means that the writing is stellar.
i must say,i think the personal attacks on the writer, here, are a bit much.
connect to the writing, that is fine. use the words and have your text-to-self connection. but don't blame the writer for your sadness and grief.
she is writing. brilliantly so, i might add.
i am thankful that this raw, honest, pure kind of writing exists.
what if nobody told the truth like this? personally i would feel like a freak. like all the world was perfect and wonderful and never did anything that wasn't poised and well-mannered.
dweezila, you are inspiring.

shara said...

It always stuns me when someone is brave enough to open a window into their heart and let you look. And then some self-righteous frightened person would rather hear a fairy tale. Love isn't all sweetness and light. Beautiful writing.

Nan said...

Laurie, Just real quick to say I love your blog and all the writing in it. xxoo