Kiss Me Like a Stranger

I love Gene Wilder. It has nothing to do with the rest of this post; I just felt like mentioning that. I loved him as Willy Wonka and in his films with Mel Brooks. I sometimes wish he’d return to acting, but if he just doesn’t feel like it, that’s fine. There is something so effortless and gentle about his performances. I don’t know him personally, but it’s hard to imagine that he would be anything other than very sweet. Tangentially, Condescending Wonka is still one of my favorite Internet memes of the last few years.

wonkaMy father once said to me that one of the dirty little secrets to keeping a relationship going is that you don’t tell your partner everything. There are some things your significant other has the right not to know. (This was after he called me and asked me to throw out an empty candy box he’d left lying around. My mother is very conscientious about health, and while she accepted long ago that she can’t force my father to eat healthier, she would probably give him grief about the candy anyway.) At a certain point, you have to accept that you can’t change people. But until you hit that point, you have to keep pushing them to be the best version of themself that they possibly can be. It’s a fine line to walk.

I’m not a very good liar. When my insane ex-roommate asked me why I was so easily trusting, I told him that people just don’t lie to me very often. I still think that’s true. My then-therapist said it’s because they respect my honesty. That’s probably true, but I prefer to think that it’s because they’re scared of me. I’m a pretty intimidating dude.

Sometimes, the only way to win is not to play. My father has been driving me up the wall lately. He said I could move back in with him when shit didn’t work out in Queens, except now, he’s placing restraints on my behavior that I don’t think are fair. He used to be able to walk to work, but then he got a job a little farther away, and now he drives, leaving me at home without a car. So I have to take a train to get to work. He could lend me the car, seeing as how his workplace is much closer and there is a free shuttle that would take him there, but he likes driving. It’s cozy, and he can stop for coffee. Just now, he emailed me to tell me that while I have formerly been charging my train expenses to my credit card or asking him for money, he is now willing to pay only half of my commuting expenses. So basically, the only way I can get anywhere now is to walk, request permission to use the car (usually granted, but he insists on driving to work all the same, forcing to ride along with him, then drive back), or pay for it myself. The amount of stuff that I can do is starting to shrink. It’s like when I was a teenager who was too young to drive, except then, my parents bought me bus passes.

Some of you probably think I’m ungrateful. My father did agree to let me move back in with him and he is paying not only rent and utilities but groceries as well. But even though I am not a parent, I don’t think I would do the same thing to my kid. I work at a coffee shop for around 20 hours a week for less than $10/hour. Do I sound like a guy who has a lot of disposable income to you? Paying for even half of that train pass would take a significant bite out of my income, and to top it off, I sometimes have to leave home two hours before my shift begins due to the infrequency of trains. (There are buses as well, but they are unreliable, smelly, and would get me there only slightly faster. The trains themselves run faster, but they don’t come as often. Get it?) Would it kill my father to take the fucking shuttle? If it were my kid, I would probably let them take the car, although I might ask them to pay for gas. When I was in high school, my family owned three cars, and once my brother and sister were out of the house, that third one was all mine. Maybe I’m spoiled, but…no, I’m not.

When I asked my father to sign on as guarantor at my old apartment, he did so, not only reluctantly, but resentfully. A lot of people my age have to do that, but when I brought it up later, he said, “That was not one of the happiest days of my life. I might be out $8,000.” The rent on that place was $850/month, and I had two months’ rent saved up when I moved in. Do the math. Unless I spent the whole year sitting around with my thumb up my ass, there is no way that my father would have had to pay that much. I was pretty close to finding a job when my roommate revealed himself to be a psychopath, so I seriously, seriously doubt that my father would have had to pay rent for the ensuing ten months. This man has known me all my life. Does he really think I’m that irresponsible? What do I have to do to prove myself to him?

Kindly spare me your platitudes about how you’re sure he loves me deep down, and he probably just thinks he’s teaching me about being an adult and paying your own way. I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. I think he just wants control. He likes to sit in his comfy car and sip coffee and not have to change anything about his lifestyle to accommodate his kid. Fuck him.

This has nothing to do with anything, but here’s an author I admire explaining how gender equality is important to maintaining a healthy relationship. Talk amongst yourselves.


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