Famous child of divorce: Kurt Cobain, revisited

Today would have been Kurt Cobain’s 51st birthday. I wrote about him two years ago, here. He committed suicide on April 5, 1994.

Today, I want to take a look at one of Nirvana’s music videos, to explore the “child of divorce” theme and see if we can find it there. I find some of the imagery and lyrics relevant to that theme. Of course, it is possible that I am “reading into” this video. But let me present my case and you can decide for yourself.

First, two general impressions: 1) the entire music video seems like a dream. There are disparate images, blurry images, and lyrics that say contradictory things. 2) there appears to be a recurring theme of abnormality, or of feeling abnormal.

Next, let’s consider several of the images, and their abnormality.

  1. When I posted about Cobain two years ago, I watched this video a few times. The first thing that I noticed, that made me wonder if this was his life as a child of divorce, was how his face is presented as being split. This image appears a few times in the video. I have actually felt this way–a physical sensation that goes down the center of my body, that makes me feel as if I am two halves.
  2. An abnormal spermatozoon at about the :54 mark, with an enlarged head and split tail.
  3. A dog with a cone around its neck. The dog is obviously sick, but it is outside in the rain. Its owners are not caring for it properly. Children of divorce experience more neglect than their counterparts in intact families.
  4. The concrete stairs with water running down them. There is a gaping hole in them, near the bottom. They appear a number of times in the video. Sometimes I am sure they are outside stairs (for example, when the dog is standing on them). Other times I am not sure. When Cobain is swinging from the chandelier, for example, is that outdoors or indoors? Maybe this is another example the lack of a clear demarcation… what is in? What is out?
  5. Blurry images of the band playing their instruments. Blurry self image of the child of divorce?
  6. A revolver in the swimming pool. Nine times Cobain says that he does not have a gun, yet there it is.
  7. A baby in the swimming pool, apparently swimming after a dollar bill on a fish hook. This is the most well-known image of the video. I don’t know how to tie it into this theme. Even so, the situation is not normal.

Then there are some selected lyrics, saying contradictory things:

  • Come as you are, as you were
    As I want you to be
    As a friend, as a friend
    As an known enemy…
  • Take your time, hurry up
    The choice is yours, don’t be late…
  • Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach…
I’ve frequently argued that children of divorce must accept many contradictions so that their parents can “move on” with their lives. They become outsiders to their own parents, who might be viewed as spies for the other parent. The half of them that represents the rejected parent must be rejected as well, so that the parent will not be reminded of that past relationship.

Not the be-all, end-all analysis. Just some things I’ve thought about since coming across this music video a few years ago.

 

I do believe that the children of divorce are communicating their pain and confusion. But as a society, we’re not listening.

 

If you liked this post, you might like the ones I wrote about Chester Bennington of Linkin Park:

 

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12 ways to spot a misogynist

Women haters (unconsciously) get off on treating women badly. Every time they can put down a woman or hurt her feelings, they unconsciously feel good because deep down in their hidden brain, their bad behavior is rewarded with a dose of the pleasure chemical dopamine—which makes them want to repeat the behavior again and again. […]

via 12 Ways to Spot a Misogynist | Psychology Today — Parental Alienation

Love with me

james judith jennifer johnson c 1966
My dad, my mom, and me. One of three or four photos of  us together.

I woke up this morning and had an epiphany: I cannot love my parents as if they were two separate people.

A couple days ago, I had a flood of emotion come over me about my mom. I could see her as I saw her when I was a child, as my beautiful mother whom I loved and adored. It was a deep and powerful feeling that I had not experienced since I was very young.

And my dad was connected to this emotion. If I let myself love her like that, I must also love my dad like that.

All these decades, I had been trying to separate them in my heart, since they seemed separate in my mind. All that did was make me confused, sad, and angry. My negative emotions never made sense… they are two individuals, right? That is how they behaved, after all. All I knew was that I was supposed to love them separately, because that is what their divorce and rejection of each other, and each other’s families, communicated to me in unequivocal terms. But all that did was diminish them in my heart, no matter how hard I fought it. And I did fight it.

It is still so weird to put them together in my heart, to love them together. It is good, but weird, old, so old it seems foreign… and scary.

This song by Keith Green comes to mind now, and brings tears to my eyes, Love With Me.

 

 

A few of my family members read here

I feel reasonably sure that it is hard for my family when I write about the differences between Protestants and Catholics (I’ve mentioned before that I am the only living Catholic in my family, and how over 50% of the adults in my family are devoutly Protestant). At least, I assume it is because I’d probably feel the same way if the situation was reversed. Part of what I am doing here is leaving a record of my thoughts, ideas, arguments, etc. I don’t want all of these things stuck inside my head, and I don’t have any Catholic family members to discuss them with. So I write about them here. I do get some non-family traffic from these posts, but not a ton. A few posts get the bulk of the traffic. For example, the post about the differences between baptism and confirmation must be a popular result at the search engines because I get a lot of traffic for that post.

Anyway, I do consider the effect this will have on my family members who read here, which as of right now is only 2-3 but I am seriously considering letting the others know about it. I have considered starting a different blog in order to separate out the Catholic stuff, but that doesn’t seem right either. I was raised to hide half of myself from each of my parents, which is an extraordinarily damaging and unhealthy way to be formed as a child. Childhood is a time of formation, and being formed by one’s parents(with the explicit support of experts and leaders) to hide one’s self simply cannot ever be God’s will for any child. Learning not to hide who I am is a process, and I am working on it.

I am sorry if things I say here hurt anybody; I don’t want that, but I also need an outlet to express what is really going on inside of me. What is the solution?

​The world is lying to us and to our children, says Dr. Scott Hahn

“Just recently I was listening to this expert therapist on radio, Dr. Ruth telling a 15yrs old boy who had called in to tell her that he was having sex with his 14 yrs old girlfriend and all she could ask him was, ‘is it safe sex? ‘” ” I felt like shouting,’ Woman, tell […]

via ​The world is lying to us and to our children,  says Dr. Hahn — Authors-choice

Chester Bennington committed suicide

Authorities found his body today. He hanged himself.

In October of 2016, I wrote about the song Numb and Bennington as a child of divorce and a victim of sexual abuse:

Numb by Linkin Park: where’s the dad?

He is survived by his wife and six children.

Lord, may your perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace. Amen.

 

Quaker Chewy Granola Bar commercial and egg donation

I’ve been saying that we now define freedom like this:

“The state must annul my familial obligations without cause whenever I choose.”

With that in mind, check out this Quaker Chewy Granola Bar commercial that I saw on Youtube:

Here’s another one:

It’s sort of funny… but eerily close to being real. Imagine if the mother was somebody who used an egg donor to conceive the boy. So the boy isn’t from her egg, but somebody else’s. These commercials are an extreme example of what legal relationship that looks like to me.

Can you see better why the libertarian cry for contracts to replace marriage (and by extension, all family ties) doesn’t actually decrease the state’s role in people’s lives? Kinship ties that are established by marriage and nature, then recognized by the state, require less of the state than business-style contracts.

Why we can’t use math to understand the child of divorce

I suspect that a lot of people don’t relate to the kids of divorce because they have a wrong formula in their heads. This formula might seem to make sense:

1/2 + 1/2 = 1

After all, the parenting was cut into two halves. Since two halves make one whole, then what’s the big deal? One-half of a parent plus one-half of a parent should equal one parent. One-half of a family plus one-half of a family should equal one family. It’s just simple arithmetic.

I was about twelve or so when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. I had

1) my dad

2) my step-dad

If we use math to understand the dynamic, it seems like being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad. But it was not. I am not 100% sure how I came to this realization. It may be due to the fact that I was an eye witness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two different things. And I learned decades later that she understood this difference as well, but she was about four years old when she figured it out (she’s ten years younger than me).

apple-split-not-public-domain-give-attribution
The math still adds up, but it is no longer an apple. It is parts of an apple.

An apple that is cut into two pieces is no longer an apple. It is two halves of an apple. The apple lost its wholeness, and it is hard to quantify that loss because the math still adds up: 1/2 + 1/2 = 1. But there is a qualitative difference between an apple and two halves of an apple, and simple arithmetic does not capture this difference. This qualitative difference is lost in the discussion.

It does not work to use a simple math equation to quantify the reality for a child of divorce. For the child of divorce, 1/2 + 1/2 < 1.

Image credit: Frank C. Müller

 

Kids of divorce are like side jobs

As I mentioned before, kids of divorce have a harder time finishing their educations than their counterparts in intact families. I hope you read the article at the link, and the comments too. Very enlightening. My own experience matches what is there.

I have read enough of the research know that researchers are missing something important. Researchers often focus on money, money, money, as if enough money will fix any problem. I’m sure that a lack of money is an issue, so don’t misunderstand me. But money doesn’t overcome one of the most basic problems, which is this:

After splitting up our first families, our parents move on with their lives.

Before the divorce, we were a joint project between the two people who brought us into the world, whose DNA we share. We were like a single, full time job shared by two managers whose lives largely converged. The two managers acted in unison for our good.

After the divorce, our managers acquire new, full time projects, and we become two separate half-time side jobs with two different managers. Rather than having their lives converge in the unified home we share with them, we live in “two homes,” and their lives become more and more divergent as time goes on.

remarriage-diagrams-both-together
Post-divorce: half-time project going in one direction while in mom’s home, then half-time project with a different direction while in dad’s home. Repeat ad infinitum.

The more I think about the project analogy, the more I like it.

The analogy should shed more light on why “two homes” is not what’s best for kids. It is confusing and it pulls us into two different directions. Our parents hate each other so much that they are willing to ignore half of who we are. Divorce judges fail at their job to recognize the injustice of being raised that way and so are complicit in perpetuating it. Practically speaking, it means that our parents are not there for us in so many ways. When they jettisoned our other parent, they jettisoned half of us.

I’m doing my best to shed light on the problem, but I’m just one person who probably comes across like she’s just too angry to take seriously most of the time. It is unfortunate that I have to be a spokesman for this cause, really, because I’m sure others could do it better if they knew what I know. Unfortunately, too few people really want to pay attention to how hard it is to live in our parents’ post-divorce, ever-increasingly divergent worlds.

Maybe we have become very hard-hearted towards unwanted and half-wanted children. Or maybe we always were. Or maybe we’ve participated in some way, feel guilt about it, and instead of alleviating the guilt through sincere repentance and rectification, we justify our actions. Or maybe it’s just very difficult to start a social movement when everybody believes that the definition of freedom means having the State annul our familial obligations at will. Or maybe when we look around, we see so many fractured families that the problem seems too overwhelming.

See also: