07 June 2005

The Treehouse

The right book later than I would've liked, but not too late: The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom From my Father on How to Live, Love, and See by Naomi Wolf. If I'm honest with myself though, I probably would've resisted the lessons I'm growing to accept on my own if I'd read the book earlier. Much of her dad's advice echoes choices I've made in my life though I've still many kinks to work out, lessons yet to embrace, and a ways to go before I can believe these choices are my life's success.

I clearly remember enthusiastically and aggressively discussing The Beauty Myth with my parents over dinner over a decade ago; we were eating cheese fondue with bread and veggies, drinking Earl Grey tea. In storage in Florida, there's a videotape of that meal that I made to show my best friend what my family life was like. When we watched it back at college, people passing through kept asking if it was scripted (it wasn't), expressing disbelief that my family ate fondue at home (we did), and wondering what sort of accent my parents had (mellowed Virginian).

Wolf's need to be right, to argue and convince, that she discusses in the new book resonates strongly with me even though I know I've changed too over these interim years. Nearly every argument I have now spawns from a desire to clarify, elaborate, and ultimately convince or correct something one of my parents has said. For their part, they have difficulty accepting that I have some areas of expertise that they do not share; my mother in particular resists learning if the knowledge comes from me. For my part, I often demand a precision undesirable in casual conversation; I want to be heard, and I want it known that I'm right. It's very difficult to apply the "I'd rather be happy than right" approach when you derive pleasure from being right; but as I get older and accept that my parents' time here is limited, I'd rather not be the reason my mom gets upset, so I try to remember that some things are better left unchallenged, uncorrected, even when my literal mind balks at acquiescence.

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