Only a Mother Could Love
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Recently deluged with the contrivances of marketed romance — faux velvet cards blaring fuzzy renditions of maudlin love songs, sugar and flower hearts with machine-pressed demands for intimacy — my persnickety reaction was to hate everyone. Or, at least, consider that option for a delicious moment or two — until I was dutifully grounded in guilt with the thought of my dear, darling Mother of Pearl’s oft-repeated words, “Love the unlovely.”
I used to think she was referring to physically unattractive people, which meant hatred of my younger-but-cuter sister was not a violation of Mother’s nurturing-but-lofty rule.
This worked until I encountered acne. Its superficial devastation caused me to reconsider Mother’s guidance: Perhaps she intended greater depth in its applications. While I contemplated that, inner beauty — or the lack thereof — gained compelling importance as my criterion for love began its awkward ascent from the pockmarks of adolescence.
Next came an attempt at communal living. The proper thing to do was to forsake discernment and freely love everyone, regardless of inner or outer accoutrements. This did have its moments, but the communers kept leaving my perfectly seasoned cast iron skillets rusting in the kitchen sink. I’d come home from a hard night of “being here now” and exploring my innate tribalism to the rhythms of the local jukebox, and find strangers building their communities in my bed. Instead of loving my brothers and sisters, I came to despise them all and their crummy collective ways. I opted to pursue love on a more solitary path.
In my subsequent post-adolescent phase, I tried loving a tormented artist of deep and constant inner affliction. He lived quite alone in a blustery garret with very public plumbing. Alas, my hope to serve as his muse, to dazzle him with inspiration, went as dull as my enthusiasm for moving my bowels without benefit of four walls. He was so unlovely, so devastatingly impaired by his inward and outward malaise — as were his teeth — that I realized I’d gone a wee bit too far afield. A more thoughtful consideration of Mother’s advice seemed quite in order.
Just what was it she had meant the countless times she had wrapped me in her comforting bosom as I wept at childish cruelties and imbecilic adults who plagued my early years and evoked my youthful loathing?
What had been her intent as I floundered my way into the world, railing at Nixonian deception and arrogance, false prophets true only to their homicidal cocktails, caustic corporations drowning third-world villages in deadly fog?
And as my path became more sure, what was it Mother meant for me to see as I blindly raged at the brutal parents who beat my students into inhumanity, at the perpetrators of social injustices that beleaguered my mental health clients’ already devastated existence, at the prideful politicians who let it all happen with utter disregard?
Ye gods, are we suppose to love all those unlovelies? Are we to love the likes of family planning clinic stalkers who advocate for life with deadly aim, the saintly souls who solicit prayerful contributions on cable TV while entertaining under their desks, the leaders who dump our nation at the edge of moral abyss and skate off to sing their own praises, the chosen ungodly few who dine on caviar and our bailout dollars, the dogmatically debating politicians who’ve no inkling of life in the real lane or the price of veggies?
Well, according to Mother, yes. We are supposed to do the wise and high-minded thing: love them all, find the human in the most reprehensible beasts, toss tender tokens to the last folks on Earth you would want to wrap your arms around and rock into sweet dreams.
The thing is, I’m just not as good as Mother. My preference would be to throttle the living daylights out of every one of those buggers. Seriously! In lieu of prison, however, I suppose I could muster a modicum of effort, for Mother’s sake. So here goes: To all you unlovely ones, a belated Happy Valentine’s Day — with buckets-o-love.
OK, it’s commercial, trite, superficial, on a par with the heart- and glitter-riddled swill over at Hallmark; but, nonetheless, it is a start. Maybe next year, we’ll go for some hugs, you dirty rotten bastards.
©2009 Kit-Bacon Gressitt
(Prang's Valentine Cards courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.)