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12:35 p.m. - 2011-01-27
Alone and Apart

I have not been in jail or sulking through a post-birthday "I'm so OLD!" fit. Nor did I win the lotto and escape to Fiji. I've just been quiet. It's been rough at night and while I am functioning okay in the daytime (no peeking behind the shower curtain for monsters and such like that) I'm finding my tumultuous night frights are wearing me out.

Mick thinks I need to paint more. It's a good idea. I don't think I'll be able paint my demons away nor get all Munch and do my screaming in watercolors, but maybe by making something pretty I can up the happy. It's worth a shot anyhow. I need bigger canvasses though, the bitty ones I have now feel cramped to work on. 'Minimalist' isn't my style.

Though speaking of style, we were at the mall last week and I saw several boys sporting Justin Bieber hair. All except one were very young, 11 or 12. I thought of Wolf and his friends and their gagging contemptuous scorn for The Bieb and wondered whether it was an age thing or whether the excessive macho of Wolf's almost all male school environment was the bigger factor. Some of both, probably, but I'm leaning heavier on the school thing.

At 13.5 Wolf is very concerned with gender identity. It disturbs me a little that so far he's latched onto the more thuggish aspects of male identity. Potty mouth, wallet on a chain, thrash metal music, arcane symbol Sharpie 'tattoos'. He's renounced bathing, changing his clothing, and smiling. He conned his father into a trip to the barber and came home with what I always think of as a prison haircut. Tight on the sides, longer but chopped and formless on the top with a fan of bangs at least 2" above his eyebrows. Tofu hair- bland and nasty unless worked with and jazzed up with spice and taste. Which he does not. Part of the real-men-don't-groom code apparently requires eschewing gelling, brushing, or even washing your hair unless frog marched into the shower by a seriously honked off mother.

Mick assures me it's a phase and laughingly reminded me of his own 'look' through most of high school. A personal style statement which consisted of deliberately bad hair, tinted aviators, his uncle's old Viet Nam fatigues and a snarl. To which I shot back that he, too, had gone to an almost all-male school from which he'd graduated dateless, virginal and with one hell of a bad attitude.

He conceded the point.

Not that girls are the answer to everything. Playing peacock, floundering through those first awkward attempts at dating and mating, and the agonies of trying to see girls as whole people and friends while drowning in a tsunami of hormones brings its own difficulties. And gender roles are almost as rigorously enforced in a co-ed environment for girls and boys alike anyway. Think of Watts in the locker room being razzed for her boxer shorts underpants.

But (she always has a 'but'), males on their own almost always devolve into beasts. This includes gays, who for all their supposed flamboyancy and freedom to express themselves, their inner world is fucking brutal. Gay guys are harsh. There might be less overt yahoo-ism and open thuggery than with straight guys, but within their own all-male society they are beasts.

I was dating a West Point cadet during the USMA's changeover. My guy was in the first class to include women and for the Class of 1980 it was still very much a man's world. The hazing was extremely physical and endless. So much of the acclaimed ritual that fostered officers and gentlemen and the famous esprit de corps was hideous. Unnecessary and vile. Starvation, humiliation, retaliation, and sadistically violent. Men under the guise of training army officers used their 'code' to be as absolutely brutal as possible. It was disgusting. I had the opportunity to get to know some cadets from the Class of 2000 and their experience was so different! Yes, it was still tough, yes there was still some ridiculous cruelty in the name of tradition, but most of the beastliness had gone away. It was no longer considered necessary to beat and starve cadets to turn out a competent and loyal officer corps. Why? Because there were women. Because the inclusion of women had forced into the open the ugliness and violence that had flourished in the Long Grey Line and shown it to be not the work of necessity but the excess of men left on their own.

Look, this isn't a sweeping indictment of men. It's more an indictment of segregation. Of any sort. Today I'm speaking about gender, but this can be applied to any sort of segregation. Racial, economic, political, religious. Separate a segment of society from all the others and there will be devolving. Not only does the outside 'other' become feared and hated, but within the insular community things go weird and extreme. Without active input from the larger whole, without the push and stimulus of outside ideas and pleasures humans always spiral downward. What had once been simply markers of a particular group become granite-bound law. Celebration becomes ironclad ritual. All the ugly things we do to each other becomes codified, even sanctified, all in the name of inclusion.

My son needs a larger world. One where the basest of 'male' behavior isn't fetishized and made necessary for survival. As a mom there's only so much I can do. We talk, Mick and I take him places, even in our smallish house there's a wealth of books and art and movies and music beyond the narrow dictates of his school life. Truth is though Wolf spends most of his waking hours at school. And right now he goes to a school which is 98% boys and 100% about shoving the kids on to get a basic high school diploma before they meet their inevitable date with police, court, and jail. Nobody at Wolf's current school- students or staff thinks anybody's going to Cornell. Not their fault, these are difficult kids with genuine issues and handicaps. Social and economic as well as emotional and scholastic.

But, oh, how I want! Want any and every door to be open for my son. I know the score though. Ever the realist. And for right now I'll settle for a place that includes girls and maybe, just maybe the opportunity for Wolf (if he wants it) to have Justin Bieber hair without getting killed by his classmates.

Thinking and plugging along as usual, ~LA

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