Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

My father's logic

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | December 09, 2007 12:40 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: anorexia, boys' night out, gay youth, incest, Jewish assimilation, language, lgbt youth, logic, marriage, math, queer youth, refridgerators, sexual abuse, star deli

My father fought with logic, that's what he called it: logic. I was the son who was his wife no. The son who was his. No. I couldn't. No.

Before logic, maybe even before language I was his. I mean of course before language -- that's how it works, silly that's what kids are babies are babies are his. I was his baby, baby -- he never called me baby he. Me. My. Baby?

I couldn't be a baby I could only be his.

So before I was his wife I was his. That's the way it works. Hands twisting neck around there were no words for these words. Ouch. See? It didn't work. I wanted anything. I wanted anything but his hands twisting neck around hands twisting hands twisting me. I wanted the end.

I earned his trust because he knew how to break me. Is it hard to break a child? A challenge? A challenge to break your child, make your child, make your child you. Remember: I memorized all the names of his wines, wines in the wine room a burlap sack, me. No, first I memorized all the names of the cheeses, I liked all the cheeses especially port wine cheddar with the orange and red swirling around and Jarlsberg with the holes like the mouse had started for me. I didn't like brie until later, when they said kids weren't supposed to like brie it was too expensive.

Remember: I did all those math problems, all those math problems until he couldn't give me any more I was too good at math I was too good. He stopped playing chess when I started winning. I was getting good at logic, this was when I was earning his trust he made me. Remember: first I was his baby and then I was his wife, he sat me down and told me about the college savings accounts, don't tell Mom she doesn't know she'll want to spend it.

My parents were liberal, they live in a relationship where everything was shared. My father said: Karin, did you take $20 out of my wallet? Karin, did you take money out of my wallet? Karin? My father said: Karin, I'm taking the Visa card away.

I was good with logic, I found the business card where he counted his money and I mimicked his handwriting. It was okay if he noticed too, he already knew it was Karin, Karin with whom he shared. Shared everything. Do you see how I was his wife?

We argued about the sofa, the new sofa for the family room -- he wanted brown leather, I thought brown leather was tacky, suburban. I wanted black, black leather was European. I told him it would go better, there was already too much brown in the room with the knotted pine walls, knotted pine wasn't sophisticated but the black leather with square edges, that would solve the problem. I was artistic, but not as artistic as his mother, the artist. My father asked her: she suggested brown, brown was the right color for the room with the track lighting and the TV. I shifted tactics, made sure that at least we got the more expensive one.

With the refrigerator I switched gears. I knew we needed the larger one with sleek lines and an ice maker, I’d always wanted an ice maker like at richer people's houses. But I didn't say this, I needed to work with his logic -- I said: you want an ice maker, remember you said you wanted an ice maker? We got the refrigerator, top-of-the-line. This was the last of the good times with him, before a tongue sandwich at the Star Deli -- that's what he always got, exaggerating the expressions on his face like he was eating his own. This was our time together, Boys Night Out or no that was Thursday this was Sunday -- Boys Day Shopping for the Refrigerator? I got matzoh ball soup, and corned beef that I stuffed into napkins when he turned to the side.

This was the beginning of the end, you know how marriages work. Soon we would only argue like he and my mother, my mother always threatening to leave until she stopped -- she was the bad wife and I was the good, until I argued to win. No, I always argued to win so what was the difference? My father had taught me. The difference was that I didn't care, I mean I didn't respect them. Now it was both of them they were threatening: we’re going to ground you. I laughed -- ground me -- ground me for what? Because you didn't come home on time. Are you kidding? Why would I come home on time? You have to do your schoolwork. What are you talking about -- I always do my schoolwork.

They couldn't argue with that, soon I would be the one to leave.

Mattilda blogs at nobodypasses.blogspot.com. Her recently updated webpage has moved to mattildabernsteinsycamore.com


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 11, 2007 2:15 PM

Wow, Mattilda. Intense. Sounds like it was really hard. Fascinating way to write it, too.

Thank you, Brynn -- I'm trying to write about it in all these different ways to reveal the layers of feeling and experience and memory.