xliii

So that’s that out the way then. Except that there’s plenty more besides for me to recall and cringe, but to throw it all out now would be more of a gluttonous confession than a useful exploration. What I want to do is look at what I’ve got already with the benefit of hindsight, give it more than just a passing nod. Relate it to now. Relate it to then.

If I spent my mid to late teens and 20s attempting to bring together a schoolboy’s lust with a romantic’s passion, what was it I was looking for? My attention was focused on whether how I felt was normal, not on understanding that how I felt was how I felt, and hang normal. Though I feel that porn checked my sexual development what drove me to come to appreciate that ‘numbing’ effect was my discomfort from what I perceived as a ‘dark’ and powerful sexuality inside me.

What I needed was a role model who combined the sophisticated romantic emotions I felt pouring out of me with an unashamed pride and acceptance of an inner, almost primal sexuality that I myself constantly subdued through embracing my undeveloped adolescent lust for risk of being a pervert or a monster. I couldn’t accept the sheer force and, heck, perceived violence of what was actually my adult sexuality, and I kept it shackled.

It’s no surprise at all that I found such a fascination, an adoration even, for Lord George Byron. Here was a man who lived in total acceptance of both his expansive and insatiable sexuality while utterly fulfilling in both literature and love his sophisticated romantic passion. But I didn’t discover him until a lot of the impact had already been done, and I was already so repressed I couldn’t see him as anything but an extreme.

Having spent a weekend at home I’ve realised how repressive, both internally and externally, my family makeup has been. It’s a sad fact but I can now see that both my parents and myself and younger sister exhibit varying degrees of repression, both conscious and unconscious, on ourselves and on other people. What’s really interesting (esp after reading this) is that my other sister doesn’t have this trait nearly so much, and she’s the only one of the three of us kids who ever really ‘rebelled’ properly.

While at home there were two occasions that I was simply boiling with rage over a very simple situation – internet connection drop out. And thinking back to living at home, videogames were always a source of explosive tantrums (because they were nothing else) which would leave me eye-poppingly worked up. Going back further, and funnily enough brought up by my dad, was my habit to explode in noise or random sounds, Tourrettes-like, as a child and young teen.

I think it’s a Freudian concept that repression leads to alternative expression. Freud, the sexually-obsessed genius, points to fetishes being the outcomes of repressions, even or perhaps especially when the emotions that are being repressed are fundamentally not sexual in nature. As with the link above, ‘good’ children who are spanked but are unable to express their suffering through ‘bad’ behaviour or hate against a beloved parent repress the conflicting negative emotion and the ‘path of least resistance’ (ie the still-developing sexuality) ‘cushions’ the intense emotion and expresses it through a sexual fetish for spanking.

But it doesn’t have to be a sexual expression. My rages at technology, at inanimate objects (stub toe on dresser, lose temper at dresser) are all non-sexual but now clearly explosions of repression elsewhere. It’s interesting that the explosions come most often in situations where any control or power I have is taken away – videogames, for instance, I use as an escape, a way to hold power perhaps, but when this power is out of reach I snap. When the BT connection constantly dropped out, I had no control over it, I couldn’t fix it, it seemed totally uncomprehensible and therefore uncontrollable and I lost it.

Along with Byron, it’s not a surprise that what I find most moving and enthralling in literature are two male constructs: a) The sometimes anti-hero, sometimes just flawed man wrestling with weakness, doubt or just an unsettling inner force to achieve great things, to sacrifice for greater good, to overcome those flaws through acts of noble ambition or selfless efforts; and b) The ostensibly normal man who attempts to overcome flaws or challenging situations but whose soul or spirit is tainted by them, creating a villain or an evil that is all the more terrifying for it being rooted in the fall of someone who could have been good.

I’ve not really done justice to the concepts, but the ideas are there. And, really, those are the ideas I hope to write about, to explore. Really I guess I’m looking for here what I’ve always been looking for in a role-model – that strength of will combined with awareness of flaws, that abilty to overcome or transcend what you might see as a man’s (or just a human’s) operating potential and reach something so far beyond that point that it would actually be impossible for better, stronger or flawless men to achieve.

Role-models are big elements in some of my ideas, especially the absence or failure of role-models to be just that. What going home drew my attention to was that I have to, once and for all, admit that I acquired what I could from my parents, but that unfortunately they are not the role-models I need. Or, perhaps, that there is no such role-model, and I must take what admirable qualities I can see in everyone and combine them in myself, to create a role-model of myself.

My youngest sister and I are very alike, and yet until this weekend we had never really spoke properly in a long time. Probably not since before she was at university, when both her and me were rather different people. This weekend I sat her down and discovered that she wants to write, in fact that she is writing. I did everything to make sure she knew how awesome it was that she felt that way and was doing that right now.

But what upset me, what made me want to be angry, was to hear that my sister is encountering the same repression at home that I did. It’s a ‘protective’ repression, a worried repression. Raising the possibility of doing something unconventional is met by my mother with ‘well there’s no money in it’. And my parents had no idea she wrote or wanted to write – in fact I’d wager that they had asked and when given the answer ‘I don’t know’ (which is what she said to me first) they had simply left it there.

What angers me the most is that my mother truly understands what makes a writer: “Every day you don’t write you feel is a day wasted”. But she failed to really accept that I felt this way, even when over the weekend I attempted to drive it home, and she didn’t understand that I am a writer. The issue was left almost as us agreeing to disagree, which is spectacularly non-supportive, regardless of whether it results from good intentions.

That my sister meets the same resistance, presented as well meaning support, is desperately infuriating. I will not allow this repression to mar another of our family’s development, and it was a wonderful thing to sit with my sister and talk about our family, our parents, our repression (which she, impressively, can see and grasp) and to try to show her that there is another way. That despite the disappointing response from our mother she should never, never feel that she can’t do or be extremely successful at whatever she wants to do or be.

I would love to be a role model for her in this, and I feel that in doing so I would become even stronger in myself, would create in myself a role model that I could continue to live up to and develop. To be.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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