A Theory

of Dysfunction

by Greg Baysans

Other Writings by Poet X
Greg Baysans

What is wrong with people? (responsorial) including: This ain't butterin' no parsnips!

Tuesday e-mail:

"Reading today's BB, I remembered (after trying for weeks and failing) the 'family-ism' of my best friend's wife's family that I enjoyed. I think I thought it poetic without analyzing why. Today's BB ties it all together:

"Rather than 'embarrassed,' they would become 'embraced.' The first few times I heard my friend and his wife use the term in conversation in my presence, it would always cause a sort of mental double-take: 'I was so embraced!'

"The mother described in another anecdote in today's BB could have, sadly, been my mother. I don't know that I've really gotten over the times, 40 years ago now, when I was a child and she would rant in public, usually with the intent of 'teaching' my sister or me or both what we'd done wrong at that place and time which she disapproved of. There was a childish sense that everyone around (and it seemed like millions sometimes) knew they'd like to step in, at least say something, like the anonymous Lady in the Santa Hat, but none could or would and were right not to. It would have done little or no good. Less a shame than an embarrassment; the memory that comes back is of being embarrassed. I think how better it would have been to be 'embraced' instead.

"I'm now reminded of my recent 'theory of dysfunction,' because the fact that Mom was 'allowed' her tantrums and no one would say anything about it was another of that type of dysfunction. My theory (to quote Ann Elk in an uproarious Monty Python sketch) is as follows ('and what it is, too'):

"A dysfunctional relationship results when the parties involved (from two to two million [or more, in the case of Mao]) accept as truth something unspoken between them, with the rule that it not be spoken of. Whether the belief is true or not is irrelevant.

"In the case of The Emperor With No Clothes, the kingdom was dysfunctional because of an untruth. In a job I held for a brief time years ago, the company was dysfunctional because of an untruth ('Supervisor A[nonymous] is God'). (Because I could not join in that dysfunctionality, the group [Supervisor A, to be precise] found a way to expel me.) In dysfunctional relationships I've had in the past, the same has always been true: There was something that both of us knew we couldn't broach because it would 'pop the bubble.'

"If there is a point, it would have to be what a disruptive force not addressing something is. I'm sure dishonesty leads to dysfunction as well, but it's avoidance that seems to be the common element, the root of dysfunctionality. There's a word you gotta love!

"And the other point was one to mothers (and fathers, of course, but because of our mixed-up society's view of gender roles, it's most often the mother): Empathize with your children! What you do in their 5-year-old eyes stays in 50-year-old minds. The saying 'Children don't forget' becomes 'Nobody forgets.' You'll always be able to remember your mother; it's up to the mother to decide how to be remembered.

"Pedantically yours and, as ever, wishing you well,

"Poet X of PDX"


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The above appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press column called "Bulletin Board" on December 20, 2002.

by Greg Baysans

Bulletin Board Loop

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