Are you a masochist, you little sadist?

It’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so tragic, the amount of anger my 66 year-old friend still has toward his mother who is making her way toward ninety.

When his mother walks into a room he begins to seethe. Afterwards he would ask me if I noticed how she stood, with that look on her face, the little cutting comment she immediately made. He will do his duty to make sure she is not publicly humiliated or wanting for medical care, but as for love, fuck her.

Fair enough, those are his strong feelings from early childhood through the time he finally left his unhappy family home. The problem is that fifty years later he is just as angry as he was back then. So he can’t forgive his mother, and worse, he can’t forgive himself for his anger and the beat goes on.

He winds up married to a woman who’s in some key ways very much like his mother. He punishes her regularly with his harshly judgmental attitude and the strict demands he places on her in order for her to receive his love. His wife, rightfully angry about this mistreatment, gives it back to him from time to time with both barrels. They live in a balance of terror, while to the outside world they appear to be fine, upstanding, admirable citizens, neighbors and friends. Periodically they have to replenish their pool of closest friends, but they’re socially adept and charming, so it’s no problem.

If you don’t forgive yourself, you are a masochist. I never knew that masochists could also be sadists, but of course they can.

Duing a protracted, insoluble conflict with these two my old friend would frequently become indignant, stand up and announce that he wasn’t going to take this. He wasn’t going to talk about things like making amends, talking about hurt during the ten days of repentance. He wasn’t going to be lectured about the moral values of his religion, values he knew very well being a religious man. How dare I presume to tell him that he had acted badly!

Each time this happened, and it was not just once or twice, it was fairly regular in our conversations trying to make peace, I spoke to him calmly, the way I’d like to be addressed when I’m upset. I patiently told him that I was his friend, that I was not trying to attack him or make him feel bad but that they were things I needed to talk about. We walked away each time with our friendship intact, but it came at a great price and, though I couldn’t acknowledge it for a painfully long time, it was a stinking zombie friendship at that point.

A friend who knew him well laughed when I described this constant need to patiently calm him whenever he got upset. “You gave him exactly what he’s been looking for his entire life, why would he stop doing it when every time you gave him exactly what he has never had from anybody?” So goddamn true that I had to laugh also.

And my long refusal to understand that these two were in a fight to the death, that I had to accept all fault or be killed after what I witnessed of their mutually sadistic, mutually masochistic, relationship, struck me finally as masochism on my part. I don’t consider myself a sadist, I never recall taking pleasure at twisting the knife into somebody else’s suffering, outside of the ordinary schadenfreude that most people feel when somebody gets what’s coming to them, but these repeated hopeless attempts to placate someone who can’t be placated finally did appear to me as masochism on my part.

And at that point I realized it was a matter of my health, and Sekhnet’s health, which I value more highly than anything else I can think of, to stop inflicting pain on myself (and her) by fretting over and hoping for something that can never be. I also immediately forgave myself for this bit of masochism, seeing as I did what I did in the service of saving a long, precious friendship. Some things can’t be saved, unbearable as that truth may also be, and when you see you can’t save them it is time to save yourself.

Isn’t that right, you masochistic little sadist you?

I think this is meant to show Trump’s greatness, somehow

We live in an amazing world, where facts can be denied because millions prefer a nice “fuck you” to anything else.  I seriously think this video is supposed to prove, although the data shows that the US had by far the highest rates of Covid-19 death anywhere on earth (and fuck “data,” you know?), that only Trump can… make us the greatest country in the world again.

Trump’s top ethics lawyer appears to have tampered with witness

Stefan Passantino

You don’t have to say you remember things that might hurt our friend’s case. You can always just say ‘I don’t recall’, even if you do remember. That’s not perjury” advised a lawyer working for Trump’s Make America Fully Nazi PAC, allegedly.

This allegation was raised in the last January 6th committee hearing the other day. In response the lawyer involved, Trump’s former ethics advisor in the White House, still working for the big guy, was scrubbed from his law firm’s website. The guy’s a partner there and his law firm cut him loose immediately, based on this explosive allegation of professional misconduct and criminality, which, of course, does not become a fact until the jury finds that he did what he is accused of. Although, of course the words “Trump’s ethics lawyer” speak for themselves, loudly and with very bad breath.

Repetition Compulsion and me

A longtime friend, Mark Friedman, was the most dramatic example I ever met of someone with a repetition compulsion. Psychologists tell us that the compulsion to repeat the same painful pattern over and over is an attempt to resolve some injurious conflict that tormented us in our childhood.

In Mark’s case, as near as I could figure it, it had to do with feeling that his father never respected him, and that his mother could not love him enough to compensate for this. The primal wound he suffered is somewhat subjective and I don’t want to sound judgmental, but that he was compelled to repeat the same three act play throughout his tormented life is something I saw up close for many years.

The shape of the story was always the same, the three act tragedy identical each time.

Act one was great admiration, enthusiasm and pure enjoyment of a person who was finally able to provide everything he’d been looking for. This person was cool, smart, funny, ingenious, talented, charismatic and a great friend, the very best person he’d ever met.

During Act two cracks would predictably appear in this exaggeratedly perfect facade, which would become increasingly worrying to Mark.

Act three was the final, unforgivable betrayal of Mark, which happened every time as regularly as the sun rises and sets each day.

I don’t know of another case of repetition compulsion as dramatic as Mark’s. It was so clear to see, and so frustrating to me that as otherwise smart as he was he simply couldn’t see it. He’d get furious, in fact, if you pointed out any similarity in his crashed relationships. That, as much as anything else, was the cause of our final estrangement. Which, of course, fit the pattern, betrayal by his trusty longtime best friend was dictated by the three act structure.

While Mark’s self-destructive pattern was easy for me to see, the compulsion is much harder to recognize in oneself. Why was it that I was always attracted to smart, tormented, bitter, angry, darkly — sometimes sadistically — funny people throughout my life?

It was an attempt to work out with them what I could not work out with my own smart, tormented, bitter, angry, darkly — sometimes sadistically —  funny father. In the end each of these relationships ended in a bitter falling out that I tried, sometimes for years, to prevent.

The lesson that was so hard for me to learn was that these people I cared about so much were literally poison to me because they could never give me what I was looking for, what I tried so hard to give to them — the benefit of the doubt, empathy and friendship.

Without empathy or the benefit of the doubt we don’t really have friendship. If somebody is incapable of these crucial things, out of their own injuries, we often won’t notice it until conflict arises. They say conflict reveals character, and it’s true. Under pressure things you can’t see when everything is fine will squeeze you to death. While everyone is laughing together it’s easy to feel like great friends.

And it was this laughter, this often dark, cruel humor, that bonded my father and me in between our long sessions of brutal combat. These moments of shared laughter were a great release, a relief, as well as providing the giddy hope of finding any kind of understanding with my supremely difficult father.

So these sardonic characters who were my closest friends for many years shared this bond of black humor with me and made me feel I’d found indispensable friends and was not doomed to interminable, senseless mortal combat.

It has taken decades for me to finally learn this sadly simple lesson: just because somebody smiles wickedly and laughs at your sense of humor doesn’t mean that they are your soulmate. Funny as it may seem reading these dry, serious pages I post here, I am a very funny motherfucker and make many people smile wickedly and laugh. It has taken me half a century to untangle reactions to my sense of humor from the deadly limitations of some of my onetime closest friends. Droll, eh?