Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Denial - am I a nutcase?

I have been reading a few of the blog posts on MensNewsDaily, and particularly a recent piece by the incomparable Teri Stoddard. Time and again, she posts in support of fathers and their continuing mistreatment by the courts and time and again she comes under attack by even men's rights activists as if she were some sort of fifth columnist. Or something. I wouldn't blame her for throwing up her hands and walking out. I hope she doesn't.

Not all of her commenters are agin' her. GladMadSadDad certainly seems to be in agreement with her, and apparently among the fathers she would champion. Tucked into one of his comments, he said "in my dealings with newly divorced Fathers reeling from what has happened to them and their children, the overwhelming sentiment is they can’t believe the system functions as it does. [...] if [my brother] didn’t know me better, he would think I was a radical nutcase. He simply couldn’t believe what I was telling him. In some ways, I think he couldn’t bear to hear the truth." Which summarizes my experience beautifully.

Which raises a question.

Am I a radical nutcase?

I have a couple of feeds set up with Google news, particularly one keyed to "Fathers' rights". Most days there's at least one new item in there from which a new horror story emerges. (Some of them get discussed here, some I just link to via the feed at left). In each one of them, I see something to link it to my case. Every story of another disposable father I take personally, every tiny step towards recognition of what is going on gives me another reason to crawl forward myself.

Every day, I wake up thinking about what has happened to me and my child, drag myself out of bed and try to wash it away in the shower. I am aware that many fathers in my position simply implode. They drown out the howling noise in their heads with alcohol or drugs, they drop out of life and disappear while still occupying the same physical space. They try to build another life, if they're allowed to escape, or hobble on with what is left of the old one as well as they can, if they're not. But no matter what they do, they end up less than what they were, struggling to make the payments they've been ordered, trying to look forward to every minute they might spend with their children (if they get any at all), knowing that they are no longer, in any meaningful sense, their father.

Standing in the shower, I try to wash away some of the dreams of the night before. The night before last, I dreamed I was sorting through some of my child's books. Books I bought him but haven't seen since I was ejected from my home under false pretenses. I was talking to someone, off camera as it were; I think it was my mother. I held a book to my forehead and I asked: "What if I lose? What if I never see him again?" In my dream, I started crying, tears wetting the books, and I woke up.

I stood in the shower exhausted, first thing in the morning, feeling like I had been crying my eyes out. I have stood in that shower trying to wash off the filth. The process of divorce and disenfranchisement is dirty. Pushed in, you get carried along a man-made canal of muck. You get splashed with people's ill will, dark prejudices drip from a clear sky, you get complained about and sometimes shouted at by powerful people who don't know you, you become an embarrassment to many friends, acquaintances ignore you in the corridor. This sticks. You can't wash it off, but you still try.

I keep this blog as a small way of maintaining some sanity. (I have other ways. I haven't tried to dissolve myself in a bottle. Not Yet.) And yet in doing so, I wonder if it is, instead, an expression of my insanity. Sometimes, I get upset, and rail against fatuous politicians and moronic journalists, then I get accused of "insulting all women". Did I? I can't see it. Even Hawa, who's been around for a while, worries that at any moment I may tip over the edge into misogyny. Am I that close?

I get the guys at MensNewsDaily, I really do. You get to the point that everyone makes you angry, even your allies. Because you can't beat you enemies, you end up fighting your friends. It takes a real effort of will, sometimes, not to do that. Do that, and I'd say you become a nutcase.

You, dear reader, can't answer the question. You don't know who I am, and I can't tell you. I just want you to see what I see and agree, it isn't right. If I'm a nutcase, I can still have moments of clarity. Some of them end up here, don't they?

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Hawa Bond said...

Yes, yes, sweet John Doe. Your moments of clarity certainly end up here on your blog.

I still appreciate your valiant effort to shine a very bright (and oh-so revealing) spotlight on parental alienation. Your desire to present a balanced position should be applauded, especially since your experience left you with the short end of the stick.

I'm the ex-wife who encourages a relationship with dad. It was hard, but I was wise enough to understand how necessary this is.

As I mentioned before, my beau wasn't so lucky with his ex-wife. I would love nothing more than to see him hug his kids.

Please keep writing. Unlike during my frivolous youth, I'm not ready to jump on every feminist bandwagon - especially when the wagon is equipped to simply run over our men.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated. You really sum up a lot of the confusion and disenchantment with life after a divorce. Hang in there. There are others like you. Far from being a misogynist (I'm in a healthy, loving relationship with a strong woman today), I completely understand all the anger at our society's insane view of custody and family law. Just like you, I recently started a divorce blog in order to bring some attention to the issue and stay sane. I will check back here often.

Eric B.

Hawa Bond said...

I couldn't help myself. I am such a regular reader here, that I was moved to write a piece about child custody after divorce.

I also urged my blog readers to stop here for a wonderful and balanced look at Parental Alienation and flawed Family Law.

Thanks for the blog and keep writing!

Anonymous said...

You a NOT a nutcase. You are a person who has suffered egregious injustice. You are a civil rights pioneer.

Thanks for not silencing your cries with a bottle, or anything else. While it's no compensation for what you've suffered, I think what your doing is helping a lot of people.

Teri said...

How sweet!

John Doe said...

Er, "sweet"?