The New Man. Whats Up with That?
LS: Yves, has your father accepted you as a man?
YJ: I dont know, with my Father theres a curious sense of dislocation between us that has to do both with his reserved Swiss nature and the incredible difference between our upbringings. He grew up in a very small mountain town in Switzerland, and I grew up into this blue collar suburban background. My parents moved to the States a year before I was born and I grew up playing football out in the yard and baseball, hanging out with a bunch of blue collar kids. My parents always felt really separated from all of their neighbors in a lot of ways because they were so different. So, I dont know, my father and I are so different that I dont even understand how we would ever come to a resolution of that actually.
CS: How do you think he sees you?
YJ: I know that it is always clear that he admires a lot of my qualities. I have a number of qualities that come from my Mother that are incredibly different. My Mother is a very fiery Austrian, extremely outgoing , the antithesis of my Father almost, its really interesting that way. So I have a lot of her qualities of being a really outgoing person. Not bothered by social speaking and things like that. And he admires those things in me, and then, Im very technically oriented in ways. Hes an engineer and he really admires those things in me. And its interesting because we have this mutual admiration with these huge yawning chasms of unspoken things in our family and I dont know if theyll ever be resolved until the deathbed.
ML: And Ive found the same thing in my upbringing as well. Im English, I was born in England, my folks came over here with Boeing probably about the same time Yves family did. Lower white collar as opposed to upper blue collar, shall we say. Settled, oddly enough, only about a hill or two away from where Yves was raised. And I had to translate all my life. Because the England that my folks left was different from the America that they arrived in. And I was hypersensitive all the time that I was growing up to the crossed signals that I was being given at school and at home. And the customs and the mores of how one is supposed to do things.
I was going crazy just because I was having to translate between...my folks had never tried to inculcate themselves into the way of doing things over here and so I would get pats on the head at school and then Id go home and get scolded and Id get scolded at school and Id go home and get pats on the head. So I was really confused: "Whats going on here, Im really confused, either Im doing things right or Im not."
To take this to another level, my Father was an orphan. He was taken to the orphanage by his mother when he was five years, which is a ball of wax that I refuse to even plumb as far as hes concerned. Hes given off warning signs before, like, "Stay away, you dont want me to go into that," which is perfectly fine because Im sure its the last thing he wants to go over. And he told me not too long ago that he was kicked out of the orphanage because he was hanging around the wrong boy, who got kicked out, and then, guilt by association, he got kicked out as well and had to go into the military.
So he was basically raised by the military and so everything about my Father is really discipline oriented and he happened to marry a woman who had a father who was also in the military, so shed been raised that way as well. Therefore theres been such a strong sense of discipline in my family for emotional reasons, that I like to think that thats why I was born on Valentines Day, is that I had to pull up the flank as far as the emotional stuff is concerned.
And so, as far as the coming of age stuff is concerned, there are other people in my life, for example, like old high school teachers who have basically had to assure my folks that Im a commendable young man because theyre seeing things that my folks dont see or are completely oblivious to either because of their original culture and also their generation or their upbringing.
LS: How old is your dad? Just curious.
ML: He was born in 27
LS: Thats like my Dad
ML: My Father was just in the tail end of World War II. He was stationed in Palestine after the war.
Its really odd because in the past couple of years Ive noticed how, hes retired now, hes been retired now for the past couple of years, and any time hes watching the TV and hes channel surfing hell always stop on the war. Hell surf, hell surf, hell surf and then itll be the Luftwaffe. And hell just stop and watch it. And, of course, last year was the 50th anniversary of D-Day and Hiroshima and all the rest. And thats something that our generation will never understand the symbolism of.
LS: So he lived through the Depression.
ML: Oh, yeah. And rationing.
LS: The defining factor of Malcolm parents and mine, I dont know how old your parents are, Yves.
YJ: My Father was born in 39 and my Mother was born in 42. They had just completely divergent experiences because my father, being in Switzerland they never had any problems from the war--
CS: -- sure, they were neutral --
YJ: My Grandfather owned a music box making factory in Switzerland and they were kind of upper class, and on my Mothers side in Austria my Grandfather was in Russia and was then in a labor camp afterwards and they were extremely poor apparently, so they come from very, very different backgrounds. Thats another thing that makes them very different from one another, coming to this country.
CS: I guess that what this says to me is that neither of you, Yves and Malcolm, necessarily relate in any ways to your fathers outside of a fair arms length.
YJ: Im much closer to my Mother.
ML: Im much closer to my Mother.
YJ: And its affected my choice in mates. Im always attracted to very strong women.
ML: Im always attracted to very strong women, too.
YJ: Ive never been attracted to a woman I knew that I could manipulate.
ML: Or one who is fawning or subservient.
LS: I didnt want one of those either, I wanted one who could stand on her own. Now, I wanted her to understand and appreciate where I am and whats going on, but I wanted her to be able to do what it takes to stand on her own. Now, interestingly, neither of my wives had those skills when we married.
ML: Oh, really?
LS: Casons mother was totally socially inept. She would make lists of things to talk about if we were going to see another couple that evening.
CS: She was a preachers daughter: seen, not heard.
LS: Oh, she was very openly heard. She was VERY openly heard, just not in public.
CS: Its so interesting that you two, Yves and Malcolm, especially being so much closer to your mothers, understanding of and aware of what your fathers are like and accepting of that, but never expecting some sort of closeness or learning about being or even desiring to be what your father is or is like. I dont know that for a fact. But do you or have you...is it any more relevant to get information about how to be a man from the previous generation?
YJ: I think I did in a lot of ways, oddly enough, maybe through books. I was always a voracious reader.
CS: Like what books? Do you have, like, a character?
YJ: I mean, I could trace a lot of my own developments directly to what I was reading at the time, like Id read "On The Road" in high school, and then Id stay up all night and pack a backpack and go down to the river and light a campfire and start thinking about how I could just be this total loner all of a sudden.
Or even earlier, one of my Mothers friends had just gone through a divorce and her husband had been an avid collector of pornography, and I knew this. So I was about thirteen at the time and I told this sixteen year-old kid in the neighborhood "Go drive over there and tell her were having a paper drive, I know she wants to get rid of these, shell give you a trunk full of porno mags." So, sure enough he goes over there and comes back with a trunk full of porno magazines. We handed them out to all the boys in the neighborhood. Male bonding.
ML: "So THATS what a woman looks like. Cool."
YJ: Well, what was funny was I used to read all these things like "Penthouse Forum" where people would write in with their sex questions and thats where I learned as a man how to please a woman. Reading was always really important to understand what things were about. Not that I still didnt have a million misconceptions
CS: You know where I learned that? "Glamour" and "Cosmopolitan" magazine. My mother got both of them every month at the grocery store and I was like "So what is it I need to do?" "Turn to page 68, youre about to find out." "What a man really wants from a woman" "What a woman really wants from a man" Oh, so thats what Im supposed to want. So, thats what Im supposed to do. From "Glamour" I learned more, or at least thats where the majority of learning at least about relating with women in an intimate sense came from was "Glamour".
YJ: What I find funny is with being a father now, one thing thats really strange is I always seem to think "Well, Im doing better than my Father did." However, in one sense thats a cop-out. The question should be "What can I do to be the best that I can be?"
LS: You think of it every moment.
YJ: For me to relate it to my own upbringing in a way is kind of a cop-out because I dont really have to do that much to be better.
CS: When you say that, though, you must have something that youre thinking specifically that your father was or was not.
YJ: There are times that you, Larry, were talking about where you were gone three, four nights of the week. And I know that my Father just didnt think about it at the time. The whole time he was in that masters program, for example, he was gone constantly. Hes always been someone who works fifty to sixty hours a week. Works a lot of Saturdays and things like that. Summers we always used to go on hikes and stuff on the weekends and I felt really good about that. I guess there was a certain inconsistency that sometimes I feel that Im guilty of.
With Sienna and I our lives have gone from being less complex to more complex. When Marcel was born we were living in Denver, I was selling repo HUD homes, maybe working about 25 hours a week. Sienna wasnt working at all. The rest of the time we fixed up this old house that we bought. And for the first two years of Marcels life we had him at home. It was really great. Then when we moved back to Seattle I started working 40 hours a week, we both started going to school. We put him in a daycare at that point when he was two years old, which is considered really lucky by a lot of people. "Wow, you got to have him at home for two years." Im surrounded by everyone at work, all the women and men, all they got was three months leave. Ive got some friends where first the woman was home for three months and then the man was home for three months after that and thats pretty much it.
LS: At times Ive looked at this as being selfish as well. I wanted to be home when the kids got home because thats what I wanted. Whether it was what was best for the children was the challenge that came back. And when we went back to the city one of the things that worked out very well was putting them into preschool or into daycare. They got a lot of social interaction. It was really best for the kids.
YJ: But then you think "Is that a cop-out?" Thinking that theyre better off there? I mean, Marcel was a real loner kid, he didnt have a lot of kids to play with in Denver, all the kids were older. And then when we moved back to Seattle and lived on Capitol Hill there were not that many little kids at all. Its a very young, urban persons part of the city. But when he got into the daycare there were always little kids, and yeah, he learned a bunch of social skills as well and hes got all these friends and I think "Well, am I just thinking that because I feel guilty about having less time?"
And with setting up this magazine Ive been working, going to school, and working on setting up the magazine. Ive been gone a number of evenings and normally my evening time is my "quality time" with Marcel. So, Ive been feeling very guilty about this recently.
Part Three: The New Man. What's up with that?