December 17, 2002

It's almost axiomatic that we marry our parents. Guys marry their mothers, girls marry their fathers. Gays, well, I guess they get to choose. Regardless, it's an almost sacrosanct tenet of psychology, this Oedipal quest buried deep inside us.

Now, at first glance this seems, well, icky. I mean, most of us, even the ones with grown children, still can't picture our parents... well... you know. The concept of us actually going after them just sucks us right through the other side of icky and into this weird space where we lay sobbing on a couch and talk to a bizarre Austrian with glasses.

But really, when you get right down to it, it makes sense. There are only two people in your life who you get to watch in all their screwball glory. Gramma and Grandpa are semi-frightening legends, your friends only teach you how lame you are, and you don't trust the people at your work with business news, let alone anything personal.

Scary as it may seem, your kids pick people like you on purpose. And you picked people like your parents on purpose, because at heart they're the only people you really know how to deal with. Your parents, nearly always inadvertently, gave you a set of tools to deal with one particular kind of person on an ingrained, almost subconscious level. And of course while you may not realize it you are ensuring your own children will seek out your simulacrum, because you're the only people they'll ever see stuck on a toilet with no paper, or trapped naked under a mis-hung shower door, or fighting with a father, or crying with a mother.

Sure, you try to make sure they're not exactly like your parents, because let's face it your parents were psychos. Nice, even well intentioned for the most part, but quite patently escapees from Bedlam. The scary thing is every once in awhile you'll catch your own kids with these looks on their faces, watching you like a specimen in a jar, and you half expect them to be in white lab coats holding clipboards, clucking sadly as they take notes.

But here's the weird part. It's a kind of serial immortality. I mean, where does it end? If we're all marrying (hopefully improved) analogs of our parents, in a strange sort of way we really are keeping them alive. As they kept their parents alive, as their parents kept their grandparents alive, and so on, and so on.

So, when we look at our significant other, in a funny sort of way we're looking at a singular, gradually modified persona, which perhaps stretches back in a continuous, ever-shading thread into eternity. The ultimate communal creature, never existing in more than three individuals at once, never existing in a single bloodline at once, but definitely existing in them and ancestors stretching back to a time when we thought a stone axe was the "in" tool.

In a weird sort of way, we quite literally exist outside ourselves, a soul so big, so overarching, it can't really be contained in a single vessel. This creature is still recognizably human. It can be terribly broken and destructive, or amazingly powerful and enlightening. Sometimes it can be both in a single triptych of existence, because we don't pick exact analogs, but improved ones.

On the face of it, this is frightening beyond all reason. But on deeper reflection, I find it bizarrely powerful, this vision of what must only be a few hundred thousand "true" individuals existing in the billions of singular human beings alive today, immortal but changing, improving, sometimes slightly, sometimes profoundly, over thousands, maybe millions of years. It makes me wonder what you and I will be like a thousand years from now.

Because we won't just meet again. You see, we've never left.

Posted by scott at December 17, 2002 09:23 PM

eMail this entry!

Are you guys fighting again?

Posted by: Cindy on December 17, 2002 11:49 PM

I've heard this all my life, yet I still don't believe it.

None of the women I've been attracted to have resembled my mom in any way, shape or form.

Posted by: Mumblix Grumph on December 18, 2002 02:50 AM

Interesting concept but I disagree (just because it truly is too yucky to think about). Maybe we are attracted to people that have the potential to become more like our parents (after all, who do you know that is 20 years old that has the knowledge and experience of 40 year olds?)

Posted by: Bogie on December 18, 2002 05:45 AM

I still think it's a personality that we're attracted to, a type we've learned, and only could learn, from our parents.

And Mumblix, have you married any of these ladies?

No, no fighting right now Cindy.

Posted by: scott on December 18, 2002 07:26 AM like my dad? You are not THAT cruel of a person. Nor are you italian, or that cursive.

You are too gentle of a person for me to have married someone of 'my type of family'. You are the complete opposite.

If I married someone like my dad, I would of killed myself long ago. It would be like marrying myself. I think YOU married MY dad. :)-but of course in the female fashion.

Posted by: Ellen on December 18, 2002 03:04 PM

Yeah, but I broke the cycle. I'm not married.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish on December 21, 2002 03:57 PM

What you have put forward is an old theory but falls down when you look at serial polygamy -- now very common in our society. I for instance have married 4 times and all 4 ladies were very different from one-another. On your theory they should all have been similar.

Posted by: John Ray on December 22, 2002 01:12 AM

Interesting point, one which I had not considered fully. Thanks!

Posted by: scott on December 22, 2002 08:44 AM
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