dare to look me in the eye

This LJ name was my third or fourth pick. My favorite nicknames were taken. I’d always liked this song. It’s catchy and fun to sing, and I loved Townshend’s self-deprecating irony. I also had good memories of covers by some of my musical heroes. The Minutemen played it at the last gig of theirs I saw, in July ’85, and I remember another great 80s performance by Richard Thompson, where he did “Pinball Wizard” for a laugh mostly and then this one for serious.

I didn’t realize how perfectly I’d chosen. I’m this guy, all right. From earliest childhood I was expected to be someone else. In fact, I was told I was someone else, and not given the option of living otherwise. And like the guy in the song I was always angry as hell about it. That impostor consciousness and anger about it have haunted my relations with other people my whole life.

Eerily, the song came out in 1966, when I was not yet two years old. It was a radio hit just as I was being introduced to the insane double bind of my childhood: be someone else, or be a failure. The way it all lines up is almost too good.

There was only one way for me to keep my pride and my sense of self growing up, and that was to sabotage my parents’ master plan for my life. As soon as I moved out and went to college, I was on a suicide mission to destroy every possibility of real adult success for myself. Mission: accomplished. I am now entirely authentic, and no one can say I am my family’s creature.

I’ve been trying to undo that victory for a long, long time now without much success. Anything but failure still feels fake. Pete, you had it down from day one. It’s like you were there.

You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather

But I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look bloody young, but I’m just back-dated

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine looking suit is really made out of sack

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It’s a genuine problem, you won’t try
To work it out at all you just pass it by, pass it by

Substitute me for him
Substitute my coke for gin
Substitute you for my mum
At least I’ll get my washing done

8 thoughts on “dare to look me in the eye

  1. I’ve always wondered how you chose your LV user name…. Mystery solved!
    As I was growing up, I was too, forced to be someone else by my parents in some way. Or in their word, they were just trying to guide me to go to the right path of my life. When I was very young, I tried to fulfill the role of a perfect daughter, but by the time I was in 10th grade I was totally rebelling my parents and I wasted most of my teenage years in stead of pursuing what I really want. They shipped me off oversea for my so called education to avoid showing my misbehaviour to the community. All they cared was how we portraited in the community as a perfect family. As I started the college, I realized that I cannot waste my life to just give my parents a headache and decided to get my own life.
    I am still very good at faking my feelings because how I was raised. Even now,I still act like everything is going great in front of people despite of whatever happening in my life. The way I was raised negatively affected how I feel about my self but it motivated me to stand up on my own feet. I think it would be the life long learning experiments for me not to pass on this negative parenting to my daughters. I always try to remember that things happen for reasons, though.

    1. I was to be an academic success straight through to a doctorate and stay in academia for life. It was important that I remain elite in all my pursuit and tastes: high culture, European travel, etc. Political and social ideas were to be liberal and very conventional: PC without being transgressive. And I was supposed to have only friends who were exactly like this also.
      It wasn’t enough that I appreciated all those things and other things too; I had to keep a kind of lunatic Liberal Intellectual Elitist Kosher.

      1. ‘I had to keep a kind of lunatic Liberal Intellectual Elitist Kosher.’
        how aptly described! and how awfully familiar. i wonder if our parents went to the same temple. i’d never framed my life in those terms, but now i’m thinking about all the ways in which i didn’t keep kosher, as it were.

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