{ the sweetest bee makes the thickest honey. }

Amidst a familiar, mundane kind of creepiness, parents and children reverse their roles, and everyone seems equally trapped in a pattern that continuously cycles between the search for a form of inter-human gratification and its disappointment.
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How to Survive Unbearable Heartbreak: Creating a Support Network
by Sebastian Ischer


- What?s up.
- Good to see you, dude. How?s the job?
- It?s awful. I?m working as an assistant. I don?t think I?m very good at it.
- You gotta start out somewhere.
- Yeah. I?m trying.
- You better. I mean, you?re young, this is supposed to be the best time of your life. You?re trying to figure things out, there are still possibilities.
- I guess.
- (winking) How are the girls treating you?
- Ok. I kind of have a girlfriend now.
- You do? That?s great! When am I gonna meet her?
- Maybe sometime. She?s kind of shy.
- That?s alright. Is she cute?
- She?s beautiful.
- Oh boy. She?s beautiful, huh? Don?t let her fuck you around.
- I?m trying.
- I know how you are sometimes. I was the same way when I was your age.
- How were you?
- You know. Shy, self-deprecating. (lowering his voice) I was afraid of attractive women. I couldn?t look them in the eye.
- ...
- Your mother was the first woman I ever slept with.
- Please, don?t.
- No, you have to know this. It?s important. I was pathologically shy, and she turned me inside out. I couldn?t believe that such a beautiful, confident girl could pick me to fall in love with. And that was the problem with our relationship: I always felt a little bit scared, a little bit inferior, even though I would never admit it. But I think she felt it, and it made her crazy. She wanted me to be strong and in control, but the pressure to be like that made me weak.
- And you slept with other women to get back at her?
- (hurt) No, of course not. I was faithful for fifteen years. I tried to make it work. I took care of her, and I put up with her moods. Then one day we were on a hiking trip, and she had been lecturing me for over an hour about all the ways in which I?d ruined her life: I got her pregnant with you so she had to drop out of college, I forced her to move so I could have my dream job, I suppressed her independence, I didn?t appreciate her, I didn?t love her enough, I cheated on her.
- You did sleep with other women.
- Yes, but not because I wanted to. I had to, so I could feel like a real person again. It only happened a few times. Twice, really. But anyway, she berated me for over an hour, and the whole time, I didn?t say anything, because I wanted to see if she?d notice. And she just kept talking, and reminding me of things I?d done ten, fifteen years ago, and as she was remembering, she kept getting more and more angry. Finally, I said, that?s enough, I?m not going to listen to it anymore. I was sick of it: always being sorry, always being careful not to do anything that would bring on her unhappiness.
- I don?t remember her like that. I always thought you loved each other.
- We did love each other, that was part of the problem. We fell in love, we got married, we started a family. But we were just kids. And we made this whole grown-up life together, before we ever figured anything out for ourselves.
- I remember that she was lots of fun. She made us laugh. And she took care of you.
- She did. And I took care of her. But you didn?t see the other side. You were her kids, and she loved you unconditionally and absolutely. With me, there were conditions. I had to make her happy by being the right kind of husband, the one who was worthy of her love. And she was unforgiving. Any time I made a mistake, she would file it away for later. And things would fester and grow, until they suddenly burst out of her. And then I?d be punished.
- (laughs) What are you talking about?
- You don?t remember any of this? She could be so cold. She wouldn?t touch me for days sometimes. I?d say the wrong thing, upset her, and there?d be no sex for two weeks.
- I think you?re trying to justify the fact that you fucked her over.
- (angrily) Listen, I did not sleep with anyone but your mother until I was in my late forties. I never even tried to. I love your mother. And I respect her. She?s tough, and much smarter than me. But I didn?t want to fight anymore. The day we got divorced, I walked out of the courtroom and cried. But it wasn?t just because I was sad. I felt like a huge weight was leaving my body.
- ...
- You?re not angry that I told you that, are you?
- No, I don?t think so. I know everyone makes mistakes, and people fall out of love, and everything is temporary and imperfect. Most lies and falsehoods in this world are based on our need to believe in perfect absolutes. That?s especially true of our ideals, and the things we believe as children. I had already realized that when you two split up.
- I?m glad. I never wanted to ruin my kids? childhood, but I?m also too old to try and maintain other people?s illusions.
- Don?t worry, I don?t need any.
- That?s what you think. Just be careful. Don?t let her push you around. You have to be tough, and stick up for yourself. Otherwise you?ll only make her unhappy. And then she?ll make you unhappy. You got that?
- Uh-huh. That?s some great advice, dad.


- When your father left me, I couldn?t eat for a week. I got really sick, and I felt like I was going to die.
- That?s not true. I remember you were sad, but you kept working, and seeing your friends, and taking care of everything.
- Of course. I had to take care of your brother and go on with my life. But inside, I felt completely empty. This lasted for a long time. Then one day I was walking in the forest behind our house, and I heard a voice inside me. It was my goddess, telling me everything would be okay.
- Uh oh.
- It?s true. There wasn?t a burning bush or trumpets or anything, but I suddenly knew that someone was taking care of me, and that I would be okay, no matter what happened.
- Maybe you were just talking to yourself.
- It doesn?t matter, does it? The end result does.
- Sorry. I didn?t mean to insult your goddess.
- You make it sound so new age-y. I?m really just trying to work things out and center myself. I was very dependent upon your father, but now I?m learning to take care of myself.
- I know.
- And my goddess is leading me out of the forest.
- I think that?s great.
- You don?t want to hear about this. You think your mother?s gone crazy in her middle age.
- It?s probably normal. Maybe because of menopause.


- Well, let?s talk about something else. How are things with your girlfriend?
- Hmm. We?ve been fighting. She doesn?t want to have sex with me.
- Maybe you?re not doing it right. Are you kissing her before, so that she can get ready?
- That?s not what I?m saying! She doesn?t want to kiss me, either, or do anything.
- How long does she go without?
- Sometimes two or three weeks. Sometimes more.
- She?s probably sleeping with someone else.
- I know. I feel really bad.
- Why don?t you break up with her? It sounds like you?re stressed out.
- I can?t. I?m in love with her.
- Couldn?t you pick someone a little bit easier to be in love with? Maybe someone who just likes you and doesn?t cause you so much stress?
- I don?t think I can help it.
- She?s very cute. But maybe it would be better for you to date someone who isn?t as beautiful, so you don?t have to worry about other guys talking to her all the time.
- Are you saying that I?m not cool enough to date a beautiful girl?
- No, of course not. You?re my son. I think you?re one of the coolest people in the world. But it?s difficult for pretty young girls. You get so much attention from men, and it?s hard to stay focused on just one person, even if you?re in love.
- Did you ever have sex with someone other than dad, when I was a kid?
- Of course not. I fell in love with someone once, a few years after we got married. But I didn?t do anything. Because I had you guys, and I still loved your father too. I had decided to be with him, and I knew someone else wouldn?t make a difference, once the chemicals wore off. Even though being in love is nice.
- It is. Did dad know you were in love with someone else?
- I told him. He was very upset. But I stayed with him, so it didn?t seem like that big of a deal. Eventually he forgot about it.


- It?s probably my fault that you?re so unhappy. I was very young when I had you, and I wasn?t a very good mother.
- You know that?s not true. You were too good, basking me in unconditional love, and making me feel like I was a genius for learning how to tie my shoes. You set unrealistic expectations for the rest of my life.
- You were smart. I remember you learned to talk much earlier than you were supposed to. The first word you said was ?horsey?.
- I liked cowboys.
- But you cried whenever one of the indians got shot.
- Because I was sensitive. By always being loving and nurturing, you made me feel like I was special, and I?ve spent the rest of my life coming to terms with the fact that I?m not, and that nobody?s waiting to do me in any favors. The universe doesn?t give a fuck, and most people are better off because they figure it out right away, so they don?t have to spend their adult recovering from ego-shattering disillusionment.
- I meant well.
- Of course you did. You were a baby boomer, a child of the stoic, self-sacrificing survivors of world war two and the depression who felt like all their kids needed to be happy was an electric garage opener, a color tv, and a life free of mortal fear or hunger. Living in an era of unparalleled wealth and comfort, you had nothing to worry about, so you turned on yourself. You were repulsed by your parents and their constrained life, and you decided to escape from repression and conformity. You set out to find yourself, and be a free-thinking individual, and rebel against injustice and inequality. For this purpose, you decided to raise your children as equals, to give them the love and honesty and openness your parents seemed to withhold in their struggle for the soothing equilibrium of absolute normalcy. Treating a five-year old like a fully-formed adult, you weaned him on the narcotic milk of your summery self-love. You allowed him to take his infantile needs and discontents seriously, thus turning him into a narcissistic neurotic incapable of living productively in the real world.
- I?m sorry.
- I?m just kidding. You know I?d never say any of that to you. I think I turned out fine.


- Hey.
- What happened to you? You were supposed to come meet me.
- I know, I wanted to. I was about to leave, but then I had another idea, and I felt like if I didn?t write it down, it would be lost. And then there was another idea, and I got distracted.
- I told you I was scared to walk down here.
- I know, but it?s really safe. I walk here all the time, even late at night.
- It?s different for me, I?m a girl. I could?ve been out there getting mugged or raped while you were writing your stupid column.
- I would?ve come to save you.
- Don?t make fun of me. I?m really mad.
- It?s not that big of a deal.
- Yes it is! You broke your word. Why even say that you?re going to do something when you know you?re not going to do it? Do you want me to be the stupid girl, waiting for you at the bus stop when you?re never going to come?
- It wasn?t intentional, I wasn?t trying to fuck with you. Stop giving me a hard time. I thought were going to be friends, and have fun tonight.
- That?s what I thought too until you stood me up.
- Stop. This is our last chance to go back to being friends and enjoy each other?s company.
- No! You ruined it, and now I?m too mad to be nice to you.
- Then go home.
- Are you kicking me out?
- Yes. You?re being a bitch.
- Only because you?re being a dick.
- No I?m not.
- Yes you are. You?re glib, sarcastic, mean and fake.
- Whatever. This is a waste of time. Just go. I?ll walk you to the bus stop.


- I?m sorry, I don?t want to fight anymore.
- It?s too late, I?m mad too now, and you can?t just suddenly turn everything around and expect me to eat out of your hand.
- At least I tried to apologize.
- Fine. I?m sorry I didn?t come and meet you. But I really want you to leave.
- Look, I know I was mean, but you just made me really mad. Please don?t kick me out. I really like you, and I want to be your friend, and I want to make out with you.
- Just, please, stop messing with me like this.
- I?m not, I promise.
- All right. I guess you can stay for a little while.
- I?m so sorry.
- There, there. It?s okay.
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