The cult of Jack Pearson

Jack Pearson is a fictional character. He is the patriarch of the Pearson family, the family many of us have let into our living rooms every Tuesday night. For those avid fans, I have to preface this by advising you not read further if you have not seen the episode that aired after the Super Bowl this past Sunday.  SPOILER ALERT!!!

I watched the episode and like many, cried tears of grief along with Rebecca when she went to Jack’s hospital room and discovered that he did die from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation. Rebecca refused to believe the doctor who stopped her at the vending machine to break the bad news of Jack’s untimely and unexpected passing.  Of course, the fans everywhere had been speculating for months about his death, as we had been teased in so many episodes.

Reality aside, I want to talk about the character of Jack Pearson. Why do men and women alike love him so much? Why are millions of Americans sobbing about the death of a fictional character? The obvious answer is that he was relatable. The family is relatable. Blue collar Pittsburghers meet in a bar, fall in love, get pregnant with triplets, lose a baby, gain an African American son (the very same day!), raise children, and deal with life as it’s thrown at them. Jack Pearson, through all of the heartache and all of the family struggles, is steadfast in his love and devotion to his family. He’s a hard worker, he loves and worships his wife, he treats his children with love and respect and best of all, he loves his daughter and constantly reminds her that she is beautiful JUST THE WAY SHE IS. Kate, the daughter, has a weight problem. She is teased by other girls at the pool. Jack loans her his shirt so she can cover up, never once making her feel that she is anything less. He adores his sons Kevin and Randall and never once do you see him raise his voice or lose his patience. He is perfect. He is also the perfect husband, working hard at his job, working around the house, surprising his family with trips and presenting a united front with Rebecca. He is handsome, romantic and always cheerful. The fact that Jack has a drinking problem and is an admitted alcoholic is always tucked away in the series and attempts to show that Saint Jack is not perfect after all. Oh, but I disagree. He goes to AA meetings and readily admits to his ER doctor that he cannot have pain pills because he’s a substance abuser. Jack never sneaks pills. Jack doesn’t look at other women and Jack doesn’t yell at his kids.  Jack ultimately saves his entire family and family pet but in doing so, inadvertently took his own life.

Jack is like Jesus. As you see him emerge from the house in flames, you see him carrying the family dog, rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.

We like to see characters we can relate to and there is something to be said for losing yourself in the life of another family for an hour per week. However, we must be careful. I have heard so many women say that they wish their husbands were more like Jack. I have wished that I had a father who was so accepting. My father has personal issues with weight and he passed that on to me. He is not perfect, but he’s my father and he’s all that I have. I love him despite his faults.  It is so tempting to compare the reality of our own dysfunctional relationships with the relationships we see created for our consumption on television or in the movies. There is a reason women like to read romance novels and that’s fine. If we women heard our husbands longingly wish that we were more like Rebecca, we’d be rightfully hurt. The same goes for our husbands, our sons, our daughters and our fathers. They are real people with faults. They’re not Jack and Rebecca or Randall, Kevin or Kate. I love the Pearsons, too. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s when I start to feel sad for my own father daughter relationship that I need to question my own reality and accept it for what is in, warts and all.

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Let’s Get This Straight

It is NOBODY’S BUSINESS but your own, let me repeat NOBODY’S BUSINESS but your own, what you choose to do with your body.  Before anyone states the obvious, I’m not talking about using your body to commit a crime or to inflict pain on another person.  I’m talking about the skin, bones, blood, muscles, etc. that you claim as yours.  That’s right.  It is yours. It’s what people see when they look at you.  It’s almost always a canvas to be used to express who you are in one way or another.  It can reveal a lot about you or it might not.  You might not think a lot about your body, but I hope that you think enough of it to take care of it. If you don’t, well, that is unfortunate, but it’s not my place to tell you what I think of it.

At the old age of 52, my body has certainly been through a lot with three pregnancies, two childbirths, my rough and tumble childhood (and adulthood, lol), sexual pleasure, bruises, sprains, high blood pressure, and far too much abuse. I never set out to abuse my body, but I never loved it. I never loved the skin I’m in. What about the legs that have carried me so well for all of these years?  I’ve never had a broken bone. I really have never had a serious illness.  My breasts have fed a child.  My body has nurtured the growth of two children. Isn’t it funny how we, as mothers, seem to practice body love only when the life of another is at stake?  Why did I give up certain foods and drinks when I was pregnant?  Wasn’t MY health just as important as the health of the life inside of me?  I daresay many of us don’t love our bodies. We scrutinize and torture ourselves with thoughts of hatred and desires to be look like someone else.  How fucking insane is that??  Men generally don’t do that.

I’m writing this because of a conversation I had recently with one of my parents.  Rather than bore you with a long, woe is me post about my own body issues, I will tell you what was said and you can draw your own conclusions about my past and how those past issues continue to haunt me and affect me to this day.  At the age of 52!!!  Ok, here goes some snippets from the aforementioned conversation:

Me: “How was your dinner with J and his friend? What did you think of R?”

Parent: “He seemed nice enough.  Overweight, though, just like J.”

Me: “Heh, aren’t so many young people these days?”

—————————————————————–

Parent: “I looked up S’s fiance’ on on Facebook. Do you know what her last name is?”

Me: “Yes, we are friends on Facebook.  It’s **** .” (her last name is a synonym for fat)

Parent: “Kind of appropriate.”


S just recently got engaged.  His fiance’ is a young woman who is overweight.  S has exclusively dated larger women. I don’t know if he has a preference or not, but that’s his business.  Since S started dating, this parent (S’s grandparent) has made remarks about S’s girlfriends being fat. One time, a comment about one girlfriend was made in earshot of her parents.  Not cool.  J’s friend R is also overweight. I knew that, but of course, it had to be pointed out to me in a critical manner.

From a very young age, I was taught that it was not OK to be overweight. Of course, I inherited my curvaceous body type from my Italian grandmother and I have had to work hard to keep weight off.  I don’t want to be overweight, but I still am. No matter how I choose to “keep” my body, it’s not up to anyone else to pass judgements on it, but that has not been the story of my life.

I have been envious my whole life of girls who grew up feeling good about themselves.

Nowadays it’s called “body shaming.”  I just call it hate.  Hate your body, hate yourself, treat yourself poorly.  Let’s end this.

Helpless, Woe is Me

I want to preface this post by saying that I have been through shit in my life.  Divorce, abuse, familial estrangement, mental illness, job loss, health issues, etc.  I could go on but I’ll just leave that there.   I have never asked for help or cried out to friends and family about my situation.  There have been rough financial times in my past when my children were small. I have always found ways to make it through by cutting back expenses, or by making difficult choices such as going back to work when my children were small.  Our home was never large and sometimes we shared a car.  Many cold mornings I bundled my son, put him in his car seat and drove my ex husband to work.  I made the heart wrenching decision to work when my kids were small so that we could afford the bare necessities and some extras for them, such as rec sports, music lessons, and even private school when we had to.  It’s what grown ups do.  Put on our big girl or big boy pants and make hard decisions that aren’t necessarily our first choice.

My own parents got married young and had two children 16 months apart.  From what I’ve been told, we lived in a shack while my father finished his degree and my mother took care of us.  After that, we moved out of state (from all family) for my father’s job.  Our childhood home was small and my parents rented it until they could afford something else.  (still not a mansion)  I don’t ever remember my parents burdening us with the struggles they had to endure.  Life was simpler then, I suppose.

I had to use WIC.  I’ve used food stamps and food banks in my adult life. I have worked when I could barely get out of bed due to the worst depression anyone could have had.  I was pregnant at the time, by the way.  I have had an abortion when my ex and I found out I was pregnant before we were ready for a child.

I was in a shitty marriage with two children, but I never once ran back to my parents like a child.

When you are an adult, you don’t make bad financial decisions over and over again and then expect your parents and friends to bail you out.  I have a friend who has done this and I am finding it very hard to respect her.  I feel that an adult friendship requires some level of respect and I don’t respect her anymore.  I even called her therapist’s office to pay for her therapy sessions a few months ago.  Then, bam, a month later she is posting on Facebook how sad and depressed she is because her parents aren’t alive anymore to bail her out financially or emotionally.  Sooner or later, you must grow up.She can’t even bring herself to help out with the selling of her parents’ house.  I guess her brother and sister will have to take on that burden.   I won’t be friends with people who are so foolish and immature. I just can’t do it.

America’s Lower Class

The boy who was in the car with the passed out heroin addicts is now in the custody of relatives in another state.  This, after being born to a woman (with the help of a sperm donor, no doubt) who could not care for him properly and then given over to his addicted grandmother.  He is four years old and has been passed around like a Christmas fruitcake that nobody wants.  Hopefully he will finally be given some stability and a proper home in which to grow up.  And counseling.  Lots of counseling.

I would bet that he was propped in front of a television instead of having books read to him.  I would also bet that his nutrition was lacking and has been witness to things no child should have to endure.  What does that do to a child?  What does this mean for our society?  Children are growing up in broken homes with stressed out, chemically dependent, distracted parents who don’t teach them how to behave, how to learn or how to function in society.  Crimes are being committed by children as young as 9 years old.  My son, an elementary school teacher, says that a student in his school set fire to a playground with a group of 11 year old boys.

Picture this.  It’s 1970 or 1980 and you are in a public place, maybe a grocery store or a doctor’s waiting room.  Look around.  What you may notice is an absence of out of control children.  You may notice parents (yes, a mother AND a father) paying attention.  The child is expected to behave a certain way because the parents have set limits.  The child knows he or she is cared for because the parents take the time and energy it takes to speak to them, to feed them properly, ask questions, soothe them, and monitor what they do.  I’m not saying the child always appreciates this attention, but there is ample evidence that shows that children need the basics in order to grow up and function in our society.

There were the anomalies back then.  There were single mothers who did terrific jobs raising their children and children of divorce who turned out just fine.  There were poor children who made their way and are productive members of society.  That is not the case anymore.

15 year olds are having children and the fathers often impregnate many girls or women without taking the responsibility for what they are doing.  The girls are not seeking abortions.  (another WTF question for another post)

The worst thing about this is that the irresponsible behavior of the young people in our society is creating an uneducated, dependent, helpless, violent underclass.  It’s a phenomenon that is not limited to the inner cities.  It’s in rural America New White Underclass and to a lesser degree, has spread to the suburbs.

Low wages, disappearing jobs for the middle class and unaffordable housing have all negatively affected our culture in America.  Who is to blame when unemployment rates in a once thriving small town force the majority of its residents on welfare?  This is a political issue which has caused a moral problem.  When circumstances change, we have to adapt. The government cannot be held responsible for paying for the upbringing of children.  The government can offer assistance to make sure that the children have food to eat, but the government cannot parent and it cannot provide love, safety and security for those children. The new underclass is frightening.   My grown children are not parents yet and if they choose not to bring children into the world, I would not blame them.

The Feminist Double Standard

Lately I have been noticing a trend that seems to have its roots in social media.  I belong to a closed group on Facebook called 50 and Fabulous.  This is the place where we menopausal ladies can gripe, talk about our saggy boobs and lament our empty nests.

It’s also a place where married women can openly drool over the supposed perfect man for the menopausal set, Sam Elliott.  selliott  I have seen an openness among married women on social media to drool over men other than their husbands and to celebrate our liberation by ogling  any man we find hot.   The point is that we have absolutely no qualms about drooling over half naked men and taking the time to post and share whatever hottie we think our friends might fancy.  Most of us are secure in our marriages, but I know for a fact that many, if not all, of these women would not find it nearly as amusing to see their husbands posting and sharing half naked pics of whomever they find attractive.  If said women were thinner, younger, and prettier, the wound would hurt even more.  Is it ever ok to openly gawk at a good looking stranger in front of your spouse?  I say no.  It’s disrespectful.

Most wives and husbands play a game where they name one celebrity crush that they would cheat on the other spouse with if the chance ever arose.  It’s all fun and games, because you know it’s never going to happen.  I have many married male friends on Facebook and I have never once seen any of them post and share pics of beautiful women other than their own wives.

I choose not to hurt my husband’s sense of self-worth by making him feel any less about himself.  We are not perfect people.  I love him and find him immensely attractive.  I like to show him that he is the only one for me by not comparing him to guys half his age and I know he feels the same about me.