My stepson, Scott, lived with us for a couple of months after graduating from college, before moving off to get his life started. It was a good experience because Scott is a good guy and he helped around the house. But it was also good to have him in the house for another reason. When we’d see some dirt tracked in, or a door left unlocked at night, or something put away in the wrong drawer, I’d say, “That must have been Scott.” It probably wasn’t Scott, and I’d never say it when he was present, but it was still good to have Scott in the picture.
Scott has now moved on to run a successful business, and he’s happily married. And I have now become Scott. No, I do not have his considerable engineering and construction skills, nor his sense of bold adventure in business and recreation. I don’t hunt. But when the wooden trivet is put away on the bookshelf next to the cookbooks, or a chip appears in the tile or coffee stains on the sink and counters, it’s just assumed that I did it. Towel left on the floor? Dark socks with the white wash? Outdoor lights left on? The fact that I probably did do it is beside the point. I miss having Scott around to blame. He only comes up here about once a month, and that’s not often enough to do me any good in this department.
When I was growing up, my younger sister, Candy, had an imaginary friend. I believe her name was Bibby. I don’t recall any details, but I do recall that Bibby frequently misbehaved, as Candy explained to Mom. I’m not sure what Mom did with that information, and I don’t know how long Bibby was Candy’s roommate, but it had to be convenient to have Bibby around. Like Scott was for me.
This is not to say that I’m left totally empty-handed. No, I always have Trump to blame, just as others have Michigan’s governor or the elitist liberal media. Can’t blame the neighbors anymore because they are all gone, but there’s always the Chinese. Or the Russians. Certainly not me, or people like me. And there are always those assholes who are polarizing our country with identity politics. Them.
I think Walt Kelly’s Pogo had it right: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s time to make peace.
Anyone’s identity is a construct – even our own. Especially our own. Knowing this gives us a certain creative control over how we construct an identity. We piece together fragments, wishes, needs, and fears in ways that somehow, we feel, serves us. My sister created Bibby, and I created a version of Scott (though Kim always knew what I was doing). And you, my readers, may be playing, for someone else, the role of Scott, or Bibby, or Trump. You may be part of “Them.” You may be someone’s imaginary friend or scapegoat.
I recall from my experience pledging to a fraternity at Amherst that I vowed “to place the best construction on the words and deeds of my brothers,” and this was one of the most valuable things I learned there. We have enough real villains without our needing to construct any more. And it works the other way as well. In my writing I have created a version of me, a persona, that serves my obscure-even-from-myself needs, a persona that is better than “the real me,” if there is such a thing. It’s useful to place the best construction on my own words and deeds, even if may be a bit delusional. I become a character my life’s story. We can do that.
Just ask Scott . . ..