family, LDS, mental health, Military, rants, rock stars

“Honoring” Alan Osmond’s ego and being “flavor of the month”…

Apologies in advance for this post, since I’ve written about Alan Osmond’s ego before. I’m sure some people wonder why I would write about his ego, given that he’s in his 70s now, and no longer “flavor of the month”. It’s just that I recently stumbled on a video done by his eight sons, The Osmonds 2nd Generation, and I was struck by the egotism of the lyrics in their performance… Behold!

These are Alan’s sons. They have remade Billy Joel’s song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a partial ode to family friendly acts, as well as their dad. “He’s our dad; we’re his kids! How do you think we got this gig?”

Maybe it was a combination of finding this video, Father’s Day, and the Donny Osmond birthday video my sister sent me that has me thinking about Alan Osmond this morning. No, he’s not “flavor of the month” anymore. He hasn’t been in many years. There’s no doubt that he has musical talent, as do his sons and other family members, like Donny. Maybe that talent makes them special. Actually, I think Donny is probably the most talented of all of them, in terms of his dance ability, singing voice, and enduring cuteness even in his 60s. I genuinely enjoyed the birthday video my sister sent and was amazed by how charismatic Donny still is, many years after having been “flavor of the month”. But it seems that at least one of Donny’s brothers is still a bit conceited, and thinks of himself as more special than the rest.

As I watched the video above, listening to Alan’s sons praise their dad for realizing his “dream”, I was reminded of a rant I wrote several years ago when I ran across a YouTube video featuring Alan Osmond. He was bragging about how he was a great soldier who was too important to send to Vietnam because he was a show business performer with connections. In the video below, Alan talks about how Heavenly Father basically intervened in keeping him out of a war zone, despite his superior abilities as a soldier.

Um… wow… is he a bit self-congratulatory in this video.

The first time I watched the above video, I got pissed off. Why? Because my father went to Vietnam and suffered from PTSD for decades after he came home. I respect Alan Osmond for doing his bit as a clerk at Fort Ord. That is a valuable service to our country. But in this video, he acts like he was Rambo and was spared the war because he had a “higher calling” in show biz. That’s a bunch of crap.

My dad was forever haunted by his memories of Vietnam. Toward the end of his life, he used to have terrible nightmares. He’d jump out of bed while still sleeping, swinging his fists at imaginary assailants. One time, he hit the wall while fighting in his sleep. He damaged his middle finger so badly that there was talk that it might have to be amputated. My dad also had a serious drinking problem that was exacerbated by being at war, where booze was handed out freely. Nowadays, boozing isn’t promoted in the military like it was in my dad’s day. My dad, who came from a long line of drunks and was raised by a violent alcoholic, was a prime candidate for developing alcoholism himself. The stress of combat, along with the easy availability of booze, was devastating for him. And that devastation had ripple effects on everyone around him, as it profoundly affected him. So, when I hear Alan Osmond acting like Vietnam was a big adventure and he was this hot shot recruit who was deemed “too valuable” for combat, it smarts a bit.

My dad really suffered… and I, as his daughter, also suffered. My dad would have been a better father, husband, friend, and person if he hadn’t been an alcoholic with PTSD. My dad has been gone now for seven years, and I’m still haunted by him. I have some really good memories of him, but I also have a lot of traumatic ones. By the time he died in 2014, I had some complicated and confusing feelings about our relationship. I see all my friends sharing pictures of their dads on Father’s Day. I shared a couple of them, too. But the truth is, as much as I loved him, I didn’t like him very much. And a lot of the reason I didn’t like him was because he was abusive to me. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been less abusive if he hadn’t gone to war and come home with PTSD. I believe he would have been an alcoholic regardless, but maybe the PTSD wouldn’t have been as bad. Maybe we could have had a better relationship. I believe he had it in him to be kinder to me than he was.

I commented on the YouTube video about how “full of himself” Alan is. Some guy named David, who claimed to be a veteran himself, took me to task and told me to STFU. I ranted about that, too, on my old blog. Just because I am not a military veteran, that doesn’t mean I can’t make a comment about Alan Osmond’s service. I am so sick and tired of people trying to shut up people who express themselves. This attitude is especially prevalent in military circles, where it’s very common for veterans to ask anyone who says anything negative about the military if they’ve ever served. Whether or not a person has served should be irrelevant. As Americans, we should be able to express opinions about the military without someone demanding to know if we’ve ever served in the military. As someone who has been in the “military world” since birth, I certainly CAN have an opinion about it. Maybe my views about the military not as informed as Bill’s or another veteran’s would be, but it’s ridiculous and short-sighted to assume that someone who is exposed to the military world, even if they don’t wear a uniform, can’t form an opinion and express it.

If veterans who tell me to STFU really cared about real freedom and what putting on that uniform means, they would cherish the rights of people to share their views, regardless of how “offensive” they may be. I have spent my whole life around veterans, and I have tremendous respect for them and what they do. BUT– I have even more respect for veterans who understand that part of serving honorably is doing so with a pure, unselfish heart. Telling someone to STFU because you don’t think they have a right to an opinion is not particularly honorable. Why should I have more respect for someone who joined the military if they don’t have enough regard for me, as a fellow freedom loving American, to let me speak my mind?

Moreover, one can serve one’s country and NOT be a military veteran. I served my country in the Peace Corps. Others serve by being public servants or even being elected officials, although some elected officials have lost sight of being of “service” in their roles. I took the very same oath that every service member or government employee takes. Like my husband, I vowed to support and uphold the Constitution. Taking that oath as a military servicemember doesn’t make someone “special”. Peace Corps Volunteers also take that oath when they swear in, even though they don’t carry weapons or go into combat.

Someone called “Unknown” left me a comment on that old post about how I shouldn’t disparage Alan for being a clerk. The person wrote:

“There are a lot of soldiers that are on the clerk side. Without them the military would not be able to survive. So you are basically saying unless you were in a combat unit you didn’t serve. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers that are in the offices as clerks. Doesn’t make them any less important.”

And this was my admittedly irritated response to “Unknown”, who obviously didn’t read very carefully:

It looks like you may have completely missed the point of this post.

I never said and don’t believe that clerks who serve in the military are “unimportant”. On the contrary, I have basic respect for anyone who serves, including Alan Osmond.

My point is that Alan Osmond’s comments about what he did during the Vietnam War are in poor taste. He admits that he only joined the Army because he didn’t want to go on a Mormon mission. He felt that he would have more impact for his church if he stayed home and continued performing with his brothers. So he got a connection in the entertainment business to see to it that he could stay in California and be a clerk. 

Alan Osmond was never in any actual danger, but he brags about how “awesome” his military skills were. I would think that if his skills were so excellent, it would have been more honorable for him to use them in support of his country. But his attitude seems to be that he was too “special” to do that; his job was to be a pop star so that he could spread Mormonism to the masses. 

I am fully aware that there are many “cogs in the wheel” who serve in the military. Each and every one of them has the right to be proud of their service. However, I think bragging about being a typist during the Vietnam War era, especially as you imply that God had bigger plans for you to be a singing star, is very tacky. Moreover, there is a huge difference in simply being proud of one’s service and blatantly bragging about it on YouTube. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with members of the military who serve in non-combat roles. My husband went to Iraq, but basically had a desk job. There is also nothing wrong with people in the military who never see combat, but perform important supporting roles back home. My issue with Alan Osmond is that it’s inappropriate for him to boast about what he did during the Vietnam War era when so many people, not lucky enough to have family connections, went off to war and either died or came home permanently changed for the worse.

Clear enough?

Alan Osmond on why the Osmonds’ dance moves were so “karate-esque”. Supposedly, these moves also made Alan a hot shot in military training.

Watching and hearing Alan Osmond talk about how he did his bit for the Army and apparently God saved him from the jungles of Vietnam is rather infuriating.  There were lots of loving, sensitive, talented young men drafted and sent off to Vietnam to fight in the war.  A lot of them didn’t come back, and a lot of them were never the same when they did come back.  The same has happened to plenty of people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, though fortunately those wars have not been as personally devastating to as many people as Vietnam was. We do, at least, have more of an understanding for PTSD. There is more help available now. But it’s still such a real and scary thing that has ripple effects that extend far beyond just the person who has it. When I was a child and a teenager, and my dad would go into drunken rages and lose control of himself, I wasn’t thinking about how PTSD was making him act like that. I was internalizing the idea that he was hurting me because I was a bad person and he hated me. You see?

But our relationship wasn’t always bad. Sometimes, it was lovely, and we could share positive things, such as the dance pictured above, captured at my wedding. We also often shared our mutual love for music. In 1986, my dad bought me a live cassette collection by Bruce Springsteen.  Though I don’t remember being a big Springsteen fan before I got that collection for Christmas, I used to listen to it all the time and really got into Springsteen for awhile.  One of the songs on it is a very poignant rendition of “The River”.  Bruce introduces the song by telling his own story about not going to Vietnam…  But his story is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is…

Fellow former “flavor of the month”, Bruce Springsteen, is famously anti-war, but his story about Vietnam is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is.

When I was practicing social work, I had a client who was a veteran. He used to tell me war stories. I always got the sense that they were probably about 90% bullshit, as was a lot of the other stuff he told me (for instance, he lied to me about having cancer). I’ve been around veterans my whole life. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of them don’t want to talk about war. Even Bill, who only spent six months in Iraq behind a desk, was affected by his time there and what he was doing. The people who actually do things that warrant receiving awards that recognize their valor don’t usually want to talk about it.

When Bill visited my parents’ home the first time, he saw that my dad, who was an Air Force officer, had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam.  It was before Bill had ever been deployed himself.  Bill was impressed by my dad’s award, but my dad didn’t want to discuss it.  He said that the reason he got the award was “bogus”.  I have known my share of military folks.  The ones who are brave and do things to legitimately earn those awards are usually very humble about it… because a lot of times, earning those awards involves doing things that they aren’t proud of or acting heroically in situations that end up haunting them for life.    

And yet, there’s Alan Osmond talking about the “trophies” he won in basic training for being a great shot and fighting with bayonets so well because he could dance.  It kind of makes me want to puke.  If he was really that great, the military would have sent his ass to Vietnam, right?  But no… he was a typist/clerk in California for a brief time.  And he brags about it.  Apparently, the Lord wanted him safely at home in the United States so he could be an entertainer and influence people to join his church.  What self-important drivel!  And Alan didn’t appreciate being called a “draft dodger”.  He even commented on the video with more bullshit about promptings from “the spirit”.  He was special because as a Mormon, God only speaks to and protects him and his ilk.  The rest of the guys who went to Vietnam and came back damaged or dead were not special enough to be typists in California for “the cause”.

Ever since I heard that video with Alan Osmond talking about his military service during the Vietnam era, I’ve had a less than positive opinion of him as a person. But then, when I saw the video with his sons literally singing Alan’s praises in a song ripped off from Billy Joel, I wonder if they came up with the idea to honor Alan themselves. Or were they pressured to honor their father in such an egotistical and ostentatious way? Below is another video in which Alan’s sons “honor their father”, and ask the audience to do the same:

Kudos to Alan for singing with his sons. He is a talented entertainer… and obviously, his sons were taught to “honor their father”.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Alan’s sons “honor their father” so conspicuously. I remember the original Osmond Brothers honored their father similarly, even though in later years, they’ve said he was abusive and demanding to a fault. In this 2003 era documentary about being Osmond, the brothers talk about how their hopes and dreams were thwarted by the desires and needs of their family of origin.

I appreciated the candid look at the Osmonds in this documentary. However, Alan is not the only one with an ego. At the 36 minute point, Merrill brags about saving people from suicide by allowing them to pay him for a phone call during which he’s talked them out of ending their lives. In 2003, he charged $27.99. Now, he charges $50.

We kind of see the same “father centric” dynamic in the Duggar family, as Jim Bob Duggar is repeatedly described as “someone you don’t say ‘no’ to.” Personally, I think it’s kind of egotistical for people to have so many kids. What makes a person think the world needs so many people with their DNA running around? But I know people have their reasons for having so many kids. In the Duggars’ case, it’s that they believe God is “blessing” them and not that they’re just having sex at the right time of the month and farming their babies out for their older kids to raise. At least in the Osmonds’ case, it looks like Mother Osmond raised her children.

Anyway… I’ve got no qualms about stating that Alan Osmond and his brothers clearly have talent. And, as someone who comes from a musical family, I understand the joy of sharing that gift. I’m grateful to Alan for his military service, too. He did his part, which is more than a lot of people can say. However, I would be much more impressed with him if he showed some understanding of how fortunate he was not to have had to go into combat and potentially get injured or killed, or spend the rest of his life forever traumatized by war. I’d have more respect for him if he realized how lucky his family members are that he didn’t come home in a box or permanently changed by spending time in a war zone. And while I think Alan’s sons are also very talented performers, I think they would do well to realize that their dad has a long way to go before he reaches musical genius status. Hell, I think about Sting, who has also been called “conceited” by some… but I have seen Sting perform and watched him generously share the stage with others… and even remember students he had when he was a teacher.

I can’t imagine Alan sharing a post like this…

Phew… I feel better now. Father’s Day is always an emotional time of year for me for so many reasons.

Well, it’s time to walk the dogs and get on with the rest of the day. If you made it through this rant, thanks. And please do me a favor and don’t miss the point. It’s not that I don’t respect Alan Osmond’s military service. I just think he’s an egotistical jerk. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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Ex, family, healthcare, love, marriage, mental health

Adam and Darla’s bizarre love story…

You know that old song by Billy Joel? I know it well. It was a hit when I was a young child. The lyrics are timeless. The melody endures. Many of us would love to have a friend or a loved one who takes us just the way we are.

Billy wrote a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

But is it always best to love someone just the way they are? Are there times when it’s unwise or unhealthy to take someone just the way they are? Obviously, yes, there are. My husband tried to love his ex wife just the way she was until he realized he couldn’t anymore. His own life was at risk by accepting her “as/is”. So they got divorced and he’s much better off for it. I don’t know if she’s better off. It’s not my business, anyway.

This topic comes up this morning after I read an admittedly bizarre “love story” in The New York Times. Adam Barrows wrote an article entitled “I Wanted to Love Her, Not Save Her”. The tag line read, “The first time we spoke, she was so weak she had collapsed. Why did that not alarm me?” When someone uses the word “alarm” in a tag line, you can be sure high drama is about to ensue. I was hooked.

So I read Adam Barrows’ story about meeting his wife, Darla. They were both working at a chain bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota when Barrows came upon his future wife passed out on the floor. Although they had been co-workers, he had never really spoken to her. He just noticed that she was painfully thin.

As Darla’s vision came back, she explained to Adam that she suffered from anorexia nervosa and hadn’t eaten in several days. He asked her if he could get her something to eat. She said no, and asked him to just sit with her for a minute until her strength returned. Adam sat with her and they developed a friendship. As they got closer and eventually “fell in love”, Darla continued to starve herself. Adam did nothing to get her to change her behavior. He writes:

I didn’t try to help her with that. I’m not sure why. It’s as if I accepted her struggle as a given, as a fact of her. I was struggling myself after a recent heartbreak and was trying to teach myself how to do basic things again: to think for myself, to walk properly, to hold myself upright, to sleep and to breathe.

To see her struggle to force down solid food, to watch as she spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine that she would chew to a paste before it would go down (this was her only meal some days) seemed not natural, of course, but also somehow unremarkable to me. I watched her starve and held her while she did it.

Some people might call that enabling. I called it love.

After months of traveling around the United States together, they ended up getting married. They had a son who turned 18 last year and, at this writing, have been together for 23 years. Adam writes that Darla eventually got somewhat better. She ate more and, over the years, put on some weight. He writes that before the pandemic struck, she was actually considering going on a diet, but didn’t end up doing it. While many people have gained weight during the pandemic, Adam writes that he and Darla don’t go to the grocery store much and that has had a “slimming effect”. I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take him at his word that he and his wife are doing okay.

At the end of his essay, Barrows concludes:

Our married life has not been without conflicts. I have taken her for granted, put my needs ahead of hers, indulged my weaknesses. But I never have regretted the fact that I did the possibly irresponsible thing back then by not acting alarmed about her anorexia, by not pressuring her to do anything about it, and instead just loving her for who she was. She never wanted heroic intervention from me or from anyone else. She triumphed over her issues with food on her own terms and is happy for me to be sharing our story now.

I found this story kind of fascinating. I went to see what others thought of it. Most people seemed to conclude that Adam Barrows is some kind of an asshole. Here’s a screenshot of the first few comments. They are overwhelmingly negative.

Someone else wrote this rather scathing response:

Wow, less the confession of an enabler and more the confession of a narcissistic a-hole with a fetish for damaged, frail women. It’s so quaint to wax poetic about how deathly cold her hand was the time you found her after she fainted. It’s so sexy to talk about riding in the sleeper car with a starving person in desperate need of mental health intervention. You sound like a right tw*t.

I didn’t get that Adam Barrows is a “narcissistic a-hole” just based on this essay. It’s possible that he is one, but frankly, I kind of doubt it. Most narcissists I’ve known don’t have the ability to be introspective about their own faults. Adam openly admits that his wife had a problem. He also admits that he might have enabled her in her self-destructive habits by not insisting that she seek treatment. Some people would say he’s a bad person for not rushing her to a hospital or a rehab center.

On the other hand, there is some beauty in a person who simply accepts a person as they are. I didn’t read that Adam was encouraging Darla to be an anorexic. I read that he didn’t disapprove of her for who she was. He simply loved her. According to his story, she eventually got better. I don’t know how her improvement came to be. Was it entirely through the “kissing” treatment he writes of, or did she ever seek any kind of help? I don’t know… and I’m not sure if that’s the point of this story. It’s an article in the Modern Love section, which focuses on different kinds of love stories.

There are also people out there who consider eating disorders to be a “lifestyle”. I personally don’t agree with that viewpoint at all. But I’m just one person. As I’ve recently mentioned in other posts, there are a fuckload of eating disorders out there that never get any press. Who am I to say that one person’s eating disorder isn’t another person’s lifestyle. In fact, we don’t even know if Darla was ever diagnosed by a physician as having anorexia nervosa. We can only go by Adam’s description of her and her own declaration that she’s anorexic. When I was much younger, I used to go days without eating. I passed out a few times, too. No one would ever think of me as anorexic, even if I sometimes engaged in those behaviors.

I’m inclined to take this essay at face value. It wasn’t intended to be an in depth look at Darla’s eating disorder. It was a story about how Adam and Darla came to be in a relationship. I don’t think there’s enough information in this story to determine what kind of person Adam is. But that’s not stopping some people from judging him. One person wrote:

This is problematic in a variety of ways. The sentence about how Darla was actually considering a diet before the pandemic is particularly disturbing. This diet is apparently supposed to be proof that she triumphed over her anorexia, but it is not. Recovery is not about achieving a certain predetermined weight, it is about rediscovering comfort and joy in your body and the food that nourishes it. The author does not address this at all. He also minutely describes his wife’s eating patterns and ED rituals. The romanticization of theses behaviors is very triggering and could push ED survivors who read this article towards relapse. His wife’s battle with anorexia is ultimately just used as the backdrop for his coming of age story.

The only description Adam includes of his wife’s eating rituals is in a paragraph about how she would spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine cracker and chew it up until it became paste. He writes that some days, that was her only meal, adding “I watched her starve and held her while she did it.” I agree, that last sentence sounds awful on its surface. But looking a little bit deeper, I think it’s possible to see his perspective. It’s practically impossible to save people from themselves. It all comes down to deciding what you– yourself– can tolerate. It sounds to me like Adam accepts Darla as she is. And just based on his essay, I don’t get the sense that he necessarily encourages her to be anorexic. I think many people are making that assumption because he admits that he never tried to force her into treatment.

An argument could be made that a person who is extremely underweight and malnourished lacks perspective. But, unfortunately, when it comes to mental health care, a lot of Americans are shit out of luck. Mental health care is neither easy to afford nor easy to access, especially right now. Moreover, thanks to our civil rights laws, it’s pretty tough to force someone into treatment for an eating disorder. Even if someone is about to starve to death, our laws emphasize self-determination and the right to refuse care. It appears that Adam and Darla may be living in Canada now, as Adam is reportedly teaching in the English department at Carleton University in Ontario. I can’t comment on Canadian laws regarding the treatment of eating disorders or other mental health issues. He makes it sound like perhaps she no longer needs treatment, anyway. Does she need it, having apparently never received it? I honestly don’t know. All I know is what he’s written, and even that is pretty subjective.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that, in the vast majority of mental health situations that don’t involve some kind of biological issue, treatment works best when a person decides for themselves that they will cooperate. When it comes down to it, a person with an eating disorder needs to decide for themselves that they need help. They have to be motivated to get it. Perhaps if Adam had told Darla that he would be leaving her if she didn’t seek treatment, she might have found the motivation to get help. However, it’s my guess that she might have just as easily become resentful and angry about it. She may have seen him as trying to control and manipulate her. A lot of the angry women commenting on this piece would probably fault Adam for that, too. I think a lot of women blame men for most everything.

I told Bill about this piece and asked him what he thought. I know that if he were in this situation, he would have a really hard time watching. He would want to try to rescue. But he also tried to do that with his ex wife and he failed miserably. Eventually, it became too much for him to tolerate and, when she finally dramatically presented him with a divorce ultimatum, he took her up on it. Divorce was not what she had wanted. She was simply trying to be manipulative in a humiliating way. But he got tired of the bullshit and, ultimately, saved himself from her craziness by getting out of the marriage. He’s reaped the rewards and managed to stay alive, too.

Having recently watched a bunch of episodes of Snapped, and having witnessed my husband’s own dealings with a woman who is, frankly, very disturbed, I understand that this is a really tough situation to be in. Not knowing either of these people personally, I can’t judge if what Adam did was right, or if he’s a good person. A lot of people negatively judged Bill and me when I shared how Bill’s story eerily reminded me of an episode of Snapped I watched years ago. It was about a woman named Jessica McCord who, along with her second husband, murdered her first husband and his second wife over custody of their kids. I remember my blood running cold as I watched that episode. I dared to blog about how Jessica McCord reminded me of Ex. I ended up getting a shitstorm of negative armchair quarterback comments from people who wrongly characterized us as bad people. No… we aren’t bad people. We simply didn’t want to end up dead. And I believe Ex was capable of going that far. She threatened to kill Bill on more than one occasion.

Should Bill have tried to get his daughters away from his ex wife? Personally, I think so. In fact, I often encouraged him to try to do something about that situation, even though it wasn’t my decision to make. But, the fact of the matter is, we didn’t have the money or the time to wage a legal battle. It would have been very difficult to convince a judge to grant custody to Bill, especially since the girls didn’t indicate to us that they were unhappy with their living situation. It would have been great if he could have tried to get more equitable custody, but we live in reality. The reality is, it probably wouldn’t have worked. At this point, I’m simply glad he survived, and I don’t apologize for his decision to save himself. His daughters are grown now, and one of them has apparently forgiven him after confirming that her mother is mentally ill. The other remains estranged, but she’s almost 30 years old. She can reach out if she wants to. She chooses not to. As an adult, she has the right to make that choice for herself. Bill loves her anyway.

That’s kind of what I got from Adam’s piece. He loves his wife the way she is. Is it a good thing that he doesn’t press her to get treatment for her eating disorder? I know what most people would think. For me, it’s not so cut and dried. There’s something to be said for a person who loves someone regardless. And despite some people’s potentially erroneous assumptions that Adam prefers his wife “sick”, I get the impression that he had simply determined that he couldn’t be her savior. Moreover, it wasn’t Adam’s role to try to be Darla’s savior, simply because that’s what society deems is correct. What I got from Adam’s story is that he and Darla love each other and, against the odds, their love has survived… and so has his wife. I wish them well.

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