Duggars, Reality TV

Appearances can be deceiving…

I hope you’ll indulge me one more Duggar related posting. It comes on the heels of yesterday’s post about young Spurgeon Seewald, whom many people in the Duggar Family News Facebook group think is “doomed” to live his whole life as a fundie Christian doormat for his grandfather, Jim Bob Duggar, not so affectionately known as “Boob” in some circles.

Today’s post is going in the opposite generational direction. I want to discuss Boob’s late father, Jimmy Lee (JL) Duggar. I’m going to refer to him as JL in this post, because that’s what Grandma Duggar called him.

As I was talking to Bill about four year old Spurgeon Seewald, and the people who think his future is “doomed” to fundie drudgery, I wondered out loud how this whole dynamic came to be in the first place. Jim Bob Duggar, after all, was raised in a God fearing Baptist church, but his mom only had two kids– Boob, and his sister, Deanna. Deanna had only one child, Amy, who is not at all like her fundie Christian cousins. And Boob and Deanna went to school; they weren’t homeschooled.

Jim Bob had a somewhat “normal” upbringing. What happened in Boob’s life to turn him into the narcissistic cretin he is today?

Suddenly, I remembered Boob’s father, JL, who died of brain cancer in February 2009. JL was featured on the original Duggar show just before he passed away. My memories are a little bit fuzzy, but a Reddit post explains that he was on the show for his birthday, which was February 3, 2009. He passed away on February 9, 2009. In other words– six days before this man’s death of brain cancer, he was trotted out for the cameras and a “birthday” celebration. He appears in the episode “Duggars on Ice” lying in bed, obviously very close to death, as well as another called “The Big Thaw”, in which the Duggars celebrate his birthday six days before he died. Two episodes later, his death was covered in an episode called “Duggars Say Goodbye”.

This is the clip in which the banana cake was served… It was filmed six days before Grandpa passed away.

I remember seeing that episode and thinking it was in incredibly poor taste. And I write this knowing that I’m not exactly known for being tasteful and classy myself. The Reddit author agrees that the way JL Duggar was treated before his death was pretty shitty. Here’s a screen shot of the post.

Here was JL Duggar, obviously very sick and frail. His son, Boob, apparently didn’t think very much of his father, who only had two kids instead of 19. JL was known as “fun loving”, and perhaps wasn’t a particularly strong church leader or patriarch. I wonder if someone in the church Boob went to made comments about JL that caused shame to Boob. Perhaps someone Boob admired disparaged his father to the point at which Boob was just fine in showing him off for the cameras, just days before his death. It kind of felt a bit like a “fuck you”, even though it was not really scripted that way. It was like, “Look, even though you weren’t a ‘godly’ father and I’m kind of ashamed of you, I’m going to show everyone– and I mean EVERYONE– how amazing a son I am by filming your exit from Earth for my reality show.”

Edited to add– I actually have the episode about JL’s death in my iTunes library. Gonna watch it now to refresh my memory.

I see Boob is picking out a casket for his father, saying that JL didn’t want anything “expensive” and would be fine in a pine box. Indeed… these were the years when the Duggars were constantly preaching about being thrifty. Buy used and save the difference… and there’s a scene involving food brought by neighbors, and a close up scene showing one of the youngest Duggar daughters picking her nose.

Charming screenshot of some kid! In another clip, a woman says, “I’d better not see this on TV.” So much for that!

I remember on one episode, which aired just before JL’s death, Jana made him some kind of banana dessert. JL was rolled out in an office chair, rather than a proper wheelchair. I highly doubt JL could enjoy the sweet confection made by his granddaughter, but it looked “good” on camera. I can’t find that clip anymore, and now I wonder if iTunes scrubs scenes, because I distinctly remember other clips that were controversial and somehow “disappeared” (ETA: I later found the clip, which is posted above, on Daily Motion). I also notice that at least one episode on iTunes is two minutes shorter than others from that season. Here are a few more comments from Reddit about JL’s last days…

As I was remembering this scene, I remembered my own father’s last days. I didn’t enjoy a harmonious relationship with my dad. I did, and still do, love him very much, but we had a lot of conflict in our relationship. I remember seeing him for the last time, and how heartbreaking it was. He was in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines. I remember hoping that his passing would be quick and dignified, and blessedly, it was.

A few days prior to my last visit with my dad, one of my sisters chose to send me a photograph of my father on his death bed. He was covered in an enormous CPAP mask and hooked up to machines and tubes. I remember being outraged that she sent the picture of him like that. I feel very sure that our mother would not have approved of it, and it was just a very manipulative, underhanded, disrespectful thing to do. Not only was it disrespectful to me, since I certainly didn’t need to see our dad on his death bed to know that it was time to come to Virginia and say goodbye, but it was also very disrespectful to HIM. I feel sure he would not have wanted anyone to take a picture of him in that shape and then send it in an email, where it could wind up in anyone’s possession. But my sister evidently felt that I “needed” a visual to drive home how serious the situation was. It really pissed me off (ETA: but mentioning this now doesn’t mean I’m STILL pissed off).

When that happened, I was very tempted to tell off my sister. But then I realized that if I told her off, it would make an already stressful situation much worse than it needed to be. So instead of telling her how I really felt at the time, I sent her a response that said something along the lines of, “Thank you for the update.” Then I wrote a scathing blog post, which I later deleted, because again– I didn’t want to create trouble, even though I felt justifiably pissed at the obvious emotional blackmail and completely unnecessary manipulative tactics she was, once again, employing. It was, yet again, another instance of someone being inconsiderate and disrespectful to me, while expecting me to accept that treatment without complaint. There must be something in my personality that makes people think this is alright to do. Then, when I stand up for myself, they treat me as if I’m the asshole.

And yet… as tacky, disrespectful, and distasteful as my sister’s choice to send me that picture of our dad on his death bed was, it was not nearly as awful as the undignified way JL Duggar was treated as his own death approached. I only hope he was even less conscious than he appeared to be in those last scenes of his life. Despite all the comments about how “wonderful” Grandpa was, in the end, it was all about the ratings and the money. And now, it seems like it’s all about maintaining control… as the Duggar children have all inevitably gotten much older and are wanting to live their own lives. We’re seeing that much of what was said in the early years of the Duggars on television was a lot of scripted lines. But then, that’s how it is in most families in which there is a narcissist at the helm. Everyone is trained to say and do the right things, or there will be hell to pay.

I know there are people out there– people within my family, former friends, former landlords, former employers and roommates and others– who don’t think highly of me. Many of them don’t like that I speak my mind– or “write my mind”, as it were. They would prefer that I didn’t remember, speak, or write about these things, because they are unpleasant and cast them in a bad light. I don’t go looking for information about what people think of me. I mostly assume that what people think of me is not my business, and looking for that information will only cause me pain. Moreover, I know that there are a lot of really great people in my life who can accept and love me for who I am and don’t expect a well-scripted “show”.

I guess the whole Duggar funeral dog and pony show kind of affected me on that level because it really felt so much like a big fake “show”. And while there’s no way I can know what kind of relationship JL and Jim Bob Duggar really had, what was presented on television did not feel very authentic. It reminded me of some of my own relationships, and how I’ve always been pressured to be someone I’m not for the sake of keeping up appearances.

It’s interesting how a discussion about four year old Spurgeon Seewald could lead me to think about JimBob Duggar’s late father, and then my own father. I still have a lot of baggage to unpack, I guess. It’s a wonder I have any friends, let alone an understanding husband. 🙂

Standard
Ex

Using my words…

Sorry… I wish I had a really lighthearted and less rambling topic for today. On the positive side, I am almost finished reading my latest book and the review will likely be positive. I might even get to it today. In fact, I’m certain I will. It’s dark and rainy outside and I doubt I’ll be arsed to do much more than read and continue binge watching Under Arrest on Netflix.

Last night, as I was sitting there watching the Canadian cop show, it occurred to me that for most of March, I’ll be here by myself. I’ve done this before, of course. My husband went to Iraq for six months back in 2007. But when he deployed, I lived on an Army post and had local friends. I knew my surroundings very well and could even go home to see my parents or other relatives if I wanted to. I never did do that, except in July 2007 when my Granny died.

Yes… this song is originally by Eric Carmen, not Celine Dion… with a nod to Rachmaninoff. Kudos to Eric for not lip syncing here. It’s rather obvious. Hmm… maybe today will be a music day.

Here in Wiesbaden, I don’t know anyone, and I’m still learning my way around because I don’t like driving in Germany. I mean, I can definitely do it. I drove my Mini from Stuttgart with no problem. I just don’t enjoy it if I don’t have somewhere specific to go and/or someone to go with. I’m not sure what happened to me. When I was a social worker, I had to drive all the time and I got to know rural South Carolina pretty well without a GPS or a cell phone. But here, I have to deal with narrow streets, limited paid parking, and obnoxious Staus. Then, once I park and pay, I have to deal with my terrible German skills. Of course I know the solution is to get out more, but it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm for that, especially when the weather sucks.

In Stuttgart, I knew where things were and how to get around. I did drive sometimes, but not very often. We lived in an area where getting my basic needs met wasn’t a problem, but Bill was also never gone for as long as he will be this time. Getting my needs met is not really a problem here, either. I can walk to the grocery store and the bakery. There’s even a small restaurant within stumbling distance of our house. There’s always Amazon.de, too. And if I really needed to, I could drive my car. I wish I wanted to.

So anyway… it’s now March 10th, and Bill will be gone until March 26th. The whole month is stretched ahead of me. I lost the momentum of my old blog, which still gets visitors every day and even the odd message. Now I have this new blog that I’m slowly introducing. It’s hard work launching a new blog, especially when the old spot was well-established. This is overall a nicer place to write, but it’s not quite broken in yet.

I’ll be honest. I was feeling kind of down about writing as recently as yesterday, wondering why I continue to do it when it causes so much drama and grief. Then I noticed I was getting a lot of hits on a post I wrote on my travel blog back in May 2018. A pizzeria in the German city of Ludwigsburg found a glowing review I wrote of their restaurant and shared it on their Facebook page. Then, very early this morning, my dogs woke me up and I checked Facebook. Yesterday’s post didn’t get any visitors at all, because I didn’t share it. But a friend read my post about Bill’s next grandchild and said she loved it. She described my writing as “refreshing” and “poignant”. Well… that got me in the feels, even if I realize my writing is definitely not always refreshing. Sometimes, I am a true wet blanket… and I overshare, especially when I’m angry, anxious, or depressed.

I read a blog post on a different site yesterday advising bloggers that they shouldn’t write when they’re angry. I can’t say I agree with that viewpoint. I think it depends on what your goal is. If you’re writing a blog for business purposes, then yes, I think it’s best to write when you’re not pissed off. But if you write for your own purposes– to share yourself and your thoughts, then I think writing when you’re angry can be an interesting thing to do, as long as you’re not committing libel or writing hate speech. It beats slashing tires, getting in fights, and driving drunk, right?

I need to write. I realize not everything I write is fun or interesting to read. Sometimes I do write some good stuff that gets people excited. I have many posts on my old blog that people come back to again and again. Some of those posts are positive or funny. A few posts got people upset, but generated good discussion. I’m pretty proud of those posts. The trouble is, sometimes people expect the same qualities every day. They don’t seem to understand that my writing is affected by my mood, and these posts are always off the cuff. That’s what a blog is for. It’s not a book or something that gets edited umpteen times before it’s published.

They’ll read something I’ve written when I’m angry or sad about something and stop “liking” me, or leave me a nasty comment. For instance, I think the mess with the former tenant was very telling in many ways. You see, I wrote many posts on my old blog– over 3200, I think. Most of them had nothing to do with the ex landlady or my husband’s ex wife. My old blog had posts about true crime, books, living in Germany and other places, and even old stories from my childhood or early marriage. Some posts were about nothing. Those posts were obviously not interesting to her. In fact, I doubt she read them. She focused on my venting posts and, apparently, came to the conclusion that I’m “unhinged”. Then she sent me a private message to complain, after having seen how I deal with people who complain about the contents of my blog. Here’s a big hint. Complaining about my blog is a waste of time. If you don’t enjoy it, just move on.

Same thing goes for “Wondering Why”, who complained about how “bitter”, “petty”, and “negative” I am. She read for a much shorter period of time and happened to catch a couple of posts I wrote about my husband’s former wife. They were prompted by conversations my husband had with his younger daughter, who was revealing some heavy and disturbing stuff, which was shared with me. “Wondering Why”, who clearly didn’t know the convoluted backstory, left me a chastising comment about my bad attitude and “negativity”, as well as “advice” on what and how I should write.

I usually respond to people like “Wondering Why” with an open letter and, in fact, that is what I did. I’m sure “former tenant” was also expecting an open letter when she wrote to me. In former tenant’s case, I determined that trying to explain or even just responding would not work. She had clearly taken a side and come to a conclusion about me. Also, I know that she’s very concerned about her privacy, so if I called her out on my blog, even though it really didn’t get that much traffic, she would probably not react well, and the drama would continue. So I did something that I think was ultimately a most “healthy” thing to do. I removed her from my audience.

It occurs to me that both of these readers probably meant well. They both reacted in very typical ways people act when they encounter someone whose opinions make them uncomfortable. How many times have we encountered someone who is upset and suggested that they, “Calm down!” Let me ask you this. Does it usually work when you suggest that someone should “calm down” when they’re emotional? Does it usually help when you advise them to “let it go”? It seems like the obvious thing to say, but in my experience, it usually pisses the upset person off even more. Even if that is ultimately the pathway to peace, they may not be ready to take that step.

Both “Wondering Why” and “former tenant” criticized me for airing my thoughts on my blog. I thought having a place to air my thoughts was the whole purpose of writing a personal blog. “Wondering Why” went as far as to tell me that I don’t need to share everything I’m thinking (duh). I’m guessing that she was herself someone’s first wife and my comments hit too close to home. She probably assumes my husband’s ex wife is a normal person. The fact is, she’s not. If she were, I certainly wouldn’t be writing about her. I wouldn’t need to. Normal people don’t unilaterally refuse to let the fathers of their children have relationships with their kids. It might be one thing if she only did it to one man, but she’s done it to two, and we have it on good authority that she treats number three pretty badly, too. Aside from that, since Ex falsely decided she was “done” having children, I didn’t even get to have children of my own. While I understand that I might not have had them anyway, it does feel like that choice was “taken” from me. Life isn’t fair… I get it. It still sucks. Mind if I vent about it on my personal blog?

It upsets me that my husband is only now rebuilding his relationship with his 25 year old daughter, when they should have had access to each other all along. It saddens me that when he sees her in person, it will have been about fifteen years since they last saw each other. But all I’m doing is writing about it. What’s wrong with that? This blog isn’t about anyone’s situation but mine!

I can’t explain the situation with the former tenant. She clearly has a good relationship with the ex landlady. I don’t know enough about her to know for certain why she has a good relationship and I don’t, although what I do know is that she’s much younger than I am, has young children, and is very attractive. When she lived in Germany, she had a job, which got her out of the house. That meant ex landlady could come over and check things out to her compulsive heart’s content without causing upset. Ex tenant didn’t stay as long as we did, and she befriended ex landlady’s daughter. By contrast, I never even met ex landlady’s daughter, don’t have kids ex landlady can play Oma to, and, perhaps most importantly, didn’t try to buddy up with the landlady. It’s not necessarily because I didn’t want to be friends. It’s more because we just didn’t click.

I also get the sense that maybe former tenant is very concerned about what people will think, whereas I am mostly less concerned about that. I think people who are overly concerned with image tend to be less authentic because they’re always concealing things. It might be because I’m a lot older than she is, or it may be because I have a very different personality. In any case, she seems to have come away with the idea that I’m the sole source of the whole problem. I will accept responsibility for being part of the problem, but I won’t take all the blame.

I don’t have girlfriends to gossip with, so I will write about this stuff. No one has to read it. She should have stopped reading it before complaining about my content. The first couple of times she complained, I edited for her. This last time, she forced me to take action. It felt like she was trying to censor me in my own space. I also really resented her condescending tone toward me. It was clear to me that she doesn’t take what I do seriously. She’s not the first person who hasn’t taken me seriously, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to continue to entertain that kind of disrespect on my space.

Now… if this makes me “unhinged”, “unhealthy”, “bitter”, “petty”, “angry”, “mean-spirited”, “bitchy”, “obsessive”, “snarky”, “condescending”, or “sarcastic” (all adjectives people have used to describe my persona on my former blog), alright… I can even own some of those adjectives. However, I’m also a basically nice person with interests, talents, and even a couple of loved ones. When I complain about people like Ex or former landlady, I do so with cause. I think most people would be upset if their spouse was denied access to children from another marriage. Most people would be angry if their former landlord withheld three quarters of their security deposit to upgrade their property, rather than to pay for actual damages. Like I said… better to vent about it than slash tires.

I am far away from my family and friends, and my culture… and I often feel like a lot of those people aren’t really in my life anymore and never will be again. I spend a whole lot of time alone, while, at the same time, not wanting to engage with anyone because so many of them end up not “clicking”. It takes a toll on my mood. Writing is one way I sort things out for myself. It’s basically a healthy thing to do, too, especially since it doesn’t involve drugs or violence. If my writing doesn’t do it for other people, I wish they’d simply move on, rather than try to dictate to me what my subject matter should be. I’m sure former tenant felt compelled to stick up for her friend. I can understand and respect that. But she had no right to act like a “minder”, imply that I’ve got “issues”, and try to censor my writing.

I realize that ultimately, moving the blog is probably for the best, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in mourning somewhat. This mourning comes at a time that would have already been difficult. I’ll get through it, but truthfully, being here sucks sometimes. It would suck much worse in other places, I know… but acknowledging that doesn’t change the situation much. I’m still going to be here all by myself for the next 16 days… two down already. See? I’m already looking on the bright side.

Standard