Ex, LDS, narcissists, relationships

Carrots and sticks– Ex giveth, and she taketh away…

Today, I’m thinking about how it’s common for narcissists to give and take things away, especially when they are in an intimate relationship with someone. The old “carrot on a stick” is a common technique narcissists use to keep people in line. They make promises, and even provide things, in exchange for power and control. And then, once they get what they want, they take away what they gave. Or, they take away what they gave as soon as their victims assert themselves or don’t do what they’re ordered to do. Narcissists are extremely selfish people who want to appear respectable, so they will put up a facade that makes them look decent. Underneath it, though, there are a lot of people who suffer. Pity the children and spouse of a narcissist; they can never please them and are constantly trying to survive the ups and downs of life with a narcissist. All of the scrambling that comes with that life, ultimately leads to people who are just trying to keep their heads above water, let alone focusing on their wants and needs for their own lives.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Ex. In fact, it seems like I write more about her now than I ever did. Why would I do such a thing, especially since she hasn’t been Bill’s wife since 2000? It’s because I’ve been coming to some conclusions. Maybe it’s hard for people to understand this, but it’s been quite strange to be a witness to my husband’s relationship with his two children, especially since, given the chance, Bill would have been a loving, involved, and devoted father to them. But, when he and his ex wife divorced, he was denied that chance, and he didn’t have the financial resources to fight in court with her. So, for that reason, he and younger daughter– the one who will speak to him– are having to get reacquainted from afar. Thankfully, technology makes that possible.

Bill and his daughter were physically kept apart for about fifteen years. They had no contact at all until late 2016 or so. They have only seen each other in person on one occasion, since Christmas 2004. Their last meeting was in March 2020, just before COVID shut down the world. They regularly Skype and send videos to each other. I’ve been watching them get to know each other again, hearing the stories of what life was like for younger daughter, growing up with no contact with her natural father. I often get really pissed off when I see the damage that was done, especially since #3 was obviously not a good replacement for Bill in his daughters’ lives. We also know that #3 treats his kids– probably his daughter, specifically– differently than he does Bill’s girls. He calls them his “daughters”, but obviously he doesn’t see them in the same way that he does his natural daughter with Ex (who has five children by three husbands).

Yesterday, Bill watched a video his younger daughter sent him. In the video, which she paused at least three times, due to having to tend to her very young children, she talked about a number of things and asked questions. She wanted to know what Bill’s favorite country was. Younger daughter has never had the chance to go abroad, at least not beyond Canada and Mexico. She’s always been a curious person. I remember when I met her in 2003, she told me she wanted to be a LDS missionary in Russia. Bill sent her language CDs for Christmas to encourage her. Naturally, Ex took them away, along with any pictures or other reminders of Bill.

Younger daughter is about to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary. She has three children, all of whom are under five years old. She’s also a devout Mormon, having been brought to the church by Ex, who tried to use it as a means of controlling Bill and ostracizing him from his kids. The LDS church keeps its members very busy. I listened to younger daughter speak as she was making dinner for her family. I heard her kids squealing in the background. Then, the baby, who was born in late May, began to cry. As she tended to the baby, younger daughter talked about a musical performance she had been asked to do for church.

As a musical person myself, I realized it would be hard to prepare a song for church with everything younger daughter has going on. She said it would be a solo, and she doesn’t like to sing solos, because she gets really nervous and her voice cracks. Younger daughter never had the benefit of lessons. At one point, Ex had let her take piano lessons, but then she stopped them. Younger daughter learned more about piano from YouTube videos, but isn’t as trained as she would have been if she’d been allowed to keep taking lessons from an in person teacher. But that’s how Ex rolls. She gives… and then she takes away.

She said, “I don’t think I can sing as well as Jenny (that’s me) does.”

I told Bill, “There are some techniques she could learn that would help her with nervousness and the cracking voice. I could have taught her a few tricks myself.” But, like Bill, I was denied access to Bill’s daughters. Their mother saw me as too much of a threat. I guess, some might see that as a natural thing, given that I write so many negative posts about her. But, I wasn’t doing that when the kids were minors. I had respect for Ex’s role as their mom, even if I found her behavior reprehensible. Back then, I also didn’t know the extent of the abuse she perpetrated against Bill and their children.

Now that younger daughter is a grown, married woman, with children of her own, I can’t help but reflect. She is very bright, courageous, assertive, and naturally resourceful. I wonder what her life would have been like if she hadn’t been raised the way she was. I feel pretty certain that she would have earned a college degree or two. She would have been able to travel… to develop skills and talents beyond homemaking. She could have had someone teach her how to sing properly, and become proficient at playing piano, or any other area of study she wanted to explore. I also strongly doubt she would be LDS.

It’s not a secret to my regular readers that I don’t like the LDS church. However, since Bill and I have become reacquainted with younger daughter, my “anti-Mormon” views have softened somewhat, mainly because I’ve seen that younger daughter was able to escape her mother because of people in the church. I have always known there were good people in the church. It’s the institution itself, and many of its practices, that I don’t like. In the church, there is a popular saying “The gospel (or church) is perfect; the people aren’t.” My view is that the LDS church is, by no means, “perfect”.

There are a lot of problems with the LDS doctrine, as far as I’m concerned. I think it holds some people back from what they could achieve in life, mainly because they’re expected to give so much time and money to the organization. And yet, just like the Army gave Bill an escape, the church gave younger daughter an escape. So I can’t blame her for loving the church… but I also think there will come a day, maybe years from now, when her children are older and less needy, that she will realize all of the things she could have done as a young woman. Which isn’t to say that LDS women can’t or don’t do those things. But they usually have the benefit of supportive, loving, and non abusive parents to help them. Younger daughter, regrettably, didn’t have that. So now, she’s 28 years old, with no college degree, three very young children, and expectations to serve the church.

Not all is lost, though. Because she was able to escape Ex’s mini cult, she’s been able to reacquaint with Bill and his mom. Access to both were denied to Bill’s daughters when they were growing up. Older daughter, at age 31, still lives with Ex. According to Ex, they are a “single paycheck” household, which is earned by #3, who works in a field for which he is probably poorly suited. Older daughter, who is a talented artist with a college degree, is basically raising her “severely autistic” brother, who is going to be 16 this year. Ex, on the other hand, recently tweeted this:

Ex is praising this lady on Twitter, who apparently has a remarkably insightful seven year old child… (and my guess is that he didn’t actually say what she claims he said, but who knows?). She brags about her five children and “grandbabies”, and calls herself “nearly an expert”. But I happen to know that Bill did most of the hard work when his daughters were babies and toddlers. As they got older and he was devalued and discarded, their care was taken over by ex stepson. And then, when Ex had two more babies, Bill’s daughters basically took care of them, and did all of the housework. It still goes on today, as Ex’s youngest gets closer to physical adulthood. I recently looked at open posts on older daughter’s Facebook, where, in 2021. she had publicly posted a loving comment about her brother, to whom she’s obviously the “mommy”. She clearly inherited Bill’s kind heart, even though she can’t seem to extend it to Bill.

Steve, Joe, and Blue have brought so much light, love, and laughter to my family for many years.

Blue’s Clues brought me closer to my little brother.

We would watch Blue’s Clues every day, while drawing the many clues that filled the Handy Dandy Notebook. At first he would watch me draw each clue (over and over) until he memorized every one. If I messed up, he would take the paper away, show me the correct way to draw it, and then hand me a clean sheet of paper to draw the clue(s) again.

He’s 14 years old and has severe autism. He knows every clue (in order) by heart.

This afternoon, he drew three clues on our driveway; naming each one from the episode with the Treasure Hunt and Steve’s Grandma.

Blues Clues will forever hold a very special place in our hearts.

#bluesclues 25th Anniversary

I look at older daughter’s photos, and I can see that she looks a lot like Bill’s mother, a woman she barely knows exists. When she was about eleven or twelve, I spoke to her on the phone, and thought she sounded just like Bill’s mom. Bill’s mom could have given her so much… but her mother had to take that away from her. She was too selfish to let her have access to her loving father, and his side of the family. She’s too selfish to let her live her own life.

Sometimes I get angry with older daughter… but then I realize that being totally estranged from Bill is probably the only way she can stand to be in the situation she’s in. Because if she knew what she was missing now, and what she has missed for years, it would probably really hurt a lot. It might be unbearable. So I suppose she sticks with what she knows, because ignorance is bliss.

Which brings me to #3. This morning, I thought about what he’s doing for money. He works as a certified nursing assistant. I know that wasn’t what he had planned for his life. But life with Ex doesn’t allow for pursuing one’s own passions. Somebody has to bring home the money, and I know from Bill’s stories, the breadwinner is expected to give all for the family… or really, for Ex. It’s up to Ex to spend the money, you see. And we’ve seen what she spends it on… crappy boxes from Scotland, autographed books, and trinkets. Then she pressures other people in the family to give her things in their wills.

When Bill was married to Ex, he was an active duty Army officer. But then she pressured him to leave active duty, because he wasn’t doing well as an officer. It’s hard to do well as an officer when you have kids, and your wife sabotages you by going out alone, leaving you with the kids, and not coming back home in time for you to get to work on time. It tends to have a bad effect on one’s job evaluations. Never mind all of the hurtful comments she made, tearing down his self-esteem. The 1990s was a time when poorly performing officers were encouraged to leave the service, so Bill got off active duty, joined the National Guard and they moved to… ARKANSAS.

Here was a man who has a degree in International Relations from American University. He’s intelligent, kind, well read, and eager to work. He joined the Army, not just for the financial assistance, but because he had a desire to serve, and be part of something bigger than he is. But in the mid 90s, he found himself in po dunk Arkansas, working swing or third shift in a toy factory, where he made about $23,000 per year, with which he was expected to support seven people (Ex, himself, three kids, and Ex’s sister and daughter, who had moved in). He later got a better job at the Whirlpool factory, supervising guys making refrigerator doors all day. That paid about $40,000, which was better money obviously, but the job was pretty soul sucking and boring for a man who had studied International Relations at a good school. He was simply doing what he could to bring in money. I remember seeing his ID from Whirlpool. He looked about 20 years older in his photo than he was at the time. I would say that at his age now, he still looks younger than he did in that photo, taken when he was in his early 30s.

Ex promptly bought a house in poor condition, which she said reminded her of one she’d seen in a snow globe. Severe financial problems ensued, and Ex then decided to become a Mormon, where people are expected to pay 10% of their income, while they allow other people to dictate what kind of underwear they put on every day.

When I met Bill, he had just gone back on active duty, having figured out that he couldn’t continue living that life. But he was fresh from bankruptcy and foreclosure. He supported himself on $600 per month. Meanwhile, Ex was working on victim #3, whom she moved into that house Bill was paying for. She replaced Bill with #3. And #3 now works in a field in which he’s probably not particularly passionate, doing it for the money, not the joy of taking care of people. It’s an important job, but probably one for which he is wholly unsuitable. I mean, he did, years ago, reportedly kick the eye out of Ex’s father’s little poodle. Should he really be tending to the sick? I dunno.

If you read my blog, you know that Bill and I have a good lifestyle now. It took awhile to get where we are, but working together, we have managed to accomplish things he never could have done with Ex. We have minimal debt. Bill now has a well paid, challenging job, in a safe, interesting, and pleasant country. He’s earned two master’s degrees, and I’ve paid off the debts for my two master’s degrees. We travel, stay in beautiful hotels, drive nice cars, and don’t worry about supporting ourselves in this manner. I have no doubt that if Bill had had those girls with me, we would still be living like this, and they would be living life on their own terms. Younger daughter would have had music lessons, or access to whatever else interested her as a child. Older daughter would be making art instead of taking care of her brother. Both of them would have seen Europe, and even lived here for awhile.

As sad as this is, it’s not as sad as it could be. At least younger daughter has broken free. But I think that as her kids get older, and she has more time to think about things, she might get angry. Because she got a very raw deal. It was unfair. I wish we had done more about it during their childhoods, when it was happening, even as I know that she and her sister aren’t my kids. There was very little that I could do, personally… but still, it’s like I have a sense of survivor’s guilt. I had access to their dad, who is clearly the better, more adjusted, more qualified parent. I’m not sorry we’re together, because I know he’s happier with me, than without me. I just find it heartbreaking that he’s such a good man, and he got tangled up with Ex. At least he escaped, though, and was able to reclaim his life. #3, I fear, is probably not going to be as lucky. And if older daughter doesn’t wake up, she’s going to miss out on a lot… even more than she already has.

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ethics, Ex, family, healthcare, lessons learned, love, marriage

Moms really should be ready for the challenge…

Yesterday evening, I read a heartbreaking article in the Washington Post written by a retired pathologist from New Hampshire named Thomas Gross. The doctor wrote about having to perform an autopsy on a tiny four month old baby girl. It was his first time doing an autopsy on a baby, and the job was breaking his heart. But because the baby had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, the procedure had to be done. So Dr. Gross began to explore the baby’s organs.

Dr. Gross described the ghastly condition of the baby’s pancreas, which was swollen to twice its normal size and covered with huge, angry looking, blood filled blisters. Her pancreas was abnormally rigid. The baby had previously been healthy. She’d started smiling and laughing spontaneously, and was even sleeping through the night. But then she suddenly got very sick, and spent her last hours vomiting, screaming, and crying inconsolably, in obvious pain. Dr. Gross soon had the answer as to why the baby was so sick. He discovered that the disease that had killed the four month old girl was pancreatitis. According to Dr. Gross’s editorial:

The condition was caused by a bacterium known as Haemophilus, type B (HiB), once a common threat to children. The epidemic stopped abruptly after 1985, when two American physicians patented an immunization for HiB. By 1987, the HiB vaccine was approved for use in all age groups. Cases of Haemophilus infection in children in the United States dropped precipitously in just a few years from more than 20,000 cases before the vaccine to just 29 cases in 2006. Deaths now occur almost exclusively among unvaccinated children.

The baby’s parents, no doubt loving and well-meaning, had chosen not to vaccinate their baby. They probably had never heard of Haemophilus, and it never occurred to them that she would get so sick that she would die. The girl’s parents probably weren’t around when babies routinely got sick and died of preventable infectious diseases like measles and polio. Besides, nowadays, everybody’s got the Internet, daytime TV, and social media to inform them, so they don’t always want to listen to what actual doctors recommend. Dr. Gross writes:

Many parents are too young to remember when young children died from measles, polio, smallpox, strep throat and influenza. They don’t remember when there was nothing that anyone could do about it except sit and watch. When the polio vaccine first appeared, mothers dragged their children to the public health clinic and stood in lines around the block to get them immunized. Before the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, pregnant women infected with rubella would invariably deliver horribly disabled and disfigured babies. Many children still die from measles; they are almost exclusively unvaccinated.

I could feel the palpable sadness this now retired physician still felt for the tiny patient whose memory still haunts him. Then I looked at the comment section on Facebook. At that point, there were only a few posted. One of the very first comments came from a guy named Chris who posted something along the lines of, “A lot of the people posting ‘sad’ reactions would have applauded the mother’s choice if she had terminated the pregnancy.”

It pisses me off when people– especially MEN– feel the need to conflate the abortion issue with every other issue even slightly regarding the welfare of babies. Chris wasn’t the only one who brought up abortion, either. So, although I know I shouldn’t have done it, I decided to respond. I wrote something along the lines of this:

A lot of “anti-choice” types are also against vaccines. If this baby’s loving parents had vaccinated her, she’d probably still be alive.

I noticed that Chris immediately responded to me. Another man gave me a “laughing” reaction. I decided to ignore them, because I didn’t want to get into a pissing match with them on such a pleasant June evening. I knew I’d be tempted to rip into him– in a much less delicate way– than the pathologist cut into the baby about whom he wrote his heartfelt editorial. Guys like Chris make me angry. They lack compassion, and they don’t see how sometimes terminating a pregnancy is actually the kindest thing a person can do. Aside from that, the story had NOTHING to do with abortion. It had to do with making wise and informed decisions for one’s offspring. In this tragic case, the baby’s parents, who obviously loved their infant daughter and hadn’t wanted to abort her, inexplicably chose not to vaccinate her. The unfortunate decision these parents made, on their daughter’s behalf, caused the girl to suffer needlessly. Ultimately, their baby paid with her life.

Being a parent is a huge responsibility. This baby’s parents no doubt wanted to embrace the challenge, yet they made a huge, fatal mistake that cost them dearly. This story, like so many others I’ve read, only underscores how very important it is to be ready for the job of parenting. Ideally, that job starts before an infant is even born. Prenatal care is so important, but we live in a country where access to healthcare is difficult and expensive. So many people focus on forcing others to gestate, but they don’t pay attention to whether or not the pregnant person is up to the challenge, and they don’t want to see to it that moms are ready for the awesome responsibility of raising children… or if they even want the job.

Of course, sometimes shit happens. I don’t want to dump on the parents in this sad story, because even years later, they probably still feel absolutely horrible about what happened. And they probably thought they were doing right by their baby, even though the whole sketchy “autism connection to vaccines” has been debunked for a very long time now. Dr. Gross wrote:

In 1998, the highly respected British medical journal the Lancet published a study suggesting an association between immunizations and autism. The author did not show immunizations cause autism. He merely pointed out that, in 12 cases of autism, all 12 autistic patients also received vaccines against measles. Incidentally, so did a hundred million other kids who had not become autistic.

The Lancet later admitted that the paper’s authors failed to disclose financial interests. The lead author was publicly discredited. The Royal Academy of Surgeons rescinded his license to practice medicine. The Lancet withdrew the article from publication.

But the damage was done. The loving parents of the baby on my table, well-educated and well-meaning, had chosen not to immunize her. Had they succumbed to the Internet hype that immunizations cause autism? Had they ever heard of Haemophilus?

Maybe the parents just didn’t know. The baby was just four months old. Timely vaccination might have just slipped their minds. Maybe they were planning to get her vaccinated at a later date. Who knows? What we do understand is that the baby developed a likely preventable life threatening disease that ultimately killed her in a painful way. If she’d been vaccinated, maybe things wouldn’t have turned out this way.

Continuing on this same theme, this morning I read another “Am I the Asshole” column. It was written by an older woman who came of age at a time when most women were expected to be wives and mothers. The letter writer explains that she wasn’t much into being a mom, but nevertheless, she had two children, a boy and a girl. Her children were “good kids”, and she did the best she could by them. But she admits that she was very relieved when they grew up and moved out on their own. She finally had the chance to do her own thing and discover herself.

The letter writer’s son, John, got married and had three children. Her daughter just has pets. Mom treats her daughter’s pets like grandchildren, which upsets her son. He thinks she should be more deferential to his human offspring over his sister’s dog and cat.

I don’t think the mom in this story is an asshole; however, I can empathize with John. John’s mom sounds a lot like my own mom. My mom had four children, and she often told me that she hadn’t wanted four children. Since I am the youngest, that means I frequently got the message that I wasn’t welcome. I remember watching my friends with attentive mothers and feeling painful surges of envy. My mom took care of me the best way she knew how, but she was never one to dote on me. My mom couldn’t wait for me to be on my own, and that was a message that hurt me a lot. She has also referred to my dogs as her “granddogs”.

I’m not saying my mom doesn’t love me. She does, in her own way. Our relationship is better now, too, since I don’t physically need her anymore. Now we can be friends. But I do remember what it was like to be raised by someone who was sometimes cold, and didn’t seem to care that much about me. Or, at least that’s how it seemed when I was a child. I see things differently now, and have come to respect and appreciate my mom more. It’s become easier to see her perspective now. There are a lot of issues I don’t have to deal with that my friends with more attentive moms do. I was also lucky in that I have always basically gotten along with my mom, in spite of her “hands off” parenting style. I think a couple of my sisters had a much tougher time with her than I did. On the other hand, my sisters got along much better with our father, while I had a lot of issues with him that still haven’t been resolved and probably never will be.

I think John should find a therapist and talk about these angry feelings he has toward his mom. He obviously still feels very hurt about how he was raised. He could tell his mom wasn’t that into raising him, and he knows she’s not going to be “super granny”. I don’t blame him for how he feels, but it’s not appropriate for him to punish his mom and try to force her to be someone she’s not. In the end, his kids will suffer, and when he inevitably loses his mother, he’ll still have a lot of unresolved angst, like I still do about my dad. I can’t help but realize that if my mom and the letter writer had been freer to make choices, John and I would have both been spared significant pain… and we would have been none the wiser, not having been born to mothers who would much rather be doing something with their lives other than mothering.

I’ll end this post with another personal story from last night. Regular readers might know that my husband, Bill, just became a grandfather for the third time. His younger daughter, who is an excellent mother, just had a baby last week. We sent her a package with treats from Europe. There was a Harry Potter hot chocolate mug from France that we picked up in March, but couldn’t fit in the last box we sent. There was chocolate from Germany, and a few gifts from our trip to Italy. In the box we sent were two books that I picked out for the two older kids. One was an activity book about Florence. Ideally, the kid would be in Florence as he or she explores the city, but I figured younger daughter and her husband could use the Internet to teach the kids about Italy and do the activities. The other book was a charming story I found about growing up independent.

I was wandering around in the bookstore at the Uffizi and this book caught my eye. It had really engaging illustrations featuring a baby zebra from West Africa. I don’t remember the book’s title, but I do remember the story was about an independent little zebra who wanted to try new things that he wasn’t quite ready to do. His patient and gentle mom told him that one day, he’d be on his own and he could then try all the things. But for now, she was there to guide him and teach him. It was a comforting, positive, and healthy message.

Unfortunately, Bill and his daughter have both been on the receiving end of Ex’s repeated manipulative ploys involving children’s literature. Ex has a bad habit of using books and music to make other people feel like shit. So Bill felt compelled to read the book from cover to cover in the bookstore, just to make sure there wasn’t a message in the story that would make younger daughter feel bad. Fortunately, he decided that I had made an appropriate choice, so he sent her the book. Hopefully, she’ll like it. It’s a book that I doubt her mom ever would have sent, since it’s about children growing up with a strong and protective role model who actually wants them to be independent and self-sufficient someday.

I think Ex loves being a mother, but only because it means she has family members who literally owe her their lives. She uses them as tools to further her own agendas. Her children aren’t stupid, either, because they can read between the lines. They get the messages she sends when she uses a book like Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree in her object lessons. She compares herself to the tree, and her children (and Bill) to the selfish little boy who takes and takes until there’s nothing left. But the reality is, the children are always giving to their mother, and she’s never satisfied. That has caused them pain, because obviously, their mother wasn’t up to the challenge. Her goal probably should have been to raise her children to chase their own dreams and live life on their own terms.

I’m not a mom myself. I always wanted to be a mom, but that wasn’t in the cards for me, for a lot of reasons. And because I barely know Bill’s daughters, I don’t feel like a mom to them… or a granny to younger daughter’s children. I do sort of feel like a mom to my dogs, though…

I don’t know if my overall message is getting across in this post. I know Bill is glad I’m here, warts and all. And I know my mom, ultimately, is glad she raised me. I do wish she’d wanted to do it from the get go, though… and I know enough people who haven’t had happy endings after being born into situations where the mom simply wasn’t up to the job. So that’s one of many reasons why I’ll always be in favor of allowing pregnant people to make choices, and that’s why I get triggered when losers like Chris conflate the abortion issue with any story about babies who die. Life is tough enough. Babies, especially, should be wanted, loved, and cared for by parents who want them. Pregnancy shouldn’t be an obligation or a punishment, and it shouldn’t be up to anyone to solve another person’s fertility issues. Moms, especially, should be ready for the challenge of motherhood before they accept it.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Going My Own Way by Gary Crosby…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote on January 2, 2015 about Gary Crosby’s tell all book on growing up as Bing Crosby’s son, Going My Own Way. It appears here as/is.

For years, I heard about the controversial book the late Gary Crosby, eldest son of the late Bing Crosby, wrote about his parents.  The book, entitled Going My Own Way, was published in 1983 and was considered a “scathing” account of the reality of what it was like to grow up the son of a big Hollywood star who portrayed himself as the consummate family man.  I am a little too young for Bing Crosby, though I do remember the duet he did with David Bowie back in the 70s…

A classic Christmas duet circa 1977…

I didn’t actually see the Christmas special that spawned this version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, but over the years, the video has been replayed during the holiday season.  I also remember Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter, who played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and was credited with shooting J.R. Ewing.  Aside from that, I only heard about Bing… and Bill has told me that a few years after Gary Crosby’s book came out, the late Phil Hartman, who was then on Saturday Night Live, did a spoof about how when Bing’s sons misbehaved, they needed to go have a “talk” in the library.

I was curious about the book and the cultural references to it, so I decided to purchase a used copy.  I recently finished reading Going My Own Way and, I must admit, it was very interesting.  As “scathing” memoirs go, I didn’t think it was all that bad.  Gary Crosby was Bing Crosby’s eldest son with his first wife, Dixie Lee.  He grew up in a huge house in Hollywood, surrounded by servants, many of whom were black.  Crosby’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and a serious alcoholic who relied on an Irish nurse named Georgie to keep Gary and his brothers, Phil, Denny, and Lindsay, in line. 

Like his wife, Bing Crosby was also a very strict disciplinarian who strongly believed in employing corporal punishment, strict rules, and verbal abuse to control his sons.  Crosby writes that it was difficult for him to have friends because his parents were so strict.  It wasn’t often that he was allowed to bring friends over or go to friends’ houses.  Crosby’s parents were quick to remind their sons that they were not special simply because they were Bing Crosby’s sons.  Though they were educated at private schools, they were not treated differently and didn’t hang out with Hollywood types.  Indeed,  from the time the boys were eleven until they were adults, each summer Bing Crosby sent them to work at a ranch he owned.  They learned how to herd cattle and make hay bales alongside men of much more modest means.  Crosby writes that he hated the ranch work because his father forced him to do it, though he might have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d been the one who chose to go. 

Gary Crosby had a weight problem when he was growing up.  His backside was wide, which caused his father to refer to him as “bucket butt” or “satchel ass”.  According to Gary, Bing would even call his son these names in public, particularly in front of Bing’s friends.  Bing Crosby ordered his son to lose weight and would force him to endure weigh ins.  If he didn’t lose weight, Gary would get a whipping.   Bing used a belt that had metal studs in it and would beat his boys until they bled.  At the first drop of blood, the beating would stop.  Gary writes that he used to hope he’d bleed early.  

Bing Crosby and Gary Crosby perform together…

When Gary became a teenager, he had a strict curfew and would often have to leave social events early in order to appease his father, who would not hesitate to use a belt and verbal abuse to get his point across.  It wasn’t until Gary was 18 years old and had finally had enough that the whippings stopped.  By that time, his father had traded the belt for a cane.  I must admit, reading that part of the book resonated with me.  I had a similar experience with my own father, who was also a proponent of physical punishment and last struck me when I was almost 21 years old.  My father was also one to use verbal abuse…  indeed, reading about some of Crosby’s experiences rang very true to me, since my dad did a lot of the same things to a milder extent.  Crosby also writes about his father’s penchant for womanizing and drinking, as well as holding gifts over his sons’ heads in order to control them.  Gary Crosby had his own issues with alcohol and drugs, which he writes about in the book.  He also was one to get in fist fights when the mood struck.

Crosby uses a lot of slang and filthy language in his memoir.  Personally, I wasn’t offended by it.  In fact, the slang sort of gave the book a 50s nuance, which makes sense, since Crosby was born in the 30s and would have been a young person in the 50s.  I liked that he included photos, which helped me put faces to his stories.  I also got the sense that despite the abuse, he did love his parents, especially his mother.  He even writes a message to his other siblings, products of Bing Crosby’s second marriage to Kathryn Crosby, that the father he knew was not the same man as the father who raised them.  And Crosby even admits that his father passed along musical talent to him and the ranch work gave him useful skills outside of show business.  As one who has a perverse interest in Pat Boone’s career, I liked that Gary Crosby also writes about what it was like to work with Boone.  Apparently, Crosby thought Boone was a nice guy and easy to work with, despite his love of “clean livin’.”  Pat Boone, as we all know, is also a big believer in spankings.

Gary and Bing sing with Frank Jr.

Gary Crosby’s mother died in 1952 of ovarian cancer.  At the time of Dixie Lee’s passing, Gary was studying at Stanford University, where he wasn’t a particularly good student.  I was moved by how he described his father’s pained reaction to his mother’s deteriorating condition.  Yes, he writes a lot about how “the old man” abused him and his brothers, but he also somehow manages to give his father a human face.  That’s why I say the memoir wasn’t that scathing.  Yes, it was probably shocking to those who grew up with Bing Crosby and loved his music, but as someone who also grew up with an alcoholic and occasionally abusive father, I thought Gary Crosby was just being honest.  I think back in the 80s, when this book was originally published, corporal punishment and verbal abuse were much more accepted as normal parenting than they are now.  While I think sometimes Americans are going a little too far in the other direction with how they are parenting their children, as someone who experienced growing up with an alcoholic, I feel like Gary Crosby was very truthful in his account.  He was not just a whiner.   

Gary Crosby died in 1995 of lung cancer. He was 62 at the time of his death and had married three times. You can read a chapter of Going My Own Way here. Here is an article from a 1983 issue of People magazine about Gary’s book.

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Duggars, homosexuality, politics, religion

“We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”

I remember in August 2014, Bill and I were living temporarily in an apartment in Kemnat, a suburb near Stuttgart. I spent my days hanging out with Zane and Arran, burning up because it was hot outside. The Duggars were in the news because Michelle Duggar had made a controversial political robocall to people in Arkansas. Why was she robocalling? It was because she was hoping to influence Arkansans to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to allow transgendered people to use restrooms and lockers that correspond to their gender identities.

People were calling for the Duggars to be canceled in 2014 after this call… little did they know what was coming! And yet, they’re STILL in the public eye.

This morning, today’s featured photo was in my Facebook memories. Given that Josh Duggar is currently in huge trouble with the feds for being caught receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse, it’s pretty crazy that in 2014, Michelle Duggar was saying things like “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…” Wow… the hypocrisy is astounding!

As I waited for Bill to come home the other day, I ran across an episode of 17 Kids and Counting. In the beginning, you hear Michelle Duggar’s annoying baby voice as she lists all of her children’s names. At that point, Jennifer Duggar, born in 2007, was the youngest, and Michelle was pregnant with Jordan, who was #18 and would be born in December 2008. She would have one more live birth, when youngest child Josie was born very prematurely the following year. Then she got pregnant one last time and eventually lost that baby, Jubilee Shalom.

In the opening credits for 17 Kids and Counting, Ma and Pa Duggar talk about their “very conservative values” and how the children’s Internet access is “closely monitored.” Obviously, it wasn’t monitored that closely. And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, and yet they were ON TV.

I remember Michelle Duggar once had a good reputation as a wonderful, caring, and compassionate mother. I have never seen a lot of proof that she was a wonderful mother. On the contrary, I’ve seen evidence that her daughters are good moms, mainly because they’ve always been doing the heavy lifting of raising their siblings while their mom worked on perfecting her “baby voice”. And she used that voice to promote anti-LGBTQ propaganda while her eldest son, supposedly sheltered from the Internet, was looking at porn. Such hypocrisy!

As Bill and I were sharing coffee this morning, I was reading the Duggar Family News Facebook group. Someone had shared a link to a post from the truly creepy blog, Biblical Gender Roles about the practice of “domestic discipline” and wife spanking. I’ve written about this blog a couple of times before, most recently in July 2020, when a friend of mine shared with me a different post about “grooming one’s wife” to accept domestic discipline that came from the Biblical Gender Roles blog. I also wrote about a post that appeared in 2019 regarding marital rape— a woman’s husband wanted to have sex with her when she wasn’t interested. The blogger from Biblical Gender Roles wrote that according to the Bible it’s impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband. And of course, my take is that marital rape is certainly possible and it can be perpetrated by either spouse. It happened to my husband when he was married to his ex wife.

Legally, rape means that a person hasn’t consented to sexual contact. It does not matter if the participants are married to each other. But fundie Christian women are taught to always be “joyfully available” to their husbands. When their husbands fall from grace, as Josh Duggar repeatedly has, the woman is liable to be blamed. Why? Because she wasn’t available enough for her husband to satisfy his sexual needs. Michelle Duggar, the same woman who, in a robocall to Arkansans said “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, told her own daughter Jill, before Jill married her husband, Derick Dillard:

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

In other words, this “wonderful mom”, Michelle Duggar, told her daughter that her body isn’t her own. It’s either going to be used by her husband for sex, or used to nourish and develop a fetus, who will either also be used as a vessel for developing new life and as a sexual plaything, or will be a user, as males apparently are in fundie Christianity. Josh Duggar grew up being taught that his wife was to be used, and she was expected to be “joyfully available” to him, on the pain of being disciplined by the head of the family. His sister Jill, on the other hand, got a very different message. She was to be “available” to her husband, whenever he wanted her. She was to submit to his will. In short, she was physically an adult, but in all other ways, she was basically expected to be like a child– seen and not heard– quiet, submissive, and available always.

I’m sure, behind closed doors, Anna Duggar has been blamed for not satisfying Josh Duggar’s “needs”, causing him to fall into the dark web and view “forbidden images” of a sexual nature. But here she is, still in her early 30s and pregnant with her seventh child, another girl. Obviously, she was available to Josh, and he was fulfilling his sexual needs with her. But that wasn’t enough, and he’s evidently been indulging in illegal and immoral activities involving children. How did this happen?

I have never been impressed by either of the Duggar parents. For years, I’ve heard them both talk about how children are blessings and gifts from God. Rather than being good stewards of their children and raising them properly, Michelle Duggar basically turned into a brood animal and popped out children that were then farmed out to their sisters to raise. That’s not fair to the children at all. There was a time in history when having a huge family might have made some sense, since a lot of children died before coming of age and people had farms they needed help to run. Nowadays, I think having that many children is selfish and irresponsible. I don’t like to tell people how many children they should have, but I do think that if you’ve gotten to the point of farming out your kids to their older siblings, you’ve had too many. It’s not the job of underage children to raise their siblings.

Childhood is a brief time in a person’s life, and that’s when people should be focused on their own development and maturity. The way it’s been done in the Duggar family is that some of the children– the eldest sisters– had to grow up too fast. And yet, even when they were raising their siblings, they were still treated like children, forced to share a room and not allowed to choose what they wanted to wear or who they wanted to date or marry, in the sense that they needed Jim Bob’s permission and their husbands to be were forced to answer excessive questionnaires before Boob would give his “blessing”.

When I look at Michelle Duggar’s comment that “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, and then I see that her very first child– one of the few that she must have had the biggest part of raising– has turned out to be a sexual deviant, I can’t help but think her thoughts on protecting children are warped. She didn’t even protect her own daughters from their brother– her precious firstborn son– who took liberties with them when he was an adolescent. They didn’t get appropriate and effective help for Josh when his deviant behaviors presented themselves when he was still a child. They also didn’t get help for their daughters, who were victimized by Josh. In a sense, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar failed Josh as much as they did their daughters… and all of those innocent children in the pictures and videos found on Josh’s computer who were exploited, abused, and even murdered for the perverse pleasure of Josh and his ilk.

Josh is a MASSIVE hypocrite. Here he is speaking about religious liberties and how businesses should not be forced to pay for birth control. You can hear him talking about how birth control harms unborn children, and yet he apparently enjoys victimizing innocent children who have already been born. He sounds articulate and well-spoken here, which is probably why he got away with this for as long as he has.

Notice in the above video, there are two men speaking about birth control and how it “causes abortions” (it doesn’t). Neither of these men will ever have to do the hardest work associated with pregnancy and child bearing. And they are in religious organizations where women are taught to be “joyfully available” to them and satisfy their “needs”, even when they are “big pregnant” (as Michelle Duggar put it). They’re more concerned about unborn children than they are born children… especially the female ones who will be born to satisfy their sexual “needs”. Well… that is revolting. It really is.

From the Biblical Gender Roles blog… a woman needs her husband’s “help” to control her spending and choose the “right” friends. Based on this, it sounds like he thinks women are never much more than children.

I’m sitting here reading the Biblical Gender Roles blog again. The poster on the Duggar Family News page had linked to an article on that blog about a young wife who was being “introduced” to the concept of Christian domestic discipline. In other words, she was being spanked by her husband. But the blogger wrote an earlier post about the husband’s perspective. In that post, he referenced his earlier post about how to “groom” one’s wife to accept the man as the authority in the home. He mentions that the wife must be young and sheltered, otherwise, she will never accept being “spanked” or otherwise disciplined by her husband.

This blogger has “mentors” who help teach these “Biblical principles” to couples who are interested. He says he vets the participants carefully, because he knows that more worldly people are “spying” on him and want to undo his work in teaching Christian couples to live by what he deems are “Biblical gender roles”. And based on what the young husband writes in the post from the gender roles blog, his wife has come to “accept” his leadership. She speaks to him “respectfully”, sticks to a budget, and I guess most importantly (to him, anyway), makes herself “available” to him sexually whenever he’s in the mood. She’d better, of course, or he’ll turn her over his knee and spank her, as if she’s a child (and personally, I don’t think spanking children is appropriate, either). How fucked up is that? The woman is a child in all ways, except physical. I am not saying the Duggars engage in these practices. I do think, however, that their collective mindset seems to be very similar to the one espoused by the guy who writes the Biblical Gender Roles blog.

More from the Biblical Gender Roles blog… where the writer explains that it’s “right” for a husband to discipline his wife for not putting out sexually, on the pain of being spanked.

Michelle Duggar, obviously, is very much in agreement that there are only males and females; they were all created by God; and that any person with “male parts” is a threat to female children. But apparently, once the females have reached physical maturity, that protection for them is no longer necessary. She unleashed her son, Josh, on Anna Duggar when he was 20 years old, knowing that he was a pervert. And she paid a lot of lip service to “monitoring” her children’s television and Internet exposure, although Josh obviously still figured out a way to get to the forbidden fruit. Maybe if she had been less “Christian”, he would have turned out to be a better person… or maybe, he was born to be this way, despite our “awesome God” who gifted the Duggars with so many children that they were obviously not equipped to raise properly on their own.

How dare Michelle Duggar try to tell Arkansas voters that she is concerned about putting the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child? Where were her concerns about her own daughters’ safety and innocence when they were growing up in her home? Where were her concerns about Josh’s future, when his deviant sexual proclivities came out? Why didn’t she help him possibly avoid falling into sins that could send him to prison? He is about to be the father of seven innocent children, but he won’t be around to take care of them. That task will fall to his long suffering wife, Anna, who has been taught that because she’s a female, she belongs to her husband and has no say over whether or not she wants to have sex! Michelle Duggar is concerned about transgendered people “victimizing” girls… but she was not at all concerned about her vile predator son victimizing her own daughters, and possibly her granddaughters, along with the children who were victimized in the images and videos that were found on Josh’s computer! And she’s all for letting the women be “childlike” in all ways, except for when it comes to giving their husbands sex. She’s even childlike in the way she speaks!

I really think our society is very sick. The Duggars are still influential to many, even though they are massive hypocrites. As recently as last year, they were still trying to get involved in politics, when their son Jed, ran for office against a woman who was clearly much more qualified than he was. He lost, thank God, but I will bet people still voted for him because he’s a white man, Christian, and a Duggar! There are still so many people, especially in the United States, who speak about their rights as “free people”. But they only want freedom for white Christian males with money. They don’t want women to have dominion over their own bodies. They don’t want people of color to have the right to live peacefully, and enjoy freedom of movement without being harassed by law enforcement. They don’t want poor people to be able to receive temporary government assistance, or children to be able to attend school without the fear of being shot. Their right to own weapons is more important than the safety of innocent people to be out and about without fearing being killed by their guns. And they want to be able to dictate to people which restrooms they can use, claiming that transgendered people are “mentally ill”, while they cover up for people like Josh Duggar and give him a platform.

I wrote about Michelle Duggar’s robocall on my original blog. In that post, I explained that homosexuality and transgendered people are not necessarily pedophiles or child molesters. At that point, we didn’t know about Josh… it was just months later that that particular bombshell dropped. One would have thought the Duggars would have been canceled, once and for all, after Josh’s hypocrisy came out. But, as my Italian friend Vittorio has pointed out, the United States is a “weird-o-rama” culture. The Duggars are oddly fascinating to many. Some of us are fascinated as we are repulsed. Others find them to be people they want to emulate. And so, they continue to people we talk about, and write about… and in some cases, make money on. I’m sure the people making YouTube videos about the Duggars are making some cash, anyway. I’m sure not.

Well… I guess I’ve rambled on long enough. Arran has just come to me, expecting a walk. So I guess I’ll close now, and take him out for a much needed constitutional. Hope everyone has a nice Monday.

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