Yeah, well fuck that noise. Crap but I hate denial. Sunshine, truth, and openness are the way to healing, I have found over and over and over again. So.
My father was a miser; I believe I may have mentioned this a time or two. His OCPD need for control, as well as his OCPD focus on his own self meant that he had little concept that people other than himself (like his own children, say) had needs. And if he did occasionally have a little concept that they might in fact have needs (usually yelled into him by my mother), he could only assume that those needs were just like his own. This is a little tricky to navigate, you understand; because although I know that this inability was due to something he could not at all help, his personality disorder, I also know that it made things, well, hellish and impossible for the rest of us. So on the one hand there is: he couldn't help it. And on the other: it did incalculable damage to the people around him.
Perhaps I simply need to put it in a little bit of perspective. Perhaps, also, there is the sort of general opinion of hoarding as a harmless personality quirk. Hoarders are simply eccentric, right? Luckily I think that is finally changing, with the advent of TV shows like Hoarders, which, I reiterate, I have never seen, and it's just as well. I can't promise I wouldn't fire a bullet into the TV screen, Elvis-style.
But that perspective: I need to, I think, keep in mind that other personality disorders include Narcissistic Personality Disorder (though strict Freudian spelling says it ought to be 'Narcisstic', I mean, not that I'm a fan of Freud; the best description I've ever found for the man is simply 'dickhead,' as in, that was entirely what his brain was preoccupied with) and Antisocial Personality Disorder. And no one argues that these things can not be extremely harmful to the people around them, especially when one considers that Antisocial Personality Disordered people can include, say, serial killers.
Anyhow. So he was a miser. This affected plenty of things, of course, like keeping the house at a toasty 55 degrees in the winter, not wanting to spring for supplies for installing the water heater (which water heater someone actually gave him), the state of the yard, as he regularly brought stuff home from the dump (hey it was FREE!), and, and this is a big one, the food of the house.
Now, it doesn't help that my mother is, truly, the worst cook in the world; but even Mrs. Lovett would have been hard pressed to make a decent meal out of what my father thought adequate. It wasn't so much that he'd always buy the same cheap things, one green pepper, a pack of anemic-looking winter tomatoes, canned peas, a pack of chicken thighs, but that I swear they'd go food shopping and somehow come home with no food. I don't understand how this can be possible, even now.
I'm a freelance artist myself, which, alas, true to stereotype, is not exactly the most lucrative business in this society; and so I certainly know how to be frugal, and what it's like to not have the money to spend on much food in the first place. Still, though, I know how to shop for groceries, and to make the most of what I can afford. And so I've come to look rather askance at my parents' protests of But we can't afford it! from my childhood. I'm not sure I believe it, frankly. Like I've mentioned before, we were never on, say, food stamps or free lunches at school when I was a kid, and if we were that desperate that we couldn't afford heat, hot water, a decent amount of food, you know, the basics, don't you think we would have qualified? And so I suspect that simply no one could be bothered. That is damning, I know, and implicates my mother as well; but I don't see any other conclusion.
Of course I didn't know any of this at the time. But looking back on my childhood I see now that I really was an extremely thin kid; also, I recall that I had been treated for anemia several times over the years. This is undernourishment, no? Very probably.
So we didn't really have enough food. And so we certainly never had any fun food. We had ice cream once in a while, it's true; but that was because my father really loves the stuff and so in a way that was all about him. True, we did benefit from that a bit, which is good. But otherwise we only rarely had cookies, or fun stuff like that, and never candy, though my mother would always talk about how it was a bad thing to forbid children from having candy, because then when they grew up they would buy all the candy they never had and so get fat. Rank bullshit, that, by the way.
Somewhere in there, though, my father got in the habit of buying a weekly box of generic gingersnaps from the discount grocery store.
Okay. You have to understand a couple of things here. We didn't like gingersnaps, we kids; my father did. I believe part of his decision in buying them (beside the cheapness of the things) was that he figured no one would want them but him, and so he could have them all to himself. Well, he was mostly right. Truth be told, those gingersnaps were just awful. I can guess the recipe:
2 cups fine sawdust
1/2 cup molasses
Lay out a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet.
Mix all ingredients together, then drop by spoonfuls on the cookie sheet. Press flat with the bottom of a greased jar; then bake in a 200˚ oven for a couple of weeks to harden up. Store indefinitely.
They were break-your-teeth horrible.
They were also the only sweet thing in the goddamned house.
So my sister and I would eat them. Not out of any kind of joy, mind you, but because they were the only vaguely treatish thing there ever was, and we were desperate for something with some sugar in it. Because we were kids, you know?
And my father would complain, of course. He would say 'the mice' had been into his cookies; I assume at the time he thought he was being funny, but, you know, it's kind of nasty. First, that's saying that those are intended for him and him alone and we kids didn't deserve anything fun; also it compared us to vermin. So fuck you, dad, as usual.
But we ate them. It was all there was.
But back to the holidays. Guess what we got for Christmas that year?
That's right. One box each of those atrocious cheap gingersnaps from my dad, all wrapped up with a bow. I wanted to scream and rage and cry, and then kill him. But I didn't. Because there was no point. He obviously thought he was so clever. I'd say smug, almost, except I don't think he was really capable of that; that would require some inkling, some acknowledgment that what he was doing was really rotten, and he just couldn't see it. But I still hated him for it.
You know what we really would have liked? A package of fucking Ring Dings.
I know. How immeasurably sad.