Saturday, April 21, 2007

Defending Alec Baldwin

What to make of Alec Baldwin’s tirade against his pre-teen daughter, calling her, among other things, “a rude, thoughtless little pig”? Is he a complete narcissistic ass? Despicable human being? Desperately in need of anger management therapy?

Or maybe just a dad who lost his cool.

I’m willing to give Baldwin the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because I’m a daughter—and I used to be really good at pissing off my dad.

I spent my entire teenage years making our family late for Sunday mass. Actually, not late, just not as early as Dad wanted us to be. I didn’t get why we were in such a hurry; he didn’t get why my hair had to look absolutely perfect for a church full of geriatrics. It was a classic battle of wills, one that I typically won. No matter how many times he threatened to leave without me, I knew he never would. Better late than an incomplete family unit.

I typically slid into the backseat just as he started pulling the car out of the garage. And that’s when the verbal barrage would begin. Mostly I remember him calling me a “goddamn prima donna,” part of a steady rant that went from boil to simmer back to boil. Just when I thought he had exhausted the subject of what a, and I paraphrase here, “rude, thoughtless little pig” I was, his anger would resurface and he’d start in on me all over again. (Because this always happened on the way to church, I mistakenly interpreted his signature phrase as “goddamn pre-Madonna” and thought it was some sort of reference to the Virgin Mary. For years, I wondered what horrible sin the mother of Christ had committed before she became The Madonna.)

I bring this up because my dad was and is an awesome father. I bring this up because I was, and sometimes still am, a rude and thoughtless daughter. It never occurred to me that Dad wanted to get to church early because he knew his own father would be there even earlier, making a note of our arrival time. It never occurred to me that Dad didn’t want to go to church anymore than I did; that his old man was still controlling him in a way that, as a father himself, he’s never tried to control his own adult children.

It’s almost embarrassing to think of this now, but I used to stand in front of my bedroom mirror and practice “the glare.” I took great pains to get it just right. This was the dead-eyed, stone-faced look I affected whenever confronted by my father. It was meant to convey an emotion just short of pure hatred. We would stand in the hallway, him venting his frustration with my behavior, me staring straight through him. I wanted him to feel like he didn’t exist. That’s how cruel daughters can be to their fathers.

I don’t know what goes on between Alec Baldwin and his daughter. And neither do any of the other individuals who feel compelled or qualified to comment on this latest celebrity “scandal.”

What I do know is that relationships between fathers and daughters are complicated. Daughters are, after all, women, and fathers are, after all, men. It’s a situation ripe for misunderstanding, hurt feelings and lost tempers. Famous fathers are not exempt from these foibles, they just have their moments of weakness posted on the Internet for the rest of us to judge.

So I’m willing to cut Alec Baldwin some slack. I wish, in my youth, I had treated my own father with the same respect.


Blogger kitty said...

it would be nice if all of the people who've made baldwin's business their business could read your post. it is unfortunate that those who are most interested in such things are so caught up in looking down on the celebrities and the "haves" in an attempt to make themselves feel important. you clearly have no such tendencies. you are like most of us; unaware of the pain we cause others until, often, it's waaayy too late to make amends. like even fewer of us, you have the courage and sensitivity to admit that what you did was, although nothing more than an indication of your youth, unkind and thoughtless. your father is, i suspect, proud of you, however you turned out. thanks for a touching and beautiful post.

11:50 AM


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