Tag Archives: growing up

Gomez Addams, positive male role-model

The Addams Family did well on Broadway, in the movies, and on TV, but got predictably bad reviews in all three forms. Ordinary people like it; critics did not. Something I like about the series that critics didn’t appreciate is that Gomez is the only positive father character I can think of since the days of “Father knows best”.

Gomez is sexual, and sensual; a pursuer and lover, but not a predator.

Gomez is sexual, and sensual; a pursuer and lover, but not a predator.

In most family shows the father isn’t present at all, or if he appears, he’s violent or and idiot. He’s in prison, or in trouble with the law, regularly insulted by his wife and neighbors, in comedies, he’s sexually ambiguous, insulted by his children, and often insulted by talking pets too. In Star Wars, the only father figures are Vader, a distant menace, and Luke who’s just distant. In American shows, the parents are often shown as divorced; the children are reared by the mother with help of a nanny, a grandparent, or a butler. In Japanese works, I hardly see a parent. By contrast, Gomez is present, center stage. He’s not only involved, he’s the respected leader of his clan. If he’s odd, it’s the odd of a devoted father and husband who comfortable with himself and does not care to impress others. It’s the outsiders, the visitors, who we find have family problems, generally caused by a desire to look perfect.

Gomez is hot-blooded, sexual and sensual, but he’s not a predator, or violent. He’s loved by his wife, happy with his children, happy with his life, and happy with himself. As best we can tell, he’s on good-enough terms with the milk man, the newspaper boy, and the law. Though not a stick-in-the-mud, he’s on excellent terms with the rest of the Addams clan, and he’s good with the servants: Lurch, Thing, and for a while a gorilla who served as maid (none too well). One could do worse than to admire a person who maintains a balance like that between the personal, the family, the servants, and the community.

On a personal level, Gomez is honest, kind, generous, loving, and involved. He has hobbies, and his hobbies are manly: fencing, chess, dancing, stocks, music, and yoga. He reads the newspaper and smokes a cigar, but is not addicted to either. He plays with model trains too, an activity he shares with his son. Father and son enjoy blowing up the train — it’s something kids used to do in the era of firecrackers. Gomez is not ashamed to do it, and approves when his son does.

Gomez Addams, in the Addams Family Musical, gives advice and comfort to his daughter who is going through a rough stretch of relationship with a young man, and sings that he’s happy and sad.

Other TV and movie dads have less – attractive hobbies: football watching and beer-drinking, primarily. Han Solo is a smuggler, though he does not seem to need the money. TV dads take little interest in their kids, and their kids return the favor. To the extent that TV dads take an interest, it’s to disapprove, George Costanza’s dad, for example. Gomez is actively interested and is asked for advice regularly. In the video below, he provides touching comfort and advice to his daughter while acknowledging her pain, and telling her how proud he is of her. Kids need to hear that from a dad. No other TV dad gives approval like this; virtually no other male does. They are there as props, I think, for strong females and strong children.

The things that critics dislike, or don’t understand, as best I can tell, is the humor, based as it is on danger and dance. Critics hate humor in general (How many “best picture” Oscars go to comedies?)  Critics fear pointless danger, and disapproval, and law suits, and second-hand-smoke. They are the guardians of correct thinking — just the thinking that Gomez and the show ridicules. Gomez lives happily in the real world of today, but courts danger, death, law suits. He smokes and dances and does not worry what the neighbors think. He tries dangerous things and does not always succeed, but then lets his kids try the same. He dances with enthusiasm. I find his dancing and fearlessness healthier than the over-protective self-sacrifice that critics seem to favor in heroes. To the extent that they tolerate fictional violence, they require the hero to swooping, protecting others at danger to themselves only, while the others look on (or don’t). The normal people are presented as cautious, fearful, and passive. Cold, in a word, and we raise kids to be the same. Cold fear is a paralyzing thing in children and adults; it often brings about the very damage that one tries to avoid.

Gomez is hot: active, happy, and fearless. This heat.– this passion — is what makes Gomez a better male role model than Batman, say. Batman is just miserable, or the current versions are. Ms. Frizzle (magic school bus) is the only other TV character who is happy to let others take risks, but Ms Frizzle is female. Gomez’s thinks the best of those who come to visit, but we see they usually don’t deserve it. Sometimes they do, and this provides touching moments. Gomez is true to his wife and passionate, most others are not. Gomez kisses his wife, dances with her, and compliments her. Outsiders don’t dance, and snap at their wives; they are motivated by money, status, and acceptability. Gomez is motivated by life itself (and death). The outsiders fear anything dangerous or strange; they are cold inside and suffer as a result. Gomez is hot-blooded and alive: as a lover, a dancer, a fencer, a stock trader, an animal trainer, and a collector. He is the only father with a mustache, a sign of particular masculinity — virtually the only man with a mustache.

Gomez has a quiet, polite and decent side too, but it’s a gallant version, a masculine heterosexual version. He’s virtually the only decent man who enjoys life, or for that matter is shown to kiss his wife with more than a peck. In TV or movies, when you see a decent, sensitive, or polite man, he is asexual or homosexual. He is generally unmarried, sometimes divorced, and almost always sad — searching for himself. I’m not sure such people are positive role models for the a-sexual, but they don’t present a lifestyle most would want to follow. Gomez is decent, happy, and motivated; he loves his life and loves his wife, even to death, and kisses with abandon. My advice: be alive like Gomez, don’t be like the dead, cold, visitors and critics.

Robert Buxbaum, December 22, 2017.  Some years ago, I gave advice to my daughter as she turned 16. I’ve also written about Superman, Hamilton, and Burr; about Military heroes and Jack Kelly.

Marriage vs PhD

Marriage vs PhD, from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) comics.

Marriage vs PhD, from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) comics.

Here’s a PhD comic comparing getting married to getting a PhD. The similarities are striking. It’s funny because …



….one does not expect so many similarities between the two endeavors. On thinking a bit further, one realizes that marriage and graduate school are the main, long-term trust relationship options for young college grads, 21-23 years old who want to move out of home and don’t want to yet enter the grind of being a single, wage slave (grease monkey, computer-code monkey, secretary, etc.)

College grads expect some self-fulfillment and, as they’ve lived away from home, mostly prefer to not move back, Entry level jobs are generally less-than fulfilling, and if you move away from home as a single, living costs can eat up all your income. One could get a same-sex room-mate, but that is a low commitment relationship, and most young grads want more: they’ve an “urge to merge.” Either PhD or marriage provides this more: you continue to live away from home, you get an environment with meals and room semi-provided (sometimes in a very cool environment) and you have some higher purpose and long-term companionship that you don’t get at home, or as a secretary with a room-mate.

I suspect that often, the choice of marriage or grad-school depends on which proffers the better offer. Some PhD programs and some marriages provide you with a stipend of spending-money. In other programs or marriages, you have to get an outside job. Even so, your spouse or advisor will typically help you get that outside job. In most communities, there’s more honor in being a scholar or a wife/ husband than there is in being a single working person. And there’s no guarantee it will be over in 7 years. A good marriage can last 30-50 years, and a good PhD may lead to an equally long stay in academia as a professor or a researcher of high standing. While not all majors are worth it financially, or emotionally, you can generally do more and make more money as a PhD than with a low-pay undergraduate degree. Or you can use your college connections to marry well.

What type of job are you looking for?

Some people are just cut out for the grad-school life-style, and not particularly for normal jobs. Ask yourself: What type of job will make me happy? Could be it’s research or home-making? Then go find a mate or program.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum (married with children and a PhD), July 1,, 2015. Growing up is perhaps the most difficult and important thing anyone does; getting married or entering a PhD program is a nice step, though it doesn’t quite mean you’re an adult yet. Some months ago, I wrote an essay about an earlier stage in the process: being a 16-year-old girl. For those interested in research, here’s something on how it is done using induction, and here’s something on statistics.

On being a 16 year old girl

I’m not a teenage girl, in case you thought otherwise. I’m the father of a girl who just turned 16 though, and she asked me to write on the subject of what to expect from the next year or so. Here’s my sense of expectations.

You'll find yourself creeping up on adulthood, as a partner, not a kid; it's a scary and wonderful transition.

You’ll find yourself creeping up on adulthood, as a partner, not a kid; it’s a scary and wonderful transition.

In retrospect, you’re likely to say that 16 was among the best years of your life. These are the last glorious, innocent days with friends: days before competition means anything, before you really have to think of the world beyond your high school community. You are still hanging out, working together, and trying to feel your way towards a dim future as adults. Sorry to say, that’s in retrospect. While living through it, you’ll find this year fairly boring, and somewhat nerve-wracking. You’ll find your time filled with activities: school, home, hobbies. You’re likely to find these activities somewhat less stressful than before, because you’re more used to them and higher-up in the pecking order. Still, there are a lot of activities, and you’ll notice your day is pretty full. My advice: take time to enjoy your friends. Take pictures; they’ll be priceless.

At sixteen hobbies begin to be taken more seriously.

At sixteen, hobbies begin to be taken more seriously.

For both boys and girls, you are beginning the single most difficult, painful, and important transition of your life: the transition to adulthood. It’s not painful yet, but it will get worse in the next year or two. If all goes well, by age 22 or 23, you will be through it. Once through it, you will think of yourself as an independent moiety: someone who’s formed by us (your parents, family, and friends) but not defined by us. Once through it, if all goes well, you will be able to support yourself financially, and you will be able to live on your own. You are likely to want to live on your own too (teary smile) at least for a good portion of the year. At 16, this is a dimly seen, scary future, far off in the fog.

At this  point, you’re still tied to us, and I’m glad you don’t resent it. You’re happy to be a daughter, a sister to your siblings, a peer to your friends, and a student in your high school. Some teachers and classes you like, others less so. Your grades and hobbies are important to you, but your friends are more important. It’s nice to have high grades, but not so important as to disturb a friendship. You think of your hobbies as fun sidelights, and home as a place to relax with them. At home you write, read, draw, or cook for the fun of it. As the next few years wear on, this will change. You’ll think of yourself more as a writer, an artist, or plumber; as a private first class, or whatever. You’ll be good at something, not just generally bright. Some friends will fit better into this self-view; the friends who don’t fit will slowly drift away.

Sexuality rears its head in new ways at 16.

Sex rears its head unexpectedly.

At 16, I started thinking of myself as ‘an engineer’ or perhaps as a scientist or mathematician based on my hobbies and what I was good at in school. It became clear that I was not going to be an athlete, a historian, or a musician (though I retained an interest). Dropping options is a big, painful part of the transition. I recall almost hearing the doors closing behind me. You want to turn back, to catch the options. Know that, to not choose is to choose. As those doors close (and they should) new, better ones open that you didn’t realize existed. Losing friends and hobbies that are too high maintenance is good for you, and for them at this stage. Sex will rear its head, unexpectedly, and in new ways. Sexuality and homosexuality were words; for some they are becoming the dominant reality. For better or worse, you’ll be drawn in.

As the year draws to a close, you’re likely to find our parental presence more and more annoying. This is a good thing; it’s what will get you out the door, and launch you as a person. We’re on your side here, but won’t be able to help as your old you will begin to fight the new one. You plan to go to college, perhaps away from home (both options are good), but some of your friends will want to stay at home and do on-line vocational courses, or get married as soon as possible. You’ll likely drift away from those friends. Some college-bound friends will pick schools far from yours, or will pick majors or activities that you’re not interested in. You’re likely to find yourself gravitating to those friends who’re going to your college or for majors that match yours. There is pain in realizing that you won’t be as close with the remaining friends. Know that doors are opening here in two ways. First, just as high school provided your current friends, college and pre-college will provide you a new group — ones you may keep longer since the relationship based on shared direction, not just shared experiences. Also, know that some of the friends who drift away now will come back later — perhaps when you and they are married.

You may come to realize that some of your closest friends are your competitors for college places, scholarships. This may seem bad (or disloyal) but it’s good. Competition will help you improve, and will increase your drive, and that’s what you need this year. Think of the relationship in “A separate peace.” Think of how the relationship between the young Harper Lee and Truman Capote likely shaped “to kill a mockingbird” and furthered both of their careers. Competition with your cousins is good too. Watch how they deal with competition and life choices. Are there family members that could be life models or coaches? A big reason we have the family reunions is so that you can have a choice of life models and coaches.

Teen jobs are rarely all that exciting, but are an important part of personal development.

Teen jobs are rarely all that exciting, but are an important part of personal development.

Money will become a lot more important in the next few years — for things, travel, school applications, and clothes. You’re likely to find it’s annoying to get your money from us, and you’re likely to start working more for money. This is the beginning of financial independence. As you do, you’ll find yourself becoming defined by the job you do, how much you make, and what you spend your money on. This is good, but includes a loss of Idyl. Your first jobs will not be great, and you may find leaches hanging on: financial and emotional. As annoying as it is to have a leech, it’s worse to be the leach. Try to avoid it; be a good friend or neighbor. You may want to buy stock, or start a company, or produce a product for sale: a book, album, or whatever. If it’s something you’re interested in and you try to make money at it, the experience will be worth the effort. Even if it turns out a financial failure, it will be an important part of the emotional and financial person you make of yourself. If you don’t go into business, you may get involved in politics or religion, moving right or left. That’s OK, and very normal — another part of self-development.

You may find yourself re-evaluating your thoughts on religion and government.

You’re already beginning to develop wonderful life-skills. We don’t compliment you enough on this. You’ve learned to cook eggs and noodles, and find you like the independence it gives. That’s the ticket to adulthood. You’ll need more life skills to give you real independence, but you’re on the right track. You’ll need to learn to do laundry, shopping, and cleaning. You’re likely to need to be better at driving, writing, and negotiating: all difficult things. You’re likely to go through emotional cycles or depression as you think of the stuff you can’t do, or don’t understand, the friends you’re losing, or the things you’d like to do, but can’t. Don’t stress; you’ve got 5 years, or more. We’re very proud of you, and will try to help by tutoring, hugs, more-freedom, and the assurance that independence is worth the struggle. All beginnings are difficult, and this is a big beginning.

You can define yourself by your hobbies or by your man, but try not to define yourself by your man's hobbies.

You can define yourself by your hobbies or by your man, but try not to define yourself by your man’s hobbies.

Switching schools includes the opportunity to reinvent yourself as something completely new. Most people do this to a greater or lesser extent. Embrace your inner weirdo, but not your inner crook. Try to invent yourself as something fun and active, not sinful or destructive. Try to be the young scholar, mechanic, artist, or athlete, not the young goth, gangster, or drug addict. High schools try to help here by exposing you to books and movies about alienated 16-20 year olds. Popular in my day were Great Expectations, The Outsiders, Catcher in the Rye, The Dead Poets Society, To Kill a Mockingbird, Slaughterhouse 5, and A Separate Peace. Take what comfort you can. School assignments will include essays on law, government, and God. Write honestly, with conviction. These assignments can help develop your life views and personality. We’ll try not to stifle you here, even when your opinions differ significantly from ours. Of course, if you come up with something truly stupid or awesome, we’ll tell you.

Your friends will start dating, or discussing boys, and you are almost certain to start looking at boys differently: first as exciting possibilities, and then as potential mates. Part of the attraction involves the ability to define yourself by the boy you choose. This is a comfort and a curse. The comfort is that it avoids you having to define yourself, or grow up quite. The curse is that the boy doesn’t know who he is either. You’ll find that some boys are nice and some are grounded, others are not. And some are really messed up. With the right kind, you’ll find you can do more as a pair than as a single. Eventually you’re likely to pair off; in our community that happens at about 21-24. When it happens, I hope it’s with a nice, grounded fellow. It works best if you first know who you are, but even otherwise, it can work. Couples sometimes discover who they are together. And, at that point the transition will be over. You’ll be a married adult; you’ll introduce yourself as Mrs Shnicklefritz, or as Dr. and Mr Schniklefritz, or whatever, and we’ll prepare ourselves to spoil our grandkids.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum, proud father of you and your two older siblings. October 4, 2014. Though further along in their life paths, I can hope that the older siblings will enjoy these thoughts too. I’ve previously mused about US education, and whether ADHD was a real disease. For my older daughter’s 21st birthday, I invented a new mixed drink.