“No man is a prophet in his own country.”
That line keeps running through my mind as I sit over lunch with my sister who I haven’t seen in several years. These days I’m the enlightened guy, but to her I’m just the bratty kid who couldn’t make eye contact when she wore a bikini.
It’s summer ’01 and we’re having lunch in lower Manhattan. She read a preview copy of Damnedest and has had a few months to digest it. It was very nice of her to read it because it’s really not her kind of thing. She’s a good citizen; a successful executive, wife, mother, Republican, tennis nut, Christian-ish, and all-round productive member of society. (She once told me she was raising her children to be productive members of society and I winced so hard I almost chipped a tooth.) She’s a wonderful person, but not a member of the demographic the book speaks to.
There’s a plate of chilled pasta in front of me and a salad in front of her. We’re both drinking iced tea. She’s runs the creative side of a medium-sized ad agency and, I have no doubt, she’s very good at it. She’s taking time out of a busy schedule to have lunch with me. After this, I’m going to the park to lay in the grass and watch people play with their dogs.
Visiting your sister and having lunch shouldn’t be a confusing ordeal, but it is. Is she really my sister? What does that mean? We share some history and acquaintances, such as childhood and parents. Are my parents really my parents? Genetically they are related to my body, but the person who lived my childhood is no longer here. The past I share with this person is about as real and important to me as if I’d read it in a brochure.
The problem is that these people, my family, are all related to my shell, and I’m not. They’re looking at the outer Jed McKenna and assuming an inner Jed McKenna. I’m inside Jed McKenna looking out and I can’t really remember what he’s supposed to do or say. It’s all fakery. I’m an actor playing a role for which I feel no connection and have no motivation. There cannot be anything genuine in my dealings with people who are dealing with my outer garment. (The whole thing is further entangled by the fact that there’s no “I” inhabiting my shell, just a fading echo, but let’s not go down that road just now.)
Actually, it’s not really confusing. I possess not the least shred of doubt about who and what I am. The tricky thing is that who and what I am is not related to this pretty, professional, salad-eating woman across from me. By coming to this lunch I have inserted myself into a situation where I do…