How My Parents Raised Me to Be Cultured, And Irreversibly Fucked My Dating Life

How My Parents Raised Me to Be Cultured, And Irreversibly Fucked My Dating Life

I’ve heard this lately: you use too big of words after 7 p.m. Or, you’re too “fancy” in your tastes. The charge is made as if I’m some effete—a fraud putting on pretentious airs in matters of taste and etc…But, unfortunately, a decent vocabulary and an inclination toward brass ensembles is my parents’ fault. They thought it important to “culture” their wild children. All it’s gotten me is entrenched bachelorhood. Here’s the wrap sheet:

-Once in conversation with a girl I was seeing she said she and her sister watched Barney tapes on the way to their Grandma’s house. I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say. Because I sure as hell couldn’t tell her that when we went to our Grandparents’ house, my parents forced my brother and me to listen to “classical music for kids” tapes—including one narrated by a German boy living with a deaf, mad man, who turned out to be Beethoven.

-My mom routinely brought home foreign movies with subtitles for family film night. Friends were appalled I hadn’t seen Dumb & Dumber, including a girlfriend’s mother who immediately became suspicious of what planet I’d arrived from. But I could recite to them, in detail, the plot to Babette’s Feast, where a French maid cooks up a big dinner for these old Danish spinsters in a celebration of the modern condition.

-Many of my ex-girlfriends can tell heartwarming stories about listening to Bruce Springsteen records as children. Once for my dad’s birthday, we went to the Cities to watch Handel’s Water Music. Oh boy. Not really a conversation starter.

-Vulgar vocabulary was a no-no in the household. Mom always said, “Let’s raise the discourse.” As such, we couldn’t say poop. Mom would ask: “Dunstan, do you need to take a bowel movement?” Then I’d sheepishly nod.

-My mother once shouted down my 6th grade teacher for refusing to let me read To Kill a Mockingbird. “There’s a rape scene, Dunstan, but you can handle it.” Instead, the other kids read Mr. Popper’s Penguins (which, it’s worth mentioning, may be a better book).

-Every summer my friends went to Lake Okoboji, up north, or the Wisconsin Dells. I vividly recall an abysmal 3-day-trip to the Czech National Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a terrifying 12-day excursion to a dinosaur museum in Drumheller, Canada, in which we learned the size of a T-Rex femur and stopped off in Montana to inspect the historical remains of Custer’s Last Stand. I just wanted to fill water in one of those noodles and blow it at a girl I had a crush on.

-While in law school, my mom would often drop us off at—wait for it—the History Museum in St. Paul. I could recite for you the evolution of the soybean industry in Minnesota with pride. But these day trips took me away from much needed gender-formation going on back home with my friends and their dad’s porn collection.

-When my mom once caught me watching Saved By the Bell, she stepped into the room and began telling me about Pope John Paul the II’s Theology of the Body. This is the kind of instruction that makes it very lucky my first sexual partner was an education major.

-We considered it a good Friday night when mom would let us watch her high school students (English teacher) perform skits from Shakespeare’s MacBeth. It was especially fun when she let us grade them. I couldn’t have been more than 12. Thus, my definition of “date night” has always been perverse and sort of academic.

-Lastly, once for a birthday, I received “quiz bowl” flash cards. I’m convinced this is why I’m spending the night alone.

~Dunstan McGill