Oedipus in the Heartland, Choruses in the Combox

Oedipus in the Heartland, Choruses in the Combox December 17, 2011

Last night, the Anchoress blogged on a peculiar prank that parents, in collusion with the faculty of a Minnesota high school, played on their kids. First, the kids, all star athletes, were given blindfolds and led into the school’s crowded gym. Next, each blindfolded jock received a kiss from what the write-up describes as his or her “opposite-sex parent.” At least to all appearances, many of the kisses were distinctly other than parental. Still blindfolded, each blushing kissee then guessed the identity of the kisser; each guessed wrong. (One kid praised his mother’s “luscious lips.”) The blindfolds were removed to general hilarity.

Now, I don’t imagine for a moment that any of these parents were acting out incestuous impulses. More likely, they were just trying to make their kids look like total dorks in front of their friends. Still, at least with me, the incest taboo is deeply enough ingrained that nothing I write in these folks’ defense can keep my skin from crawling.

By funny coincidence, my discovery of this video coincided with the end a long and heated conversation I had with a friend over the role of guilt in maintaining a healthy and orderly society. She recalled her nephew’s triumphant broadcast over FB of his girlfriend’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy and wondered whether to take it as a symptom of a new general jadedness, a dangerous immunity to guilt. Unconvinced, I told her she sounded like a scold. Having seen the video, do I still hold to that judgment? We’ll just have to see.

To test the proposition, I decided to dramatize the scene, borrowing some key phrases from a much older story of a guy who unwittingly violates the incest taboo – namely, the story of the guilt-ridden Oedipus, king of Thebes, as told by Sophocles. Since comboxes offer modern-day ‘net surfers a sense of how the average person interprets and applies society’s norms, I toggled to the page housing Yahoo!’s article to impress some of the posters into service as a chorus. Finding, to my surprise, a variety of opinions, I decided the scene would work best with several competing choruses. Maybe that’s the most realistic update to Oedipus right there.

Mom and blindfolded Son are exchanging a rather too-intimate kiss. Mom breaks the embrace and removed the blindfold. As Son gasps, the lights reveal Baisyl, Nick, T.C. and Bear all forming a loose circle around the couple, in postures that betray their attitude toward the scene they’ve just witnessed.

What kind of parent would make out with their child, and move their hand to touch their @#$%! If this happened in my high school, none of us would be laughing; we’d be dead silent ‘cause this is just repulsive and wrong. I mean a peck is fine, but these parents were way too into kissing their children. I’d kill my father if he ever did this to me and never think of him the same ever again!

My mom is kind of funny – not a textbook mom at all. She watches Twilight and Misfits and sometimes calls guys “bitch.” Her hand didn’t really touch my glutes; it just stopped at the spinal erectors. And speaking of erectors, I didn’t get one, I swear!

How do you compare child sex abuse to this? This is a prank that has been around since the 80’s and has nothing to do with molesting kids. Like it or not, don’t compare it to something so horrible.

Nick’s got a point. I bathed my son a lot when he was small. If I was going to bad-touch him, would I not have done it then? And what about that time last week I walked into his room and caught him going Number Three? All I did was holler, “Jesus Christ!” and run.

I can’t stop laughing. Oh, my God, Okay, so I’m mean and enjoy judging people. If i went to that school, they would not live this down. I’d poke fun DAILY. Who wants to be known as the “kid who kissed their parent?”

This bites! My skill was matchless; I thought I’d win honor above all men, like Tim Tebow. But the video’s gone viral; thanks to social media I’ll be The Kid Who Kissed Their Parent — the most abhorred of men! And if T.C. ever sees me, she’ll poke fun. They say, “It gets better,” but that’s only if you’re gay. The Kid Who Kissed Their Parent gets banished for impiety.

Too bad you’re dumb enough to see what they want you to see, and you think it’s bad because they said. What happened to thinking for yourself? Nothing was sex; it’s a kiss, and who says how long ? There was no tongue, was there? My God, what happened to having fun? You people suck!

If we suck, Bear, it’s because our eyes suck. They didn’t see the atrocious things I suffered, the dreadful things I did. So for now and all future time be dark!

Son pulls sharp broaches out of his pocket and moves as if to stab out his eyes. Mom seizes his wrists.

Son, don’t be retarded. Do you think that if you blind yourself, you’ll end up in a place where no one, no living human being will cross your path? Fat chance of that; you’ll end up in a self-contained classroom with kids from your home district. They’ll have seen the video, or if they’re blind, they’ll have heard it. And don’t think just because a kid is in a wheelchair that he can’t poke fun. A girl with cystic fibrosis was the biggest bitch I ever knew. When I heard she died, I toasted her death with Dos Equis and Patron.

Oh, crap! Oh, crap! How miserable I am…such wretchedness! Where do I go? All the college recruiters will have seen this. And the army, too! The memory of aching shame! Why should I have eyes when nothing I could see would bring me joy?

You know what? I’m getting sick of this. You’re practically a grown-up; if your eyes crave the agony of stabbing broaches – fine. I’m not going to stand here and watch you make a scene. Remember this, though, buddy, Mom’s leaving now. Come along, or grope your own way home. And I don’t want you waking me up with a lot of pissing and moaning about the dark horrors wrapped around you. The hand that stabs out your eyes will be yours and yours alone, so if you’re unhappy in your fate and in your mind, tweet it or something.

But Mom, if a man manifests no fear of righteousness, shouldn’t miserable fate seize him for his disastrous arrogance? It’s like, if I scratch somebody’s car, I’m supposed to leave a note. If I get too drunk to drive myself home, I’m supposed to call you. If I kiss you, I’m supposed to blind myself. Otherwise, why should we dance to honor god? It’s a no-brainer.

I’ve seen you dance – you look like a man completely lost and utterly accursed. What I’m telling you is, it’s best to live haphazardly. Our lives are ruled by chance. Remember that guy at the intersection? The one in lycra, on the $1,500 road bike? The one you called, “Faggot!” and struck on the head with your staff? That was your father. The police just texted; he’s dead. If he’d stuck to his stationary bike like a normal person, he’d have finished his cardio workout in time to ride with us. Your father’s dead through fate, and not through you.

Fate, huh?

Look, I may get a little short with you sometimes, but I care about your well-being – what I tell you is for your own benefit. Forget about a kiss – it’s true that in their dreams a lot of men have slept with their own mothers. To tell you the truth, in their dreams, a lot of men have slept with your own mother. So if anyone pokes fun, Skipper, if anyone makes you feel like you’ve committed the most atrocious act human beings can commit, remember — that person’s just jealous. And insecure. Now let’s get out of here.

Son hesitates.

Buy you some beer.

A case?

A twelve-pack.

Son shuffles to Mom’s side; Mom throws an arm around his shoulders and leads him offstage. We hear a smacking sound.

Nice glutes, unhappy man.


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