Monday, April 02, 2007

i love cary tennis

I don't read horoscopes, barely know my own astrological sign; and I don't read womens' magazines or gossip magazines, and certainly not advice columns. But I have a little confession to make. I read Salon almost every day more for Cary Tennis' Since You Asked column than for anything else. I don't particularly care what the reader is asking, or what the problem is, but I have a serious crush on this Tennis person. Though the questions and problems don't particularly interest me, Tennis has something that brings me close to tears on a semi-regular basis. This from today's rather boring question about a woman who had a 20-year affair with someone and then, a couple years later, got upset when the someone got drunk and groped her:

"I know a thing or two about overwhelm. I didn't know about overwhelm at first. I didn't know that was what you called that terrible, cold wind that would blow when you tried to look at things. Somebody who liked me but knew I was too screwed up to get involved with told me you call that overwhelm. Before she left me for good she told me about the overwhelm and I got it checked out and sure enough there was overwhelm taller than the high corn. I had no filters. There was rain coming in. There was light of all descriptions not filed properly. There were words and memories and no system for accounting. It wasn't that the filters were defective. They were gone."

There's simplicity in Tennis' language, and yet a clarity and force that I find, at times, almost overwhelming. This, perhaps obviously due to my own experience of having a mother who, for whatever reasons, had to move very far away from me when I was eighteen, particularly moved me:

Here is a phrase I made up when I was thinking about my friends and my kitchen: Psychological ergonomics.You want your friends close at hand, like the dishes are close to the dishwasher. New York has great psychological ergonomics. Beware of living where there is no subway!

You came to where your mother was and she left. Yes, there were reasons. We are so quick to see the reasons, aren't we? We are very grown-up. But in relation to our parents we are children, and the child doesn't care about the reasons. The child wants to be with her mother. What a great burden to be the child who understands and forgives!

Your mother up and left, and you soldiered on.

Less soldiering, more mothering, I say."

1 comment:

Nick said...

I think what makes Tennis appealing is that he takes everything so darn seriously. You feel that you could write to him about the pain of flushing your goldfish, and he would respond with a 2,000-word treatise on the emotional ergonomics of interspecies bonding.

There are so many people on the Internet that their problems and opinions quickly become overwhelming. After a while I just shut down, and it gets hard to take anyone very seriously. When I read the letters people write to Cary Tennis, I often find myself thinking, "Oh, stop yer whinin'!" But not Cary! He always gets himself all worked up. Somehow, even in the chattering and noisome halls of the Internet, he manages to come across as an all-night-talker, willing to sit down with anyone and really hash things out.

He gets what "Advice" is really about. Because it isn't about dispensing answers and solutions. It's about making a little room in your soul for someone else's problem. And even when a particular problem seems petty, or Tennis's response seems off-base, that's something he always tries to do.