My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

All the Things One Doesn’t Say Out Loud. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum

“Her mother blackmailed her, her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini stole from her, and shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis was violent and abandoned her for Jackie Kennedy…

…In writing a new biography, Lyndsy Spence was given access to Callas’ previously unpublished correspondence and other material, which casts light on the torment of her marriage, the abuse to which Onassis subjected her and sexual harassment by the director of one of the world’s foremost conservatoires…” full text here.

And she hid it all. That’s what one did. Sometimes I wonder if it’s still what one does? It’s interesting how the world has changed. Like Callas, many of us were instilled with fairly archaic notions of value based on honour/shame. That’s usually ascribed to Asian (particularly Japanese) or Muslim cultures as being uniquely theirs, but  if you’ve read Edith Wharton or Jane Austen, you know we have our own equally harsh version. Remember how Countess Olenska’s divorce lands her extended family in scandalous crisis?

Maria Callas did not want that. She knew that social perception was a primitive affair. Make an accusation and you’re tainted. Attack your family and you’re tainted. Tell the world someone’s taken half your money and they say you’re a fool. Raoul Peck in his outstanding new documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes explains some of these associations masterfully in the context of race and how it intersects with wealth and religion. It’s very easy, and very human, to formulate these equations where we wrongly assign value based on characteristics or evidence that don’t prove what we think they do.

I’m in the mood to ramble, you’re welcomed to keep going if you like.

We are now approaching a year since my grandfather’s Covid diagnosis and subsequent death. For me it has been a time of intense reflection; in great part because I’ve found people’s interpretations of his life, work and personality fascinating. Perhaps bemusing is a better word. Of course perception is intrinsically biased, but I imagine because I’m pathologically analytical, I’m always trying to separate feeling from fact.

My feeling over the years is I would have loved to “cancel” my grandfather. If I were writing an intro about my coming-of-age like the one for the Callas book it would say:

He was born because his parents knew a child’s existence would keep their parents’ money flowing in their direction, his grandfather explained that to him when he was just a little boy. He spent the entirety of his tween and teen years being sent to a succession of psychotherapists to correct his unconventionality. In his mid teens he was given an envelope of money and told it should be used to lose his virginity to confirm his heterosexuality. He complied. In those early days he still tried to comply. His compliance never changed the fact that he had to juggle between familial exclusion or being the emotional and psychological punching bag of the family in the hierarchy set out by his grandfather, the patriarch. So he rebelled. Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.

I chose not to cancel my grandfather because I thought his work was too important. The good he did was immense as compared to my grievances. But we are in a new era now, and he is no longer with us. It is perhaps finally time to grieve, and to do that I must first admit there was pain. And there was pain because I was hurt. I’ve always hated the idea of admitting such things because it feels like handing over ammunition to the enemy. When you grow up in the dynamic where silence is your friend, speaking up does not come naturally.

I should explain we were once very close, the doctor and I, and that lasted through much of my childhood. Being the first grandson, he treated me like the crown prince. He took me on trips, he played tennis with me, his free time was mine. If I wanted a horse I got a horse, if I wanted to learn piano he had a baby grand readied for me. Our first real tensions began in my pre-teens when he entered his trophy wife stage of life. Not that she was young and beautiful, well, certainly young, but more one of those faces you might want to have mounted and hung on a wall after a safari. My grandfather hated that joke, so I’ve never tired of it.

He treated her much like a fixer-upper. He bought her larger breasts early on, then had her nose fixed, other tweaks came later. Personally, I think it’s better to pay for quality up front, otherwise one might end up with a money pit, and something that never looks quite right, but to each his own. What he couldn’t change was that she was one of those people who only “read” magazines because she found books too boring. I don’t mean the New Yorker. I don’t even mean Architectural Digest. Fortunately for her Brood Parasitism requires no book learnin’. She was able to insert herself, and her children, Cretino and Imbecilla von Trappo (not their actual names), into our family. Quite the social and financial pole vaulting. Wink wink.

you-can-do-anything-but-never-go-against-the-family | Godfather quotes, Scarface quotes, Gangsta quotes

I know, I know, the #MeToo movement is probably outside number 42 right now with placards accusing me of misogyny, and the Pole Vaulting Union is serving me with a cease and desist order. Why are you attacking her as an opportunist, wasn’t he the guilty party for initiating a relationship by giving a young woman a job for which she had no qualifications whatsoever? Isn’t that some form of sexual harassment? Probably! Either way, what does it matter now? He’s dead and she’s trying to figure out how to work one of those perfume samples in a Cosmopolitan.

Anyway, in this aftermath I’ve received a few inquiries asking me to confirm or deny if my grandfather was homophobic. I didn’t answer any of them because I’m often unsure which parts of life should or shouldn’t be public. In part it’s the Maria Callas syndrome, the conditioning; Not that I was an ideal candidate for conditioning. When I came out, my grandfather informed me (in the form of an order) that homosexuality was something to be kept private. My response was to contact Luiz Mott the president of Brazil’s largest gay association, the GGB and to come out publicly in their newsletter. It was between those two events that my grandfather told me I shouldn’t visit Brazil again, as a gay man. I believe my answer was praise for the Menendez Brothers creativity and initiative. It was all downhill from there. Downier and hillier than it had been in the previous years. Our last conversation went like this:

Me: The only time you’ll hear from me again is when you’re dying in a hospital, and I’m going to call you hoping to hear agony in your voice. 

Him: Only count on me in case of illness.

Me: I never counted on you and I’d rather die by the roadside than ask you for anything, ever.

As a man of my word, I did try to hear his voice in ag- I’M KIDDING! People, please. As a man of my word we only communicated a couple of times after that in writing and through Lesley, his PA.

Now back to the cancellation. He’s safe now. No one is going to interrupt him in an interview about birth control to discuss how he treated his gay grandson. Being free, or becoming free is about spreading this freedom. To do that I feel it’s time to begin airing these grievances and also grieving. My method, my family’s method, Maria Callas’ method – was the one where you smile, you keep going, you have another glass of wine and you pretend everything is always fine. It does not work. So having already dipped my toes into the latin with Virgil’s Aeneid, let me finish with De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, meaning “Of the dead, [say] nothing but good”.

He is dead; Good.

50 comments on “All the Things One Doesn’t Say Out Loud. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum

  1. Hariod Brawn
    June 20, 2021

    As they say in Russia: беспла́тный сыр то́лько в мышело́вке

    ‘Free cheese is only in a mousetrap.’

    Liked by 6 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      June 20, 2021

      In this context am I the cheese or the trap?

      Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 20, 2021

        Neither mate.

        Like

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        That only leaves the mouse!

        Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 20, 2021

        P.S. You said you were ‘pathologically analytical’, so: He was born because his parents knew a child’s existence would keep their parents’ money flowing in their direction, his grandfather explained that to him when he was just a little boy. The inheritance trap = the mousetrap. Apologies for my obliqueness/opacity.

        Liked by 4 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        I was echoing your style. I understood exactly what you meant 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Tish Farrell
    June 20, 2021

    Bravo, Edouard! You write so very well. Cracking finale.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      June 20, 2021

      Thanks so much, Tish! The wheels are turning, not as fast as I’d like, but they turn 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tish Farrell
        June 20, 2021

        I’m thinking the scenario you’ve plotted here could grown into a very good short story/novella. So much energy and edge – powerful makings.

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        I may very well try that out. I do feel much lighter now, having exhaled in writing.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Tish Farrell
        June 20, 2021

        It’s your story – but I’m seeing a series of separate scenes. Callas could come into it too. All building towards that final sentence – sentence as in more meanings than one!

        Liked by 3 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 20, 2021

        I’ve told Edouard he was (in my opinion) a superb writer previously, Tish, and that he could write in long-form as you suggest. So Pink, maybe when the time is right, write, right?

        Liked by 5 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        You’re exceedingly kind! But yes, it does finally feel like the time is right to just tell it as it happened.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Kris
        June 20, 2021

        And please do consider using the perspective technique used here…the first person narrative and dialogue are exceptional. IMHO, those are some of the toughest aspects of writing to master. But it separates the wheat from the chaff. Plus it sounds like no one in the family would “read” it 🤣

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        That was the hardest part for me. Speaking as myself. The third person gives room for detachment but the first makes it real 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 20, 2021

        Let me know if you need proofreading services; I’ll happily oblige. No charge, naturally, and I’ve done plenty of it previously. (Professional/successful authors can have as many as six proofreaders appointed by their publishers — the more eyes the better.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        I’m making a mental note of that! Are you and Esme going to sit around reading it in funny voices and making fun of me?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 22, 2021

        She lives many miles (upwards) from where I am, so no. In any case, disclosing even as little as a single sentence to a third party would be an unforgiveable transgression for a proofreader. Whatever you decide, do consider appointing at least one meticulous proofreader, aside from any beta-readers. When Nabokov was asked what was the thing he most disliked about writing, he replied that it was receiving a freshly-printed copy of his latest work and discovering an unforgiveable error within the first ten pages. Our minds see what we think we (will) see. That being said, you are unusually fastidious in what you publish here; and whereas most blogs are littered with typos and sloppy punctuation, yours are clean — your penchant for caps after semi-colons aside. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 23, 2021

        I call my version Nouvelle-Grammar 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tish Farrell
        June 20, 2021

        There are definitely rich seams to mine, Hariod.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Anonymole
    June 20, 2021

    The prodigal can never return.
    The sycophant can never leave.

    The past is an unreliable story we convince ourselves is true. If you don’t like the ending, change it. Eventually, even you won’t know the difference.

    Nullius in verba — and that goes for ourselves as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Diana MacPherson
    June 20, 2021

    You could make this a book even if it were a fiction based on it. I really liked reading it.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      June 20, 2021

      Are you implying that not everyone is given money at 15 to lose their virginity with a prostitute?

      Like

      • Diana MacPherson
        June 20, 2021

        No I think I’m more implying that familial rejection and heart ache is universal, no matter what form it takes.

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        You’re right, it is, but I’ve always wondered to what degree?

        Like

      • Bizzy
        June 20, 2021

        I think many of us have a story like this. The question is, do we choose their expectations/emotional straightjacket or our own truth? Some people go for their truth, others get fitted for the straightjacket. But for everyone who is conscious enough to think it through, whichever choice they make, there can be a lot of inner conflict. I agree with Diana, it’s a topic well worth a novel — and many have been written, but there is always room for another. If I had the skill I’d probably write one myself.

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 20, 2021

        I was sure you had a story like this. I think we recognise each other between the lines 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen Devries
    June 20, 2021

    He’s over the Styx, time for you to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      June 20, 2021

      You’re one of the very few people who engages with my old fashioned references!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Helen Devries
        June 20, 2021

        Old fashioned education!
        Just, if I may say, be careful not to draw your own blood when you write…it rouses the shades.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. john zande
    June 20, 2021

    Some [many?] people are better dead.

    Pen a book. You have a great writers voice.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Bela Johnson
    June 21, 2021

    We have much in common. And then there are differences.

    The secret keeping I think it is perhaps universal? But what we keep secret, and how we are manipulated, may have a lot to do with money. And my father did not have access to an inheritance, he was a self-made man. Nevertheless, like you, I refused any of it; selling my soul was not in the bargain.

    I think high profile people like Callas had reason to hold their own counsel. She was a strong woman in times when strong women would have been punished more so than now. Her career was at stake, which obviously her abusers knew too well.

    Randomly, have you seen the film Boxing Helena? A cult film of sorts, which has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. I think you would find it fascinating, honestly.

    Peace. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      June 22, 2021

      Yes, as I said to Lynn (Bizzy) I think we recognise each other – and then we’re automatically drawn to each other with empathy because we know how it feels to carry the weight of the past.

      Men of that generation, your father & my grandfather, led somewhat absurd lives, having the right to so much but at the same time being constrained in a million ways. I remember my grandfather handing me the “rules” and none of it making any sense to me at all. I think I knew fairly early on that it was just a matter of time before I’d either be pushed out or leave voluntarily.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Bela Johnson
        June 22, 2021

        As for me, I couldn’t wait. I never thought I’d live to the age of 18 when I could leave that place. And then it took me years to discover who the hell I was, outside of the expectations and demands of everyone else. Nobody’s fault, really, they were doing what they could with what they were given. If I had not genuinely forgiven them, my life right now would be a misery. Thankfully, time and tide and all that inner work has greatly helped.

        Peace out, bro. 🤗💞

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 23, 2021

        I’m in the inner work stage, and I think I’ll be in it for some serious time

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bela Johnson
        June 24, 2021

        Omg, I started in my early 20s, I just turned 68, let me say it’s an ongoing process. But it does get easier. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        June 24, 2021

        Having been treading water for a very long time, I finally feel like I’m making headway. Very little steps, but progress 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bela Johnson
        June 24, 2021

        Always. ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ark
    June 25, 2021

    He’s dead and she’s trying to figure out how to work one of those perfume samples in a Cosmopolitan.

    This had me laughing on and off all through lunch.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Susan
    June 30, 2021

    Beautiful piece of writing x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Judi Castille
    August 28, 2021

    I wish I had been more vocal about my mothers stupidity and arrogance much earlier on. Suffering in silence I do not think works. Reputation? If its all a lie, then not worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2021 by in gay, life, thinking aloud, writing and tagged , , , , , , .
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