Ask Dr. Salvo
October 26, 1993
Dear Dr. Salvo,
Please tell me when if ever, the female of the species will cease trying to make fathers out of the male human animal. The male is only a momentary sperm donor. The female has the onerous task of carrying the child to term and then the thankless task of rearing the offspring.
I want to stress that I am pro-female, 100 percent for choice and I feel it was an outrage that the ERA was defeated by right-wing groups and crackpots as then Senator Jeremiah Denton. Remember, Denton wanted someone to design a modern version of the medieval chastity belt? Dr. Salvo is there something in the air or water down your way that spawns loathsome creatures who slither out of the swamps such as Congressman Sonny Callahan and ex-Senator Denton?
We learned in junior high-school that the male of the species is polygamous, desires to mate as often and with as many sex partners as possible. We learned that the female is monogamous and desires a single strong male for protection and to supply basic needs.
Children are quasi-savages, little scum, a nuisance to a grown-up, an endless source of expense and worry.
The rational solution is for the couple to turn the child over to the state at an early age and then parents can concentrate on leading meaningful productive lives. The state can do a good job as proved by the Israeli kibbutzim. Parents would have visiting rights till the child matures and takes its place in society.
When we note the widespread criminal activity of the young today, we suspect the state could do a more efficient job rearing decent citizens than parents.
Your remarkable letter just surfaced on my desk, the top of which, like quicksand, seizes papers and submerges them. For unknown reasons these drowned documents float eventually to the top and are found to be still alive and demanding an answer. Some demand shoals of krill, schools of herring, and giant squid. We try to oblige.
Yours is certainly quite lively, not to say eccentric, and stimulates several related notions and characters to emerge from the frothy waves.
The first paragraph is stoic and stark. "That's the way it is, girls, take it or leave it." It recalls Dr. Salvo's justly famous Great Lazy Whale theory of male-female relations. In this schema the single, divorced, or widowed male is cruising along on his back a mile or so off-shore. "The sea is wet as wet can be, the sands are dry as dry, you could not see a cloud because no cloud was in the sky. No birds were flying overhead, there were no birds to fly." An idyllic, innocent scene, occasionally punctuated by a joyous spout as the lighthearted leviathan rolls over to look around and see where he is. To his amazement and alarm he sees not the Walrus and the Carpenter with their usual train of eager little oysters. Instead, he perceives a regular fleet of whaleboats aiming toward him and armed with harpoons attached to many fathoms of whaling line. The boats are all manned by women. This is serious. In desperation he prepares to sound, or submerge, inhaling deeply and muttering a few Our Fathers but no Hail Marys.
Coasting along the 50-fathom curve he feels as safe as a barnacle, till he emerges. Now he perceives with rolling eye of terror the sea is alive with fisherpersons, whalewomen and the like, swarming in great numbers from as near to as far as he can see. They are also using smoke signals, semaphores, and cellular phones to alert one another as to his progress. He surmises that they all are prepared for him from Cape Fear to the Bay of Fundy. He begins to resign himself. He is about to become a husband. It is scarcely necessary to spoil his hide with harpoons -- one of the girls puts a gold ring in his nose and leads him into the harbor and his new home. The rest of the whalers row back to the beach and await the next great lazy whale. There are, it seems, plenty of them. They all share that fatal flaw: They are not serious. They came to have fun! They cannot imagine how serious and single-minded all the whalepersons are, nor how united in their purpose.
So, J.B., the answer to your question in paragraph one is, "When apples grow on lilac trees."
In some species of fish the female pulls a shell game, leaving the male with the eggs, and later the young, in a pouch provided by the accommodating male. He has surrendered eons ago his male prerogatives and obligingly evolved this device to keep peace in the marriage. You can imagine what his social life is like. No ball games, no beer, no poker, no skirt chasing. Ages before the evolution of the Phillies he took their ideals to the mud and drowned them.
And, speaking of Philadelphia, its patron saint, W.C. Fields, had a few words for the kiddies, should any of them dare to appear in his vicinity: "Back to reform school you little nosepickers," he would snarl. As to females and their intentions he would fend them off with a walking cane full of spirits. He confined his gallantries to girls like Mae West, whose lack of seriousness was patent. She loved lazy whales but never cared to own one.
I will not enter into a discussion of political figures slithering out of the swamps. We are engaged in the bad mouthing of woman and children. We should not overlook Paul Gauguin in our search for like-minded spokesmen to defend the lazy whales. Paul was middle aged and a successful London financier with teenage children when he absquatulated to Paris to become a painter. Like Zorba the Greek he had "Wife, house, family -- the full catastrophe." He soon discovered that living in a garret and painting pictures of naked girls suited him to the ground. Not to mention the Beaux Arts ball and other painterly perks and excesses that would make the Tail Hook caper look like a Quaker tea party.
His wife tried letters wet with tears and other feminine wiles to lure Gauguin back to London and a paintless existence. He was not to be persuaded, just kept on painting and misbehaving. Finally an old friend of his went to Paris and tried to re-awaken Paul's paternal feelings: "Don't you miss your children?" he inquired. "When they were very small I was quite attached to them," said Paul. "But the bigger they became the less concerned I felt." Or, words to that effect. An honest whale.
In the child-centered climate of today Gauguin would seem a dreadful misanthrope, and perhaps would find no buyers for his pictures. Yet all he did was to express frankly the great lazy whale philosophy of family life. The catchers of the whale, even today, are obliged to housebreak the creature and teach him to enjoy his responsibilities. And, she must somehow manage to negotiate the whaleboat through the shoals of male-female differences in sexual attitudes. One of Salvo's great uncles, while teaching at Oxford, had a student who dreamed the solution to these puzzles. He awoke with a sensation of illumination bordering on revelation, convinced he had dreamed a profound answer to all such questions. He wrote it down rapidly while still half asleep, and did not read it till hours later.
His notes said:
Men are polygamous
He decided not to do his thesis on it, after all.
Your reckless remarks about children being "quasi-savages, little scum" etc. mark you as the boy in school who was picked on, bullied perhaps into the condition now to be known as misopedia, or hatred of children. They are really no worse than adults, and not nearly so dangerous to the world. Besides, almost everything is a source of expense and worry, hence the far eastern philosophy of attaining happiness by ceasing to want anything.
As to the Kibbutzim, they were not a bad idea, nor even a new one. I believe Plato suggested a similar system for rearing children. However some studies have shown Kibbutzim children to be disturbingly bland, standardized, and cool emotionally.
Could it be that the young human requires some conflicts, anxieties, and also family intimacy and warmth? (Family life is not all bad, now that we're being serious.) Perhaps in our development we need these elements in order to develop a unique personality, to adapt to life in this world, and to understand and feel for others.
As to the state, I seriously doubt it could do a better job "rearing decent citizens" than could the parents. The state already is swollen beyond belief with ineffective programs, agencies, and "personnel" or "functionaries." That is, our government more and more resembles that of India, in which every other person has a law degree, and the business of the government is to provide employment for them, whether or not the government or anybody really needs them. Our improvement is to hire anybody, even if he is not a lawyer, and give him a program to mismanage.
I can't decide from your letter whether you are a democrat or a republican. More likely a royalist and a tory. Not a Libertarian, for sure. The sad truth is, J.B., that the feelings about children that you profess are not at all unusual or far-fetched. In fact, they describe pretty accurately the private sentiments of most great lazy whales. With one exception: We are expected to try to be better -- give evolution a helping hand, or fluke as the case may be. Mind what you spout!
October 26, 1993