Distinction comes with time. That is what we learn to say in response to the decay attendant upon its passing. The blending of flavors in vintage wine, the weathered surfaces of antique marble, the lines furrowing an old man’s face, all signify distinction.
And what good does my distinction deliver to me? Only this, the ability better to discern appearance from truth, opinion from knowledge, desire from interest, conciliation from justice. The passing of time makes me ever less inclined to curtail my inquiry at the surfaces of things, such as the surface of manhood or the surface of friendship.
Who are my friends? Each time I ask this question of myself, a new kind of answer emerges, grounded in the accrued understanding of what it takes to make a man stand out in his relation to me from the undifferentiated and indistinct multitudes of humanity. In response to my reason, it is the reciprocity of argument and understanding. In response to my needs and abilities, it is the reciprocity of reliance. And in response to my feelings, it is the reciprocity of consideration.
Reciprocity. This is what it all has come to. Not the sharing and sharing alike, but the giving in kind for what you take and coming to depend upon the recipient for what you give, matching and balancing sources with resources. It is being able to count upon the return of freely given care. It is knowing that the effort I expend in making my way through this world results in a robust new presence, something that withstands pressure, returns force, supports weight, balances scales, contributes substance. It is the opposite of waste.
Funny how for a man, everything comes to sex: th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame. Maybe it is the result of never living down the amazing discovery of being able to persuade a woman to give herself, to put out, in exchange for nothing, in exchange for what counts as nothing to a man. A certain kind of man. The kind a Mexican calls “chingaso”, a term of opprobrium that makes me wonder to this day ― how and why can it derogate through imputing the quintessential male accomplishment? “You fucker!” ― you say. “You motherfucker!” But that, stripped of its veneer of pithy obloquy, reduces to a name for your father. What then distinguishes your father from yonder motherfucker?
Now I can resent my old man with the best of them. But a motherfucker is one thing he is not, it being contrary to the fundamental nature of any fucker to stick around for the consequences. By contrast, if anybody has ever been there for my mother and for me, it is my father. My father, who for decades has gotten a rise out of me by intoning that a man is not he who bandies around a big hard prick, but he who takes care of his family. And now that I think about it, he has been right all along. The one who bandies around a big hard prick is nothing more than a fucker.
What the fucker does best is fuck. Fuck, as in fuck responsibilities, fuck consequences, fuck expectations, fuck pressures, fuck needs, fuck reason, fuck sanity, fuck health, fuck her, fuck him, fuck you, fuck me, fuck’em all and sleep till noon. Here’s to your fuck, Frank.
Not that fucking is the fucker’s only concern. Because he wants and needs to distinguish himself from a mere jerkoff, the fucker must at all costs enlist at least one other party to his constitutional preoccupation. And doing so calls for skill and wit. In order to elicit passion, the fucker must learn to feign compassion. But as happens with the best of actors, his expedient of pretend compassion eventually evolves into the genuinely felt sentiment. And why not? After all, sentiment incurs no marginal cost. More feeling need not translate into more doing.
This principle is seen at its starkest in contrasting fucking with the attendant outcome of breeding. That in the normal course of events fucking becomes encumbered by children is of no concern to the fucker.
After all, she could always take the pill beforehand or have an abortion afterwards. Not that he ever would consider preempting this eventuality by subjecting himself to a vasectomy. Why interfere with the pleasure of my fucking? Fuck that!
Which is not to say that the fucker will have nothing to do with children. On the contrary, he will be all too happy to point out the mistakes others make in rearing their offspring. Do they forbid the child to express any negative feelings towards their parental figures? Do they presume to tell it what is acceptable to hate and what to love? Do they send it off to a boarding school if it bothers them or intrudes on their time? Far better to recuse yourself, to step away, to disappear, to let the child cope on its own without his fallible father. Parenting is for chumps. The fucker has better things to do with his time.
This acute sense of opportunity costs is the reason the fucker will never have friends. Expecting and receiving human kindness without ever giving freely and returning in kind, can work only as a short-term strategy of scorched earth exploitation. Having a friend is being a friend. It is a reciprocal responsibility. To declare that you would rather not add to your responsibilities is the surest way to put paid to the possibility of friendship.
I have been learning to deal with responsibility throughout my life. Whatever success I might have had along the way, is first and foremost owed to my parents. However rudely they might have mishandled my tender feelings, however crookedly they might have molded my malleable character, however insensitively they might have provoked my petulant anger, of this I am most certain, that they always have tried their best to do what they thought to be best for me. And that is the best thing I may hope for from any human being. So this is what responsibility means to me: to make my first effort always to consider the good of those I care for, to think of the world in which I live as coming before the way I want to live. And that is how I hope to distinguish myself from a stone cold fucker.