Sunday, March 22, 2009
Natalie and Monk
You probably know that care-takers get a bad rap. It's bad to be one, you tend to focus on others, put yourself last, burn out, lose self. You deny other people the joy of taking care of you. I could go on and on.
If you're familiar with the show then you know that Monk is a famous detective with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Natalie is his assistant. Monk's disorder is so severe that much of Natalie's job is watching out for him, making sure he is safe. His concentration on cleanliness (germ phobic) and order (symmetry) make Monk something of an absent-minded professor. He bumps into things. He gets hurt because he's more worried about the order of nature than his own safety.
But Natalie saves him, usually, from things like walking in front of a bus.
I tape the show and always have to hear the song, It's a Jungle Out There, will sing along with Randy Newman. What can I tell you.
Anyway, because I tape much more than I watch as a rule, I have a huge assortment of shows to choose from. One night I choose Monk and the Magician. I try to get FD to watch it with me, but as soon as he realizes who the murderer is (first ten minutes) he sees no point in watching anymore. Guys are like this unless they're watching recaps of sports.
So he goes out to do some guy thing or another and I have the remote to myself. I buzz through to where I've left off, and it becomes very obvious that the magician is a very, very bad guy. Monk figures it out right away, not as fast as FD but fast.
FD returns as it's just about to end and I rewind, make him join me. "Watch this!" I command. This is a good part so he can't complain. Monk is in very serious danger, I'm getting very worried. Pazowie! Abracadabra! Natalie shows up with the police and saves him. She throws her arms around him and gives him an emotional hug. I would have, too. This was a really close call.
My pulse eventually returns to normal and FD says to me, "She seems to really have feelings for him. That's not exactly appropriate for an assistant, is it?"
"She's his care-taker," I say. "Her job is making sure he's okay."
"He really needs that much care-taking? It's just OCD."
"Honey, it's never just OCD. And no matter what the disabling disorder, we tell people to find someone, if at all possible, to check in on them, maybe even coach or take care of them, pay for it if necessary.
Some people really need shadows. In tribal societies this has always been understood. In our industrialized, independence-is-valued-to-a-fault society, too few of us have people to watch out for us, to make sure we' don't kill ourselves, don't drink or stick needles in our arms, who will brush the crumbs off our chins, tuck in or cut off our tags, make sure we've eaten, know where we've dropped our keys. It would be nice if we could always have it together, but most of us can't. And is it all that necessary, anyway? Always having it together?"
I can't help it, I'm on a roll.
"And this doesn't apply just to people who are a little less than functional due to some disorder or another. A person can be perfectly independent and still need a little help now and then. It's ridiculous that we blow off our parents so early, now that I think about it, so dramatically, find it necessary to bark things at people who are just trying to help, like that woman on a television commercial from the seventies, the one who said, Mother please, I'd rather do it myself."
This is the end of the rant.
And you know it's true, we can't help but do this when we're teenagers, even as children or young adults. It is very normal and very good to blow off the caretakers, to glory in our independent choices, our autonomy, at any age, really. Then, we're not sure when it happens, all of sudden it's not so bad to let someone else lend us a hand.
I tell FD, "You'll take care of me, I imagine, one day. When I get old and can't find my glasses."
"Uh, why would I do that?"