The Mamas and the Papas Indeed

California Dreaming?

I'm not feeling sorry for myself, but it's been four months since I've seen my West Coast kids and grandkids and that's a little long, even with Google-vid and chat, texting and email. Even with those pictures that pop up everywhere. Nothing helps when I get like this.

Although talking, especially about things that are intimate, helps tremendously.

Over the phone my daughter tells the story about my five year-old grandson,

"Mommy! I put a birthmark in my book!"

Undoubtedly, the stuff of the Mommy Blogs, and you can laugh at the telling, but I would have loved to have been there. I understand his Mommy had a hard time keeping a straight face.

We can talk about our marvelous virtual world, how we keep in touch and all that, but there's nothing like the real thing, the real humans. The touch of your children, the smiles of their spouses, the hugs of your grandchildren.

We'll get to Papa John in a minute.

It cost me a few bucks in gifts, not bad at all, especially since Southwest takes the bite out of baggage, doesn't charge. They're so funny at Southwest, so laid back. None of the attitude:
You're dirt, why should we even let you stand-by.
It's all:
Chill out. We'll get you there.
And there are plenty of places to plug in devices.

So I filled a nylon duffel with various throwing things cuz the kids like to play catch with me, and real kid toys-- puzzles, Disney-Rummy, nothing too expensive. September, birthday month, passed uneventfully so there had to be a few cards, too. Cards are a big deal in our family. You can forget the present, but it's unforgivable to forget a card. I didn't forget, just didn't get to it.

I always freeze, too, when it comes to what to write in them. Maybe everyone does. My solution is to edit the Hallmark text, flip it to get it right.

A favorite pen in hand, I went at it at the airport, two hours to kill. My chauffeur had to make it to a class.

I wanted to buy a magazine, too.

When I told my chauffeur that this was the plan, a latte and a New Yorker, he asked me why we canceled the magazine subscription.
"I couldn't get a good waiting room rate. One thing about The New Yorker. It's going to cost you."
But the cover, all about Iran and the economy, did nothing for me. Not the story about the gangs of Rio, either. Must be a plot to ensure that Chicago gets the Olympics. Chicago and Rio are the top two contenders. And the winner is. . .

We find out tomorrow. Apparently the city that hosts the games will suffer from a plethora of special, but empty new warehouses and big buildings when it's all over.

I picked a different magazine altogether, US, all about fashion and celebrity gossip. Wouldn't you rather look at models and movie stars? The boasting front page:
Mackenzie Phillips' Horrifying Confession.
Who could resist such a thing? And a buck cheaper.

If you haven't been paying attention, Mackenzie Phillips, born to John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and socialite Susan Adams (one of John's many marriages), tells all in a memoir of her wild and crazy days behind the set of One Day at a Time.

For most of us, starring in a hit television show would be wild enough, but Mackenzie's drug addled, depraved father seduced her, made things even wilder for his daughter. He made her his lover and the affair lasted ten years. I've heard it several times,
I'll teach you how to love someone.
This is the family child molester's favorite line.

I haven't read the book, but Ms. Phillips was all of 17 at the beginning of the sexual relationship, so we can say he seduced her. Even if she was head over heels in love with her father, that she was a minor is reason enough to rule out informed consent. That alone makes the act criminal. Minors can't consent to sex, not legally.

The Mamas and the Papas. California Dreaming. I Saw Her Again. Be careful who you worship when it comes to rock stars.

Mackenzie confesses to cocaine and heroin addiction, and we know that under the influence informed consent isn't possible either.

But let's get real. This is incest, internationally taboo.

John Phillips isn't around to talk about it, so for all we know the book is a pack of lies. If I hadn't heard more than a few handfuls of these stories first hand, I might think so, too. Ultimately Mr. Phillips passed away a victim of his own vices, heart failure at 65, eight years ago. Gave Mckenzie some time to write a book.

Now the question is,
Is this a good thing, to write a memoir? Maybe it hurts innocent people.
And the answer is,
Maybe yes, maybe no.
I read that her sister Chynna wasn't thrilled when she heard about the publication of the book and that it came as a surprise, not that she doubted the veracity of her sister's work. Chynna uses one of my favorite phrases, These things affect other people to explain her feelings. She has kids. Mr. Phillips had grandchildren.

Publicizing secrets comes at a cost, usually. It has to hurt innocent people, airing the dirty family laundry. In family therapy we talk about this as a process, especially when it comes to exposing incest, and suggest discretion.

Timing is everything when telling the kids, especially. They want the people they love to be infallible, perfect. (Who wants a predator for a grandfather?) This is why these confessions are frequently limited to a best friend, a trusted clergyman, surely a therapist. Therapists generally will work up a plan, make it thoughtful, considerate of everyone.

It has to be hard to break it to youngsters when a previously trustworthy family member can't be trusted anymore. So we might suggest tabling the discussion until they can understand what it's all about, if at all possible. Of course, if your aunt writes a book, it's hard not to hear about it.

Some secrets can be toxic, is the truth, they hurt people who hold them in. We have to talk about what has happened to us in life. We have to talk to someone. And exposing them ultimately might protect others from making the same mistakes. Awareness of danger is a good thing. We can learn from others and we like the details. Those of us in this business are traumatized hearing them first hand, but for others, the juice quenches a certain prurient curiosity.

The US interview goes on to say that Mr. Phillips also did time in a penitentiary for dealing drugs, and one of his sons calls him things I won't publish.

Living perpetrators of sexual crimes can get better. No one has to stay a creep forever. We have them on their knees in therapy, some of us, have them beg forgiveness. That helps a lot.

Hopefully Mackenzie did some healing writing her book. We wish her well. Sister Chynna's apparently a popular vocalist (I'm not always up on this stuff). I'm going to check out her work, see if it will help me get over the thought that I won't be listening to the Mamas and the Papas anytime soon.

Thanks to all of you who commented below, who recommended songs, movies, books and websites about this topic. It's clear that many of you already know that when we talk about sexual abuse, we're talking emotional scars, social isolation, and psychological/physical reminders of this kind of "love".

The whole thing makes me, personally, want to avoid the 'zines, the expose's, the memoirs. I'll stick to chick lit, maybe.



Anonymous said…
It seeems unfair (for anyone) to make this public after the abuser is dead. He cannot answer the questions, cannot defend himself, cannot clear his name, cannot beg for forgiveness.

I've never told anyone what happened to me. He died two years after the fact, when I was still a teenager. I didn't have to worry about him doing it to someone else, so I felt that telling after that point was useless at best, and absolutely devastating to the family at worst.
Jackie said…
I disagree that it's not fair to make public after someone is dead. Several close family members were victims of incest from their father, and although he died before I was born, I am thankful to know these family secrets. Seriously, it explains A LOT about these people in my life. If the default is you can't tell after someone is dead, I think you put the shame on the victim, not squarely on the perpetrator where it belongs.
CiCi said…
This is way too close to home for me. I would not want to write a book about it, but that is me. I hope Mackenzie finds some closure. Like I say, this would not be my way but she has chosen to go public so I hope it helps her heal and get on with her life.
Anonymous said…
just because someone dies, that doesn't make him or her a saint, just makes them dead. I think she has a right to do what she needs to do to heal. Saving his reputation, now that he's dead, isn't logical when there is a live person who needs healing.

I had no idea that California Dreamin' was written about sexual molestation. Wow.
cordeliadarwin said…
Thanks for saying that, JJ. A less pithy but more meaningful alternate title could have been How I Got This Way.

Yeah, he's dead. And his daughter still loves him, is maybe even still in love with him. I hope the book gets some people angry at him -- because clearly she is not yet ready to be.

I have seen some of the interviews and confess to following it in the scandal press. I have read that there were many adults who claim to have known about it -- way back when -- while it was happening.

Where the hell were they when this child really needed them? Their validation may be comforting to her now. But just imagine what a difference their intervention could have made for a child so exploited and confused.
porcini66 said…
What gets ME is that so many people have expressed disgust, anger, horror and what not towards HER! They completely blame her! I have to say that I have been pretty stable with my "issues" around this topic, but I've had a bit of a flare up recently...if people have such vitriolic hatred and disgust towards's how they would react towards ME, too...I've spent a couple of years learning that it wasn't my fault, that I didn't do anything to "deserve" it, but it wouldn't matter - they would still curl their lip and wrinkle their nose if they knew. very sad.

I hope that Mack gets it together now, that this helps her. I sure don't envy her...
blognut said…
I thought about doing a post on this, but the fact is that it's too close to home for me. I chose to do one on the Roman Polanski scandal instead, although that wasn't too easy either.

The thing that drives me absolutely insane about some of the public response to Mackenzie's book, is that survivors of rape and incest do a fine job of minimizing and/or self-blaming without the help of the general public.

What about the kids suffering from this today in their own homes? Do we really want them to hear that Mackenzie had no right to tell; to write this book; to do whatever it takes to heal herself?

So what if her abuser is dead? In fact, so much the better, if you ask me. Now she can tell her story without having to fear him.
Syd said…
Good questions TD. I have no answers. I guess that each of us has to deal with our past in whatever way brings healing. I've not been molested and thankfully had a fairly mild time in childhood. I think that people, regardless of their fame, have a host of issues that most of us never know about.
Jack Steiner said…
I don't think that any of these lend themselves to simple answers.
Isle Dance said…
Thanks so much for writing this.

(I actually had a dream you said, "The Mama's and the Papa's, indeed" strange...or maybe normal?)

One of the things I've wished for - and think our society needs, to grow and heal and end the evil - is for high profile abuse victims to speak out.

Every child, teen and adult victim ((now know)) they are not alone. It's now splattered everywhere.

I think anyone who has been there - experienced intimate abuse of any kind - can see so many similarities, can trust what to believe.

I was sad to see this article from a doctor I'm assuming has little experience with intimate abuse...and lots of experience with addiction. His response can make us victims feel victimized all over again:
blogbehave said…
I wholeheartedly concur with you, TherapyDoc, that a professional's guidance and "plan" can be a big help in the painful, uncertain process of exploring options.

Would not advocate a book, necessarily, though I agree it's up to the victim to determine what is a healing venture. Agree that consulting family members is a considerate step but no telling what one will hear, the conflicting motives and advice giving.

There is the financial aspect of the book, and we know how sexual assault contributes toward substance abuse, which contributes toward ruined lives. So she decides to capitalize on his fame, which he was able to hide behind, to some degree, no doubt. And thereby make some money off of the years of emotional and physical trauma he caused. One can see a small amount of justice in that.

But I mainly wanted to say that just because the perpetrator is deceased is not, defacto, a reason to let secrets lie. There may be other victims. Generations of victims. Ongoing victims. Telling the story can often empower other victims to speak up and get help and sometimes to prevent future victims.
Ella said…
I think the story has to be told, one way or another. She picked this way.

17 in the 1970s? Already a woman? You think you are grown up, you are the seducer, you are choosing this. But it is never OK for the grownup to do this to you, your father or someone else.

A Hollywood celebrity can tell the story and go on Oprah, get some attention on this issue, CSA. Because the regular people who live through it won't get a sweet book deal.
Battle Weary said…
Once the perpetrator has died, the victim may finally feel safe enough to tell the secrets.
Michael Finley said…
I read some also. I noticed she said this is the first time she remembers.

I wrote first that the victim does not have to consider anyone but themselves. They I realized that is abdication responsibility in effect excluding the victim from making decisions.
April_optimist said…
If victims do not tell or are attacked for doing so then other abusers may feel safe to keep abusing knowing their reputations will be safe and that if the victims do tell, they will be attacked for making it public.

Those adults who knew and took no action minimized what was happening. People need to understand the devastation that incest causes.
Ms. Finch said…
I mean, if you want to tell your family, then by all means do so. But publishing a book? How is that necessary to heal? Are non-famous incest survivors doomed to a life of pain because no publisher will pick up their stories?

Saying an accused abuser has no right to defend himself assumes he is guilty. Maybe he didn't do it. Or maybe it was consensual all along.

It seems a bit unseemly to publish a book and then go on Oprah right when the book is about to drop to disclose this awful secret. As TherapyDoc said, it could be all lies, and now this guy can't respond to these very serious and public accusations. I'm not calling her a liar--it could just as easily be true, but the whole profitting from incest is just as icky as incest itself.
sfordinarygirl said…
Writing is a very therapeutic and sometimes people heal best when they can articulate their thoughts. At least I think getting those words out and identifying the issues can free the soul from pain.

Her timing seems awful and a bit spiteful. I wonder if she had considered her actions and thought what would her dad if he were alive would think. It seems almost un-mindful - her actions.

My dad for years wouldn't let my sisters or myself tell anyone outside or inside such as my aunt (mom's side) or gma (dad's side) about the domestic violence or the negative environment we were living at home. For 20 some years, I kept it to myself, sometimes writing it in a journal or a blog online, but going to therapy helped in some way free the pain.

Secrets kept by the person holding them can be mentally stressful and painful long term. My dad has for 10+ years kept his extramarital affair a secret. My sisters and I have known - seen publicly my dad with this other woman. Long term what does keeping this secret say to your kids? Does it mean this behavior is acceptable? How long before this secret comes out and hurts the family? My parents are finalizing their divorce so it probably doesn't matter much.
therapydoc said…
This is what happens when you write a post on an airplane. You forget that if you actually publish it, you'll have no time to get to the comments.

Please be patient with me, dear friends. I'll respond to these unbelievably cogent-on-the-money thoughts and questions by the end of the week.
Grace said…
"(Who wants a predator for a grandfather?). This is why these confessions are frequently limited to a best friend, a trusted clergyman, surely a therapist. Therapists generally will work up a plan, make it thoughtful, considerate of everyone."
Um…who wants to *believe* their GF is a good man if he is, in fact, a *predator*. I didn’t want a father to sexually abuse me for 8 years, or a mother that hated and abused me – and turned her head, but guess what, it happened! And the reality is grandpa may be an abuser – I’m not sure how you plan to deliver that message in a thoughtful, considerate way to everyone. And are you saying the one who was abused and carried that secret for many, many years out of fear, humiliation, and shame should continue to carry that burden, and (still) take everyone else’s *feelings* into consideration, therefore, continuing to believe that they do not matter, and no one cares to know the truth? Typical, from what I’ve seen, from a clinical perspective. Perhaps, the VICTIM should continue to go to DBT and contain their pain, and drug up, so they can continue to just get through the days, while the REAL abuser continues to go unpunished.

"Those of us in this business are traumatized hearing them first hand, but for others, the juice quenches a certain prurient curiosity."
I am hoping you can clarify this statement for me. Are you saying that when those who were sexually abused tell their story to a trusted therapist, it traumatizes the therapist? Because if becoming a therapist is a career choice, I would think there would be awareness of the clientele, just as an oncologist might be aware that some of his patient's will die of cancer.

"The whole thing makes me, personally, want to avoid the 'zines, the expose's, the memoirs. I'll stick to chick lit, maybe."
IMO, too many people “avoid” this –and that’s why it continues to run rampant in society, children being hurt, and adults turning their heads. And as a therapist, I would think you would want to be educated in this topic.

My children know my parents were abusive, they do not know the extent, or details of the abuse – but I would NEVER shield this from them, and paint a rosy picture of my parents that did not exist. They were evil, satanic, abusive people, and they hurt me in ways a child should never be hurt.

Dead or alive, an abuser as still an abuser…and the victim of that abuse has a right to tell his/her story whenever and however he/she needs too. I, personally, am glad more and more victims are willing to speak out loud about this. I admire their courage and only wish I enough courage to do the same.
Check out the song, “Where are you” from Chynna Wilson’s band….she knew.
therapydoc said…
Saving, I can't address all of this right now. If you had read previous posts you would know that exposing grampa and any other sex offender to protect other people (and to put the felons in jail) is always a primary objective in therapy. And you would know that the therapists who can't handle the secondary traumatization of the work get out of it.
Anonymous said…
Saving..I agree wholeheartedly. There is very little guidance out there for how to handle family when it comes to protecting the next generation. I refused to let my child be alone with my adoptive father, both when I was married, because the trust wasn't there, and especially after I divorced when my soon-to-be ex-husband threatened to publicize my family horror story in our small town and take my son away from me. I was fortunate to have a couple of "talks" with my father in which I explained how I felt and why my boundaries were necessary. He would profess to respect those boundaries, but then test them each and every time we visited. When I put my foot down, I was painted as a mixed-up emotional mess and it was only then that I learned my father had been telling a tale to his friends, my ex-stepmother and his new live-in girlfriend, including my siblings, that I had seduced 12 years of age...mind you. Long story short, I haven't spoken to my father going on 3 years now. One sibling no longer speaks to me. The other can't acknowledge the ugliness--won't speak to me about it--and our relationship is distant and strained. It's a lonely path and I continue to be both shocked and outraged at how insidious this problem is in our society and how little help and guidance is available in the therapy world.
I can't tell you all how many therapists have been seemingly dismissive of how difficult and hurtful and continuous this ordeal has been for me. I guess it explains why there is so little therapy literature and so few support groups out there on how to navigate the victim's difficult path of relating to other family members (and now we see with MP, the world at large) who weren't abused, including how to explain to your child why, all of a sudden, a grandfather, an uncle and an aunt have disappeared. I still am not sure if I'm handling well the questions: "Will I ever see my grandfather again?"

As a victim, I came to understand on a whole new level how truly horrible it was to have had my trust violated by my own parent when I had a child of my own and experienced the depth of love between a parent and a child and the realization that that love was not there or meant nothing to my father. It shed a whole new light for me on why I was experiencing certain difficulties in life. I really feel for MacKenzie Phillips. She is brave indeed.
Yes, I also wondered how all of this would play out and what the balance would look like between healing for her - and consequences within the family, etc. Ironically, today I was alerted to a website for adult survivors of childhood abuse that publishes people's stories as a way to facilitate healing. I posted the woman's comment about it on my site - and will share the site with you here:

Great blog by the way. As a therapist who has blogged myself for some time, I appreciate the way you lower the velvet curtain surrounding the "therapist." It's very refreshing.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting about this tough subject. And for offering a balanced description of the issue.

In the end, it all depends on the family circumstances, and on the victim I believe.
I agree with previous comments that complete silence creates more shame. But one has to wonder if shouting it out to everyone to hear will really help the victim, or only create more problems for her/him.

The fact is, no matter what we would like, people will react badly to this kind of things - it is after all a taboo.

Not an easy call, and surely one that must be discussed in therapy. Thank you for putting it so clearly.
isnt that why lots of people blog in some way shape or form we are all writing our memoirs
Anonymous said…
watch the movie coraline and write a blog about family dysterfunction and how to over it !
Amy said…
I think it takes some serious guts for Mackenzie to do what she did. Effectively stand up in front of the whole world and say "I did some really ugly things" and "My father did even uglier things to me". I do echo the sentiments that others have expressed here, that writing is very cathartic, and I would imagine was very cathartic for Ms. Phillips.
For all we know, the work started out as step work in her recovery process, and grew into something even more powerful.
I have no problem speaking ill of the dead if they were [expletive omitted]. Part of my very own bag of "family of origin" issues was that my mom never got over HER family (child abuse) issues, and continues to lug them around to this day. Gotta love that magical circle of codependency.
If you don't talk about the ugly monster in the corner, that doesn't mean the ugly monster (the lies, the secrets, the shame) just goes away. He/she'll just sit there quietly, watching, digesting the silence and getting bigger.
Of the close friends I have who are abuse survivors, they are among the toughest, strongest women I know (and also the most honest, most direct people i know).

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