Rendered Fat Content


Fernando BoteroMona Lisa, Age Twelve (1959)
"Look, I tied my own shoes this morning!"

Adulthood brings more opportunities for me to behave like a BigBaby than I ever enjoyed as an actual infant. Strict parents continually encouraged me to act more maturely than my age, so I figure that I used up some of my grown up behavior well before I reached puberty, which left adequate untapped reserve to keep me in decent stead through to the very edge of my dotage. Unfettered by hovering parents, my inner BigBaby has increasingly flourished, gaining what I consider to be near master status in my sixties. Never much of a fit pitcher, I rarely rage, but I excel in the slow walk procrastination competition and my petulance has never been better formed. With all humility, I sense real mastery in my performance of the always irksome disappearance routine. With my well-developed adult intuition, I can almost always sense when a quest for assistance begins and I cleverly seem to disappear just before it finds me. I've also worked on my sorry face for later, when I learn that if only I had been available, I could have proved useful. Cruel fate, huh?

I might shine most brightly when undermining myself.
The critical literature has, if anything, underplayed the general utility of subtle self sabotage. The strategically misplaced date. The conveniently forgotten commitment. For the modest price of a small, sometimes public humiliation—really no cost at all if you've carefully fostered the notion that deep down, you're an absolute idiot—much potential might be conveniently avoided. The intention might well seem sincere, and this aspect must at all costs be made clear or else cruel victimhood might appear forced and therefore unendearing. The road to personal Hell must be carefully paved with well-stated good intentions to avoid any suggestion that a lack of will contributed. Cruel fate haunts no one like it hounds those masterfully feigning good intentions. This superpower must, though, be deployed sparingly lest its believability erode in overuse. The very most important person to fool always remains the fool himself, for anyone else can catch a ruse unsupported by deep personal conviction. You, too, but only with sincere dedication, could become the widely-mourned perennial victim, the always unfortunate "Poor Baby," mastery incarnate.

Seligman suggested that it all turns on a fundamentally indecent explanatory story. The best BigBabies endlessly spin these, and mostly for themselves, for no one else could possibly believe them. You, yourself, must never under any condition appear to be victimizing yourself, and blaming the dog for eating your homework was already over-used generations ago. A continual creative stream must somehow emanate from your rock, a wholly unlikely well spring of fresh plot twists and clever turns. Of course, you've long before fostered just what an ignoramus you are, your personal idiocy, long presumed, must remain no surprise to anybody. The instances when you don't fuck up something simply must become the most surprising, and your many shortcomings should properly remain the central focus of your presence. The word hapless comes to mind. You somehow found yourself at the far end of the line when every talent was handed out, and they inexplicably ran shortages those days. Them's the breaks, you say, though it's much, much better if everyone else says it first. It's a small price to pay for that endlessly useful License To Shirk Card. Poor Baby!

I believe it true and useful to believe that nobody ever completely grows up. We steadfastly remain at best little people in big people bodies, though some doubtless mature further than others. The Big Babies must work far more diligently than their more adolescent counterparts, firmly believing their payoffs well worth the inevitably greater investment needed to maintain the more infantile statuses, and I'm not even accounting for the diaper expenses. It might be an illusion, though, that anyone really gains anything useful from such dedicated indolence. The BigBaby does, indeed, seem to reap more sympathy, but increasingly these accompany ever-decreasing sincerity, and might eventually amount to little more than crocodile tears. The fairy tales can lose luster after about their ten-thousandth repetition such that even the masterful BigBaby seeks some remission. His job then might well seem overwhelming, another physics-defying trick suspended by its own boot laces, but might well prove necessary. While one might never reasonably aspire to become fully mature, some changes of pace might eventually become unavoidable, if only to save face.

Ineptness suffers from a disturbingly short shelf life, and obligations eventually overtake even the most dedicated slacker. Maintaining a position at the absolute center of the universe can and ultimately will prove over-taxing. Beyond some point, it just becomes easier to swallow the damned pill without gagging. An ounce of responsibility sometimes yields about a ton of surprising satisfaction. I find it humbling, after a prolonged period of slacking, to learn that a task I'd been so assiduously avoiding did not even wound me, let alone do me in, but provided a surprising lightening of the spirit. Even if I was only pretending to be grown up then, I still seemed to reap the unexpected benefits of carrying my own considerable weight, if only for a moment. I even came to appreciate changing my own damned diapers and, on my better days, even proudly wearing big boy pants. I still revert sometimes, yearning for a little bottle feeding, needing some needier-than-anything nurturing, and I expect that I always will, but I'm not JUST a BigBaby. I have other roles to fulfill. I conclude that I'm all of those, situationally a BigBaby, sure, but sometimes almost believably all grown up. Look, I tied my own shoes this morning!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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