Parenting As A Developmental Stage
I recently watched The Bitter Buddha, which is a biopic about Eddie Pepitone, a 50-something comic who had influenced many of today’s comics. I was not really familiar with Eddie Pepitone, though it would appear he’s done some bit-part acting in many shows and commercials. I’m an avid follower of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and he plugged the movie during his interview with Pepitone, who’s also appeared on many of the live WTF podcasts, so I gave it a shot. I also have to preface this by citing the apology that Marc Maron was “forced” to give to Eddie and the director Steven, who both felt he had, in some way, slighted both of them during the interview. I heard the interview and I don’t see how, but suffice it to say, it seemed a very lighthearted apology.
First, this was an okay documentary. I don’t find Eddie Pepitone all that funny, compared to many of the comics who touted him as being an influence. He’s not bad, but I can see why the guy has not garnered the success of many of his contemporaries. He’s balding, overweight, just recently got into a stable relationship (I believe he may be married now), and has never had children. Neither has Marc Maron, who is a few years older than me.
Both men seem to be preoccupied with finding themselves and, frankly, blaming others (specifically parents) for their own shortcomings. Maybe “preoccupied” is a bit strong. Both men definitely have that common thread going on in their lives. I know, because I was at a point in my life where I blamed my parents for a lot of my own shortcomings, so I’m not judging. I’m merely stating that I think they both have just simply not taken that essential (in my opinion) developmental step; parenthood. I’m not saying having kids is a pathway to Nirvana or bliss; nothing of the kind. Having kids does, however, change your perspective on just about everything. Just like leaving home, or any of the other milestones of our lives. I also think that becoming a parent affords you a viewpoint otherwise obscured to those who have not taken on that responsibility. You cross over to the other side, so to speak, and are now the one responsible for someone else. And they’re going to blame you for everything as well. Now, do Maron an Pepitone avoid that because they know the standard they have held their parents? Did they just not find the right person? Or do they just not want kids? Who knows?
Now, I hate those folks who put themselves in a position where they cannot be reproached or argued with because they have children, (you know, the mothers who will say “do you have kids? Then shut up about it! What do you know!), but there’s a kernel of truth there. By not having them, you, once again in my non-judgmental opinion, you have not passed a milestone in your life. I notice these folks tend to become attached to pets or hobbies that they often equate to a sense of parenthood as well (both Maron and Pepitone fawn over their cats). Not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s a huge difference between pets and kids, let’s face facts.
One poignant moment in the film is Eddie’s father attending the performance. Here’s a man who worked all his life and did the best he could by his family, and there’s a sense that Eddie does not hold the man in very high regard, especially when his father balks at going to the show for some unknown reason. His father does come and is heard saying at the end “you had them eating out of your hand” in a congratulatory manner. A proud father celebrating his son’s accomplishments, and yet this does not seem to satisfy Pepitone.
Both Maron and Pepitone will be the first to admit that they share the same sense of anxiety when speaking about their families, who, despite their tone, I suspect they truly love. And I believe that if both men were to take that leap into parenthood, they would come to some resolution with regard to how they feel about their parents. I know this because I came to the same resolution myself. I hope for both of their sakes that they do so before their parents are gone, as it’s gratifying to bury that hatchet no matter how you do it.