From Emotional Weather Report, our column every Sunday in the Philippine Star
Blue-footed boobies are a boon to conservationists. How can you argue with a slogan like “Save the Boobies”?
My friend and I were talking about the sense of guilt and how we blame ourselves for things that are not even our fault. Being of a control freakish disposition, we regard accidents and random occurrences as things we could have prevented. When something goes wrong, we assume that we’d been careless. Yes, we expect ourselves to be psychic.
In contrast, corrupt politicians are apparently incapable of guilt or the slightest sense of responsibility. They seem blissfully unaware that what they’re doing is wrong. If they are, they have the uncanny ability to forgive themselves.
The sense of guilt is probably acquired in childhood, when the most casual remarks from our parents are engraved on our psyche. For instance, mothers often tell their children that giving birth ruined their figure. Even if they’re joking, their kids won’t forget it. (Of course the church lays the first and biggest guilt trip on its flock via the doctrine of original sin. You can’t escape the guilt. You’re doomed.)
When I was a kid my mother used to say that her breasts were my fault. (She died ten years ago but she used to tell these stories to everyone so I have permission to repeat them.) My mother was one of those extremely well-endowed women whose boobs walked into a room a full minute before she did. Shopping for brassieres in the era before globalization and open markets was hell: none of the products in department stores could give her the cantilevering she wanted. For that kind of lift she would’ve needed the jet propulsion lab at NASA.
So my mother waged a losing war against gravity, and I was to blame. Apparently her 42Ds had held up well enough until I was born, whereupon they began to sag. She had plenty of milk so I didn’t have to ingest a single drop of infant formula.
Unfortunately when my teeth started growing, I rejected rubber teething toys and used her nipples instead. In her description I had almost bitten through them, so they were hanging on by a sliver of skin. Not only that, but I was supposed to have amused myself by clamping my teeth on her flesh and pulling it in every direction. While this was happening, she said, I would cackle madly, like an overacting Damien the child in The Omen. Imagine a rubber band that is stretched until it loses its elasticity. That’s what happened to her boobs, she said—not time, not gravity, not genetics, but me.
The boobies tried to retaliate by killing me.
According to family legend, when I was six months old my mother’s breasts attempted to murder me. Not by poisoning or asphyxiation, but drowning. My mother was lying in bed, breastfeeding me, when she fell asleep. I continued feeding, and when I’d had my fill I turned away. The milk kept leaking, and soon there was a pool of milk on the bed. When my mother woke up, the puddle was almost touching my nostrils—if I’d moved my head an inch, I would’ve suffocated in milk. Death by boobies.
What is the point of this story? None, really, except to note that our personalities are formed in childhood. The tiniest details and offhand remarks take root in the memory and never go away. These are the things that make us what we are. Yikes.