Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Dave & Deni: Parental Approval

Cerebus Archive #14 (June 2011)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Cerebus Archives #14, June 2011)
The thing about fornication is that it accelerates (and, I now believe, derails) the whole process of what would otherwise be called courtship. Obviously Deni was concerned that all it was was fornication and (good test) asked if I wanted to come over to her parents place and meet the family on Boxing Day and watch Yellow Submarine on their colour television (we were both Beatles fans, Deni lifelong and me mostly from working at Now & Then). Sure! I said, eager to solidify the boyfriend / girlfriend thing and having NO idea how big a step meeting the family is until I was over there and meeting the family. They were all at the dining room table eating lunch when we arrived, her younger brother Michael greeting me with, "So this is the new one." Her younger sister Karen, wearing a John Lennon t-shirt, was obviously physically more attractive than Deni so I was instantly in a pre-Hannah & Her Sisters enactment (it was certainly a relief when the movie can out. Oh, so it ISN'T just me going through this -- I seem to recall that Mia Farrow had a much prettier sister). Deni's parents seemed stand-offish but that had more to do with the family dynamic with which I was unfamiliar -- the kids at one end of the table and the adults at the other end of the table carried on separate and distinct conversations.

Most relevant to my present point, however, is that I'm pretty sure her father had me sized up as an unsuitable candidate for son-in-law pretty quickly -- which I'm sure was a 100% accurate assessment. Deni was a flighty and unfocused residual hippy who seldom lasted long in any job and here was this high school dropout making $75 a month working in a used bookstore and who wanted to be a professional cartoonist. It wasn't a good match. We had basically the same flaws and I brought nothing to the table.

But the thing was we were -- even way back then -- well past the point in our society where a father's opinion meant anything. Deni would get involved with whomever she wanted to get involved with and her father was in a "like it or lump it" situation, like all fathers post-feminism.

It's a major conundrum. If your ambition as a society is to have as many successful and lasting marriages as you can have -- and I can't think of a more accurate definition of what most women would see as the ideal society -- the evidence is clear that that happened far, far more often when a suitor needed to ask the father's permission to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage and that it was only when daughters started making their own choices the divorce rate skyrocketed. Fathers instinctively protect their daughters from long-term harm, but only if they're expected to and allowed to.

But, of course, that doesn't conform to the romantic ideal of love at first sight and so on. In that context -- as we see in fiction from the Bronte sisters forward -- any father who doesn't rubber stamp his approval is the villain, the enemy of true love. Which is absurd. No father wants to hurt his daughter emotionally but that -- more often than not -- conflicts with his deep desire not to see his daughter hurt more seriously. I assume Ned Loubert knew that Deni could only get hurt out of an involvement with me. It was just a matter of time. Of course, Deni and I would both have been outraged if he had expressed disapproval but that's just the difference that results from shifting society 90 degrees out of whack, removing fathers from their traditional role as the sole voice of reason and sober assessment in the maelstrom of emotion-based female decision-making.

As I say, it's a conundrum because women are understandably loathe to surrender any part or their perceived absolute control over their romantic lifestyle choices. They don't want to be chattel -- either their father's or their longed-for husband's. However, the evidence of the last four decades suggest that the more absolute control women insist on having over their romantic choices the less absolute control, on a percentage basis, they are going to end up having over their desired outcome (stable, long-term marriages).

I point this out as a repentant serial fornicator with no further stake in either the fornication game: every serial fornicator is well aware and takes full advantage of the fact -- though loathe to admit it -- that the odds of getting a lot of sequential no-obligation sex (that is, sex that leads away from rather than to marriage) from a variety of women over short periods of time (from one-night stands to a few years of on-again off-again dating and "dating") go up exponentially the more women have absolute control over their romantic decision-making. The last thing the love 'em and leave 'em bad boy want is for women's fathers to be reintroduced into the equation even as advisers, let alone final arbiters... because that leads directly to rather than away from marriage.

It's an either-or situation that, it seems to me: women don't want to face: that absolute control leads most often to heartbreak either immediately or in a few years time while the surrendering of SOME control leads to a stable and enduring marriage.

Had Deni allowed her father to vet her choices, I'd guess she'd be happily married today.

But certainly not to me.

Deni Loubert was Aardvark-Vanaheim's publisher for the first 70 issues of Cerebus. Deni and Dave Sim were married from October 1978 to August 1983. After their divorce, Deni moved to Los Angeles to start her own comics publishing company, Renegade Press, which closed its doors in 1989. She was inducted into the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame in 2010.


Anonymous said...

Someone tell me again why Dave Sim's opinions are mysogynistic and controversial.

Oh, that's right...

the truth hurts.

David Birdsong

Stephen Shores said...

Hi there, love your site. I noticed that the 'Following Cerebus' link in the sidebar is now broken. Disappointing, as I was curious as to what it was!

Stephen Shores said...

This is really great. Looks like Dave has done a lot of soul-searching along the years and is really seeing things as they are. I'm sorry they divorced, but I hope that he has found happiness where he is.

Jason Winter said...

It is fascinating seeing this episode in Mr Sims life played out in comics form like this. I wonder what it must have been for him like to draw an event he once lived.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Hi Stephen,
'Following Cerebus' ran for 12 issue post-Cerebus #300 and was a magazine all about Cerebus, featuring contributions from Dave and Gerhard. Well worth tracking down if you can find copies.

Sadly Craig Miller, one of the co-editors, recently died (see Dave obituary here - and if that link to FC is now broken, I guess that venture has now been wrapped up.

Does anyone have any more solid information on the fate of Spectrum Ppublishing?