Aunt Gayle and Dr. Ford: Trying to change a century of social rules to justify a power grab

I knew right away who Dr Ford reminded me of in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings on Capitol Hill ahead of the vote to confirm the next Supreme Court Justice. She was Aunt Gayle from Bob’s Burgers, the cartoon series character who loves to paint the butts of animals in her portraits. And I don’t mean to pick on her but her lawyers essentially pushed her into the national spotlight to make a big deal about some antics at a house party 36 years ago and they thought her a credible witness only because she was a woman. Talk about discrimination. However, Dr. Ford may have been a very smart lady, but she’s a bit loony and that made the whole event even more of a circus than it already had been. That poor girl had no business being thrown onto a national stage. And none of us had any business talking about some teenage antics from so long ago. If those are the conditions we are going to measure people by, then nobody will ever be qualified for anything, ever.

This is another area where I feel I can provide a unique perspective. I learned very early in my teenage years that girls weren’t really interested in dating guys who were not “hot” and part of the “party” scene. As a teenager I never drank, smoked, or did drugs so I had to learn to pretend to drink to get girls to want to talk—because if you didn’t drink, they wouldn’t even talk to you. Everyone seems to forget that Dr. Ford didn’t get dragged into that party she was talking about, she was there willingly. She was a young girl looking for action like most young people do. She put herself in those situational elements. Anyway, I can report quite proudly that I developed a reputation as being one of the most rebellious young people in that particular time of my life and I had to be, to make up for my stance against substance abuse. I can say that I have never said in my entire life that I was drunk and I certainly can say that I have never drank and lost consciousness. My thinking was always to prove that no matter what I always had control of my mind so I would go to these parties to pick up girls and I’d see really terrible things as a completely conscious person. I saw a lot of young girls in the 80s like Dr. Ford was, who tried to overcome their shyness by drinking heavily and throwing themselves at any boy at the party and if something went wrong, blaming it on their loss of consciousness. This wasn’t something that happened just to Dr Ford, it happened to virtually everyone—because that behavior was pushed onto young people by just about every influence they were exposed to.

I saw lots of girls whom I thought were very nice girls in school passed out drunk and naked in the middle of a floor where people would step over them while trying to get from one place to another. It would be weird to see them at their lockers in school on Monday all dressed up to look like nice girls again after everyone in the school just about had seen them naked and so drunk that they couldn’t even speak. I always felt sorry for those people because they would have to live with that shame the rest of their lives and they would lose their moral authority with their children years later, and the cost of that behavior was always unnecessarily enormous. Yet they did it weekend after weekend for a period of time in their teenage years in spite of any warnings. It was obvious to me Dr. Ford was one of those girls who put herself in a bad spot and regretted it later.

I didn’t like that culture then and looking back on it I still don’t like it. And when my own children went through that age I was able to tell them what I thought about it because I never embraced it as a youth myself. But as I listened to Democratic senators pick through Judge Kavanaugh’s year book trying to portray the Supreme Court nominee as a “party animal” I was wondering what they thought their objective was. Brett Kavanaugh was obviously a popular kid, he was a football player and an academic achiever, and to be popular in those categories you had to embrace the culture of those activities, which meant you had to be a partier, or nobody would respect you. I watched lots of very good kids struggle with this expectation. I new a lot of geeky guys who were just like Brett Kavanaugh who would go to these parties and drink themselves sick. Once they did everyone would be nice to them in the halls of the school because they had shown themselves to be partiers and that was a criterion imposed on students at that age. I was never that kind of kid. To earn the respect of my peers without being a partier I had to do other things that nobody else was willing to do which got me into a lot more trouble. But if you wanted to date hot girls and if you weren’t a drinker or drug user you had to do something to get their attention. For me it was fighting and driving really, really fast—doing things that nobody else had the guts to do drunk or sober. Nobody was interested in dating choir boys so if there is a villain that came out of the Kavanaugh hearings it was the social expectations that created that situation for both Kavanaugh and Ford.

I never dreamed that Democrats out of all people would attempt to take a moral stand on such an issue because it is usually them who are the guiltiest. It was the most outrageous exhibition of feigned moral outrage that I’ve ever seen, and it is unbelievable that it was broadcast on a national stage as if any of it were relevant. Obviously, Dr Ford was a little loony, she loved South Pacific island vacations, but she doesn’t like to fly. She is obviously highly intelligent, yet oddly a slave to conformity. She’s a lot of bizarre contrasts that reminded me of Linda’s strange sister in Bob’s Burgers. There are a lot of quirky people out there who have been shaped by a lifetime of decisions, most of them bad. And as adults they are filled with regrets that they never really get over. But they also aren’t thrown on the national stage like Dr. Ford was to attempt to make something that just about every teenager endures because of the cultural pressure to behave in that direction. I always hated that culture, and I still do today, and that gives me the right now to talk about it as a removed critic, free of appraisal. I once knew a very nice and pretty girl who was one of the most popular in our school. She was squeaky clean and dated all the top football players, and they did so because they all wanted to be the first to “pop her cherry” as they used to say. When she didn’t give it up they’d break up with her and move on to a girl who would and she’d start dating another football player and that cycle went on all through high school. She invited me to a party at Miami University a year after we graduated so of course I stopped by her sorority to see her. I had heard that she had gone wild in her freshman year of college and boy was that an understatement. When I arrived she had already passed out drunk. She didn’t even know I was there. She had been stripped naked, her clothes were no place to be found and she wasn’t the only one. I felt so bad for her because she held out to be the good girl all through high school and just one year into college she had turned into this. But the pressure was great on young women and men to do these types of things. For her it was hard being one of the most popular girls in school then being thrown into college where popularity suddenly didn’t matter. If you wanted to be poplar in the same way there, you had to put out and be a party girl, and unfortunately, she surrendered herself to that pressure. Of course, I left the party and went to Gold Star Chili to grab a few conies before heading back home. I actually liked that girl but she looked disgusting. She had thrown up on herself, was covered in spit and semen. I would never see her the same way again. People reading this in the wake of the #METOO movement might say, “why didn’t you call the police?” Well, because most women drinking that night on campus were doing the same thing. I had gone to that party with another popular girl whom I was looking for which is why I was at Gold Star, because that was our meetup spot. She never showed up so I went looking for her after a few hours. Guess where she was, she was giving a blow job to some loser drunk off his ass and likely not even knowing she was doing it behind the building of Gold Star in front of everyone walking by. To them it was just another night on the town at Miami University. I left her there and never spoke to her again—either of those girls.

It was painful to watch Judge Kavanaugh sit through that testimony. After all he had done all his life the things that society said he was supposed to do, including going to parties. And now he was being raked over the coals for being exactly that person for which schools were so inclined to create. He was the best of the best and now he was being criticized for it under a world that was trying to change the rules in a new age to redefine behavior to fit political necessity. But it didn’t fly. Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh were both victims of a society that said a compromised person was the way to popularity, and now they were both middle-agers who were put on the national stage to indicate that the rules they had lived by their entire lives had changed. And obviously for Dr. Ford, it had turned her into a bit of a crazy person as her values and those of society had taken her down a strange path in life that left a girlish optimism soaked with disappointments cast upon her by the rules of her times. And that left her more of an Aunt Gayle from Bob’s Burgers as opposed to a Mary Poppins or some other admired character. That is exactly how such people become such neurotic characters, they follow the rules then the rules change depending on politics leaving them soaked with guilt and really nowhere else to go with the feelings but to vacation in Hawaii and watch sunsets of years gone by when in their youth they had integrity and values, only to surrender those to the pressure of societal acceptance. Then when the rules change due to some future interpretation, they are left empty husks unwanted and unloved. That’s what makes the cartoon character of Aunt Gayle so funny, we all know one. But its also a sad commentary on why its so funny, because there is an uncomfortable truth to the guilt of social expectation that destroys such people before any of their childhood hopes can ever be realized.

Rich Hoffman

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