Father Tony

One day, an armless man walked into a village in southern Italy....

Filed By Father Tony | October 22, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bad jokes, gay couples, gay marriage, low self-esteem, southern Italy

Dear Father Tony,

"Barry" and I were legally married last year. We had been boyfriends and partners for ten years before that.

Last night we went to a party where I told a funny story that fell flat. Oh they laughed but it was polite.

When we got home I asked "Barry" if I am funny and he said "Sometimes" and that was it. Now I have to add that to the list of what's not good enough in me. Not cute enough. Not smart enough. Not sexy enough. Not successful enough. Not rich enough. Not young enough. Not thin enough. And now I have to add not funny enough. Here's my question. When can I say I am good enough? Will it ever happen?

"Barry" loves me and says everything is fine and our friends seem to like me OK but it's like I don't really exist except just as "Barry's" husband. This is how I feel all the time. I have this fantasy about a man who will love everything about me and say "I adore you" but when I imagine his face, I see "Barry". This feeling is eating at me.


Dear Harry,

All that laughter that you missed getting when you told your funny story? I've been delivering it while reading your letter. Not because I mean to be derisive, but because I feel sympathy for you and think that you need just one simple wake-up call that will set you on the right track to solving a problem that is exclusively yours (Not your husband's. Not your friends'.)

Sweetheart, the bad news is that you will never be good enough. The good news is that nobody is ever good enough. The even better news is that you can now stop worrying about this.

You need to reframe the question that has been gnawing at you. Instead of wondering if you are good enough, you need to ask yourself if you are doing everything you can do to be the best "Harry" possible. Only one person can answer that question: "Harry" himself.

Many readers will scream "He's got bad insecurity! He's got poor self-image! No one will love him because he doesn't love himself! Doormat!" I suspect you've been told those things before, but, like water off a duck's back....

What is interesting is that when you say you are not funny enough, what you are really saying is that you fear that your husband imagines someone funnier, and yet you yourself have no problem imagining someone whose love might be more unconditional.

Your letter made me wonder if women who get their breasts augmented for their husbands are not making a bad mistake. I am quite sure that if I had my butt lifted and my dick pumped full of silly putty and if I bought chest implants and hair plugs and a face lift, my husband would recoil in horror and never touch me again.

Love and attraction are not directed to plastic parts and artifice, they are directed to something that you emit uncontrollably: the real you. If you have let your husband know the real you intimately and completely, and if he loves you, there is very little you can do to elevate that love or snuff it out. I guess that is the essence of the "for better or worse" clause - boredom with our spouses' old jokes landing squarely in the latter half of that equation.

Maybe you just need some stronger demonstration of his love. If so, tell him so. There is nothing wrong with telling a spouse when you need stroking. They don't always see it. If he says "Oh you are so needful!", just smile and shrug and soak it up. Give yourself permission to be confident in his love.

PS: For years, I was famous for telling a long and convoluted joke at parties. There was always a moment when the revelers would scream for me to tell the "Armless Man" joke. When they did, my husband would roll his eyes, but I don't think he loved me any less for the telling. (The last time I told that joke was in 1992, at a dinner party, seated next to the host who, during the joke, passed out drunk after opening, next to my plate, a small ornate metal box containing the ashes of her last cat, to which I added some salad dressing before snapping shut the lid and leaving the table with the joke unfinished.)

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 22, 2009 10:59 AM

Harry, life is a banquet, and most people are starving!

Much as I would love to know what became of the cat that became a garnish...

I have to ask if these are all self criticisms? Does your partner know you have this self image? Time for a week in Cancun!

Funny, cute, smart, sexy, successful, rich, young thin! Was your mother Joan Crawford?

Look in the mirror and smile. You are the envy of so many who are those things you think you are not. Hey, everyone tells a flat joke, grows older, has a low libido day, etc., but again Tony hits the nail squarely when he says are you doing your best to be the best Harry you can be? You have someone who loves you already so the rest is easy.

Excuse me Harry, I have to google "Armless Man Joke."

Harry, as Tony said your perspective needs to change. Good luck. But it does sound to me that you are funny and smart and thin and successful etc etc etc enough. You have a husband who loves you and friends who think enough of you to politely laugh when your joke goes awry.
If you were not "enough" you wouldn't have these things.

I'm with Bil - I want to hear the joke too. :)

Before I get serious, let's take notice that all the late night kings of comedy usually do not get through a nightly monologue without at least one joke that bombs --- but Leno and Letterman are still on the air, and in fact they are both multi-millionaires due to their joke-telling.

As to your more general self-questioning, I call this form of insecurity "the cosmic I.N.G.E." --- pronounce that last part to rhyme with "bing" ...

The cosmic INGE is a metaphyscial disease we all have to some extent, and the secret of not succumbing is to remember the two points of wisdom Father Tony has already given: 1) None of us are "good enough" (meaning perfect) and therefore 2) you are just as good as everyone else.

Wanting to be perfect is the same as wanting to be God. Humans were not made to be God, they were made to learn to be satisfied not being God, by discovering a thing called humility.

So enjoy being good enough to be a human ... but do it humbly.

P.S. Father Tony, if you ever put salad dressing on my cat's ashes I swear I will pee on your leg.