Category Archives: blog

it’s not your responsibility to rebuild a bond you didn’t break

This came across my Tumblr and I have thoughts.


I can not remember a time in my life when I felt like the man who was my father loved me. He spent my entire childhood, indeed he spent every day until I ended contact with both my parents when I was in my 40s, bullying and hurting me. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him, and he made sure I knew it.

And my mother, who stole my childhood from me and forced me to work when I was seven, always made me apologize to him when he hurt me.

The very few times I spoke up to defend myself, or tried to say this wasn’t okay, or ever challenged his endless cruelty to me, he would blow up at me, fly into a rage, while she stood by and said nothing. By the time I was in my teens, I recognized this impotent rage for what it was, and I learned how to not react to it. It turns out that passive resistance was effective, I guess, because after he ran out of rage energy, he would pout and sulk. Then he would ignore me for a blissful day or two, before my mother would start the campaign of manipulation to make me apologize to him, because I’d upset him so much. And don’t I love my dad? Nothing is more important than family, Wil. Don’t you love your family?

The thing is, I never did anything wrong. I was never the aggressor. I was a child, reacting to cruelty and bullying from a man I desperately wanted to love me. I never broke any bonds between us, because he never built them in the first place. I watched him forge bonds with my brother, so I knew he was able to give love to his children, he was just choosing to withhold it from me. And my mother’s solution to this was for me to apologize to him more, apologize harder, be more, be better, be the best. Solve the impossible puzzle and I would be loved and valued just like my brother was. It was all on me. I had to do it alone.

I wasted three decades of my life trying to figure out the right way to apologize to that motherfucker so he would finally love me, before I figured out that he will never love me. He made that choice about 50 years ago and nothing I can do will change that, because it was never about me in the first place.

I just realized that my mother never even acknowledged how much, or how frequently, my dad hurt me.
It’s not like she didn’t know. I told her about it a bunch of times, and I know she saw it happen frequently. She was there when he screamed at me, called me names in front of my friends, jabbed me in the sternum with his finger, daring me to stand up for myself. She was there for all of it, and she pretends that none of it ever happened. And if it did, it was my fault.

I tried to confide in her. I tried to enlist my mother to help me deal with my father, and she was unwilling or unable to do a thing to take care of me, her son. I have no memory at all of her ever telling me she was sorry for how I felt when I confided in her, or that it wasn’t my fault, or suggesting that we sit down with him to talk, or anything like that. I can only remember her telling me (directly or by manipulation) that it was my responsibility to somehow win back his favor. She never protected me, never stood up for me, never even acknowledged that what I was experiencing was real. Gaslighted me about it for literal decades after I had realized she was never going to admit that her husband abused her son while she did nothing to stop it.

When he was … I want to say 68? Right before I divorced them, she proudly told me, “Your father is finally working on his empathy…” Okay, she admits he’s never had any empathy, but if I’d just apologized more, you see…

Jesus. What a shitty mom. What a selfish, shitty mom. After everything she took from me, she couldn’t be bothered to stick up for me when I was hurting in my own home. No wonder I spent so much of my life feeling like a thing to them, and not a son.

I know I’m not the only person in the world who has felt or feels this way, and I wonder if I could have saved myself at least some suffering and pain if I’d figured out sooner than I did that he was never going to love me, doesn’t even like me, never made an effort to get to know me, and that none of that has anything to do with me.

It’s hard not to take it personally, but what other choice do I have? I can not repair a bond I never broke, that probably wasn’t even there in the first place, because it has nothing to do with me. It’s just extremely bad luck to be born to a narcissist and his codependent enabler.

I guess I need to remind myself, and anyone else who needs to hear it today, that it isn’t, wasn’t, and will never be about me as a person. He doesn’t even know me, because he never made the effort. He hates me because he hates himself.

It sucks so much, and it’ll never not hurt at least a little bit. But I am doing everything I can to take care of myself, to be the person I needed and deserve. it is so important to remember that it’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything. He made a choice, she made a choice, and they’re both so selfish and emotionally immature, they don’t care how it affected me.

Because it wasn’t and isn’t about me, and I’m going to keep saying that until it stops hurting.

When you watch The Curse, you are watching two children who were abused and exploited daily during production. No adults protected us.

I had a wonderful time at Steel City Comicon this weekend. It was my first time at this particular con, so I didn’t know there was such a huge contingent of horror fans, creators, and vendors who attend.

I love horror, and I was pretty psyched to be in the same place as John Carpenter and Tom Savini, across the street from the Dawn of the Dead mall. Pittsburgh feels like one of the places horror was invented, at least to me.

A number of these horror fans came to see me, and asked me to sign posters and other things from a movie my parents forced me to do when I was 13, called The Curse. I had to tell each of these people that I would not sign anything associated with that movie, because I was abused and exploited during production. The time I spent on that film remains the most traumatizing time of my life, and though I am a 50 year-old man, just typing this now makes my hands shake with remembered fear of a 13 year-old boy who nobody protected, and the absolute fury the 50 year-old man feels toward the people who hurt him.

I told this story in Still Just A Geek, and I’ve talked about it in some podcasts I did on the promo tour, but I’ve never put it out in public like this, in its entirety.

I suspect someone at the publisher would prefer I tease this and hope it drives book sales from people who want to read all of it, but I honestly don’t want to have another weekend like this one where everything is awesome, except the few times people who have no idea (and why should they) put that fucking poster in front of me, and all the fear, abandonment, and trauma come flooding back as I tell them that I won’t sign it, and why.

To their credit, each person was as horrified as they should have been, told me they had no idea (if they didn’t read my book why would they), and quickly put the poster away. They were all understanding. I am grateful for that.

But I really don’t need to tell this story over and over again, so here it is, with a child abuse and exploitation content warning, so I can just tell people to Google it.

Continue reading… →

I’m narrating Randall Monroe’s What If? 2, but you didn’t hear it from me.

I’m generally not meant to talk about what I’m working on without explicit permission, so earlier today, I posted this on Instagram:

Workin’

You know, like I always do when I’m working on something. It’s fun, and I enjoy having this easily searched archive when I want to pull a memory out of storage.

A little bit later, I added

Be cool and don’t narc on me. Snitches get stitches.

Then I went back to work and didn’t notice until I got home a bit ago that stupid fucking Instagram was like “Hey, how about I crop your image to ruin your joke? I’ll cut your name off the bottom so none of this makes sense lol. Now watch all these reels from people you don’t follow. You’ll see your friends’ posts in … the future.”

So here is the uncropped image which I TOLD Instagram to upload.

See? Narrated by me. I didn’t tell you, thus revealing a secret! You just read an unrelated screenshot. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Have I over explained the joke enough? Find the nearest dad to pick up the baton from me if not.

I’m always told not to talk about what I’m working on, so the publisher can make announcements and do PR at their pace, on their schedule. I always wait and then just amplify their messages. I know lots of professionals do lots of hard work, and I don’t want to step on it or make it harder for them, just to amuse or promote myself.

So, here’s the timeline on this job:

The day the book was announced way back in … I think winter, early in the year? I started getting asks from people if I’d narrate it, since I’d already narrated the first one, it was kind of in my wheelhouse, etc.

At that time, I hoped I would be asked, because I freaking LOVE Randall Monroe’s work, it was a blast doing the first one, and How To, and I loved the idea of getting the team back together (same director and studio) to do it again.

But like months went by and nobody called us, so I presumed they’d decided to use a different narrator. Oh well. Sad trombone but life goes on, long after JCM’s record has stopped playing in the last little pink house that hasn’t been destroyed by climate change.

Then! Then I got an email from my agent about 6 weeks ago, asking if I would narrate What If? 2. I replied something like, “Yes. I don’t even need to read it first. Just close the deal before they change their mind!” And that was that.

I still couldn’t talk about it (or at least chose not to, as expressed above), and when someone asked me if I was doing it, I always said that would be super cool, but I couldn’t say one way or the other.Then like two weeks ago, maybe three, I searched my name on Audible to find a link to one of my NUMEROUS AWARD WINNING NARRATIONS flex and saw that this one was on the list! HO HO! I don’t have to wait! They’ve already put it online!

Which brings us up to about 5 hours ago, when I posted what I imagined was clever, but was missing what I believe was/is vital context.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Hey everyone! An old man is talking!

In seven days, I will be 50 years-old. This is … weird. I do not feel the way I expected I would feel when I was approaching 50, nor do any of my friends. The only time I feel like I’m middle-aged is when my body does some bullshit that takes me down for hours because I had the nerve to stand up quickly. And I really hate it when I have to use the flashlight on my phone to see a menu. I mean, at that point, I may as well be dropping my pants for free and singing the Old Gray Mare.

Anyway. This has been on my mind for a little bit, so I had something to say when someone used my tumblr ask me thingy earlier this week:

Q: I hope I’m as cool as you when I’m 49. I’d like to think I’m taking the right steps towards that version of myself.

A: So I’m not sure I’m cool, but I do know that I don’t suck, and that it’s a choice I make every day.

I desperately wish someone in my family had told me, or shown me by example, that getting older doesn’t mean getting stupid and boring and stuffy and extremely uncool. I wish I’d known that, because I spent all of my life until I was in my 40s feeling like there was this day coming very soon when I would have to stop listening to punk, stop playing video games, put on a suit, and start yelling at kids for no good reason. I didn’t know that you don’t have to suddenly stop being who you are and become something or someone you hate, just because of a certain age. I know that’s super obvious, but to young me, it was not. My dad was an asshole, my mom never showed up for me. Directors and people on set had been treating me like a thing for my entire life. I got yelled at for no reason from adults who knew better almost every day. Most of my elementary school teachers were authoritarian, evangelical assholes. All of these different adults, consistently, shut me down and made me feel like I didn’t matter, the things I liked were stupid, and my opinions were invalid because of reasons I didn’t understand because I was a dumb kid. So I presumed that when you got to be a certain age, that’s what happened. I didn’t want to be that, at all, and I was sincerely afraid of the day it would happen.

But as I got older, I discovered that all that stuff I hated about adults doesn’t automatically happen. Those adults I just mentioned all made a choice to be an asshole. I just didn’t know it. I was in my early 20s when I did a movie with a cinematographer who was, I think, 45 at the time. He was the coolest, kindest, most artistic dude I’d ever known. He mentored me and we had epic fun making great art together. I remember telling him, “I’m not afraid of being in my 40s like I used to be. I didn’t know you could still be cool.”

It’s sad, that I grew up in such a toxic environment, and didn’t know any of these things.

So, 9 days before I turn 50, here are a couple things I have figured out: You know who sucks when they hit 49 and 50? People who sucked when they were 20 and never grew up. You know who is an asshole at 49 and 50? Yep. Someone who was an asshole as a kid and never experienced consequences for being an asshole.

Hitting middle age has been awesome for me. Other than the aging of my body and its reluctance / refusal to do what I want it to do, I love everything about it. I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life being afraid that, when I hit 50, it was all over. Because honestly it’s kind of just starting. The coolest stuff in my life to date has all happened in the last ten years, and I’m so grateful that it coincided with me figuring out a lot of shit so I could enjoy it.

The best part of getting older, by several thousand light years, is the part where we figure out how to stop putting up with other people’s bullshit, and we contract our social circle until it’s only populated with a VERY few people who deserve us. And I am incredibly grateful for these occasional opportunities to be a 49 year-old dad who can say all the things that would have been reassuring for 19 year-old me to hear (he wouldn’t have understood, but 29 year-old me would have remembered, and he would have understood. I think.) I sincerely hope someone hears it and finds it helpful.

Anyway, you’re gonna be fine. Just remember that being cool, kind, honest, honorable, reliable, listening and showing up … they are all choices. If you want to be cool when you’re 49, make the choice and set the example for someone to follow you.

Treat kids the way you wanted to be treated when you were young. Listen to them when they offer you the privilege, because that means they trust you, and you have credibility with them. Be a mentor. Be supportive. Show up. Make a choice to be the person you need in the world, and never stop being that person. Start today, and when you’re nearing 50 like I am, hopefully you’ll remember who you needed right now, so you can be that person to someone else in the future. You’re already asking the right questions and taking the first steps. I believe in you. You’ve got this.