Mackenzie Phillips’ Disclosures: Believable Until Proven Wrong

I don’t think Mackenzie Phillips is lying just to make some money. Or that she’s retelling a drug-induced fantasy.

Her stepmothers–Genevieve Waite and Michelle Phillips–deride her story. (Duh…Genevieve was also doing dope at the time, and once all three–father, stepmother, and daughter–were in rehab trying to clean up their habits.) More to the point, Michelle thinks it’s highly suspicious that her stepdaughter’s memoir should come out at the same time her daughter and Mackenzie’s half-sister Chynna Phillips, is coming out with a new album after a silence of several years, and says Mackenzie has been mentally ill for 35 years. And if it was true, Michelle thinks, 49-year-old Mackenzie should have kept her mouth shut.

Michelle doesn’t defend her ex-husband’s parenting skills, but thinks Mackenzie should have kept that info within the confines of a good shrink’s office. “I think it’s unconscionable that Oprah would let her do her show. I have every reason to believe it’s untrue. Oprah should be more judicious about who she has on her show.”

Michelle Phillips’ marriage to John broke up well before the alleged affair with his daughter began.

Chynna, however, is standing by Mackenzie.

Michelle sounds too much like a screech. Like Chynna’s made the advantageous marriage, was part of a big girl group in the Eighties, and is more prettier than Mackenzie. And because Michelle’s the sole survivor of the folk-rock group of the Sixties, she feels she has to protect their legacy? Sheesh. I have a feeling that Mackenzie has tried to discuss her story to most, if not all of her family members before this came out publicly, and didn’t get much satisfaction or understanding.

What was Oprah’s motivation other than ratings? To air the kinds of things that have happened to herself and to other women: rape, assault, incest, forced impregnation. So that it doesn’t happen again. That’s what I think.

I liked The Mamas and The Papas in their heyday, and I thought Cass Elliot had the loveliest voice. I know what John Phillips’ importance is to rock and roll history. I still like them, despite these tidings.

But I remember what two acquaintances of mine once asked rhetorically at different occasions: Who sleeps with their daughters? Meaning that white men were capable of just about anything, including being in unholy relationships with their own children. And black people as slaves and servants had seen just about every secret thing in plantation houses and middle-class and rich manses all over the country, and had tried to battle or to suppress knowledge or exposure of the same thing in their own homes.

However, there have been exceptions. The writer Anais Nin wrote about her short-lived affair with her father in her unexpurgated Diaries that were published after her death. This occurred in the 1930s, after Anais had matured, married, was having a disappointing affair and literary partnership with Henry Miller, and was the lover of, and under psychoanalysis with Dr. Otto Rank, a Freudian. After several encounters, she writes, Anais dumped Joaquin Nin at the height of the affair, in revenge for his abandoning her mother, brother and herself, and eloping with another woman. Nin seems to have pursued his daughter for months thereafter, in vain.

More recently, in 1997, Kathryn Harrison wrote The Kiss, A Memoir, an account of her incestuous relationship with her father. Yeah, I’ve read both of these books. As a woman who grew up without her father(s), has suffered her own version of “father hunger,” and as a writer, I suppressed the ew! factor long enough to try to understand what in the world got into these women–other than their fathers–to pursue the unthinkable. I decided to step off judging the carnage and assuming a sense of superiority that whites sometimes wreak in their homes.

The women were indeed obsessed with their fathers, but for different reasons. Anais, her self-centered father thought, was born too early in the marriage, with his wife taking too much time to care for the baby, and not focusing all her energies on him. He was jealous of her hold on their children. By the time Anais’ brother was born, Joaquin Nin made his sickly daughter feel his intense dislike and dismissal. Naturally, the girl became bewildered and hurt why he did not readily return her affection. Both daughters, in varying degrees, are angry at and sometimes competitive with their mothers. Harrison’s depressed mother appears to be still in love with her father, and absents herself to lie in bed. Harrison suffers through bulimia and anorexia during her childhood and teens after her mother leaves her upbringing to her grandparents, and all three try to erase the father from the girl’s existence. This only heightens the girl’s quest for answers and obsession with the man. After a separation of 20 years, she is seduced by her father when she is a 20-year-old student, and the relationship–pulled this way and that by the parents–goes on for four years.

The fathers’ absences and the daughters’ longing meant, for me, that there was a kind of missing power dynamic in their lives that they wanted to surmount–and reclaim–in some way. What I remember about both accounts is that I was surprised that both women did not feel overwhelmingly messed up by the incest. At least, in their own minds. They excused the abusing father. They were a fount of denial. Or in the case of Anais Nin in Incest, she felt powerful–and narcissistic. As Sadi Ranson-Polizotti summed up in a book review of The Kiss four years ago:

Her relationships with other men are often fucked up because of what has or is happening to her, just as they were in real life, and boyfriends who just could not understand why she would turn to a father who had really abandoned her in many ways as a child, and just made the intermittent appearance; the problem is, that’s just it—the intermittent exposure seems to have made the craving for love in any form worth taking. This much has been proven time and time again in children.

Is it really so different, one asks, that a woman who stays or “chooses” to stay in any other kind of abusive relationship? It is easy to say from the outside, “she” or for that matter “he” should or could “just leave,” but rarely is life so simple.

People who do this are prime manipulators, which is what keeps the victim(s) of their abuse coming back and back and back, or staying, rather, for what they do not realize is more of the same. Perhaps they ought to realize, but this sort of manipulator is good at his or her job; a sad fact that nobody wants to really acknowledge. Token gifts, the “I’ll never… again,” the “if you loved me…,” the “no man will ever want you after this…,” which apparently was but one ploy used by Harrison’s father, are sadly all too convincing to some victims, who may feel they have no option. More, financial issues may also be at stake, as well as children. A shelter for battered women is one option, but it’s a tough road to take and never easy—though neither is staying.

Of course, the shrinks today say that this kind of power playing occurs when females are in their teens, and that dads should be strong enough and mature enough not to give way, but to confirm in nonsexual and unequivocal ways that their daughters are beautiful and lovely, attractive enough for any other man, and especially, intelligent, winning, and smart–all the adjectives. And let them go. Unfortunately, some men do give way, unable to separate from their daughters, and allow them to develop their own lives and power. This is probably why John Phillips allegedly appeared on Mackenzie’s doorstep the night before her first marriage. After failing to obtain an apology from John Phillips on his death bed, Mackenzie believes that there should be some kind of leeway given for giving her consent to incest. Whaa?

Phillips said the sexual relationship, although she believes it became consensual, was “an abuse of power” and “a betrayal” on her father’s part. She said she forgave John Phillips on his deathbed.

“I can’t be the only one this has happened to,” Phillips said. “Someone needs to put a face on consensual incest.”

Um…no, sweets. I know that hindsight is 20/20 and all, but he was wrong, wrong, wrong for introducing you, like Robert Downey, Jr. (whose screenwriter father introduced him to marijuana and other dope when he was a boy), to all the worst aspects of the Sixties, and also to incest. You may think that your enjoyment of the sex from time to time makes you colluding, culpable and guilty, and gets him off the hook, but he should have never done that to you. It wasn’t love, but power-tripping. I think Mackenzie has a bit more to go before she’s fully a survivor, but it certainly explains a lot of why she’s been such a liability to herself from One Day at a Time up to now. It begins to explain her mental collapses and her addictions.

We haven’t heard the last of this; stay tuned.

~ by blksista on September 23, 2009.

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