House Rules: The “He Said” Part of He Said, She Said

house-rulesYesterday and today have been Days of Boggling.

Someone mentioned House Rules, Rachel Sontag’s memoir about growing up under a control-freak father. Someone else mentioned that the father struck back at Rachel for publishing the book. Why yes… yes, he did. An entire website filled with family videos and letters to and from Rachel, showing how she changed from a “happy, loving, affectionate, caring, appreciative member of the family” to a raging demon whose goal was to sow conflict and break up her parents’ marriage. Her father demonstrates, using her own words, that her behavior was out of line. For example, an apology she wrote at 16 after blowing up because her parents refused to let her take a trip:

After discovering that I would not be able to go to Toronto, I was disappointed and frustrated. I acted distant from towards both parents in order to express my frustration. Marisa arrived in Chicago and mom and I picked her up at O’hare. More freedom was given to me following Marisa’s arrival. I took advantage of it as my behavior became worse. For no apparent reason I called Both parents “fucking losers” in public. Because of this dad and mom decided it was time to talk with me. Marisa and Jenny [Rachel’s sister] left the house. Because of my actions mom and dad explained how they felt about me and where I stood in their lives. I understand the shame and embarrassment that they feel towards me as a member of the family. I can now understand why they feel no respect for me as an individual. I was told that I was a liar, traitor, phony, spoiled, rotten, selfish brat. Dad explained to me that I was scum and inquired how it felt to wake up knowing that I was the scum of the earth. I explained that the reason I called them “fucking losers” was because I was disgusted with myself as a person. This is known as projection. Marisa and Jenny came home. I explained how I felt about myself to Marisa and apologized. The next night Marisa and I planned to go out for ice cream with Nathalie. She came over and I apologized to her and explained how I felt about myself. Mom gave me directions, to get to Joan’s house, to return jewelry that I had borrowed. I was distracted and although I had the jewels in my purse, I forgot to go to Joan’s. I went to Baskin Robins with Nat and Marisa. Meanwhile Joan waited for me to stop by. At 10:30 Nat went home. She dropped us off at Baskin Robins. I assumed that I could get a ride from Matt Kaplan. I was unable to because he had a two person car. Marisa and I came home 15 minutes late. We lied and said that we got a ride home from Matt when infact we walked. Due to deception and my cruel attitude Marisa was sent home early, Ellen and I drove her to O’hare. Following her departure I changed my attitude and helped out around the house. Friday Mrs. Howard called me. We had a nice talk of which I will not go into detail. Naturally we all respect each others privacy. I sure learned a lot this week.

The father posts this apology in full on the “Rachels Apologies” page, and edited on the “Selling the Book” page, which acts as a front page for the website. The father helpfully circled a couple of quotes demonstrating how unreasonable and self-hating Rachel was, but removed the sentences, “I was told that I was a liar, traitor, phony, spoiled, rotten, selfish brat. Dad explained to me that I was scum and inquired how it felt to wake up knowing that I was the scum of the earth.” I can’t imagine why.

But then, it’s useful to know where the father draws the line. He left these sentences in:

I understand the shame and embarrassment that they feel towards me as a member of the family. I can now understand why they feel no respect for me as an individual.

And that’s why I’ve been boggling for the past two days.

The entire site deserves a slow, detailed peeling apart. I probably won’t be able to do it. There’s only so much I can stomach. But it’s there for those of you who want to try.

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