Toronto Star

Oct. 29, 01:00 EDT

The future of the family is hanging by a thread

Toronto Star

THREAD ONE: Crazy people do some funny things, but they don't have a lot of jokes.

One of the jokes is referring to themselves as "survivors."

It doesn't mean they have survived being crazy. It means they've survived whatever treatment the mental health system has subjected them to.

Another is a one-liner: Life is a mental illness.

And this shows you why they're crazy. They thought it was a joke. It never occurred to them that anybody seriously believed it. But somebody does — the American Psychiatric Association.

Thread Two: When my young friends Jennifer and Pat got married, they asked me to be toastmaster at the wedding reception. "SI'm pleased to be able to tell everybody here this evening," I began, "that Jennifer and Pat are still together."

I thought it was just a joke, but the bride and groom looked decidedly uncomfortable.

It turned out they could see the trend line. Statistics Canada has discovered that the Canadian family is disappearing so fast that making it all the way through the wedding ceremony is considered an accomplishment. Jennifer and Pat worried that my smarty-pants remark would be a jinx.

Thread Three: I keep seeing those ads on television for cellphones that are also digital cameras. Why would I want a phone that's a camera? So I can take pictures of my ear?

Actually, that's not a thread. It's just something that's been bugging me. There is no thread three.

Psychiatrists are beside themselves (something that comes as no surprise to crazy people). Life — specifically, family life — is on the verge of becoming included in the officially sanctioned Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This means couples who squabble will be certifiably nuts. So will parents and children who don't get along beautifully. So will the Tweedle brothers if they keep having those dingdong rattle battles.

Do you know what this will mean? It will mean a bonanza beyond the wildest dreams of psychiatry. Why does Johnny have 15 kilos of pizza rinds under his bed? Because he's loopy, that's why. You don't have to worry, though. OHIP will pay for it.

So there were the shrinks, counting their boobies before they'd hatched — every time mother yells at father for reaming his ears out with her car key, their cash registers would jingle — when along came StatsCan with word that the way things are going there won't be any more families at all before long.

Fortunatus interruptus, or whatever.

When the family farm vanished, it was replaced by agribusiness. That at least took care of the farming. Now the family itself is vanishing, and what's going to replace it? A committee? An infinite series of one-night stands?

Paul Martin's designs on the prime ministership caused him to present some solutions for what he called the "democratic deficit." (I'm pretty much with Gandhi when he was asked what he thought of Canadian democracy, and he said he thought it would be a good thing.)

At least when it comes to that, most of us have a fairly clear idea of what we think Parliament should be. What we don't have any more is much of an idea of what a family should be. Some do. Roy Beyer of the Canada Family Action Coalition rules out shacking up. It is "most definitely still a sin. The activity is still contrary to the Bible."

But for the rest of us, everything's kind of vague. There's no really good economic reason that I can see any more. The biological reason — what was it again, anyway? Women are realizing that the thing about a turkey baster is you don't have to make breakfast for it.

There's a general feeling that a child raised in a traditional family becomes a happier, more productive adult, but it's been so long since most of us have seen a child raised in a traditional family we can't honestly say for sure. And there are entire associations of psychiatrists who maintain traditional families are hotbeds of lunacy.

When I mentioned this to my psychiatrist, he showed me an inkblot and asked me to tell him what it reminded me of.

"My ear," I said.

"Your ear?"

"Yes," I said. I pulled out my wallet and showed him the pictures of my ear. "I took them with my telephone."

"You've got a problem," he said.

"You're not kidding," I told him. "I can't resist a gadget. It runs in my family."

Slinger's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

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