I would like to bring you the story of Sid Bernstein as chronicled by The New york Times. Bernstein, 53, is raising his six children all by his lonesome in his 10-room Park Avenue apartment because his wife, Geraldine, has in effect left him. She has not left him for another man or because she can no longer look upon his face or because she got lost on the subway and could not find her way home. She left him, instead, "to open a chocolate shop in Hawaii."
Having admitted this to the Times reporter, Bernstein then emptied his mouth of all the applicable cliches: "The opportunity came and she just had to take it . . . She wants to do her own thing . . . For her own fulfillment, for her search for self-expression, she had to do this. And I support her."
What Bernstein meant, and what his wife surely said during their pre-Hawaii discussions, was that she needed to grow as a person. This is the latest of the trendy cliches, having supplanted"doing your own thing" and meaning, as best as I can figure out, anything you want it to.
In the case of Mrs. Bernstein, it obviously meant that she would prefer to grow with chocolates in Hawaii than be in New York, doing her thing with her children -- all six of them. In the case of Rona Barrett, who asked for her own television show so she could grow, it means that she wants to be a star. In the case of some actors, it means that their careers are slipping. They want to grow by becoming directors.
Farrah Fawcett-Majors used the term to explain why her career has gone nowhere since she left television (growth entails pain) and Cheryl Tiegs has used it when discussing a career that has gone from modeling to modeling while she has gone from her husband to another man. Whatever it means in her case, her growth has been hell on her husband.
It's hard to tell exactly what the term "to grow" and its kissing cousin "to grow as a person" means. What it does, though, is camouflage every selfish thought, impulse or action by wrapping it in something that sounds wholesome. It's another form of packaging, something like those slogans corporations now use to mark their real intention -- "People Serving People," for instance, instead of "Out To Make A Killing."
Businessmen no longer talk of promotions as meaning more income or more power or even the thrill of playing with the electric windows in the company limo. Instead, they talk of growing. It sounds as if they are meeting some sort of challenge when in fact they are doing the same old thing for the same old reasons.
The ultimate use of the world "grow" comes about when it substitutes for tacky words like sex or lust. Thus men no longer leave their wives for younger women for the same old reason. Now they do it to grow as a person. There is nothing as heartwarming as seeing an old man with a young blonde, growing as a person in some nightclub.
Marriages break up so that one of the partners can grow. Not to grow, we are told is a form of death or boredom, the two of them being variations of the same thing. Thus, it is not selfish or immoral for one partner to sneak out of the house for a liaison with someone else. It is just an opportunity to grow.
The thing about growth is that it connotes doing something for a positive reason -- meeting a challenge. But for some reason, it is better to grow by busting up a marriage than to grow by meeting the challenge of keeping the thing together. Don't ask me why. I think it has to do with invading someone else's space.
I do know, though, that I would love to grow. I want to grow into great wealth and maybe fame and certainly a yacht. I have no desire to grow into a new relationship, but I would like to grow into a new car and, for sure, a television set with remote control. That way I can turn it off in case Rona Barrett grows into her own show. And as for Mrs. Bernstein out there in Hawaii, I understand perfectly. When you gotta grow, you gotta grow.