Monday, July 5, 2010

When Relationships
Are Like An Onion And A Maze

What does a difficult person have in common with an onion?

What does a crazy relationship have in common with a maze?

When you visualize an onion and a maze, and attach the images to those concepts, the answer is intuitive, even when it's hard to put in words.

You might recall your first childhood science experiment with an onion. Remember your surprise when you peeled it, and how many layers it had before getting to the center? How some onions have two centers? How your eyes began to burn and tear up?

How many people have you met like this since then? Or been closely involved with?

The thing about a relationship with, for lack of a better phrase, an Onion Head, is their appeal can be their mystery.

Most of us like a little mystery in those who initially attracted us. It gives us time to build a fantasy around this new person.

"Oooh, he has a good job!"

"She's so pretty and nice!"

Okay, so he has a good job. So what. He might be so incompetent at it that he has one foot on a banana peel and the other on the way to the unemployment line, or worse, he's the office backstabber, which is part of his overall character.

And her? He ain't seen her when she first wakes up, and her family and last five boyfriends can testify she ain't all that nice.

Show me someone who came home from a bad first date, and I'll guess one possible reason is their date revealed too much too soon and didn't know when to shut up.

This should be considered a good first date when the person is solid and genuine, but just awkward. Human nature is weird though, and that need for a little mystery thing has eliminated a lot of good folks.

Some bad dates of this category are good. They tell all and thus reveal their low character and/or questionable values from the start, and when it's over, you know you don't have to waste any further time with them.

But then there are the Mutant Onion Heads. They have lots of mystery, often combined with some characteristic that draws others to them without making them cry until numerous layers have been peeled away.

These are the men or women who lure you into some kind of intense relationship with them. Time is an investment, and like any investment, the more you put in, the harder it is to walk away. The reason again has to do with human nature. We hate to think we gave up a lot for little or nothing in return, so we hang in there, hoping things will return to early days before the onion made you cry.

But an onion is an onion is an onion... and the longer you stay, the more layers are revealed and the more your eyes burn with pain from the noxious fumes of who they really are.

By this time, you're in a relationship with them, which is like a maze. There is no straight path to their intentions much less their heart. It's all about twists and turns and getting lost... so lost that finding your way out is as hellish your previous attempts to find their center.

There is no birds-eye view from above where you can see how to get closer to the person or to find the exit. Don't expect any honest hints from the Mutant Onion Head either. Deception mystery is their thang, remember?

That's what got you into the maze in the first place.

What is normal?

Some of us came from families where a significant caretaker had Onion Head qualities. This can make that kind of behavior normal in our eyes. The norm is not knowing, yet wanting to know, so we re-enact this relationship over and over again as adults, subconsciously hoping we'll get it right by either finding the core, or getting the strength and clarity to conquer the problem by finding our way out of the maze.

This isn't to say getting lost in this kind of relationship with this kind of person can't happen to anyone; it does all the time, just not nearly as often.

What happens when the Mutant Onion Head isn't a person?

It can be a group, such as a workplace, community group, place of worship, training school, street gang, social club, media outlet, corporation, political party, or even a military or nation.

And why not? The mystery is there. It - whatever it is - appeals to our need to connect and join something interesting that we can be a part of.

When things are "interesting", it's usually because you don't know something and want to find out more. We may be more vulnerable to this than previous generations because we live in a fantasy-based, wishful thinking culture.

To compound our need for an interesting experiences, we want to be involved and to participate. Mankind is a social animal that gets lonely, and in groups, wants and needs recognition. This includes groups of two, such as you and the person you like or love, or being part of a larger group.

We naturally look for the core. It is there that the center resides. The question is, or should be, is person, group or nation centered, and without too many layers that involve navigating through a complicated maze to get there, or to get to the truth of what they're really about?

If there is too much mystery and too many secrets, either there is no core, or there's more than one. This means no values, or split values reserved for different people or groups at different times.

"She's nice."

"He has a good job."



  1. A very good post I see that you are a wise woman. Hopefully too much of this wisdom did not have to come via personal experience

  2. Tenacitus, Thank you, and yes, I've had plenty of first hand experience on all levels mentioned, not only personal.

    My background is social work and mental health, and I can testify that the majority of people I've known personally and professionally have had their share of onion head and mazes disrupt their lives... fam, friends, lovers, spouses, kids, classmates, coworkers, bosses, and the larger social and corporate systems that affect our lives. No avoiding it, so I decided to write about it in a way I hadn't seen done before. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I more than enjoyed it. I can completely relate and are know the pain that onion headed people have brought to my life. Thanks again for your blog

  4. Tenacitus, You're welcome again.

    Readers, Btw, as I get older the "wisdom" comes with the territory. I was emotionally as dumb as a brick in my 20s.

    With age, I look at the Big Picture, not just problems between individuals and couples or in the black community. We are all products of the time, place and circumstances we live in.

    When I wrote this piece, although it's mainly about problems with getting tangled with a Mutant Onion Head on a personal level, it's the oil disaster, BP, the Coast Guard, our government's slow reaction and media semi-censorship that was on my mind. It's the same damned dynamics, and it's been a helluva downer for me the past six weeks.

    Anyway, I can't recall the last post I wrote where nearly 24 hours passed and had a comment from only one reader - and a new one at that. If y'all liked this article, which I thought was one of my best, please show this sista some blogger luv and leave a comment.

    Although I write for me, I also write for you. If you want to see more Gulf oil or other current event articles, tell me. I am not a mind reader. If there's something else going on that could explain the poverty of feedback, drop me an email. Thanks.

  5. I loved this post! Just last week I called a man who I found utterly fascinating simply because I didnt know, couldnt find a lot out about him. And yes, he had a good job, lol! But he showed his ass again (stood me up again, I believe), so yeah, Im over that. Thanks for reminding me of my wise decision!

    PS, How is your dog?


  6. I liked the post, Kit. To be truthful I'm a bit of an, "onion head". I tend to draw people in before revealing too much. So in that way I'm typical of the person you describe.

    But in my defense I'll say that my intent is not deception it's protection. That is, protecting me from being hurt. I've been through one truly horrendous hurt in my life and I'm hell bent on not allowing that to happen again.

    As for this relating to the oil spill. BP def has a weirdness and mystery too it. But once the first few layers were revealed it was easy to see that its game is deception. And it has deceived before.

    And I def know how it feels to spend time on a post and not get comments. I used to take it personally. But as my current blog is my third I've learned that usually it's just timing. My blog hits a dead zone usually at a certain time either of the month or week. And now that I'm aware of it I also see it happens to other bloggers. Anyway, it still bothers me a bit but not as much as it used to.

    Very interesting post!

  7. It kinda sums up 15 years of marriage for me, Kit. My ex thought there was more to me than what was on the surface but there wasn't. I'm not that complicated, the face I present to the world is pretty much me. Not a complete open book but close, at least that's how I see it. She thought with enough time and guidance I'd be who she wanted me to be, they type of man she assumed was beneath the surface.

    I kept believing what was on the surface with her, the face she presented to the world was the real her. And the meanness which came out at times and those times became ever more frequent, was an aberration. Essentially we were two good people very ill-suited for one another.

  8. Wow it disappeared. Let me try again!
    This brought 15 years of marriage to mind. My ex I think tried to peel the onion, believing beneath the surface lurked the kind of man she wanted to marry. But the surface me is pretty much the real me. Not an open book exactly but kind of predictable.

    I was the opposite, the surface carefree persona she presented to those she wanted to think she was sweet-natured, was who I fell for and I wanted to believe the meanness that came out at times,even as those times became more frequent - I wanted to believe the surface person was her. I didn't want to peel the onion.

    It can be difficult to explain complicated emotions, rereading this it looks like I'm portraying myself as the good guy and she was bad. I'm easygoing but lack the "get ahead" gene. Not near motivated enough for someone who grew up working the strawberry fields and raising her little sisters, who had a burning desire to rise above the things and places her ghetto husband was comfortable with.

  9. testing again. Most have now come through.

  10. Readers Yay! Comments appear to be working now. If you received email comment notification, but they didn't show up on your blog, fill out this specific debug form here. I think it was set up to address the massive problem that Blogger encountered, particularly yesterday and today, although I first began noticing sporadic problems on July 1 - the same day Google redesigned their Google News format and page.

    Okay! So my fingers are crossed. If you try to comment and it doesn't show up after a few hours, please me email so I can let them know. Thanks.

  11. Oso and Val, First, thanks for trying twice and emailing me.

    Val, Doesn't sound like you're an Onion Head. A little mystery is charming and self-protective. It's when the person is into playing games and deceit that they have character issues. They draw you into their maze like a spider does a web, leaving you lost and confused about WTH is going on. Classic abusive relationships (physical and/or emotional) have this quality.

    And yes, you mentioned BP. From what I've read, they have hundreds more violations than other oil companies and have not impressed me or many others of being straight. This country is in a maze with them, similar, I think, to the dependency-abusive cycle seen in dysfunctional couples.

    Oso, You said of your ex: "the meanness that came out at times [and> more frequent - I wanted to believe the surface person was her. I didn't want to peel the onion.

    Aww, that's sad. Oh well. Maybe she didn't start off that way, but just changed with time. I see this sometimes in middle aged and older people who get depressed and/or bitter that their younger hopes and dreams didn't come true. They become more complicated with time, ie, grow too many more layers, while at the same time values for sane living... some kind of well grounded philosophy of life to bring comfort... fails to develop. Hopefully on her own she can settle in and accept the bad with the good, and move on. I think that's one of the keys to inner peace.

    Lola, I'm glad you cut through the Onion quickly instead of sticking in out, trying to peel through all the layers.

    And yes! My dog is doing GREAT. I was amazed at how well and how quickly his wound healed. It's totally closed now and all he has left is a scar. Thank God it was a flesh wound. Btw, after five days of searching I did find a vet who would do it as a freebie, but by that time it was too late for stitches and he was recovering well.

    To a few others who tried to leave comments that got error messages and didn't even show in my mailbox, thank you.

  12. Wow, just wow. You covered all the bases very nicely. This was unique. More! More!

  13. I am a little bit surprised that I am commenting again.

    I found your blog through Field Negro. I have been following it since March, I like all your posts and as someone who has a blog which I have ignored all I can say is write for yourself and the audience will follow. I had a discussion with my mother about this who teaches English/Lit/Linguistics and she thinks that people write for an audience; I think that people write because they have something they want to say and that to get your audience good writing is important. On the other hand she thinks that speaking to the audience is the most important thing while I say speaking about things that are important to you is the most important then perfecting your style to get an audience comes. IN short I think that you are doing well. Keep writing about what you feel and people will come to you.

    As I was reading about the you and your ex I felt some sorrow for both of you, I know what its like for a relationship to come to an end. My ex kept wanting me to be somebody else and over the years I saw how she was getting meaner to people in a way that hurt her and indirectly me. She would keep saying and doing things that would piss people off. I could also see how we wanted different things, none of which were bad but me being very closed to people with a flat affect, and her being the complete opposite did not make it easy for her. About many things that she was not happy about I think she was correct but many things she did were very destructive to her relationship with me and other people, and I could not help her as much as I wanted to, she is the one in control of what she does not me. I think that unfortunately she is an onion person and it does not make me happy for her, though in the next 6 months I will probably be out of her life as she wanted.

    I guess most of what I wrote is about me Oso and not about you, I find writing this somewhat cathartic.

    Not revealing to much is not being an Onion person I took what Kit was saying as being inconsistent in your behaviour and putting people close to you on an emotional roller coaster. Though I cannot speak for Kit, I assume that is what she is saying. Another thing that I took from her post is that labyrinthites & onionheads are into deception. As long as you do not do that I think you are fine.
    Also on my blog once in three months I will get a comment from a person I know in meat space. But then again I write more to write than for an audience, I never expected one.

  14. Kitt,
    I know all too well the curses of the "mutant onion head". Hopefully soon I will find my way out of this maze I got myself lost in.

    Good damn read Boo.

  15. Tenacitus,
    I understand how writing of these things proves to be a catharsis. I empathize with the dilemma you faced. It's surprising that so many relationships manage to endure, actually, when you consider not only we can all be very different but as you wrote, over the years we can continue to change.
    Thank you

  16. Onion Head? I like it, this was a good post. In some ways I am sure some of my past partners my say that I was a bit of an Onion Head but I like to think that 15 yrs with the same person has mellowed me out.

  17. Dark Comedy, Thanks!

    Tenacitus, Yes, deception is their hallmark.

    Dirty Red, So sorry to hear you in maze with one, and I mean it. It's a bitch.

    Oso, Although you were addressing Tenacitus, writing about these kinds of issues for me more clearly defines the problem. But yes, writing can be cathartic too.

    Black Girl In Maine, *giggle* Thank you, and glad you got time to stop by.

  18. Somehow, we keep writing posts that go hand in hand. Today's post for me: being able to recognize the onion for being an onion, but not always being able to let go of then making me cry.

    I think mystery is one thing. It is human nature to enjoy being intrigued. But I think these archtypes of the people we are SUPPOSED to be with get built up in our head, and too often we mistake that "intrigue" for someone who is just emotionally unavailable or is a downright sociopath.

  19. Kit,
    off-topic, sorry. Oscar Grant verdict just came down. Young man was cuffed and face down New Years eve 2 years ago, angry cop shot him in the back and killed him. claimed he meant to taser him. Cop just got involuntary manslaughter. Shopkeepers boarding up windows here.Not good.Not good at all.

  20. Oso, I suppose we could say that cop and the judge are Mutant Onion Heads. They fooled a lot of people for a long time, hiding behind the masks of class and their jobs. When the verdict is given, any protests or rioting will be symbolic of the tears society cries. Or will the masses cry quietly in their hearts?

    Society has been unraveling, slowly, and I think on the verge of collapse. I'm glad I'm not really young anymore.

    La, I'll check out your new post soon, and yes, they have that sociopath quality hidden under the charm and social skills. I've begun to think that a high school elective course in these types, from the close personal to more distant social relationships we have by necessity with others would be a good idea. No chance of that though; the sociopaths who ran or still run finance have robbed cities and by default, public schools, of funds to even function well...

  21. You've hit this one on the noggin, Kit! Loving the analogy. I think we are all, to some degree, onions, with layer upon layer of hidden truths, emotions, levels of sensitivity, memories, triggers, depths, insecurities, taboos. In any relationship, when we truly pay attention, we may notice that onion unraveling before us, revealing those things we never knew, had yet to discover... prove to be deal-breakers ... or in some cases, simply making us cry, as onions tend to do.


  22. i loved this post. it was indeed real talk. i found your link on Reggie's rantings......i'll definitely be back. ya mind if i share it on facebook?

  23. MoMo, Thank you so much, and glad you liked it. Sure, you can share on your facebook with a link. Your friends and you may like my other essays on the right hand column of the page. Links to my political, health, Gulf Oil disaster and worst case scenario posts are on the left side.

    Moanerplicity, Hey guy. Glsd you enjoyed this! Man, I love what you added in your comment. So true.

  24. Hi Kit, a very clear.... very instructive post! Excellent common sense you have. I read a shamanistic approach to understanding strangers in it... you make relationships to the elements of a personality, like a shaman or good counselor. Great learning post, says I.

  25. On point as usual. I really liked this:

    "Time is an investment, and like any investment, the more you put in, the harder it is to walk away. The reason again has to do with human nature. We hate to think we gave up a lot for little or nothing in return, so we hang in there, hoping things will return to early days before the onion made you cry."

    This is dead on with the issue I had walking away from my ex.

    Not too long ago, I met a new person. I kept telling her I found her very interesting. I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly that drew me in, but the more layers I peel back the more maze like this gets. It's not bad, yet, but it is definitely a situation where I can see how it could get bad very quickly (and before I can get out of the way!)

    I have this thing about wanting to know what makes people tick. Figuring out the key things that make them who they are. That's cool, and all, but it also has led me down some crazy paths and it is absolutely a flaw of mine that I work hard to contain and keep in check. Wanting to get to know a person is one thing, letting them draw you into their crazy is a whole other.

  26. Gwen and Ashley, Thanks. Glad it resonated with you.

  27. To no one in particular, I can't find anything in the news yet, but our house and windows rattled hard at around 5:05. I was already up and it woke up my daughter. It was either a helluva huge truck that went by or a small earthquake which would be odd for my area.

    Otherwise, my life is undergoing a major transition.

  28. Wow. It was an earthquake! On the local news channel they're saying it was 3.6. Hope that was the last one. I've been going through hell this month and hardly have the time or concentration to blog.

  29. Orange Star Happy HuntingJuly 16, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    WOW I really LOVED this post, most excellent!

  30. I've always liked coming to your blog; because occasionally when I come here, you get in my head. I really dig that about you.

  31. You hit the nail right on the head with this post describing this type of personality and its consecuences! Wonderful! I swear you ought to put all your posts in book form.

  32. Hey Kit,

    concept and thoughts. Please allow me to share my perspective on the image you've painted.
    I see this onion as a representative of most of us individuals, posessing a protective outer core easily seen by others but with many many layers beneath not so easily seen. The more the onion builds trust in another the more he or she will shed the layers that lead to the inner core, the true essence of their being, no pretenses. How rare is that and how beautiful when two people attain such a relationship, both allowing each other to witness their respective core beings. I believe the unconditional acceptance and love one gives to another facilitiates the self-acceptance and self-love needed for one to peel the outer onion layers and make visible the core light shining within.
    This is easier said than done however, but something to always aspire to, both as the onion and the partner. Illuminating your partner's strenghts and acknowledging your own areas of growth is key to building a solid foundation upon which productive communication can flourish.

    As far as the lure to connect with other entities such as groups and organizations (e.g., religious bodies etc.), I hold a perspective that recognizes the need for people to both find validation as human beings and answers to the how's and why's of their existence. I am always interested in people's take on these and the other larger questions of life. Please, readers, share!

  33. Hi Kit,

    I just wanted to say that i happened to accidentally stumble over your website and i just wanted you to know that this post made me feel a lot better. I'm 15 and right now i'm having really bad problems with an 'onion head'.

    I just wanted to say thanks. That helped me make up my mind about what to do with them:)


Hi, this is Kit.

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