Monday, January 17, 2011

Are you my family? Can I stay with you a while?

When people ask me what my New Year’s resolutions are, I jokingly reply “to nap more and to start drinking at family events.”
 That is to say, it should make them a little more bearable.
Now, I haven’t always had this broken relationship with my family. There was a time y’know, before puberty, that I actually did enjoy spending time with my family. I mean there was always good food, people were nice enough and while the presents were generally not my taste, hey, they were still presents. I was a kid. We’re pretty damn superficial.

Sometime after puberty and the teenage years started, this ideal family life was suddenly not so ideal. Growing up with over half my family on the other side of the country made it harder and harder for me to connect to their lives—something that I craved as I matured instead of the happy go lucky of innocence.

As much as I’d love to say that it was hard for me, I suppose the same was true of them. Here was a kid who quickly was becoming a teenager and with the two year intervals between the times we saw each other, things changed quickly. As hard as it was for me to connect to them, it was equally—if not harder for them to do the same.

As a child a lot of the snide comments go over your head. As you grow older though and the ‘secrets’ are revealed, your illusion of your family life is shattered. These people who always had a smiling face and a hug are suddenly not necessarily the same people you remembered.

Either way, I was disillusioned with my family. A fact that I’m sure a lot of people around my age realize and for better or worse, make the best of what they have. Now turkey dinners are spent putting on a fake smile and pretending to get along with what are essentially strangers, thrown together because we happen to be related by blood.

I’m not saying that my family events are dramatic. I’m not saying that these people are terrible, or that I couldn’t bear to be related to them. They don’t shun me, they don’t berate me for not achieving more or doing this instead of that… they’re just strangers. People who I could pass on the street, people I have little in common with, people who at the end of the day are just brought together because we happen to be related by blood or marriage. There’s not much love, just vague interest.

I suppose one of the things that I loved most about my relationship with C was the fact that I could be included in his family events. I was still an outsider, however I was /meant/ to be an outsider. I wasn’t related to these people either, but at least there was no false pretenses or hidden meanings.

His family was warm-hearted; they were curious about me, about my life and in a way that I suppose you are curious about someone you’ve just met. When I was at their place they asked me how I was, what I did for a living, how things were going. They were interested in getting to know me—something that my family had since neglected.

My family assumes they know me from what my mother tells them or what I was doing at sixteen. They don’t realize that I’ve grown, that I’m twenty three now and I’ve switched jobs twice since they last asked. That I’ve gotten into three different relationships since the last time they knew I was even interested in boys.

I guess it comes down to taking the people in your life for granted. You have this ideal of them, this template or structure that you believe that they should be, how they should act, what they think. It’s hard to remember that as much as I grow, change, evolve that other people too are continuing to grow, change and evolve as well. Therefore the relationships that I have with these people are also something that needs to continue to grow, change and evolve. They need some elasticity in order to survive.

So as lovely as it would be to keep that childhood ideal of the people who surround us, related or not, I know I have to remember that these people are changing too. We’re all growing up, we’re changing, we’re moving on with our lives and yes maybe my cousin has also had a different boyfriend since the last time we talked, or maybe my aunt has switched jobs since last Christmas. Who knows?

I guess in between sips of my newest concoction: Peach Absolut and diet coke, I should maybe start the conversation:

“What’s new with you guys?”

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