Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Per the usual writerly cliche's (yes, that's an apostrophe and not an accent - I am lazy, not actually ignorant it's a mistake), it seems the time to discuss Family and the Holidays.

Family and the Holidays "issues" are of course just convenient hangers on which to throw the blankets we know are made of bigger cloth than holiday guest towels. The dismissiveness of family is a whole big kettle of fish really only momentarily symbolized in these moments we encounter at holidays and such. The philosophizations and complaints and jokes of Single Siblings are *always* about the bigger "I don't matter in the way I want to" things we come to understand as we grow up, and maybe inevitably away, from our parents. What is expected of us isn't what we Spinster Aunties and Confirmed Bachelors have chosen or been able to provide; and therefore they just don't know what to do with us (holidays or no).

I've touched on this before ... My mom has no appreciation of the woman I really am; I'm her little kid, still in need of raising and remediation. It hurts a little, but overall I am so fortunate and so grateful for the parents I was given, it's hard to really hold her ambivalence against her. Good grief, I don't know what to make of myself some of the time, why should she be held to a higher standard? I think she is, as my brother put it wistfully not so long ago, missing out on me. But I also know she's not unapproachable. I can reach her. Sometimes, I wish I didn't have to be the one who always has to try (this is my role in so many of my relationships). But I do know how to. It's not like my mom hates me.

There are so many lenses we can view this sort of thing through - "as a feminist, I feel marginalized when my family devalue me for not having children and/or a man" ... "as a grownup, my parent's dismissiveness chafes at the holidays" ... "it just hurts, dammit, doesn't everyone see that?" ...

At the end of the day, man-less or no, childless or no ... I know the people I'm dealing with, and can hardly claim surprise when they inevitably forget that I'm a fully-fledged, responsible, homeowning (middle-aged!) adult. The times my mom and my stepfather do REMEMBER otherwise are worthwhile - and they do, of course they do. As for the rest, I either adjust around their expectations sensitively or less so, and try to prioritize by my own lights, sticking with whatever those priorities may mean in a given year. I've hosted at my house, it can be done. But I always remember, mom sees herself as the fulcrum around which orbit is supposed to occur.

And, you know what ... ? To a large degree, in my family, maybe in my part of the country, maybe even in my culture at large - the reason for that is that we all participate in the presumption that age DOES sometimes confer certain privileges. Generations DO get to behave differently because they've aged or had kids or reached certain places in life. I don't always love it, but (like my mom ... like my grandmothers before her), I'll probably participate in some of those privilege-of-age assumptions myself in the future too. "Fair" has little to do with living life. And if it did, it might get boring anyway.

You can't control family responses, but you can appreciate those that are good, and either adjust or revise an approach to those that annoy. My mom can be a really selfish person - this is something I recognize in myself too. I can either pit my inherited venalities against hers, or tuck my head and push through.

Having a mom who doesn't really "see" me ... beats having a mom who doesn't even care. She doesn't KNOW she doesn't see me. And - like myself - she also probably hangs back, erring on the side of not being a nosy pain in the behind. I know this in myself too.

I also know ... she loves me. And that's the beginning and the end of the really important stuff.

Merry Christmas. I'll be at my mom's and stepfather's house.

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