Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Am Not My Brothers' Or My Sisters' Keeper

...and I'm sure as hell not responsible for their whiney-assed kids' problems, right?  Right!?  Okey dokey, here's my take on it.

"Mutual Reciprocity" breaks down as "You scratch my back and I'll scratch your's."  More finitely, it is the give and take in any relationship that make bonds that don't break easily, or conveniently, when the going gets tough.

The mutual reciprocity I want to address here is in my own very large family.  I've been kicking this around in my head forever, but some recent spewing of drunken rhetoric by the youngest family dipso set me off afresh. 

For background, I am the youngest of nine children.  My now antique mother was quite scandalously married twice, having two children by a rather abusive, alcoholic and ignorant man, divorcing him - also very scandalously - and then marrying my father and proceeding to have {GULP!} seven more children.  

My two oldest half-sibs could have been my parents at more than twenty years older than me at my birth.  We basically grew up with my half-sister's kids and I am auntie to several nephews and nieces who are older than I am.

My oldest natural brother was 18 when I was born.  He was married and had twin girls of his own when I was not quite five and they came back to Maine to live with us for awhile.  He and his wife shortly thereafter had a little boy and divorced, and we all lost track of one another. 

Now that we're all adults and life has taken its toll on us, the blame has started.  It actually started a long time ago, but only recently has it come to a boiling pointing of fingers and gestures, accusations hurled and ultimatums laid down.  

Here's the gist, at least as I see it.  These few nieces and nephews expect me and my siblings to "do something for them."  We are expected to somehow make up for the losses they suffered as children for all the divorces, their parents' substance abuses and various sufferings.  As siblings to their parents - even though we were children and are virtually the same age as these now whining adults looking for "justice" - we are being looked at as the "Ones to Blame for Everything That Life Did Not Give Them."

My cool brother said to me that one of the nieces angrily said to him, "What did you ever do for me?!"  He remarked laughingly to me that he didn't know he had any sort of obligations and golly gosh, what had she ever done for him?

Well, no shit, and that's my point.  I cannot comprehend what it is we, as their parents' sibs were expected "to do" for them?  Does that strike anyone as stupid?  And does this give them the freedom to feel slighted all these years and blame their aunts and uncles for their crappy childhoods?  Don't get me wrong - they blame everyone on earth, but we're closer and can be actually scorned in public.  It's harder to make everyone on earth feel badly because those people truly don't give a shit about these whiney little pukes who stopped their emotional growth at age "whatever."

And here's some more truth:  I grew up in a house of nine people, ten when my oldest half-sister was home when I was just a baby.  We had one bathroom.  My father worked his ass off and Mom kept things running at home.  To say that we were poor doesn't even say enough.  Mom suffered from severe depression and when my two older sisters graduated high school and left to make their own lives, I was nine years old and thus began the darkest days of my young life.

There is a huge misconception amongst the older nieces and nephews that our lives were a bed of roses.  This is a dream, a lie, a construct they made up to get them through their darkest days.  Sorry to burst your bubble, kids. We had it as hard as you did, just in a different way.

I will always love these "kids" because they are my brothers' and sisters' children, just like they will always love their brothers' and sisters' children.  But I owe them nothing else.  I cannot make up for what their parents did or didn't do.  I can't bring back their childhoods or make them feel whole where life tore them apart. It's not my job; it's theirs.

Now, if I could only make my self believe my sober rhetoric and stop feeling guilty that my love for them clearly isn't enough to make them whole.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revival of: When You've Got Nowhere to Turn, Turn On The Mask

When You've Got Nowhere To Turn, Turn On The Mask, originally published 12/1/2009

Now I'm profaning Truman Capote's diabolical quote, "When you've got nowhere to turn, turn on the gas."  I prefer my more passive(-aggressive) adaptation.  It's less immutable, but no less fatal to the Self.

I have a hard time with masks, meaning they won't stay on my face for more than the blink it takes me to have a contrary thought.  I once worked for an attorney we'll call "Sir Knowsalot."  He sought to help me by instructing me that I was "so smart I should be better at playing dumb."  [Insert gigantic pause here.]  Hmmmm.  Yeah.  'Not sure if his eyebrows have grown back yet for the scathing look he was given for that remark.

He felt he was right to instruct me thusly.  After all, his mask was hereditary, like the buckteeth or insanity often seen bestowed upon the privileged, or on royalty in particular.  I guess by then, age 25 or so, I should have learned to never leave the house without a mask or the majority opinion well in mind, thus securing my place amongst the obscure.  But something kicked within me, and it wasn't Sir Knowsalot's love child.  It was rage at being told to play dead.  It was my not-so-inner jackass that braced its feet and brayed "Kiss my hairy cruppers!!"

Twenty years later, I say aloud I don't wish to be obscure.  The obscure turned on Capote's gas years ago, failed to light it and don't yet realize they're dead from the neck up.  F--k obscurity and f--k the attorney who told me to play dumb.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm Blaming Julia Childs...

Today I bought, rather, my beloved bought an 18" strand of lovely rosy cultured pearls for me for Valentine's Day.  Only he doesn't know it yet.  He'll notice them eventually, at some point before Valentine's Day and I'll tell him that's what he got me and gosh, aren't they beautiful, and doesn't he have fabulous taste, and aren't they just what I wanted?  He's so smart.  I love him for letting me do this thing over and over again.

But, so it IS Julia Child's fault, all of this.  The pearls, I mean.  Yup.  I just yesterday watched "Julie & Julia" and there she was with her pearls, and then Julie Powell had to get pearls. Well, then I had to get pearls.  It's all very logical.

I love the way they grace my collar bone, skimming my neck line, and make me fall in love with my truest Self again after such a long absence of hardly recognizing I even exist.  I realize, once again, that I'm no grunge babe, no hippie maven, and goth ain't never been my thang.  I've always been the kind of girl - - who'm I kidding, I'm nearly 47 - - I'm a string-of-pearls-kind-of-woman.

Any one of you who really know me would agree.  Of course, I swear like a pirate, I work at a dirty job as a landscaper, and I can throw back booze with the best of the louts.  But at my core, at the end of the day, no one considers me one of the guys or even one of the "gals" probably.  Sadly.

I not long ago related a story to an old, dear friend of mine where I'd sworn viciously in front of my new co-workers and how they'd been so shocked and how my boss had laughed so hard, seemingly in shock, tickled to death that I'd said something so vulgar.  My friend replied, "Well, Toni, it was like the princess swore."  I felt frankly stunned when he said that.

I chalk this "princess" estimation up to not having enough intuition or his bullshit-o-meter being on the fritz.  It makes me think of a story I heard a while ago about Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary.  Peter spoke in an interview about her, saying how a review spoke of her cat-like movements on stage while she performed and that she had read that and laughed out loud about it.  He went on to explain how nervous she was on stage, giving her these twitchy habits and making her move jerkily when she sang that others misread as "cat-like."  She was glad, however, that the reviewer found her cat-like movements appealing, even sexy, but it was utterly by mistake that they occurred at all.  It gave her credibility where she felt vulnerability.

My "princess" personna?  It, too, is false, but I daresay it has afforded me more protection and credibility than I could adequately measure over these many years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Serendipity + Synchronicity + Supercalifragalisticexpialidociousality

Serendipity + Synchronicity + Supercalifragalisticexpialidociousality...  Put them together and what have you got?
"It would happen that I've quite fortunately discovered I'm not only vastly brilliant, but I'm hiding behind my delicate beauty to allow you to feel like less of an ignoramus in my presence."
Isn't that delightful?

I love language, its nuances, difficulties and stickiness.  Much to my beloved's chagrin, I adore finding and pointing out typos and poor language uses in signs and printed media, on television in the weather reports and such.  And, it's not because I'm a pain-in-the-ass-know-it-all, though some would choose to differ.  I find it comforting that I'm not the only person with her hands on the wrongs keys for a solid five minutes of typing without looking up from the text [insert woman screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs] or dangling this or that grammatical element by its dipthong.

So I'll just admit it:  I read the dictionary and encyclopedias when the moods strikes.  I am, in fact,one of "those" people.  I'll go to look up one thing and end up reading through all of the E's or whatever.  It's sad, I know.

Our Mom's most famous saying, after "Go out and play before I kill you all," was "Look it up."  She just simply didn't have the time to help each and every one of her seven children with every definition and explanation and still get dinner on the table.  As annoying as this was for us at the time, this latter directive came to be an invaluable tool in molding my personality to be an utterly independent researcher. As for the former directive?  Let's just say I still know when to make a graceful exit.