This screen grab from last year is of three of my cousins discussing other family members. As you can see, they aren’t very nice. I blacked out some of the text,their pictures and their names because while they have never been very nice to me, I wish them no harm and continue to respect their privacy.
What they did here is nothing new to me though. Their snarky insults were always my own experience with them during the holidays. I had the “strange job” and the “hippie clothes”. I listened to the “devil’s rock music” and hung around with “weirdos”. These are just a few of the reasons I severed family ties with them over 25 years ago and never once looked back with any kind of wistful nostalgia.
Last year I wanted to just take a look to see if they had changed, and I regret doing it. I have only myself to blame because I went and looked. No one made me. Seeing this exchange between three cousins assured me I made the right decision. But seeing this also made me incredibly sad. It triggered all of that old pain in my heart and made me feel like that helpless little girl again. It wasn’t the best feeling.
The Daddy they refer to was my adoptive brother and the cousins here opted not to include me in his obituary, as if I never existed at all. When I saw that I was a bit flummoxed, but it didn’t devastate me like I thought it would. I sent my condolences and moved on.
I swear, if my family isn’t leaving me out of all of the obits to date, they’re totally butchering my name’s spelling. They are the Joan Crawfords of obituary writing.
I remember one day walking home from school when one of the cousins, in this screen grab above, handed me a baggy of shredded up leaves and told me it was marijuana. I was wearing the new fad bell bottom pants and was endlessly teased by my cousins as being a hippie every day I wore them to school. My cousin was wearing her ROTC uniform. The irony! She wanted me to roll some of her marijuana up right then and smoke it in front of her to prove to her that I really was a hippie. When I refused to do that and tried to make her take the baggy back, she started pushing me until I fell down. My books went flying and I tore a hole in my bell bottom pants and still she kept kicking at me. “Go ahead girl! Roll that stuff up and smoke it!”
I was thirteen years old and had never even seen marijuana. I certainly had no intention of smoking anything either!
My other cousin, who was witnessing all of this take place, finally spoke up. Literally quaking in her MaryJanes and cowering in the background, came this squeak of a protest from her. She was terrified of her older sister, so I know this took some guts for her to do. She told me to throw the baggy on the ground and to run home.
Her older sister wasn’t trying to make me smoke marijuana.
She was trying to make me smoke poison ivy leaves.
Do you know what smoking poison ivy leaves would have done to me? I’m pretty sure she knew. What in the world would breed so much hatred into a teenager that they would seriously consider, and then act out, an attempt of murder?
And someone wants to know why I don’t spend the holidays with my family? Ha!
Recently someone made the remark about me never spending the holidays with my blood relatives. They were making the observation in order to claim there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to be around my own family. Take a good long look at the screen grab from last year that I attached to this blog post, read the memory of walking to the bus stop I shared, and then ask yourself “Are these folks I would want to celebrate anything with?” You can get back to me with your petty judgments and observations once you’ve come to your senses.
What people never consider is that you become just like the people conversing in the screen grab above when you make judgments like that. Just because a person won’t do what you expect of them, you can’t expect them to burn in hell for it. There would be a lot of folks running around on fire!! Expecting someone to behave the way that you do, or to be exactly like you, or to simply do what you want them to do, is tantamount to abuse.
When you start to constantly bully someone because they won’t behave the way you want them to, then you have become an abuser.
Another irony in all of this explanation is me trying to educate someone that is unfairly judging me at the moment.
The unfortunate part of me spending the holidays with my own family for years and years is that I already know how it feels to be bullied, unfairly judged , gossiped and lied about, and harassed for being different.
And now that’s the reason I won’t spend my holiday with you either.
You can never assume that you know someone’s story, when you haven’t taken the time to know them.
The next time you think a person’s behavior is unusual, don’t assume it’s because there’s something wrong with them. Mine is simply a method of self respect and self preservation, it’s not about judgments. I know I’m not any better than these folks are, but I learned a long, long time ago that I would never fit in there, so I opted to make my own family.
Take a page from my own biography and decide for yourself if remaining in an uncomfortable situation simply because it’s family is worth being ripped apart at least once a year. If that’s something you’re okay with, then hats off to you. If it’s not okay with you, then trust me that making your own family and surrounding yourself with people that truly love you is so much better and healthier than the other option.
The problem with holidays is that it tends to make everyone hyper-sensitive. I guess it’s the nostalgia and the pressure from society. The outside world likes to dictate having everything and everyone be perfect and that’s just nonsense. Nobody and nothing is ever perfect. Expecting perfection is simply wrong.
You can expect common decency though. 🙂 Never, ever expose yourself, or the people you love most, to toxic folks during the holidays, or any other time of the year.
Not even if they’re family.