A Softer World (alternative title to this post: “Sometimes goodbye is better than see you soon”; but that was already taken)
I haven’t been back to my hometown in well over a year. Before that, it had also been over a year. I recently saw my sister for the first time in nearly 4 years. The last time I spent time with my father was two Thanksgiving ago (can anyone say “Spanish Karaoke”?).
Which is to say, family is not the core of who I am. I am sometimes boggled by people who remain very attached to their family when they get older; especially those people whose family clearly sucks. I tend to date girls with close ties to their families, while I tend to make friends with girls who have cut themselves off (or been cut off) from their family. I have no idea what that says about me, but file that one away for a future unauthorized biography.
If you have a close, loving relationship with your family, kudos to you, have an afterschoolspecialcookie and a glass of warmhhugsmilk and sit down. Nobody called on you. The rest of us… well…
I’m not saying I don’t love my family. I do. I love them enough not to come around too often.
I’m also not saying there is anything wrong if you don’t love your family. Some families consist of terrible people. Some people should not be loved. This might go against everything Elmo taught you on Sesame Street, but let’s face it, Oscar the Grouch was a prick. And Big Bird? Fucking cunt. (Someone take note: Is that the first time Big Bird’s been called a cunt? Do I win an internet award?)
When my sister was here we got into one of those long, winding conversations that members of my family get into. If you’ve been witness to one of these, you know there are only two ways these end: Either we all come to a great big, pat ourselves on the back Conclusion!, or we end up yelling at each other and someone nearly gets a fist in the eye… You know I am not exaggerating.
This particular conversation was more of the former, as my sister and I probably have the closest religious/political/Sesame Street-related views of the whole family. Of the grandest of our conclusions, the one I think is undeniable is that the members of my family are, across the board, assholes (caveat: I mean me and my siblings; my parents are their own worlds). Again, this should come as no surprise to those who have met anyone in my family. Even if you’ve just met me, imagine 5 of me, and then understand that I’ve got one of the better filters in the family, and you’ll see what I mean.
Now I have a brother, and he kind of rankles at the idea that he is an ‘asshole.’ And to be fair to him, he is mostly a nice guy. Certainly he is kind to other people and genuinely cares for the people in his life. But the error he makes is that he mistakenly assumes being a good person means you are not an asshole. I assure you, this is not true. I have been an asshole pretty much all of my life (I think it started when I was young and realized the universe rarely bent to my will, no matter how much I prayed!). I was an asshole when I was a Christian, when I was sincerely praying for people’s souls and fasting and going to church multiple times a week and helping out with charities and giving up a normal social life to mentor other little shithead kids.
Now, I know some of you will say, “Well of course you were an asshole, you were a Christian,” and to that I say, touché. But I would say that I knew plenty of genuine-non-asshole Christians in my time, just as I know plenty of genuine-non-asshole atheists and other groups I could list (“Black and yellow, red and white”).
Some people are just assholes, and the members of my family are running with that title. For one, we don’t care what your opinion on the matter is, ours is better researched, more thought out and more eloquently put. This is a fact. Deal with it. Also, your shirt is ugly.
And I don’t apologize for it. We are who we are, and along with being assholes, we are artistic, intelligent, resourceful, strong, persuasive and attractive (do I need to mention, conceited?). We have survived a lot as individuals and as a whole. But like any combustible materials, we should not be put in the same container and shook. Unless you’re going for that face half-blown-off look.
Which is why when any member of my family mentions moving, specifically away from the core center of the family (which, I guess, is Lawrence, KS), I say, “YES, yes, fucking-aye, Jesus Christ on A Pogo Stick Yes!” It’s why I was so proud when my mother moved for awhile to Florida after the divorce, and why I was a little dissappointed when she moved back to Kansas instead of pursuing an opportunity to go to Israel. I understand why she chose the path she did and I don’t fault her for it, but I think the members of my family thrive most when they are out on their own.
We might not have been our happiest, we might not have been our safest or our most secure (financially or in any other way), but we all have become the people we are largely because at some point in our lives we struck out on our own. It might not have been pretty, but damnit we survived and came out the other end the wonderful, loveable assholes we are.
For that reason, despite how much happier I am being at a distance from my family, I do enjoy returning back to my hometown once every year or two, just to see how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve grown. I can see it a little bit in my day to day, but I’m looking in that same mirror every day. I enjoy holding myself up to the old snapshot and seeing just what exactly has been altered. And then, after 2 days, I’m fed up with my family and am looking for a Tornado to get me the hell out of there (that one’s for you Daniel Tosh).
All that is to say, I live in Chicago this year, so I’ll probably return to Lawrence once or twice this year, and if you can put up with an asshole, I’ll let you buy me a few drinks while I entertain you with my winning personality.