Friday, June 15, 2012

DNA Doesn't Make You Family

I probably learned this at a very young age after seeing some of what I did. I saw total bullshit happening in the name of "love" and "family members" (you know the people who are supposed to be your unconditional supporters in life) treating people worse than strangers on the street.

Add this to the dysfunctional marriages I saw and you've got some basis for my heavy cynicism.

You'll probably notice that I don't talk so much about my extended family or relatives. There's good reason for that. Are you ready?

So, apparently Southern families are soap opera like. I wasn't really aware of this until a law school classmate told me; I asked a fellow Southerner about it today & he confirmed this. But seriously? My family is probably higher on that soap opera scale than average, even though we don't have a Stefano DiMerra figure (he implanted microchips in people's brains, fathered most of Salem, kidnapped Marlena Evans about a hundred times & basically did so much meddling into people's lives that my mother once said if he, Vivian Alamain & one other Days of Our Lives character were real people, they could singlehandedly take out foreign combatants).

Shall we start with my mother's side or my father's? I guess we'll go with my father's. To start with, my father's family was dysfunctional long before it was cool or hip (we're talking the days of I Love Lucy here). He had this stepfather that was abusive & even tried putting the moves on my mother when she & my dad were engaged; they called him "Mr. [His last name]". His recently departed brother (I can't say "dearly" since he was an ass & no one really liked him) was a creeper pedophile (as I learned more recently, which explains why we didn't really hang out with him). I feel like I got lucky with my father even though living in that family was no bowl of cherries. I'm also not sure I'm cool with the fact that apparently my parents provided aid & comfort to this creeper when the snakes were striking, so to speak. I addressed this issue in an earlier post; if you read it, you'll understand where I'm going here.

Second, I can't prove this but my paternal grandmother was allegedly Miss Atlanta GA; if we're going based on looks, it could very well be true but I don't know her first name or her maiden name so I have no way to verify it. In fact, they really don't have a family tree or other relatives I've heard of except a great aunt they were close to that died when I was younger. This grandmother, like most of my grandparents, died before I was born.

It feels like I'm adopted in some ways with this whole shroud of mystery here. It gets better, though.

My mother doesn't talk to pretty much any relative except my uncle (her brother). Factions of that family fought over money left by a distant relative some years back. When we were much younger, we saw some of those relatives but as we got to middle school & onward they vanished without a trace. No one made efforts to contact us or keep up with us. They do have a family tree, though.

Now, they are all curious on everyone's business but they never ask with legitimate concern. It is apparently more like an inquisition & having gossip fodder. I should mention both sides of my family have a healthy assortment of gossips & hateful assholes. Yes, I know this is not uncommon but I thought the whole ceasing of contact had to do with physical abuse or something horrifying like that.

Our basic attitude here is the same as mine on life in general: I'm not going to follow you around seeking your approval or favor like a little puppy nipping at your ankles. You want to be around? Make a fucking effort! Otherwise, don't whine about it when you do nothing to make an effort.

I could pass a relative of mine on the street & wouldn't know it. Doesn't this sound like a soap opera already?

One hazard of working in this industry, especially if you're an actor, writer, director or anyone else who's more out in front: long lost family & friends will try contacting you for favors.

I've been prepared for that possibility for some time since I kind of have to have an online presence for the sake of business. I also know what trajectory I'm going on & as a consequence, it's just bound to happen sometime.

Sometime became Tuesday. I go check my e-mail in the morning as I do every morning before I start working & I find a cousin I've not seen since I was 7 has written me a message through my website to then ask about why my mother won't talk to them.

Gee, did I wake up & become my mother all of a sudden? Did I end up back in NC & inhabit her body sometime? Last I checked, I was a separate entity.

That window of time when I'll bother to give someone any benefit of the doubt on not seeking special favors is rapidly shrinking; I suppose it already shrank from going to law school & leaving the South but it's definitely gotten smaller than it was even 2 years ago.

I check a different e-mail account to find this cousin also wrote me the same message through Avvo.

That evening, when I've decided how I'm going to handle this I see this cousin has sent me a Facebook friend request & has no public details on her profile to give me an idea of what sort of person I'm dealing with. Nor do I have any way to respond through Facebook.

Another fact about my mom's side of the family: there are a lot of Christians in it. Some of whom are probably part of that lunatic fundie fringe that's intolerant & quoting Bible verses at you constantly while breaking most of the commandments. I'm not so certain they'd accept me for me.

I thought "Oh no she didn't!" Because her messages to me said she'd done "research" on me, I decided to point that out in my response. I also addressed what an aunt of mine said concerning my plans to live in NY state; she had claimed I was following the guy I was dating at the time (Vampire Boy) instead of having a real interest in it. Jesus, people who'd spent a few hours around me knew I had no interest in living in the South. An aunt on my dad's side I didn't spend a ton of time with even told my mother that she wasn't surprised about what I did in my adult life & where I'd moved to. She's also dead now.

I figure if that aunt knew, it should be as plain as day to anyone else. Total strangers down there knew how miserable I was living there; it was obvious & I made no secret of that fact.

In writing this message, I figured I'd treat this relative just as I'd treat a total stranger who sent me a Facebook friend request & provided no explanation or reason why I should care about connecting with them, especially on a personal social media site like Facebook. I get those kinds of requests fairly often on various social media platforms so I'm pretty direct about it.

My mother said I didn't have to be offensive & all to this relative. I said "You're assuming I care what this woman thinks. I really don't." She seems to forget I'm the woman who's known as "the enforcer," the person who'll tell you right to your face if you're crossing a line or doing something that offends me. I've got a rep to maintain, you know?

My thought is regardless of my approach, it's a win for me. I also stated that if you want to have space in my life, you'll have to accept me for who I am without trying to "save," convert or badger me about my life choices (all of them, not just the ones you like such as my super heterosexuality) as well as accept my spouse, who is not going to become a God bothering asshole.

I further stated that my mother was an adult & she could speak to her directly on that issue but that I would not be a conduit of information and would not be violating her personal privacy since she's not violated mine. I presume she would not be selling me out to some tabloid or exploiting my friends/harassing my contacts. I know she wouldn't bother celebrities since she's got no interest in such matters.

So, I'm giving this relative a week. Regardless of what happens, it's a win in my book. If she's all offended, then I won't have to worry about them bothering me. Really not worth your time to deal with me if you offend easily anyway. If not, maybe we can have a serious discussion here & lay our cards out on the table. See if there's going to be acceptance. I even put in some light profanity after pointing out that I do curse & have earned that right since I live in NYC and am an adult. Would you rather I curse or repress all that to then snap one day & shoot innocent people in a bank like that day trader did in Atlanta shortly before I moved there? I've asked my mother this question anytime she complains about me cursing out some dumbass driver in a fit of road rage while I drive.

At this point, I'm not in the mood to grovel for anyone's approval & see no reason to do it when it comes to who I am as a person. No acceptance means why bother in my book.

Just remember that your family is the one you create for yourself, not the one you're born into.

Oh, and 50 Shades of Grey is total porn but if you want honesty in some of the terms you should read the sex stories in Playboy or urban fiction (according to a librarian I know, wink wink). They spell out the male & female private parts in the characters' sexual experiences. That leads into another rant but since I'm sleepy, I'll save it for another day. Just know that my husband was right when he said this book is porn. Not that this is a bad thing; I'm just stating facts. More thoughts on this later. I have to actually finish it first.

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