Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sibling Revelry

Me and my bros. Instead of our usual acidic sarcasm and flippant remarks this is the easiest way to deal with other relatives.

This gem was found in my mom's scrapbook--it was taken this September at my grandmother's 80th birthday party. I only vaguely remember doing this--the rest of the family must think we are all absolutely weird.

Generally my brothers and I are pretty anti-social around the rest of the family and instead spend most of the time with each other at family events. This seems to work out the best for everyone--my relatives can't relate to my life and I'm not all that interested in most of theirs. They would freak out if Jess or I ever jerry-rigged a holiday table into a make-shift soapbox to exhort our personal politics and condemn most of their lifestyles and values. Instead, we roll our eyes, grit our teeth and bear the conversations praising Walmart and demonstrating a sheep-like existence--and then we run away. Besides vast political differences, our lives are just radically different than theirs. We are all single professionals who live in cities. Most of my relatives are married, parents and live in single-family homes with large lawns. The majority are not college educated and work as laborers in factories. They watch TV and seem to aspire to owning more instead of less stuff. They go to church weekly while we brazenly remain silent and motionless during the dinner prayer.

The main political difference is that both Jess and I act as though our individual behavior effects the rest of society. Most of my family can easily bitch about factory jobs or family farms disappearing, but then shop for cheap foreign-made junk at Walmart and crappy, processed foods at the supermarket. They either don't see the connection between their actions and purchases and the society around them, or they simply refuse to honor that relationship. While basically good people, I also think that they are lazy and selfish in their choices. As our society and environment continue to suffer a tragedy of the commons they rush headlong over the cliff blindly doing their share. I certainly have my faults and don't claim to act in the most virtuous way, but at least I have the decency to think about the effects of my actions, try to behave responsibly and feel shame when I don't live up to my ideals.

Besides these basic demographic and political differences, my relatives just aren't silly or fun enough. Much of holiday gatherings seems to be spent bitching about work, shopping, neighbors or other minor conflicts. For some reason this is the preferred way to relate with each other. Screw that. Give me irreverent comments and hilarious sarcasm. I like to laugh and my brothers deliver. Sure, our smiles may be closer to smirks than grins--but our eyes twinkle regardless. So many pictures of my brothers and me capture us secretly being naughty. On their face these pictures just show a happy set of siblings, but knowing us, a closer examination reveals childlike mischief. Our smiles are actually trapped giggles trying to bubble out as we valiently attempt to contain them because we are covertly tickling one another or sharing a private joke. So there we are: professional, urban adults who oftentimes act more silly than our relatives' young children. I think it's absolutely delightful of us, but I can also imagine that our behavior is considered rude or disturbingly immature to bystanders.

What in the world do the relatives think of me and my brothers? I think my grandparents are quite fond of us, but what about the rest? Do they pity our parents for raising such seemingly bizarre children? Is our family a stereotype of the red state/blue state, urban/rural divide trumpeted by the media during and after this election? Do they talk about us when we are gone and shake their heads in confusion and sadness? Might they think we are crazy? At least they probably consider us very immature and hope that we will grow out of this phase. What did they think of the ArtCars when Frick and l owned and drove them? Did they understand the joy and whimsy in that expression? Did they recognize the snub, the underlying mocking of the automobile fetish even as the colors drew more attention to the car and driver? Could they articulate that sentiment, or were they simply discomforted because it was odd? Are they more comfortable now that I don't have a car--or is my biking an even more bizarre development to them? Certainly I don't think they are losing sleep pondering our lives, but I am curious as to what their opinions are. Maybe they just accept us for who we have become and are concerned only with our happiness and well-being.

Luckily the holiday season is over, so I don't expect to be back home for quite a while to see relatives. I do hope that the boys and I get together in the next few months to hang out, though. Visiting Frick out in CA for a weekend in February certainly doesn't seem like a bad idea.


At 10:04 AM, Blogger equipoise said...

Wow jojo, this is beautifully written. Couldn't have said it better myself. The next time someone asks about our family dynamic, I may just use some of your words as my own :-)

At 2:45 AM, Blogger Frick said...

I was thinking the same thing.
you and J should come out to ca sometime soon.
(Well, "soon" as in prefably after I move there)


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