Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Relatives aren't Automatically Friends

My wedding was fantastic because everyone partied together. I think it was the first time anyone in my family saw me drink and dance (that tells you how fun other weddings have been) and the only time I wasn't self conscious about my behavior around them. A wedding is that unique, once in a decade (in lifetime in some families) setting where all bets are off. You can sing the lyrics to Baby Got Back at the top of your lungs while doing the lambada with your high school boyfriend 10 feet away from your grandmother and no one will blink an eye. My wedding was the best party that I've ever attended. Everyone told me it was one of the best parties, not just weddings, that they'd ever been too. The problem is the familiarity that some of my relatives are trying to establish with me post-wedding as a result of the success of the wedding.

Don't get me wrong, I think its really awesome that people bring up my wedding every time I talk to them even though it was over a year ago. But I shouldn't have to sit in my uncle's living room for hours because he wants to hang out with me because we danced near each other at my wedding last year. I don't know how dancing until you were drenched in sweat and your feet were sore translates to sitting on the couch and having conversations about nothing while the TV drones on in the background. The guilt trips that I have been receiving from my family members about not spending time with them or talking to them on the phone forces me to either give in to their requests and be miserable or be a bitch and blow them off. It's not like they're inviting me to an event. They seriously just want me to sit in my car for 6 hours to sit at their house and do nothing or, worse yet, they want to sit in their car for 6 hours and invade my house and disrupt my life.

Up until 5 years ago, I lived no more than 3 hours away from most of my mother's family (my father's family has not been in my life since his death). So I attended almost every wedding, baby shower, holiday dinner, picnic, etc. without being too inconvenienced. At the time I was single and my dog was younger and healthier so traveling to all these events wasn't' that much of an imposition. Also, a lot of my friends from high school and college lived nearby so I could do the family thing for a few hours and then go out and party with my friends. My husband and I have been together for 4 years (three of those years living together), my dog is almost nine years old and has a number of medical problems and I live at least 6 hours away from my closest relative. All of my close friends have moved to other states; the friends that are left really are more acquaintances than friends and are as much a pain in my ass as my family.

When my family went from seeing me multiple times a year to seeing me once a year or less, they freaked out. Suddenly they didn't know me and were desperate to spend time with me to maintain these imaginary relationships that we had. Now really, they never knew me and they still don't but for whatever reason they associated seeing me regularly with knowing me. I could ask my family 10 random questions about me that any one of my friends would be able to answer with ease and my family wouldn't get a single question right. But the wedding made them think that we were pals and they want to see me and talk to me all the time to relive the fun they had at the wedding. No way is this okay.

One of my cousins had a baby last October. I have not met that child, I did not attend the baby shower and I'm not sure that child even knows that I exist. Another cousin has a 6 year old child that I haven't seen since she was 2 years old, the last time I went home for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that child doesn't know I exist. My cousins do not care about this any more than I do. We are not close and they do not really expect me to be a part of their lives. Many of them have not met my husband and did not attend my wedding. They are thirty somethings like my husband and I and have their own lives; they get it. Their parents and my other older relatives do not get it. They think it is a travesty that I have not met my newest cousins. They frequently reference how close the family was when they were kids and how they spent all this time with their extended family, blah, blah, blah.

I am close to some of my relatives. I talk to my mom and my brother all the time and see them at least a couple times a year. I am close to three of my cousins and attend their special events and keep in touch with them. But we all have things in common and go out and do things when we visit. We have things to talk about and don't experience long awkward pauses in our conversations. We often commiserate with each other when we discuss how tedious it is dealing with some of our other relatives. I wish I could just say to my other relatives " DNA in common does not mean that we are bosom buddies. Get a life and leave me alone!" But of course I can't do that. I must walk the line between my happiness and their neediness and compromise much more than I'd like to. My husband and I joke that we should move even further away so its even more difficult for people to visit us (believe me they aren't really psyched about coming to Syracuse) but that will just make it more difficult when we have to come visit them.

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