Once again I find myself as the scapegoat for all my family’s ills. I got angry and had an argument with my niece Colleen, with whom I have a shaky relationship anyway, and to be honest, this time I really do think she and I would be better off if we just acknowledged we do not like one another and part ways. Of course families are not prone to be honest about such things, instead, we all play nice-nice and pretend all is hunky-dorry when in reality it is anything but. What always troubles me after an incident like this, is that I am always blamed, because I speak my mind and say what others do not have the courage to say. But it is so very easy for everyone else to maintain their own peace, if they just saddle me with the blame. “Oh, its just Aunt Lolly…” And it is dismissed as just a quirk in my personality and not a real problem. Nothing to see here, move along. I have in the past told everyone that I prefer not to even come to family functions, because there is always the possibility that I will be offended or I will offend, and then the fireworks begin. I can only bite my tongue for so long, before I just lose it. I have buttons that people are fond of pushing.
In reality I do not need other people around me for happiness, and prefer my solitude. I am much happier when I do not need to put on the mask and go be whomever they expect me to be for the hours that I must visit. My life is very peaceful, and then I have the weeks of holidays where I have to be who I am not or tap into only one small aspect of myself that is socially acceptable and pleasing to my family. (or worse—total strangers) It makes me a nervous wreck for weeks on end, knowing that I have to upset my routine, get out of my comfort zone, and then socialize with people. As a recluse the other 95 percent of the time, it is disconcerting to say the least. I am not sure anyone understands the mind-set of hermits like me, who do not have human contact AT ALL for days on end, to be plunged into a large group of people and expected to be pleasingly sociable. It is akin to ask someone who knows how to ride a bike but has not ridden one in years, to run the Tour De France. Some people are just not meant to be social. I am one of those people. I accept this, I just wish everyone else would.
So on the First of January I got up for our Brunch at Milly’s — the last of the “get-togethers”, and fastened my smile on my face securely, grit my teeth, and entered into the fray. When I arrived, I got my food and went to the table to eat and noticed a child sitting at the table next to me. At first I did not recognize her, her face was so screwed up with pain and tears, and then I realized it was lovely Aria, the 5 year old daughter of my niece Catherine. “What is wrong, sweet Aria?” I asked her. “She is not allowed to move!” boomed the voice of Colleen behind me as she crossed the room rapidly to take her place as sentinel over the child. Apparently Aria had committed the unpardonable sin of not eating whatever Colleen put on her plate, whether she wanted it or not. Currently Aria is going through a stage of extremely picky eating. Her mother did the same thing at exactly this age. In fact, perhaps more so. Her mother, Catherine went an entire year eating only plain iceberg lettuce and Land O’ Lakes white American cheese and mango/guava juice. Seriously. In comparison, Aria likes a veritable smorgasbord of foods. Noodles, fruit, vegetables. She is rejecting mostly fats and sweets. So what does Colleen set before her? French toast, drenched in syrup and bacon. I was told later by Denise, that she was never given a choice of anything else from the mountain of food that had been prepared.
So for more than a half hour I watched as Colleen hovered over this crying child like the Dark Overlord of Food, insisting she take a bite of something before leaving the table, and then I told Colleen quietly (but sternly), “This is just a battle of wills.” Colleen smiled at me with an almost malicious determined look on her face and then smiled and said, “I know.” She would not let up. Not for a moment. I had little opportunity to intervene when Colleen left the table momentarily to try and calm the child, when she would swoop in like a vulture just about the time Aria calmed enough to stop sobbing to prod her again, and the crying would begin anew. I was gob smacked. Keep in mind both of my sisters, my brother, my other niece Mysi, My brother-in-law and my nephew-in-law were all sitting at the table watching this. My siblings especially had experience with this kind of battle of wills when we were children, and it never ended well. I knew my brother Paul, who was sitting next to me was having visions of a night long ago, when my own father crammed Oreos down his throat til he turned blue. We ALL remember this, it was so traumatic. Most of all for Paul. Also there were other children in the room who were watching as Colleen essentially attempted to bully this sweet child to her will. It had long ceased to be about the good of the child, but was about breaking the child’s will.
So finally I got up, picked up the plate from in front of Aria and said: “I have had enough of this.” and I took the plate away and put it in the sink. I returned to Colleen and said with great anger, “This is torture, there is no reason that you need to get the child this upset over FRENCH TOAST for God sakes.” As I turned Colleen was whispering something to Aria, and I came over and continued to harangue Colleen about how completely stupid this was, and she said “I am speaking to my Niece!” I said, “She is my niece too.” Then Colleen said: “You are being a bitch.” And then I looked around at my family who were just sitting there, and I said, “I am leaving. Now. I will never come to another family function.” I got my coat and went outside (because I had to wait for someone to take me home) My brother Paul was already sitting on a bench outside the house. He thanked me for stopping the insanity, and was upset beyond words. “How could anyone make a child cry that way?” The pain was visible in Paul’s face. I sat with him for a bit, smoked a cigarette, and waited for Jack (Denise’s husband) to take me back home. I was there less than an hour.
Later, my sister Denise called and told me she agreed with me, and even went so far as to say all (really?) of the other adults sitting at that table agreed with me. My one thought for the last two days is: Why did no one else speak up while I was there? Why is it always ME that has to be the heavy, and therefore the scapegoat in this family? Why has no one else called to comfort me or to give me a few words of support? Why? Because they are perfectly capable of setting it all on my back and letting it go. Then they expect me to do the same. Well it is hard to put it all aside when it is all riding on your back. When it is always riding on your back. It is so easy to trivialize and render meaningless with the words: “Oh, it was only Aunt Lolly.”
So, my decision is this. I shall never do that to myself again. 2014 is my year of liberation as the family scapegoat. I will no longer visit them, If they want to see me, they know where I am. I have lived in the same house for 15 years. I can count on one hand the number of times they have come to visit me. (barring Denise, as she is the only one who has ever made any real effort to stay a part of my increasingly reclusive life.) I can count on less than two hands the number of telephone calls I have received from anyone “just to chat”. Yet I am expected (without a car or a license) to go visit them. This is the year that I no longer go to family functions. I have never liked going, I am always cajoled into it, usually by my sister Denise. Usually by telling me how much they all enjoy seeing me and love me, blah blah blah. Well, if they enjoy seeing me so much they can do that. They all own cars and telephones. Nothing is stopping them from coming to see me. But this whole torture of family functions for me ends this year. I will not go. The answer is no. And no amount of guilt-tripping or cajoling will change my mind this time. You may all have your peaceful, non-confrontational lives. Good luck with that. I would invest in some Tagamet.
RIP Aunt Lolly. Hello Nalora.