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Cutting Down Trees And Family Ties

, , , , | Related | CREDIT: Cactus_Bob_99 | October 25, 2023

My partner and I, both men in our late thirties, were forced to take in my mother and her sister after they were kicked out of their last home.

They continually change our decor, rearrange things, and toss out what they don’t like. Our Tom Of Finland prints have “disappeared”. Half of our kitchen knives were tossed because “we have too many”; they tossed out some very expensive sushi knives.

My aunt likes to “garden” — or at least that’s what she calls it. She cuts everything down to the base so it can “regrow and be healthier”. I told her to never again touch my plants because this isn’t their home; they are guests.

One day, my partner came into the bedroom in tears.

Partner: “They cut down our new magnolia tree!”

Sure enough, it had been cut off at the base and shoved in the trash. My mother and my aunt denied doing it until I threatened to immediately kick them out.

Aunt: “It was just a weed!”

Me: “It was a six-foot-tall flowering tree surrounded by rocks with an orchard tag on it!”

Aunt: “Fine. I knew what it was. But I didn’t like where you planted it!”

Me: “You will pay us for a new one. And when you destroy something else, you and Mom will both be tossed out!”

So, my mom is sulking, and my aunt is pissed that she had to shell out 120 bucks for our new tree.

I’m currently on the way home — my partner is driving — and I’m holding onto our new black tulip magnolia tree.

It’s trash night, and I seriously considered tossing away my aunt’s garden tools. Instead, I hid them — and our gardening tools —  in the garage. When she leaves, she can get them back.

An Im-pasta-ble Demand, Part 2

, , , , , , | Related | October 21, 2023

My cousins and their father, my uncle, were visiting us. It was the last day before they left to go back home, and the plan was to choose a restaurant to eat at.

There was one problem: my uncle. Or, more specifically, my uncle and his desire to go for the nth time to the same restaurant we had gone to all holiday, which we had gotten kind of tired of going to.

Cousin: “Dad, why can’t we go to another place? [Restaurant] isn’t going to change the menu until fall arrives, and we’ve tried every single item.”

Uncle: “Look, I’m not going to accept eating any of your Chinese s***.”

Cousin: “That’s why we’re trying to find a compromise. Why can’t we go to [Seaside Restaurant]?”

Uncle: “Are you crazy?! It’s too windy there!”

Cousin: “Or to Grandpa’s favourite place, [Old Restaurant]?”

Uncle: “It’s dirty and run by classless monkeys now. I’m not wasting my time there.”

Cousin: “Maybe we could go out for a pizza at [Neapolitan Pizzeria]? They say—”

Uncle: “Pizza?! Who do you think I am, a football hooligan? No.”

I tried to save the situation.

Me: “I know of a Sardinian restaurant nearby—”

Uncle: “That’s no better than Chinese. It’s all exotic crap. F*** that.”

Yup. He went there and claimed that Sardinian was too exotic for him, a Neapolitan.

Cousin: “Okay, Dad, what the h*** does [Restaurant] make that’s so good for you?”

Uncle: “If you can’t guess that, I’ve failed as a father to teach you anything. C’mon, use your brain!”

Me: “Okay, [Uncle], here’s the deal: since my parents are paying, not you, you either accept a choice, any choice, that’s not ‘go to [Restaurant] for the hundredth time’—”

Unce: “Who are you to say this?”

Me: “—or you stay home and cook yourself whatever ultra-rare and ultra-traditional thing that place makes.”

And I left. We ended up going to a place somewhere in the hills: my uncle whined all night that his pasta alla gricia didn’t have the same pork cheek that his favourite place used and that his tripe was too watered-down, blaming us for “dragging him somewhere stupid” in front of my parents, who could only roll their eyes.

An Im-pasta-ble Demand

A Perk Of Being An Editor: Learning New Slang!

, , , , , | Related | October 15, 2023

I’ve recently moved to Brazil, and while my Portuguese is good, I still make mistakes sometimes.

I’ve just gotten a smoothie from my aunt. I want to ask her, “Was this made with the milk powder without lactose?” as I am really intolerant to the stuff.

What I actually say:

Me: “Was this made with the milk powder without milk?”

That was slightly embarrassing but not too terrible… except when my boyfriend informed me, with a giant grin on his face, that to ask for just powder in Portuguese is slang for cocaine.

Luckily, my aunt knew what I meant, but I don’t think I’m going to live that one down for a while.

Brotherly Love This Isn’t

, , , , , , | Related | September 18, 2023

My uncle was always the sort to speak his mind freely — too freely. He speaks so freely that the entire family ended up cutting off all contact with him. Only my dad kept up with him, “Because he’s my brother, and it isn’t right to leave him behind.”

Then, one very unfortunate month, both my uncle’s wife and my mom died suddenly. My dad was brokenhearted and weepy, and after two weeks of mourning alone, he reached out to my uncle because he assumed he could sympathise with him.

Once they met and exchanged a few words, my uncle came up with this gem:

Uncle: “Oh, [Dad’s Nickname], I know it hurts, but you don’t have to let this get you down! You’re still a stud; you can always use that money [Mom] left you to pick up some strapping young woman, just like I did!” 

To the surprise of no one but my uncle, my dad decided to join the rest of the family and reject my uncle in disgust.

An Earnest Honorary Uncle Who Honestly Understands

, , , , , , , , , | Related | August 18, 2023

My mother identifies as a lesbian. The story of her sleeping with my biological father and my conception is complicated but suffice to say involved an unhealthy relationship. My biological father was never involved in my life, and despite my feelings as a child, that was likely for the best.

I also went through some unpleasant experiences when I was young — though I stress that it was not my mother’s fault! — that left a bit of an impact on me. By my early teen years, I was mostly “normal”, but I had ended up having a bit of trouble opening up to others, especially adult males, as a result. My own experiences and my mother’s experiences with my bio-dad sort of compounded on each other to reinforce this idea that I just couldn’t trust or be open with people and men in particular. Don’t get me wrong; my feelings weren’t too severe. It wasn’t that I thought everyone was out to get me, that every man was a molester, or that I was spending my every waking moment cursing my bio-dad. However, I did struggle with expressing my real feelings at times and had grown prone to making occasional bitter jokes about my lack of a father.

Then, my mother announced that she was engaged to a woman and that I now had two younger stepsiblings, which I took with all the grace you would expect of a thirteen-year-old who didn’t want such a huge change thrust upon her with very little warning. Both kids were conceived using a sperm donor that the mothers knew personally. The kids knew their sperm donor and how they were conceived, though they referred to him as their “uncle”. Their donor was allowed once-a-month visits — a compromise between my step-mom who wanted more contact and her ex-wife and co-parent who wanted less.

Their donor would come early morning on a weekend and spend the entire day playing with the kids until he personally tucked them in at night, making the most of his once-a-month visits. The kids really looked forward to his visits since he would give them his full attention, play all day with them, and tell them he loved them a frankly excessive number of times a day.

I know it was petty of me, but I couldn’t help but feel envious. I had this terrible story of conception from someone that didn’t want anything from me, and here these two knew they were planned and wanted and got all this attention from their donor. I remember getting scolded quite a few times for calling him their dad and comparing him to my (lack of a) father back then. Everyone would stress to me that he was a donor and an honorary uncle but not a dad, which at the time seemed a meaningless distinction — though I now understand why it mattered so much.

The point is that I wanted what my step-siblings had and was bitter that I was going to have to watch him visit every month, playing with my step-siblings and rubbing in the fact that they got something I thought I could never have. Of course, even then I knew that my feelings were unreasonable, but that didn’t make them go away, and I didn’t know how to express any of them to my family at the time. I mostly covered up my real feelings with sarcasm and pretending I didn’t really care about anything.

Then, a few months after we moved into my stepmom’s house, their donor came up to talk to me after tucking my stepsiblings into bed. You should go ahead and assume that pretty much everything I said from here on out was said with some layer of sarcasm or pretended indifference. For his part, [Donor] always seemed to reciprocate my sarcasm back at me, except that he always had this air of sincerity behind his sarcastic humor, if that makes any sense at all.

Donor: “So, now that this engagement thing is official and you’re stuck with this family, I suppose that means you have to decide whether or not you want to be a niece.”

Me: “Huh?”

Donor: “Well, as I see it, [Stepmom] already decided that I was [Stepsibling #1] and [Stepsibling #2]’s uncle before they were even born, so those two are stuck with me whether they want me or not. You, on the other hand, get a choice of whether or not you want an uncle. I’d be happy to be your uncle, but I’d understand if you didn’t want that. I mean, really, I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to admit they know me.”

Me: “So, what, you’re begging to be my uncle or something?”

Donor: “I would say more ‘asking’. Begging means I won’t accept a no when you should be free to decide whether or not you want anything to do with me. Unless you want me to beg, I suppose.”

Me: “Oh, I’d love to see you beg.”

Donor: “Okay, if you insist.”

In a clearly over-the-top dramatic fashion, he got down on his knees in front of me, held his hands up in a praying gesture, and proceeded to mock-beg.

Donor: “Oh, mighty and wise [My Name], I know I’m unworthy, but wouldst thou giveth me the honor of claiming to be your uncle? Please, please, please, please, please? But like, no pressure if you want to say no.”

Me: “I don’t care. Call yourself whatever you want.”

Donor: “Oh, no, no that’s not how this works. If I’m your uncle, I’m not just claiming a title. You will be stuck with the terrible burden of having to talk to me and spend time with me for your entire life — or until you tell me to go away, I suppose. It’s a terrible fate worse than death, you see, and this is your chance to say no before you’re forced to introduce me to all your friends as your creepy uncle forevermore.”

Me: “Mom, [Donor] is being strange again!”

Donor: “Oh, don’t listen to [My Name]. My niece is just regretting all the life decisions that led her to not officially say no to me when she had the chance.”

Me: “What happened to that whole ‘no pressure’ thing?”

Donor: “Oh, you can always kick me to the curb once you finally see sense, but until I hear otherwise, you’re now officially my niece, so deal with it.”

He was true to his word. He always stayed another hour or so after tucking my new stepsiblings into bed, and he started spending more of that time talking and joking with me. Even when the kids were up, he always made sure to acknowledge me, and through little ways, he showed that he considered me an equal to them when it came to being an uncle for all of us. He even stayed true to his threat by actually introducing himself to all my friends as my “creepy uncle that [My Name] prefers to pretend doesn’t exist”.

He asked me not too long after that if I wanted to schedule my own personal one-on-one time with him, and when I was too committed to acting aloof to admit that I would like that, he saw right through me. Since I would never officially say yes to any one-on-one activities, he started arranging to be my chauffeur when I wanted to go somewhere and my moms couldn’t take me — though I think sometimes they refused to take me just so my new uncle would have an excuse to do so. That meant a lot of taking me somewhere when I wanted to go shopping and walking around carrying my bags while making jokes about everything. I grew to enjoy these excursions far more than I would ever admit, and I would drag them out far longer than was necessary just to get more of the time with him that I refused to officially admit to wanting.

While he doesn’t tend to be sarcastic with others from what I can tell, our relationship has always been built around a large helping of sarcastic humor and good-natured jabs at each other, and I’m glad for that. Especially back then when I couldn’t bring myself to be upfront with him about my feelings, he somehow made it easier through humor and allowed me to cover up with sarcasm when I wasn’t ready to be open yet. He always seemed to see through it, though, and understand what I really meant.

Of course, in all my sarcastic, aloof pretending not to care, I never properly told him just how much I grew to value him as my uncle. He was the first man I really opened up to, and he is still in some ways the one I feel I can be most honest with. I’d like to think I’ve grown better over the years, more willing to express myself and my feelings without the need to pretend I don’t care. Yet I realized recently that I’ve still never told him how much I value him as an uncle. I’m pretty sure he knows, but somehow it feels hard to just come out and say so openly, without any of our usual sarcasm, after all these years.

Of course, he is the one that introduced me to this site, and we still occasionally joke about stories on it. So, perhaps, soon he will know just how glad I am to be his niece.