“Able” To Bring Her Down

, , , , , , | Friendly | September 15, 2019

(My uncle is considered by the rest of my family to be a “child-whisperer” because he can easily manage five children at a time by himself. He can take five of us — his kids and my siblings and our other cousins — on outings and manage to keep us all safe while we have fun. We all love him because he is very easygoing and patient but also can be silly with us. We go to the zoo when I am nine, with my ten-year-old and four-year-old cousins — his son and daughter — and twin six-year-old cousins — his nieces. We overhear two old ladies speaking. One of them points at my six-year-old cousin who has one leg.)

Rude Old Lady: “It is fitting that they brought that freak to a zoo.” 

(Her companion laughs. My uncle overhears this comment, as does my cousin, who starts crying. While her twin and the rest of us are attempting to cheer her up, my uncle walks over to the ladies, smiling.)

Uncle: *in a jovial sort of way* “Hello. Would you kindly repeat what you said?” 

(One of the women looks apprehensive, but the other doubles down on what she said before.)

Rude Old Lady: “I said that it is fitting that you brought your freaks to the zoo.”

Uncle: “Freaks? That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?” 

Rude Old Lady: “No, it’s accurate. You’ve got two kids wearing glasses — that ought to be child abuse, especially when you’re doing it to a little girl — and a kid with one leg. Plus, that kid has another kid who looks just like her except she’s whole.”

Uncle: “Oh, the twins? They don’t look that similar. For a start, she has blonde hair and she has black hair. I might consider it child abuse to not let children wear glasses, regardless of gender.” 

(So far, my uncle has been very conversational in tone. Now, he spreads his arms out like he’s making a grand speech and starts speaking loudly. The other people near the bear exhibit — and even the bears themselves, probably — are listening now.)

Uncle: “Understand this, O ableist hag! I do not appreciate you calling my family freaks, O she-who-made-a-kid-on-crutches-cry! I have nothing more to say to you, O demon-in-a-woman’s-body! Begone, I say!” 

(While my amputee cousin starts laughing at the absurdity of the statement, the rest of us cheer, and the woman, publically humiliated and shamed, stalks off, her companion saying, “Well, you were a bit rude, don’t you think?” to her on the way out. I bring this up now, years later, only because while visiting our grandmother during the summer, the oldest of my cousins and I go to the grocery store. My cousin nudges me in the ribs and says:)

Cousin: *just loudly enough for her to hear* “Hey, it’s the demon in a woman’s body!” 

(She scowled at us and kicked in our general direction before walking away.)

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Family Reactions Can Be Fluid

, , , , , , , | Related | July 26, 2019

(I am a transgender teen and have just started living openly as a male. My mother’s side of the family is very open and accepting. My father’s side is full of very conservative, hyper-religious types who are a lot less positive. While he supports me, extended family gatherings can be painful. At this particular family dinner, I’m sitting with [Cousin #1], who I’ve always liked. Although she’s using my preferred name, she hasn’t directly mentioned my transition. [Cousin #2] walks over to talk to me.)

Cousin #2: “My husband says what you’re doing is evil. Don’t you dare talk to my kids about it! They are good Christians!”

Cousin #1: “That’s enough, [Cousin #2]!” *to me* “Are you okay?”

Me: *shrugs*

Cousin #1: *to [Cousin #2]* “I think your baby is crying. You should go check on him.” *to me, after she leaves* “I have to go do something. I’ll be back, okay?”

(I watch her leave, disappointed that she seems uncomfortable talking to me, but figuring she must be more like the rest of the family than I thought. She comes back a while later, holding something.)

Cousin #1: “Sorry, I’m still new at this stuff. I needed to talk to my husband and get his permission before I could talk to you. See, he’s not public about it and I don’t think I should tell anyone without checking with him first, but he sometimes lives as [Female Name]. I think it’s called being gender fluid? Anyway, I love her, and I love him, and I just want you to know that all that matters to me is that you keep your awesome personality. Also… I had to swap your Christmas gift. I got you a necklace, but this seems more appropriate.” *hands me a necktie* “Merry Christmas!”

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I Can Scare You In My Sleep

, , , , | Related | July 19, 2019

(My father’s side of the family is quite large — he has eight siblings — and they have a lake cottage that is shared between the group. A whole bunch of people gather for some events like the Fourth of July, and other times individual families will go up. My family lives farther away, so we don’t usually use the cottage, but when I am around thirteen or fourteen we go down for a week. I am sharing a room with a cousin my age. One night, at around one in the morning, she is up texting her friends, while I have been asleep for a while. Suddenly…)

Me: *sitting straight up in bed* “Hello, [Cousin].”

Cousin: “[My Name]? Are… are you awake?”

Me: “I am not awake. I am in your nightmares.” *lies back down*

Cousin: *screams*

(Apparently, I sleep-talk.)

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Is Your Cousin’s Mom Betty White?

, , , , , , | Related | June 24, 2019

(A second cousin of mine told me this story. She’s renting a car.)

Agent: “What brings you to Missouri?”

Cousin: “I’m here to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.”

Agent: “In that case, why don’t you upgrade to a nicer car? Think how happy your mother would be if you took her for a ride.”

Cousin: “Thanks, but if my mom wanted to go for a ride, she’d have her boyfriend take her out in his convertible.”

(She wasn’t kidding.)

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There’s Kissing Cousins And Then There’s Kicking Cousins

, , , , , | Related | June 24, 2019

I lost my grandpa early this May, and the grief hits harder some days than others. Come the memorial about two weeks later, his family and friends are around, half of us crying, the other half sharing amazing stories — half of which I’d never heard, and sorely wish I had — of the generosity my grandpa showed almost everyone in the family.

One of my cousins is there. I went to Taekwondo class with her for several years and we got our black belts together about six years ago. She’s fifteen now, and I’m twenty-four; age difference does make a bit of a difference here.

After being at the memorial for maybe half an hour, she loudly starts complaining about how she’s done and she wants to go home, looking at her mom — another of my cousins and a super sweet lady.

After about the fifth or sixth time she does this, when she does it directly in front of me, I turn to her, sick of it, and trying to keep it together. I say, “I’m sorry that my grandpa dying has ruined your day.”

She just stares at me like I’ve grown a second head, and I storm off.

Up until she did that in front of me, I was doing my absolute best to try to understand where she was coming from; she didn’t know my grandpa all that well, and she’s a teenager. But how entitled do you have to be to say things like that in front of my face like that? It’s especially frustrating because her grandpa is my grandpa’s brother-in-law.

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