Saturday, August 1, 2009

Relatively Speaking

A wedding at which the only people you know are those to whom you are related is not a simple celebration of marriage. You know about marriage, if you’re among family. You’re onto its tricks: the way it ropes you in, binds you to dozens, whole tribes of people and people-to-be with whom you have little in common save for an outsize nose and a tendency to fight dirty.

A wedding is a commitment to the institution of marriage. A family wedding is a commitment to an institution, period. With straitjackets, rules of conduct, electrified fences, and shrinks. Yay family!

There are exceptions, of course. Happy families. Families that sally forth in formation, sing in the car, devise family badges, assign happy, ego-boosting nicknames. Maybe you are a part of such a family. If you are, you can bite me.

What is it about family? An hourlong family dinner has more currents, more undertows and dangerous reefs, than the Bermuda Triangle. Yet, rather than disappearing, we keep coming back for more! Is it masochism? Sadism? Psychosis? Surely somewhere in the DSM lurks a diagnosis for the deep-seated neurosis that is a four-day sojourn with relatives.

Naturally, I exaggerate. Naturally, I retreat to a corner with my laptop subsequent to faking my own death. I wouldn’t trade family for anything. We have so many choices in life: what to study, who to date, whether to order a latte or a scotch. Family is one of the only remaining cards you can’t trade in, but must play as you’re dealt.

There’s a particular liberty in constraint. Ante up.

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