You know what they say about old habits dying hard?
Well it’s a cliche for a reason. And it’s especially hard to challenge them when they’ve been over a half a decade in the making.
As anyone who follows this blog will know that I haven’t always had a great relationship with my family, and you will also understand why.
But of late, my relationship with my brother James is OK.
Distant, even more distant since I’ve been in financial dire straights, but whenever we see one another we’ve managed to have a nice time and while away a couple of hours or so before the other has to go home.
And I’m regularly invited to spend Christmas with him and his family. Mainly because it’s traditional, and the fact that I’m ‘Aunty Present’ and, until this year, brought lots of goodies for all to enjoy.
But apart from that, my presence isn’t really required. Oh I’m welcome, in theory, to go spend the weekend with them. Subject to approval and with the proviso that I might need to entertain myself as they all go about their business, and treat me with about as much interest as the family gerbil (who eventually died of starvation/dehydration, poor thing).
And if there’s a formal family thing with long lost rellies, I’ll be required to rock up, despite the fact that the venue is about 400 miles away from my home (and 40 from theirs) and that I have to spend a total of 8-9 hours on the motorway, and money (that I haven’t got) to eat at a shit restaurant whose sole USP is the ability to acquire faux fillets made up of re-consituted poultry skin/scrag/ligament mush that has been combined with water and additives, moulded, frozen, defrosted, cooked and presented to the unsuspecting diner as a chicken breast, smothered in some kind of white jizzy goop that itself masquerades as some kind of cheese sauce. With chips of course.
Other than that, I am apparently obsolete. Peripheral. Forgettable.
And every now and then I’ll see evidence on Facebook or via some other social media platform that he and my cousin and their respective broods have all got together at each others homes or gone on some jolly outing or other without inviting me.
And it hurts.
When we were kids, my brother hated me (and in turn I hated him back), and turned to our cousin (who lived walking distance away) for succour and companionship which is probably one of the reasons that I’m the fuck up of the family and he isn’t. Because even though our shared childhood was not the best, our mother loved him and he had Jack, so he was never alone. Being the same sex, there’s was a natural bond, as was the habit of turning on me, an obvious target, to mock, jeer at, and pick fights with.
Me? I had no one, not even a best friend once I turned geek, and I have forever felt like I am on the outside looking in.
And neither Jack nor James were ever encouraged to include or be kind to me.
They were lads. And lads didn’t play with girls oop North, so they were let off the hook so to speak.
And as we came into our teens, and I strived to find some tribe to fit in with (be it mod, punk, new romantic), this was an endless source of amusement for this smug twosome, who, yes you’ve guessed it, went to uni, found a lovely inclusive brainbox peer group to join, and more life long friends to bolster their egos and emotional security.
I however flitted from one incarnation to another, and do so to this day.
Because I have no real clue who I am.
Over the years, I did form something of a relationship with my cousin, and once upon a time you could have called us ‘close’ as he would tell me things he couldn’t share with Jack, but when my brother and I fell out for 3 years, I was left in no doubt where I was in the family hierarchy.
No I couldn’t come for Christmas, Easter or Bank Holiday. What were my motives? Was I doing this to wind up Jack?
They could see me in March, some random weekend or a cold wet day in January; wouldn’t that be special?
And after Jack and I eventually made up, I was no longer the black sheep of the family hence James welcomed back into the fold and was invited to everything!
Except I was indignant, bruised and in no mood to be humoured.
Nowadays everything has gone back to normal and I’m back on the outside looking in. And today I made one last try to connect with my family, find out when the next big hoo ha would be, and get myself invited to it via my sister in law.
She sounded defensive and perplexed.
‘Why do you ask? When? What are you thinking? Here, Jack’s, yours, somewhere in the middle?’
(In other words ‘What do you want from us exactly? Anyone would think you were family or something!’)
‘I honestly don’t mind Jen, I just thought it would be nice for us to all catch up sometime.’
‘Well Jack and James have just been away, we’re off doing something else Easter with my sister (oh the irony), then I’m back at work, Jack is blah blah blah……….but maybe we’ll catch up in August 2020 when I might be in London?’
Hey ho. After over half a decade of being second tier, why did I ever think it might change?
It would be easier to get Clark Kent and Superman in the same room at one time.
I get it. i genuinely do. Spending time together for them comes naturally. They’re more brothers than Jack and I were ever siblings. They both have kids. They live quite close to one another. Lots of their get togethers are probably arranged quite spontaneously.
I, however, take effort. Not to mention that fact that I’m a little….
….and unpredictable nowadays. What if I rained on their lovely fraternal parade?
As for the bullying, I suppose kids are kids, and they didn’t know how damaging an effect their behaviour would have on me.
Boys will be boys.
And lets face it they weren’t the only ones who picked on me. Once you’re being victimised it’s like you send out a high pitch signal that unleashes the dogs of war onto you. It’s like those bastards can sniff the vulnerable out and let rip knowing you will take their shit.
To this day though, any word or story of bullying is guaranteed to get my hackles up.
In a recent episode of ‘The Gift’ one man, Jon, who bullied and beat up on another boy, Simon, at school for 10 years, suddenly got guilt pangs and sought him out via the show to apologise, wanting forgiveness.
90% of the British public were touched by his efforts and sniffled sentimentally into a Kleenex.
The other 10% (yes, me included) wanted his blood.
I’m sorry but who the actual fuck did he think he was to seek Simon out demanding forgiveness? What brought on this sudden retrospective stab of conscience? Why should he be made to feel better about his vile behaviour?
Miraculously though, when they finally came face to face on a pier, Simon (a big bruiser of a man nowadays) to my huge disappointment, didn’t smash him in the face, pick him up by the scruff of his neck, shake him like a rag doll and throw him into the sea.
He forgave him.
Jon, you are lucky it wasn’t me you sought pardon from as I’d have kicked you so hard that your balls would be jostling for position alongside your tonsils to this very day.
I have such a long way to go.
Have I forgiven my tormentors, including John and Jack? I thought I had. But clearly it goes so much deeper than that. And maybe they sense this.
Time to stop misting up that window and pawing at that door.
It was never my place to begin with.
Aunty C and the shrinks are right. My sense of home and belonging has to start with me.
Back to the drawing board.