Since the COVID-19 quarantine has begun, Chris and I have been participating in a family hangout with his parents and brother every two weeks on Thursday night. It’s been fun to see them and to hear all the usual Jacob family banter about travel (or lack thereof), airline status, wine, and food, and this time around, we played Jackbox.tv and of course, inevitably experienced the Jacob brother competitiveness. It made me think about my own family and how a) we’d never want to do a video chat unless it was to focus on my cousins’ children, and b) no one would ever be up for playing a game of anything other than passive aggression.
The one time a cousin called me during this period, it was his wife who rang me for FaceTime so that I could chat with his young son, who wanted to see my bedroom and the view from our kitchen. Sadly, the call just made me feel odd and out of place, as I realize that I have very little functional relationship with any of my cousins, other than my dad’s younger sister’s son.
All three of my cousins seem deficit to me in some way. That sounds pretty arrogant and judgmental of me, but it’s how I feel about them, which has evolved over the last 34+ years. My oldest cousin is a mama’s boy, void of understanding anything that has any real depth. As my mother so crassly put it, “when he has sex with his wife, he reports back to his mother on it.” She partly said that out of jealousy because she’s mad I don’t share details about anything with her, but that’s another story. He loves to show off money and status, and the second you try to question his family’s decisions on anything, he becomes extremely defensive instead of receptive to feedback in the slightest. Thus, we can’t have any real conversation about anything that isn’t superficial.
My second cousin and I have never had much of a relationship. Since I was young, he was constantly condescending and flippant with Ed and me. He had no personality, no interests, nothing that made him even remotely interesting. It would have been more interesting to have a conversation with a rock. He’s also one of the cheapest people I know. When he started dating his now wife, he tried to be more personable around me when she was around, but I knew it was all an act to make it seem like he was a family kind of guy. When they married and had kids, he predictably dropped off the face of the earth, rarely acknowledging any of our family members, even his own brothers and mom, because his wife controls every aspect of his life, even when he wants to take a call from his own brother. He has no say, no opinion, and lives to obey his wife. That’s exactly the kind of man I’m sure many women would love to be with, but holy crap, grow some balls and speak up for yourself.
My third cousin on my dad’s side is probably the most childish, the most like a child in a nearly 47-year-old body. He is awkward, cowardly, and cannot speak up for himself or stand up for anything he really believes in. He lacks a voice and any strong will for anything. He hates the world, hates the U.S., hates all white people, especially white men, and says they are the reason he hasn’t been as successful as he could have been in life. He constantly complains, refuses to take any responsibility for what he could have done differently, and says he and his “kind” (as in, Asian American men in the U.S.) have it harder than any other group other than black women. He used to call me so often during my college years that my friends would say he was like a jealous boyfriend. Now that we live in a world where texting is the primary form of communication, he texts me randomly, “white trash,” “I hate white people,” “all white people should die,” among other hateful things (I mute his texts). Because I’m sure that doing all this makes him feel so much better about himself and his life circumstances.
The more I have thought about it, while there is something to respect about everyone in my family, overall, I don’t find any of them particularly good or likable people. My aunt is likely the one who truly means the best, but she’s so blinded by her beliefs and also, her lack of depth, that she’s impossible to have a real conversation with. All of this sounds horrible and maybe exposes my own arrogance, but I can’t really help it. Once, my therapist from years ago asked me, “Do you like your parents as people? Like, if they were not your parents and you just met them and interacted with them, would you genuinely believe they are good people?” I didn’t hesitate for a second. No, I responded. I would not want to be friends with them or have anything to do with them. We don’t have the same interests, the same values. We definitely do NOT have the same way of looking at the world.
That’s why you have friends and other families that become yours. You can find those other people you can bond with, can see eye to eye with, and genuinely respect all around.