We stood in the field together. She stares past my long curly hair as she twists her shoulder length hair around and around and around her finger. She glances up and down my body silently searching for weight gain. Sizing me up. I am well dressed in expensive indigo flare slacks, a retro-inspired black top with white polka dots. My makeup was flawlessly applied. She’s dressed sloppily in a pink and white strip tank top, jeans, and no makeup. She hasn’t shaved her armpits. Before I arrived I knew I would be judged so I dressed to impress. My attire will become the primary topic of conversation after I leave the dinner table.
“So, like, I’m not working now. I’m a supervisor so they just let me work when I want which is nice because having kids is SO hard. I mean, not that you would know, but it’s hard. Especially because my husband can’t pick him up from daycare so I have to get out of work early. I just decided not to work…”
Her single participant conversation trailed off in my ears as I started thinking of other things; any other thing. Anything not to get angry. Anything to keep me from saying what I really think of her for using her child as a pawn to get under my skin.
I watched Owen drive off in the golf cart with my dad. Jonathan and Luke were pointing at some purple flowers beside the house.
“Those are four o’clocks”, I shouted to Luke hoping that identifying flowers would give me an excuse to exit the conversation with my sister.
Every conversation is equally uncomfortable with my sister. For her, life is money and feeling accomplished. Currently having a child fulfills her longing for accomplishment. Comparing her son to my childlessness makes her feel like she’s accomplished more than I have in some way. She continues not to acknowledge that Luke and Owen are my children although they spend more time with me than with their mother and I provide for them as though they are my very own in every sense. Luke and Owen ARE my children and I don’t need her approval to make it so.
For me, life is not a competition.. I’m not concerned about my family’s judgement, really. I dress well and it gives them something to talk about. I’m more concerned about why my family suddenly decided to include me in an event when they typically exclude me. In the past, I was upset by their exclusion. Now, however, I prefer to be excluded. You don’t get tangled in the web of constant drama when you’re excluded.
I keep a close eye on Luke, Owen, and Jonathan the entire trip because I feel like I’ve been invited to be mocked. This family gathering doesn’t give me a friendly vibe. Instead if feels like I’m the geeky 6th grader invited to the 8th grade cheer leaders lunch table for the sheer purpose of being ridiculed.
My sister loudly conducts a conversation about my mother’s heart attack with my father’s extended family and my suspicions are confirmed. I knew nothing about Mother’s heart attack or that Mother had quit her job. From that point forward, my sister repeatedly tried to shame me in front of the extended family over my relationship with Mother.
Just as I suspected…