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Notes on the Margin

Blood may be thicker than water, but it still attracts sharks

Blood may be thicker than water, but it still attracts sharks

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As much as I would like to have a more concise entry than this, anything further edits get dangerously into the banal. My older sister came into town for the weekend, she who vacillates between sweetness and tyranny (Dictatorship with a Smile!). She was tempered, however, and good-natured even when things don't go her way. I saw, in a single, otherwise banal moment, unmemorable to anyone else, the value of her attitude. She lectured my brother on a point of minor importance. He had been whining and demanding that someone take care of one of his problems before she called him on it. I can't quite do her justice, but where the rest of us would have ignored or placated him, she showed her obstinacy has its benefits when she prevailed upon him to admit he should shut up and fix it himself. He doesn't get that often enough, given that the three older children, who would normally not tolerate self-pity, have already left.

My entire family rarely does something together. With the six of us together for the last time until next summer, we made the most of it. And when we all get into the same car, the result is either priceless or tragic. This weekend, it was a little from Column A, a little from Column B.   The former came when my younger sister and brother discussed whether he would move to Sugarland, Houston's paragon of suburban mansions on multi-acre lots:

L: If you moved out here, you could hang out with Tom DeLay
B: But I don't even know who Tom DeLay is.
L: That's exactly what he's looking for in a friend these days.

Meanwhile, my father and I almost went to war. I bridle at his insistence that he be part of my day-to-day decisions and be kept current on every aspect of my pre-professional life. Ordinarily I would have no problem with this, but he'd rather I constantly brief him on subjects of interest-- test scores and jobs-- while he makes no effort to find out nor takes much interest in anything I do that isn't listed on my résumé. He's been a passive figure for the past three years, starting with when I applied for college, where he was more obstacle than counsel. At that time, I was accepted into my top choice, only to find out three months later that he wouldn't let me attend. While we are occasionally open with each other, he usually parents via communiqué.

At breakfast on Sunday morning, he dictated a course of action to find an apartment in London. I told him bluntly that I had already done most of what he recommended, and he followed with questioning whether I had actually done so. He insisted that I should already have a flat by now if I had actually done what I claimed.

I will be the first to admit that after making my objections, I often concede minor arguments with paterfamilias if he becomes too stubborn.  Accusing me of lying in not so many words has the opposite effect. We exchanged a line or two and the argument began to heat up-- but then, my mother signalled the waiter that we were ready to order.  Peace was reinstated as we redirected our attention to him.  In my family, decorum trumps feuding.

  • There's a fair amount to be said for decorum, especially in public. However, the down side of your mother's approach is that it simply sweeps problems under the rug without ever actually dealing with them. With many issues, though granted not all, there's a finite length of time they can be ignored before they explode.

    For whatever that perspective is worth. And if my comment comes across as too "adult" I apologize.
    • Yes, I know that there has to be a reckoning at some point.

      I sat down with paterfamilias a few hours ago. All he insisted upon was to tell me that I made a grievous mistake in not verifying that my check to the LSE had cleared. He mumbled a vague ultimatum about finding a place to live, shrugged at his own diktat, and that was all.
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