So she’s talking about some retirement account she has and I make the mistake of encouraging her to take a teeny, tiny portion of their life savings and treat themselves. This is not an unreasonable request; my parents are not extravagant people. They’ve worked their asses off to make sure I had everything I needed and what I wanted, and they didn’t really do things for themselves (Mom, I know you’re reading this and no, the new refrigerator does not count as “treating yourself” because not getting ptomaine is not exactly a luxury). I would like to see them enjoy themselves. I would like to see them travel or buy 600-thread-count sheets or get a new iPhone or something just to reward themselves. My mom’s a polyester-blend kind of lady and she hates technology, so I suggest they perhaps take a trip.
If you know my mom you know where this is going. Now, I wasn’t crazy enough to suggest Sheldon and Tony Soprano take round-the-world balloon ride or anything (pick your battles), but I did suggest Puerto Rico. They honeymooned there and she used to tell me how pretty it was.
“You could take $3,000,” I say to my mom. “That would get you some really good Xanax, and-”
“What, as opposed to bad Xanax?” (she’s a smart ass, have I mentioned?)
“Fine. You could get a lot of Xanax for the flight and have plenty left over for a nice trip to Puerto Rico. You could go back to the hotel where you spent your honeymoon.”
“No. The hotel is gone.”
“You know, I don’t want to get crazy here, but I hear they have other hotels in Puerto Rico now. It’s kind of a travel destination.”
“Your father and I like having the money there. It’s nice knowing it’s all there.”
“I promise I will take care of you if you run out of money.”
“The hell you will. I’m not living with you.”
Other people have this sort of parent/child dynamic, right? This is totally normal, right?
This just became my new favorite judicial-type phrase ever.
You need to read this Supreme Court opinion on same-sex marriage. It is one of the most eloquent pieces of language I’ve ever read. Here’s a Cliff’s Notes of the opinion, which made me cry:
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person.”
“Respondents’ argument that allowing same- sex couples to wed will harm marriage as an institution rests on a counterintuitive view of opposite-sex couples’ decisions about marriage and parenthood.”
“…the petitioners, far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities…”
“The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.’
“It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.”
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.”
“It is so ordered.”
I have nothing to add to this, except to say how proud I am to be an American this morning.
Well, hell. I just had a whole post I’d actually edited, which is something I do not much do unless it’s for money (this blog has yet to make me a red dime, which I suspect may be a vaguely racist saying, for which I apologize. I also apologize for shoddy sentence construction, because it’s been a long week, and I’m not editing this twice), and then WordPress ate it.
The point of the post – and I wish I could recapture it, but it’s late and I’m tired – is that recent events have taught me there are worse things than getting angry and yelling at people you love.
Let me start again.
I grew up in a family where yelling and communication were often one and the same. I almost didn’t even count a discussion unless it involved verbally heightened expressions of emotion. That changed when I married (far too young) a man who had substance abuse and verbal abuse issues. The substances he abused included booze, sugar, and – unbeknownst to me until things ended – cold medicine, which go figure, because why cold medicine when you’d already kicked a cocaine addition?, which he had. When he ratcheted himself up on any of these things, he got angry at me and yelled things. Horrible, soul-crushing things – especially if you’re an idiot who chose to marry someone way too early and didn’t fully understand that it was OK to end things that harmed you – that made me believe, for a long time after I did find a coward’s way to end a marriage that never should have happened, that expressing anger in any way less than dispassionate was wrong and scary.
You can’t blame me. You weren’t there. It was awful. I could tell by the set of my future ex-husband’s jaw whether or not we would have a pleasant night. Think about that for a moment: A personality reversal so severe that I could mark it by the set of a jawbone. He said horrible, awful, hurtful things; screamed them at me, and because he wasn’t physically hitting me – although he was cheating on me, lying to me, and certainly verbally abusing me – I didn’t feel it was my right to leave.
Ah, the wonders of being raised Catholic.
I left this all behind me, despite how it may sound. There’s kind of a point here, pinkie swear. That point is, even after I left, for years, people couldn’t get angry at me without me having a full-on meltdown. Shaking, crying, chest pains – essentially, a panic attack. I had nowhere to go and I just knew if I stayed there and dealt with the emotion I would die or collapse or explode. Good times. Something with the wiring in my brain went hinky, because normal conflict was just as taboo as screaming hateful things.
Tonight I mark my 12-year anniversary of leaving my marriage, and over the past 12 years I have managed to heal. A few months ago I would have told you I had managed to heal, mostly. But then something happened, something wonderful and horrible: I spent some time around an alcoholic with whom I do not share DNA, which means they don’t act like the Salustri drunks and also I can’t act like a Salustri around them.
See, my family has its share of chemical dependency issues, although largely we rely on booze. We also deal with actual (not fashionable) depression, and, well, we’re a big group of mostly Italians, so that’s kind of the trifecta of family fun. We yell. Lots. Although, to be fair, we haven’t had a real throw-down since we buried my grandfather and we had a brawl just outside the sanctuary, and it’s been years since anyone went to jail as a result of quality family time. None of that is made up.
However, it is, as El Cap likes to mention when he and I fight, almost sport for us. As much as he believes that to be true, I’ve spent a long time avoiding actual conflict. I might induce it, but then I avoid it. I’m a peach of a partner.
This year I’ve had the “pleasure” of seeing the long-term effects of not allowing conflict in one’s life, and it’s far worse than yelling. I’ve had the displeasure of watching what happens when someone chooses to swallow conflict and anger – along with the requisite fifth of bourbon – for many, many decades, and how chronic rather than acute anger can ruin your life.
How? Pretty simple, really: When you bottle up your anger, it’s really, really easy to open another bottle. And when no one around you likes conflict, either, no one will tell you to put down the damn bottle. And so you drink. And if you drink enough, guess what? You can actually turn your brain to pudding. Fun stuff. So then what you are, in essence, is an Alzheimer’s patient, except you’re not, because you could have changed your situation at any turn by not drinking, so people don’t really have the sympathy for you one might like. Which is fair, in my mind, because my grandmother died after a ten-plus-year battle with Alzheimer’s, and to do that to yourself when you could have avoided it is as close as this reformed Catholic gets to calling something “mortal sin.” Life is a gift, or at least it should be.
Now, before you scramble for the comments section to tell me I don’t understand alcoholism, I totally do. My father is a recovered alcoholic, and he chooses not to have a drink every day. He has since I was in my early twenties, because that’s how much he loves himself and his family and believes in life. I have no small measure of respect for what he has done, and I thank the Universe every damn day he didn’t let his drinking turn his brain to tapioca. My mother has scars from enabling him as long as she did, and the fact that I married someone with substance abuse issues is not at all lost on me. My uncle was an alcoholic, my grandfather was an alcoholic, my great-uncle died as a result of his drinking… do you need me to continue? I didn’t think so. I get alcoholism. My life is a constant state of evaluating my own drinking to make sure I don’t have those issues. I periodically stop drinking to make sure I don’t miss it. I periodically quiz my friends and El Cap about my drinking and whether they see any signs I’m missing, to the point where they’ve suggested perhaps I need to relax a bit. I get what alcoholism is and what it does. I also get that it’s sometimes a symptom rather than the cause, and in the instance to which I refer, it’s a symptom of chronic anger.
After watching chronic anger simmer down to brain pudding, I have, to put this whole chain of thoughts succinctly, decided that as long as no one’s telling me they hate me and wish I were dead, yelling is OK. Because the alternative shatters lives.
And so, as horrible as it may be for other people this holiday season, our lesson this Christmas season, boys and girls, is that it’s OK to get angry. And I’m finally understanding that yelling isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
It’s not yelling.
I found myself in a sea of relatives – most of whom I love, but in an Italian family the relatives are like an all-you-can-eat buffet: they just keep coming – with nights in the high 40s and not a single gecko in sight. I was there to bury my godfather. It pretty much, if you will forgive my base vocabulary, sucked.