I am doomed.
It sounds dramatic, but in my case it just might be true.
See, living away from home, you have the luxury of fooling everyone you meet into believing that you somehow don't have a family. Maybe you were one of those dumpster babies, or maybe you were independently minded and emancipated yourself from your parents shortly after moving to solids or being potty trained. Maybe you're what happened when lightning struck the ocean and DNA magically came together. Who cares. Whatever your story is, no one in your life has to know where you come from, or more importantly, whose genes are actually responsible for the person you are today.
But I'll always know...
And thank God there's the Thanksgiving holiday to remind me!
Thing is, it's taken me years to get this comfortable in my own skin. If you were to have told me as a chubby little nine year old with offset front teeth and frizzy hair, alone in my craft room hot-gluing art projects together for hours at a time, that I would actually turn out to be somewhat interesting and not completely plagued with self-loathing, I probably wouldn't have believed you. It may sound like a lie, but I'm a real life grown-up.* I live my life, and now that my car starts and I have a job I don't hate, I'm actually starting to love my life. I still complain about a lot of shit, and I know my behavior can be more than a little off-beat, but God forbid I take full credit for it.
This year, like every other year and/or any occasion that my extended family is calamitously brought together, Thanksgiving was a fucking crazyass carnival shitshow that made the truth of my lineage shine brighter than the warm fire at our hearth. It also made it burn just like that fire. Or maybe that was the alcohol I wouldn't...stop...drinking.
Just take another sip, don't panic.
Your mom's 48 year old confirmed lesbian cousin just made another suggestive comment about you being her lover. Gulp. Uh-oh, your 3 year old cousin just hit you in the face again with the bean bag. Aaaaand there goes his hand up your shirt. He just touched your boob. Don't panic. Shit, what next? Grandma is drowning in a puddle of her own self-pity, and that's right, your questionably retarded aunt is crying in the corner because no one will look at pictures of her cats...again.
Keep drinking. Do not panic.
Shh, it's ok, Lisa. You'll be ok. This is just a nightmare and soon you're going to wake up...
Except here's the thing: I didn't wake up. The nightmare I seemed to be having wasn't a nightmare at all. Nope, I was fully awake, and with my father reminding me hourly that his blood ran through my veins, I was all too aware that my ancestors had apparently been doing their swimming on the shallow end of the gene pool.
This sad fact became apparent as I was halfway through jamming my face full of stuffing at our opulent feast and nearly choked. And it certainly wasn't because of the food. My mother succeeded brilliantly, once again, in preparing a most decadent spread for our family, and 15 of our closest distant relatives. Including good old Uncle Bob.
All too often we don't give credit where credit is due. My 78 year old great uncle may be as old as the hills of Westwood, but he can still remember with unsettling clarity his days as a young buck at UCLA. This is is quite funny, you see, coming from a man who actually doesn't remember how old he is.
His plate was clean, and the mashed potatoes were long since gone when he brought up the very appropriate subject of venereal disease.
See, the old folks always have some story to tell about Life and Love with the kind of insight that only comes with age...
"Now, I can remember when I was at UCLA. There was one guy at the fraternity who would screw pretty much anything with legs--"
This is where I sort of inhaled a chunk of yam. WTF Uncle Bob!? He continued, not noticing...
"--and he tried to get me to go out drinking with him down at the bars near campus...you know, drink lots of beer so we could get the girls back home and in the sack. But I didn't want any part of that. I didn't want to get any venereal disease. That shit scared me to death. I wanted healthy kids."
Stuffing. Stuck in nasal passage.
Uncle Bob then segued into his not-so-misguided thoughts on young people today and how crazy it is that we all run around doing keg stands and drinking shots of tequila from each others' cleavages and how that's something that would really get him pretty excited, ya know...
I didn't know how to respond, and perhaps I'll never know how to respond. I couldn't very well corroborate the caustic rumors with a polite, "Why yes Uncle Bob, I do enjoy a good body shot," or offer to demonstrate my upside-down beer drinking skills.** All I could do was hope that somehow, somewhere deep in the double helix of my DNA, whatever genes I shared with this lovable 78 year old man had randomly mutated.
Hope is all I have.
I love my family, and look forward to next year, and every idiot parade to come, but for as long as I live, I will shudder at the thought of what we share...
*Eff you. I pay bills, I am a grown-up.
**I am very skilled in many things including keg stands.