Ulterior Motives: Everybody Has One
November 28, 2010 § 7 Comments
As I get older, things become less simple. Family parties lose their glitz & glamor, friendships become tainted with divisions, and problems in my family show up acutely. I am helpless to change most of those and reluctant to take on the rest. But these are some of my observations from the past week:
1. Before coming home for Thanksgiving break, my mom told me that our family friend, a guy who had stayed at our house over the summer while I traipsed around Asia, was going to visit again. She EXPRESSLY warned me not to see him as boyfriend material. It was the first forewarning I’ve ever received, and I laughed. Really hard. He’s 25 and goes to IU in Pennsylvania? Let’s call him JS for short.
i. “He booked his plane tickets for Saturday through Tuesday,” mother told me. “Apparently he didn’t know which day was actually Thanksgiving. He’s been in America for a year and a half — how can anyone be that dumb?”
“Is he good-looking?” I asked.
“No. And he’s short, too.”
ii. My mother’s a blunt woman, but she’s usually not that harsh, especially with people whom I haven’t met before. It seems like she said those things to deter me, even though JS is actually a somewhat distant cousin of mine. C’mon mom! I have SOME standards.
2. Is it REALLY possible to think that Thanksgiving occurs on the weekend? Yes, but what kind of person neglects to look into this matter before booking plane tickets?? I didn’t get to know JS that well, but I figure maybe he didn’t want to stay for the whole week. I mean, all he did was play basketball with my dad and watch my brother play COD. My family’s really not that fun.
3. When mother and I came home from shopping on Monday, we expected dinner to be somewhat ready. After all, it was 5:35, and my mom specifically directed me to call my dad to remind him that dinnertime was 5:30. Instead, we found an empty kitchen table, my hungry brother playing XBox grumpily on the couch, and my dad & JS playing ping pong in the basement.
i. One reason I love watching Desperate Housewives is because despite all the drama [or perhaps because of it], petty feuds and occasional scandals, I learn from it. Lynette and Tom Scavo have stuck together despite all the children, his mid-life crisis, etc. I figured that my dad was just pulling a Tom and was happy to have found a new buddy, especially since his own son refuses to go anywhere or do anything [e.g. Larry spent their 3-week summer trip to China at my grandparents’ house playing on his iTouch, which was bought as a bribe to even go in the first place].
ii. Later, my dad told me what he thought of JS.
“Do you really like him or something?” I asked when we were alone in the car.
“Did you know that his father is overseas?” he replied. I shook my head.
“After JS was born, his father really wanted to go abroad,” my dad continued. “He couldn’t get into America, so he went to Hungary. I’m not sure if he meant to stay there, but he met another woman there and married her.” My eyes widened. “He basically cut off all contact with his family, and JS’s mother hasn’t even known her husband’s location since then. She can’t divorce him because he isn’t deceased. If I’m able to provide a bit of fatherly attention to JS, I’m happy to do it.”
4. My mom got pissed the moment she saw the empty kitchen and remained pissy throughout our dinner of hotpot.
i. The next day, she told me that she wasn’t planning to invite JS back for Christmas break.
“I heard your dad asking JS when his winter break started, but I need to have a talk with him,” she explained. “You saw how he ignored his own hungry son to go play ping pong. That is unacceptable.”
Every time I come home from school, things feel cheerful and relaxed. But time & time again, I realize that nothing at home changes. My mom still gets angry at every little thing, my dad lets his frustration build up, and there’s a total lack of communication. Before we left for our final dinner engagement of the week, the two of them had an all-out screaming match in the kitchen. Then mother came outside, where I was watching my white breath dissipate into the rays of the sunset, and took it out on me.
“Why can’t you ever do something useful? You just stay holed up in your room all day while you know your father and I are working hard in the kitchen!”
Whatever, mom! If you and dad insist on behaving like screaming children, it’s not my job to get in the middle of it.
It started before I woke up. By the time I went downstairs at 1:30PM, mother was on her way out the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.” She was curt. He returned from the YMCA five minutes after she left.
Right before we all piled into the car to go to someone else’s house, mother insisted that we take a family photo in the living room with our new Canon T1i. My brother, as usual, had to be dragged downstairs and basically acted like an asshole the whole time, rolling around on the ground refusing to get in the picture. Mother & father both tried to handle the situation from their respective places by the Christmas tree and behind the camera but just ended up frustrated at each other.
“Why do we have to take a stupid family picture?” Larry whined.
“Look at the one we took four years ago,” mother replied, gesturing to the frame sitting by the front door. “You looked so happy in that one!”
But he refused to play along with the façade, and it was yet another reminder that no matter how much mother wants us to try to fake it for the camera, deep inside we all know that this family has been dysfunctional for years. I just thought that my parents would have at least mellowed out with age, but clearly something like that will take more than just passing time.