Family Matters


I went to another wedding this weekend. It’s wedding season, apparently, though isn’t that supposed to be June? Or now with global warming it’s always wedding season? Like how you can buy strawberries all year ‘round nowadays?

Anyway, I didn’t know the couple very well—they were Frank’s brother’s friends. His folks were in town so we all went. But so one of the big theme ideas in this one, in the speeches and the sermon and stuff, seemed to be that when you get married, you not only marry your spouse, you marry their family.

This is what I have always sought to avoid. Not that I don’t like Frank’s family! They are wonderful. But I mean in general, before I even knew Frank or his family, the idea that if you were going to commit to someone, you had to join this whole other family not of your choosing freaked me out. Because first of all, I already have a family. It is large. I have many aunts and uncles and cousins. It’s taken me 28 years to figure out how to negotiate all of them.

My family, like most I’m sure, has all sorts of weird old grudges and stuff you’re not supposed to bring up and weirdness that make family occasions a little awkward and draining at times. Not that they aren’t all great people! But still, you know? Being around that many people that you just happen to be related to can be stressful. So the idea that I could be forced to do that twice as much, with people I didn’t even know really just didn’t seem all that fair. Plus also of course the reverse is true. That someone in your family can marry someone you all hate and you’re stuck with them. To me it just felt like a lot of work and hassle for very little return.

Hassle that I thought I was avoiding. I mean sure, I know Frank’s parents and his brother and his wife and his uncle, and they’re awesome, and yeah, whenever I go to Ohio I hang out with all the other aunts and uncles and cousins, but it’s not like I’m related to them. I’m just Frank’s plus-one.

But it occurred to me this weekend that I’ve been fooling myself. And if you are in my situation, you are probably fooling yourself too. Whether you like it or not, and whether you’ve made it legally true or not, you and your significant other are slowly, inexorably being absorbed by one another’s families. It’s completely out of my hands, is what I didn’t realize until just now.

I thought by not getting married, I was avoiding the whole in-law ball of wax, but friend, that wax ball will find you. Once you’ve met someone’s aunts and uncles, they remember you, and ask about you, and care what happens to you. You hear about their kids and their jobs and their marriages. You just naturally become a part of each other’s lives. Which, thank god, is actually really nice, at least in my case.

Like I said, I like Frank’s family! I like knowing them, and I like that they know me. I do still find it sort of strange or surprising how little say you actually have in your own life, to some degree. Definitely the more weddings I go to the more I see that certain parts of your life will be ruled by your family no matter what you do, unless you completely cut them off. Until recently, it never occurred to me that this could be a good thing.

Which is not to say that I’m getting married any time soon. Let’s not go crazy. But there is definitely a kind of fatalistic comfort in knowing that family-wise, that doesn’t really matter. It just means my organic absorption into the Smith family (and vice-versa) will continue apace.

The more stuff I try and opt out of, the more I’ve come to find that not only am I not allowed to opt out of certain things, but that I don’t even really want to. Life is weird, man. That’s all I’ve got.