I have a couple of longtime friends who feel that our relationship allows them to tell me when someone in my family doesn't conform to their ideals of perfect behavior. [I am not inclined to this type of nitpicking, as shocking as that may seem.]
"You know," they start out, "Your [insert brother, sister, daughter, son, father, mother, aunt, uncle, adopted cousin] is very difficult," they inform me. This momentous piece of information is proffered, using the carefully modulated tones of a conspirator who fears that he/she might be overheard by the subject in question. The kind of difficulty they refer to isn't illegal, unethical, or immoral. It's the type of difficulty one experiences when dealing with someone who is edgy and occasionally rude. [Not that Mrs. L would have the slightest clue what that entails.]
What's more interesting is that these same allegedly concerned and caring friends don't have any actual examples of this difficulty, only what others have told them. And, in one instance, a less than stellar moment they witnessed. Regardless, neither one of them has been on the receiving end of this so called "difficult" behavior. Which, like all imperfect behavior, tends to overshadow the preponderance of otherwise impeccable decorum.
So why tell me something I already know? They're talking about a relative of mine. Someone I care about. Someone I have spent holidays and vacations with. And been around most of my life. Don't they think I'm already aware that the subject in question can be "difficult" from time to time? I like to think it's part of their charm.
Which brings me to my half of the equation.
Have you two looked around at your own families lately?
As I recall, one of you has family members who had difficulty graduating from high school before they were 19. Or was it 20? And how quickly we forget that the cops had to be called out to the house this year because somebody became extremely difficult, or more accurately, dangerously violent, when he drank more than he should.
How grateful you must be that times have changed so we don't have to fudge the number of months between the babies our relatives make and the wedding dates they celebrate. I remember when 8-pound premies could be difficult to explain.
Of course, when it comes to years of difficult and shockingly rude behavior, topped with drug abuse and an underage girl's cherry on top, this decade's gold medal belongs to the black sheep of somebody else's family, not mine.
Like I said, my difficult relative in question has not done anything illegal, unethical, or immoral. Having a personality that can feel like coarse sandpaper is not a crime. Nor has it prevented a successful career, rewarded more than once for good performance.
Recently, I also discovered that one of my two friends has had a history of crushing the spirits of young teens, brutalizing their self esteem with cruel personal attacks. Even doing this to her nieces and nephews. Usually this happens by taking the unsuspecting youth aside for a personal chat when no one else is around. I can only assume it's a control freak thing. Apparently, it turns out my family has also been victimized by her. Years ago, I just found out, she noticed that one of my spawn and one of hers were becoming more than just friends. So she took it upon herself to make sure that my child knew, in no uncertain terms, that she was not good enough for her child.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. How come we're still friends? I didn't find out about this event until recently. Over twenty years have passed. Perhaps the right moment to deal with it has also passed. But it occurred to me that I have a blog which might be a good place to start the process. If she reads this and wants to talk, the rest can happen offline.