Sunday, January 24, 2010

Family. You Cant Live With 'Em. Can You Live Without 'Em?

Growing up in a large Puerto Rican household, [five aunts, one uncle, thirty-five cousins just on my maternal side] everyone knew everyone's business. And better than that, every one comments on everyone's business. Always.

We are never supposed to speak bad about our elders (aunts, uncles, parents and especially grand parents) to anyone outside the family. Nor can you express your opinion about their behavior to them directly. Why? Because it's disrespectful. Even as I write this, I am reminded of my mothers recent comment to me: "I hope you're not writing about the family." Oh but I am...

If you talk about the family within the family circuit, it's not as taboo, but you are still being malcriada (impolite or poorly mannered). These rules are exhausting, especially if your elders are not bound by the same rules.

So at the risk of being malcriada I will proceed to speak of my extended family.

Many in the family may secretly be proud of my accomplishments, but on the outside its like there's this perpetual cloud of "what you did is not so great" negativity. I think there's only so much of that one can take. So how do I vent about my exhausting relatives?! And how do I let it wash over me like a quick aguacero (down pour of rain) without breaking ties?  

When I became a lawyer some people in my extended family had two responses: 1) doubt that I did it and 2) skepticism about me. I was told that I was lying - apparently I was only a notary (mind you at that time I couldn't notarize anything because I had not applied for that). Then anytime I was asked to read a contract or was asked my opinion on a topic I would be immediately discredited. This all happened as soon as the ESQ got tacked onto my name. It's really not fair. I don't think this is normal behavior for Latin families or any family in general - I think the problem is specific to my family who loves to hate me, the lawyer. What's the equivalent for "frenemies" when it comes to family?

However I do think that large families have members that hold on to little jealousies, especially if you appear to be the only one who "made it." But I don't think I'm the only one who has "made it." Heck, I don't think I've made it really anywhere. Ones definition of success is personal to the individual. I think many people in my family are successful and I try to express that to them every chance I get. But its not always reciprocated. So, how does one cope?

Throughout my life I've just tried to always be myself - sans degree and with degree. I have always been  the perpetual hostess and caregiver. That never changed. But the fact that I am single, childless, and an attorney sort of makes me the villain. They think I'm loaded or that I consider myself above them and above tradition. How do I know this? Because they tell me or speak about me and word just gets around.

I love my family - flaws and all. But I've done a lot of crying over the little hurts I've received that have evolved into bigger hurts. I'm at a point where I think its OK to love them from afar. That's no easy task when you're part of a big family - especially a Latin family. It goes against the grain. But the bonds will always be there and when push comes to shove, so will I.

But what do you think? Is it wrong to keep your distance when you just cant deal with your family anymore?