Delusions of Grandeur

I’m gonna start out by saying that I love my husband’s family.  It’s an inauspicious start, I know, sort of along the same lines as “no offense” preceding a highly offensive statement, of “with all due respect” followed by something rude and disrespectful.  But I DO love Sean’s family.  I think they’re all wonderful, amazing people.  And I spend an inordinate amount of time being excited for their yearly (or so) gatherings.

It’s just that I’m never entirely comfortable with them.

Here’s an example.  The Cleanfires*, Sean’s mother’s family, are big huggers and kissers.  I’ve mostly acclimated to that. (It’s not that my family doesn’t hug, we do, but not as a rule.  And we don’t kiss. Each other.)  The Cleanfires greet one another with a hug and a kiss always, without exception.  So I left work a little early yesterday and went over to Sean’s uncle’s house where the family was gathered.  I let myself in and back to the backyard where they were sitting around in a circle chatting.  I was immediately greeted by Irish1 (say what you want about 2 yr olds, they’re great to come home to), I greeted the Pea, who was jumping on the trampoline and wouldn’t come anywhere near me.  And Sean (with a hug and kiss, naturally) and Irish2 was thrust into my arms which I was happy about.  And I even gave my Mother-in-law a hug and  kiss.  And then I didn’t know what to do.  Do I proceed around the circle hugging and kissing everyone?  I kind of know that I should have, that’s kind of how they are (how they roll, if you will) but it’s just so foreign to me that I couldn’t.  I waved hello I smiled.

I had been there for all of one minute and already I felt wrong footed.

I would like to emphasize that they do not do this on purpose.  These are extremely nice people, shirt off their back kind of people.  If they knew that they made me feel this way (and some of them do now, I know of at least one who reads this blog) they would be really sad.  I don’t blame them, it just is what it is.

I don’t know how to talk to them.  One on one I’m fine (I think) I can chat about my life, the kids, what’s going on with me.  And I really like hearing about what’s new with them, although I’m exceedingly bad at asking them questions.  (I have questions there’s just a disconnect in my head.  The questions form but are unable to travel to my mouth, in fact they seem unaware that they ought to do so. They just pile up milling around in my cerebral cortex not especially interested in going anywhere… but that will have to be a post for another day) But I don’t know how to join in their conversations.  I’m interested but I have nothing to say.  Or maybe I do have something to say but for some reason I don’t know how to join in.  It’s almost like they’re speaking a foreign language, one that I understand but don’t know how to speak. So I sit and listen but eventually I just start to feel like I’m eavesdropping.

So I move on.  There are plenty of places to move on to.  It’s a good size family.  The preponderance of them are older than I.  (Sean’s mother’s generation are like my generation in mine.  There are a lot of them and they’re really close.)  But Sean has three or four cousins that are within a year or so of my age and even some siblings who aren’t too far off. And it’s not that they’re not my “kind” of people, if you want to look at it from a class, or socio-economic (for you PCers out there), point of view.   I’ve never seen a family that runs that gamut so completely.  They’ve got every kind of person you could think to meet, ex-convicts to CEOs. Literally. I feel neither out-classed by, nor better than, any of them. (Well, OK I’ll admit I do feel a bit out-classed by a few of them but only in the abstract.  When we’re actually together I’m mostly OK, I did grow up with the children of Congressmen and Senators after all.)

I am naturally shy and I know I have a serious inability to put myself forward.  (It’s not lack of confidence, I think I’m afraid of being too much of a showoff.  No doubt it stems back to some abuse heaped on me by my siblings in my childhood.) And I think that has a lot to do with it but I don’t think that’s all of it.

All I know is after an evening with the Cleanfires I feel like a child who’s been trying to fit in with, and pretend to be one of, the adults.  I don’t know why that is.

Aren’t in-laws fun?!

PS.  I called this post Delusions of Grandeur not because I think anyone has them, quite the opposite, hanging out with the Cleanfires seriously exposes my inferiority complex.  It’s ironic.

* Not the real family name in an effort to thwart all those cyber stalkers who are after me.  And also because I like the psudonym thing, It’s like I’m in the witness protection program.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Annie
    Jun 28, 2008 @ 18:44:18

    star star star star star

    “I’m never entirely comfortable with them.” We’re all feeling you, from a million different directions and for a million reasons. Every married woman on the face of the planet has/does/will said/say this.

    And Cleanfires, is that like a hint that they’re really american indians? Perhaps they’re red-headed native americans? Oh wait, maybe it means that they have clean, fiery red hair! So many possibilities, I think I’ll put the FBI on it. Oh wait, those days are over.

    Next time I see you I shall hug and kiss you multiple times just to help you overcome your fear. Yeah, I’m that kind of friend.

  2. chronicler
    Jun 28, 2008 @ 23:25:35

    Yeah, we’re not big kissers in my fam either. But then again, it doesn’t stop us from hugging everyone to death! What a great thing to have a big family! I am sure if the sleuths out there discover you, they’ll understand. That’s another neat thing about big families. They’re not to judgmental, and usually let you acclimate over time; in small amounts.

  3. Jabe
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 10:57:50

    I can’t say that I blame you for feeling uncomfortable, but I would like to state for the record that the kissing thing is only in their generation. I don’t know anyone in our generation who’s comfortable with it. My sister flat out refuses. Kristin doesn’t even really hug most of them. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve never attempted to kiss you. There’s no question that they’re weirdos, but they’re my family.

    And speaking of my family, I wonder if you’ve noticed the flaw in your witness protection names code…

  4. sallygirl
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 11:07:05

    I have a love/hate thing going with Honey’s family. I love to hate them! They really are nice, good people. Very generous, very kind, very loving. In a completely-opposite-of-how-I-was-raised way. My family is the rowdy crowd, his family is the silent intellectual type. Not that we’re not smart, my family. We just hide it well.

    In other words, I COMPLETELY RELATE! Just go, do what your comfy with (the smile & wave thing) and don’t worry about it. They more than likely don’t.

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