"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."
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I recently received a viewing of my uncle's domestic violence and divorce hearings, about 2 hours of footage disseminated by said uncle in full to family in an emailed plea for financial support and to "set the record straight about the court's obvious bias and the manipulation of my ex-wife." I've never seen someone so disillusioned. He really thought the court's tapes would paint him in the best light.
This guy hasn't made more than $600/month in 20 years and forced his ex-wife to never seek employment because of their Christian family values. All 8 of his minor children have restraining orders against him, and he'd voluntarily ended visitation before that (while still arguing to claim them as dependents). Has never paid child support. After the separation, the old home burned down due to fire hazards that were named in a previous hearing with some evidence pointing to arson. He had kept all the family's photos, and they burned too. And on, and on, and on. It's grotesque.
He represented per se, and I have never seen someone come across so poorly, so unprepared. The judicial disdain in the courtroom was palpable. He tried to explain how the "physics" of knocking his wife over and prying their sobbing daughter out of her arms were actually not as violent as it sounds. That the force he exerted on her must have been equally returned by her according to well-known scientific principles, and so she abused him just as much as he had abused her (if not more since she initiated the action by keeping their daughter from him in the first place, he says). Kept offering a photomontage of his children as evidence. Called the proceedings a modern-day example of Hitler/Stalin-esque kangaroo courts when the photos weren't admitted.
I won't even talk about the emailed jeremiad he sent.
You, dear reader, might be assuming this is a drug situation. Or mental health. Or blind hatred. It's not. This is just another example of my white trash Evangelical family (as I wrote about in my last Pubski contribution).
The shit of it is, nearly everyone in my family supports him. Whole-heartedly. My cookie-baking, British-royalty-loving, Rick-Steves-reruns-watching grandmother has written his ex-wife hate mail. Several times. Wife-initiated divorce in this culture is ungodly, sinful. The near unanimous consensus is that his ex-wife should have stayed with him, that she's lied to ruin his life and poisoned his kids against him as well. Not even my mother's spoken to her nieces/nephews to judge the situation from their perspective, and like...there are a lot of witnesses to the shit he's done. Eight kids. Yet, this is entirely framed in Biblical wife-husband terms, and Evangelical patriarchal norms means that argument's been won by male figures since Abrahamic times. Divorce is recent and secular, not Christian.
I'd cut them all off if I already didn't see them so irregularly. I know my family's crazy. I know religion has caused it. I barely got out. But now I have an excellent job, a fantastic and supportive wife, and in our early 20s we have the makings of a life on our own now. We want kids, and we definitely don't want them exposed to this lifestyle.
So Hubski, does anyone else have a background in this culture? Something similar? Does anyone have advice for cutting out a truly dysfunctional family? What are your stories?
My older sister (SIS) got married last week. I'mma vent some detailed shit.
tl;dr older sister marries racist she barely knows.
I met the groom, brother-in-law, (BIL) about 24 hours before the ceremony. SIS met BIL 12 months ago on Christian Mingle. She was on there because she's been in a foreign country for 2 years and doesn't speak the language. Also Evangelical Christian. He's on there because he's 28 and never had a girlfriend, not once. Also Evangelical Christian. From the deep South. They met twice before a proposal. Total time spent in each other's presence at that point: <6 days. It's a 4 month engagement.
My wife is black. She's a bridesmaid. Several family members preempt, warn that BIL has "drunk deeply of the culture", whispers of "latent racism". He's from the delta. BIL apparently has a hilarious sassy black mammy voice. Very funny, I'm sure. He thinks he's progressive though. Finds it offensive that people find the accent offensive, "It's just a joke!" He doesn't use the voice in front of my wife. Doesn't speak to her, not ever.
Successful rehearsal regardless. Very isolated pockets of conversation, clear division of bride/groom families. Amid hubbub, at one point I hear a practiced Butterfly McQueen imitation. "Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies," is just as funny as I expected it to be at a rehearsal dinner. Very appropriate. This one isn't BIL though, it's his best man. According to sources, BIL is a Hatty McDaniel type.
So me, brother to the bride and usher, trying to invite people out for drinks post-rehearsal dinner. Speaking to the groomsmen and their partners, all Southern gents and gals my age, all heavily accented. Talk is going well, nice-ish folks. Wife drops in, peck on the cheek, introduce her to everyone. Groomsmen clam the fuck up, no longer interested in drinks, no eye contact, conversational circle closes, "We're good, man. Thanks."
Oh word? Ok. Yeah. We're "good".
Wedding day. Big day. Busy, busy, busy. Lots of last minute changes. One change, my wife now has to wear a white shawl to cover her arms, ostensibly to conceal her visible tattoos. Bridesmaids are already in modest floor-length dresses during a Southern summer. Now a cardigan? The only bridesmaid to need one apparently. Also, natural hair is a no go. BIL's mom: "We need you to straighten it, honey."
Hmmm...this is nearly unbearable. Wife is a good sport, lovely disposition, a real gem this one. We practice a mantra: These people will never leave their bayou; they mean nothing to me and you.
Gets a good chuckle, but still. Very interested in getting her away from these people. Providing her pleeeenty of alcohol from various suit pockets. This wedding was Saharan dry. Remember, Evangelical.
Wedding occurs, sermon, communion, kiss is an A-framed pucker. I think I hear their teeth click, might've been someone's camera shutter.
BIL's mom and dad are a photographer's nightmare, very condescending. BIL's mom is an amateur photographer, uses the word "auteur" self-descriptively but it sounds more like "otter" with a second syllable accent and a hard "R" of course. Nightmare. Groom's side gets family shots first, then both, then bride's. As bride's family's ordering up, wife and I stand close near the edge. Audibly, BIL's mom: "Oh, is she family? I didn't realize."
Getaway car's parked outside, it's BIL's dad's. Bumper stickers are all Trump, Trump, Trump. Maga. Don't tread on me. Amendment 2. Red hat on the back passenger seat. You know what it is. So I snap a photo, send to the wife. She texts back, "Let's go. Now." Puff of smoke emoji.
Now approaching "Get Out" territory, I don't need a second word. We leave, drive 14 hours up the coast that night, no sleep. Fueled on caffeine, anger, and juicy fuckin' gossip. SIS was never a smart kid, but she picked a bad one. Like...cartoonishly racist, nothing latent about it. But we're home and safe.
Get a text from a cousin, SIS's confidante. SIS initiated marital sexy times, rubbing over the pants in the hotel. BIL cried as only a repressed Evangelical can. A lot. Wouldn't stop all night apparently. A no action night.
- These people will never leave their bayou.
They mean nothing to me and you.
COL Comparison: Chicago-Boston
*Note, in case you're unfamiliar, that'll get you in a multi-family with quarter-operated laundry in the basement, utilities not included, and parking will be an extra $200, thanks. Move-in will be first month, last month, deposit of one month, and the cost of one month's rent for broker fees ($2152*4 = a cool $8600)
My brother lives in one of these mid-size cities where he's paying off a 3-bed/2-bath house in the middle of downtown at $200 less than what we pay for a 1-bed/1-bath basement. We're technically in the Greater Boston Area which really means our commutes are an hour+, but it also means that our rent is about 2/3 as much as anywhere on the T. You do the math on what my brother pays for his spacious luxury.
He also has two dogs in that white picket mansion, and he didn't have to ask nobody's permission 'bout that.
We have good jobs, good education, and good prospects. The allure of mid-sized cities is stronk.