One day I was sitting in my office when Annette came in to get popcorn. Normally she scooped from my machine without sending more than a cursory grunt in my direction, but on this day, something grabbed her attention. Slumped over my desk as though shot, I was listening to hysterical idiots on my speakerphone. Annette had seen me this miserable before, but never without my being trapped in a meeting room with Microsoft marketers. This was something new.
Annette lingered for a while, munching popcorn. "What am I listening to?"
"Oh. Right. This is an angry message my sister left me in which she's holding her phone up to her answering machine so she can play me an angry message that my brother left for her."
"And what does any of this have to do with you?"
"Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It's just really important to her that I hate him, too."
"That's so..." She searched for the right word. She found it.
This is when Annette started inviting me to Easter dinner with her family. They're awesome. They root for one another, not against. Although I enjoy their company, my annual drive home is utterly depressing. For two hours, I'd pretended to belong to the family I'd always wanted. But the problem with fantasies is that they end.
When I was a kid, even back in the single-digit ages, I used survey the carnage that was my family and dream about the day I would never have to see these people again. As an adult, of course, I saw things differently. I tried to make it work. Yep. I lasted until I was 20 before activating the trap door under their feet. And except for occasional tightly controlled cameos, I've stuck to it. For more than half my life, my family has had to be hateful without my participation.
The consequences have been surprisingly few. I have nieces and nephews I don't know—the collateral damage of my decision. And if I don't have a girlfriend, holidays can be pretty pointless.
That's it. That's the list. The rest is all upside.
One sibling has figured it out: if you're simply not a colossal dick, John will stick around. You would think that this nominal bar would be easily cleared, but the rest of my family has been impaling themselves on it for decades. This sister, in turn, has assured me that my nieces and nephews, too, are not phalli. And thus did I reach out to one.
She's an adult, now, and I haven't been a part of 95% of her life. She's getting married, and instead of going to their wedding, I'm going to take her and her Steelers-fan husband to a game. She seems pleased, but she did ask the obvious question.
"Can I ask why we're the lucky few who get to be reacquainted?"
"I need a kidney, and it turns out you're a perfect match," I replied.