Family Time is Interrogation Time!

Dec 9, 2014 by

          Oh, extended family. I’m not a fan of the concept. The idea of spending time with people I honestly don’t like (minus a few exceptions) just because we share some blood is not something I typically entertain. However, Sunday was the baptism of the baby mothered by the cousin whose wedding I missed two years ago to take my youngest sister to see Justin Bieber. Normally, I wouldn’t feel guilty about something like that, but I went to her sister’s wedding earlier that year. I also went to her sister’s wedding shower but missed hers because I was in Italy. Rather than tack on more guilt, I decided to suck it up and spend a few more hours than I usually would in a year with my dad’s side. On average, I see this segment of the family once annually, and I always mentally prep for it to ensure that I emerge with my confidence intact. This time, I should have virtually bubble-wrapped myself in positive affirmations before going in.

          “Boyfriend?” my least favourite aunt asked me immediately after I said hi.

          “Nope, but if you know anyone!” I smiled with my head held high. At least she said “boyfriend” and not “partner” like last year.

          Fortunately, her sister to her left immediately began asking me about Paris. Unfortunately, this only paused the interrogation of my single status. I was seated across from the boyfriend-questioning woman that I still can’t believe my impeccable dad is related to.

          “Theresa, you know, you’re so personable and you’re beautiful. You must meet people all the time. There’s no reason for you to be single,” she said.

          I was surprised. I don’t think she has ever complimented me before. I thanked her and laughed, thinking this might not be so bad. “It’s funny you say that,” I said. “One of my friends was shocked when he found out that I’m single, because of how talkative I am with new people.”

          “Well, maybe he was hinting to himself,” she said.

          I wanted to roll my eyes. I hate when people read into compliments based on gender. “No, he’s married,” I truthfully replied with an amused smirk.

          She went on to lecture me about being proactive with guys. “You can’t be subtle and hope a guy realizes you like him,” she accusingly reprimanded.

          Slightly irritated that she was making false assumptions about my character on the basis of typical female behaviour, I defended myself. “I’m very straightforward,” I stated firmly.

          “You have to go after what you want,” she continued like I hadn’t even spoken.

          “Theresa goes after what she wants,” my mom chimed in.

          Yes Mom!

          “I think you don’t want a boyfriend,” my aunt said to me. “You say you do, but I don’t think you really do.”

          This genuinely made me laugh, because I’ll give her that; I just made the same assessment about myself last month. But to clarify, it’s not that I don’t want a boyfriend. It’s that the person I want a relationship with is unavailable to me and I’m not over him, making me unavailable to anyone else. In all fairness though, I’m working on it. I’ve been sticking to my plan to spend 30 minutes per day online dating.

          Ready for this conversation to be over, I briefly explained, “There’s a guy I need to get over, so that’s been making it challenging to find a boyfriend elsewhere.”

          I know, I know: Why would I think that would shut her up? I basically invited a plethora of questions I preferred not to answer to someone without tact.

          “Have you dated him?” she asked.

          “No,” I answered, unable to control my disappointment from creeping into my voice.

          “You need to confront him,” she told me.

          I didn’t like her use of the word confront. Discussing feelings with a guy shouldn’t be confrontational. I expressed myself directly, and I strived to make him feel comfortable to respond honestly. Confront makes expressing feelings sound forceful, like a guy is obligated to reciprocate.

          “I told him how I feel,” I assured, conflicted between ending this discussion and standing by my character.

          “And what did he say?” she asked.

          I sighed. Obviously, if I’m not with him, the outcome wasn’t good. If she were asking out of genuine interest, like a friend or an aunt that I actually have a relationship with would, I wouldn’t have minded the question at all. She wasn’t interested. She was looking for a reason to blame me for my singleness, even after I had already verbally taken ownership over it. Nonetheless, I answered her question.

          “He didn’t answer,” I admitted, dropping my voice and concentrating my gaze on the finger I was using to circle the rim of my glass.


          “He didn’t answer,” I repeated, now looking at her.

          “Oh no, no, no,” she wagged her finger at me. “No answer is an answer. You need to let him go.”


          “That’s his way of holding on to you,” she assessed. “You need to let him go.”

          At this point, I was just hoping my parents, who were sitting to my right, had gone deaf.

          My aunt went on to tell me about someone she dated as a teenager. I pretended to know nothing about him (because I, unlike her, have discretion), but I was sure she was about to discuss the guy that had cheated on her. He’s been mentioned before in her absence, but I had never heard anything about him directly from her. It’s been assumed by other members of the family that she couldn’t trust anyone else after that, and that’s why she never married. I think people’s stories are more complicated than that, but I try not to fuel gossip with questions, so I’ve never asked for details. After hearing my aunt’s abbreviated telling of what happened, as expected, I learned that it wasn’t as simple as being unable to trust. Rather, the problem was that she never got over him, and she compared every guy to follow.

          There it was: reason. This conversation had been her don’t-be-me warning. She didn’t say that and, based on how discourteously it was executed, I don’t think her intention was to advise me. What she did say was that she’s too set in her ways now that she’s in her fifties to even want to get married. However, it was evident that she wished she could have let her guy go to pursue others by the way she talked about her two sisters: “I went out more often and knew more guys than both of my sisters combined, but they’re the ones married with children and now grandchildren.” (The baby being baptized made my zia and zio, her sister and brother-in-law, a first-time nonna and nonno. Weird! That also makes my mom and dad a great aunt and great uncle. Weirder!)

          She went on to comment on the relationships in the room. “You have to tell guys what you want,” she reiterated. “Ask any woman here, and she’ll tell you she has her man wrapped around her finger.”

          “I don’t want that,” I said, rising from my chair because, thankfully, someone had called my name. “I want someone independent.”

          “So did I, but that’s hard,” she said to me before turning to my mom to warn her that I’m going to be single.

          “What?” my mom leaned forward, probably thinking she misheard.

          “She’s going to be single,” my aunt repeated, pointing to me as I walked away from my chair.

          “Whatever makes her happy,” I heard my mom say, very clearly annoyed at her sister-in-law.

          I smiled to myself at my mom’s response, but couldn’t shake the fear that my aunt would be right. After all, she’s a single fifty-something who I’ve never known to be in a relationship. I figured she’d know. I left the baptism terrified that I’d be forever without a boyfriend, and I was still haunted by my aunt’s prediction the following day. Now, my perspective is this: I am not my aunt. I have not been hung up on some guy since I was a teenager. I am not unhappy, and I am not living in regret. Therefore, I will not be her source of projection. I will make what I want real.

Happiness Tip: Do not let someone else project his or her unhappiness onto you.

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