40: Family Expectations
Happy Brunch Sunday from Florida. Let us raise our mimosas and mugs and clink a cheers to a bit of connection between work, notices and ads in your inbox. I am so enjoying the latest season of The Crown. My Gillian Anderson voice is distinctly Margaret Thatcher today. It's slower and almost mockingly thick and syrupy. Yes, written in a London accent. Reading with an accent is entirely your (next best) decision.
She is genius as Thatcher.
Oh, and Lady Diana! So good.
And don't you just want to slap Charles?
When watching Queen Elizabeth's emotional unattachment, and Charles' wonkiness, have we considered high functioning autism in the royal family? Honestly.
I am sure there is a solid spectrum of sociality for all humans not diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD,) but truly...
I think I am too close to autism to assess this correctly.
When one sees anything too closely, the whole world is tainted that color.
In general, my glasses are quite rosy, when not dipped in cynicism or resentment, or even self-pity or doubt. I'm fairly normal in that way, I think.
Seeing the wedding of Diana and Charles brought up some questions again for me.
Why do we do what we do?
In ancient history, men would kidnap their wife-to-be, which is why we still have a Best Man and Groomsmen, who assisted in that endeavor.
Honeymoons were for the same scenario, so the bride's family could not find her.
Bridal showers were instituted in the 1500's for dowry money--to PAY the man to take her.
Back then, the wedding cake would be broken over the bride's head to ensure fertility. Today, it is common to have figurines on top of the cake. This came from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1850.
Tossing bird seed (or rice) came from the Ancient Romans, for fertility.
The veil: Ancient Rome, to hide from evil spirits.
The gown: Queen Victoria is also responsible for this one. Royalty weddings are responsible for what we all expect we SHOULD do today.
Bridesmaids--a maid? Really? Have we thought about this?
Then there is the SHOULD of getting married at all.
I know. I sound a bit bitter. I do not wish to abolish the American Family Values. Honestly, I'm just questioning. If marriage makes us happy, then divorce or widowhood makes us sad.
Ending a relationship, I understand, is a sad change. For a bit of time.
If our expectation is so high, then "the fall" hurts much more.
Behold, the 1950's household image: family of four gathered around the television.
By 1951, twelve million homes had a TV. This image of FAMILY was everywhere, probably to sell TVs. But this image told families what they should look like. Both wives and husbands were paying attention, as were their children.
Six seasons of Leave It To Beaver aired at the end of that decade. Can you imagine, human brains seeing "ideal family life" playing out on a TV in the family room, when not so long ago, it was the spoken word on radio?
Fold-up TV tray tables were set up with TV dinners, so the eyes of the family could keep watching and eat a meal. Don't stop watching, that's the message.
But the other immense message: you need this. You need a family with a mom and a dad and a sibling and maybe a dog. And she's going to cook all day, and put lipstick on before He comes home, hungry for dinner.
Inserting our own families into a nice place-setting for four from the 1950s, and expecting them to fit can make us very unhappy.
I do not bring this up to express anything other than my witness that it is true. Anytime we use the word SHOULD, we can expect to feel ashamed, burdened, resentful, and afraid.
If one has the "golden age" in mind, but finds it impossible to carry out the smile, she may not enjoy being with her family.
There I said it.
BUT, if, one can see the humans in front of them and accept their own choices and offerings, perhaps she can say:
Today's Deep Breath: here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.
It's not an emergency, but calmly...when you have a minute between turkey brining and tablecloth ironing (do people still do that?) take a minute to ask yourself,
Why am I doing this?
If you like the answer, keep going.
Here's a formula for life:
UJ Ramdas said this:
"The most valuable of human gifts is the ability to learn."
"The greatest human emotion is love."
"Therefore learn to love."
Forget about what people expect you to do.
I am not going to say: Do what makes you happy. We are designed to be happy only 50% of the time. Being happy all the time is not a valid goal. That is fighting against reality.
Are you are a parent who doesn't want to "do it all" anymore? You could have your kids be in charge of parts, so you don't have to carry the whole.
It's possible that passing the baton to the younger generation could help them to grow and let go of the child-parent dynamic, and they could see you as a person, and not just a caregiver. Maybe you could see yourself as something other than a caregiver?
That could be good.
Better, split all the tasks with your spouse. Work together to carry out the Holidays. Laugh together.
Then maybe he can see you as something other than cook, maid, mother. Less.
Kitchens are made for dancing.
Question it all.
Why do I have two living rooms, when what I really need is a family office space with four computers for virtual learning and work at home?
Why do we have more than one TV?
Why do I keep this large oak furniture that belonged to my grandparents in the 1930s?
Why do I shop where I do, and bring things into my home, and display them like they were in the store or on the website?
Why do I iron this tablecloth?
Goodwill in my area is floor-to-ceiling donations right now. I believe people are asking their own questions.