Invest your heartbeats wisely.
Apples don’t fall far from their trees.
I spent my weekend with a tree and an apple that were abusive to me, and to my sister, in return for us giving up our busy adult/mother/wife/business lives, buying plane tickets, setting up an amazing Wrigleyville rooftop photo op for the bridal party, and spending time that would otherwise be spent on our children and spouses, with them, many of whom we don’t know well at all.
This post is very truthful and unedited. That is all it will be. Like the first draft of the script for the movie Bridesmaids, but without any of the funny stuff, and without any of the good acting, with no great rock band feature at the end. So, pretty dry and depressing.
When you deal with years of absorbing ‘crazy’ to try to help crazy relatives pretend things are normal and ok, you get precariously close to drawing the last straw. As crazy things transpire, stable people in the room usually absorb, laugh, distract (enable) because we think it’s mature to allow the crazies to save face. I’ve drawn many straws over the last few months and allowed folks to save face. I drew the last straw this weekend and I’m no longer concerned with enabling an abuser to save face. This is MY story. Raw. Uncut. And oh yes, it’s about BRIDESMAIDS.
The tree in this analogy is a relative of my dead father. She is one of the last living connections to my father from a bloodline perspective. The amount of inherent warmth I experience with her because of that bloodline commonality is vastly overshadowed by the ‘not good for me’ behaviors that seem to dominate more and more of our interactions.
When there are behaviors that could be deemed by some as aggressive, verbally abusive, wreckless, I have given this relative much leeway over the years. More and more, however, when we spend extended time together, as we did this summer, I saw the increasing outbursts and verbal abuse affecting my husband and my kids.
My choice in the past, to absorb, is not a choice I can, in good conscience, make for my kids. So I made a point to set limits, say no, step away, and leave parties early, taking my husband and my two teen boys to a more normal setting where they could speak entire sentences, have individual opinions heard, etc.
There is no tension or fear when you are with people who have normal emotional self-regulation. You can feel the change in the air when you step away from the crazy.
The apple, The Bride, met a man a few years ago whom she will soon marry. While I’m 44, she’s in her twenties. Her father is no longer alive – just like mine.
We were invited to attend The Bride’s Big Weekend in Chicago !!!
The thanks we got for showing up to support Bride and Mother Of
Me: I’m the mom of a teen and a pre-teen. After spending a year overseas, we returned to Florida and immediately had weekends away for AAU travel basketball (think cheap hotels and sweaty shoes stinking up the car). We also did major remodeling work this summer and so on, and between school, sports, volunteering, and supporting myriad extracurricular activities for the kids, we are your average active family.
Despite busy-ness we’ve visited this relative when it was possible. We attended a bridal shower for The Bride up north and many others came far and wide to do the same. Plane flights and hotels cost money. Now, and even when I was poor in my twenties, I have made ‘being there’ for this family a priority.
The weekend of this Bachelorette Party was my son’s first Homecoming Dance and he was very nervous about taking a certain young lady. Imagine a mom leaving, not to be there for moral support, fashion support, logistical support – or to take pictures! I was not there for my son; I was “there for” The Bride.
In addition to ‘normal’ family ongoings, we probably wasted several attorney hours dealing with negotiations on the closing date for an investment property. A deal set to close Monday could not happen because the seller was celebrating the Jewish holiday, and so for several days discussions circled around why the closing could not be Friday… oh yes, The Bride’s Big Weekend. So discussions of The Bride impacted many lives and cushioned my lawyer’s pockets I’m sure. And I normally never blink an eye; we just do that for family. But it can’t be a one-way street.
For The Bride’s Big Weekend, I arranged a private photo op on of the Wrigleyville’s most famous rooftops (Murphy’s Bleachers) resulting in amazing group picture overlooking Wrigley Field. The bridal party loved the pictures and blew up Facebook with the photos, yet neither the bride nor any of the bridesmaids thanked me for arranging it.
And by the end of the night they were berating me and saying my friends and I were bitches. (My friends are two 44-45 year-old adult women with families of their own and better things to do than deal with that. I’m sorry I introduced my good friends to people with such lack of couth, kindness and maturity.)
It was INCREDIBLE to see the true colors of these “ladies.” For the bachelorette weekend they chose to wear shirts that said “Bitches.” So they dressed appropriately.
My sister: I cannot speak for my sister. She is her own person. But I observed her being targeted first with the aggressive behaviors I describe below. She too has a busy life, and doubly so right now. She runs and is a partner in a political consultancy in Washington DC. It’s October 2016 and Clinton and Trump are running neck-in-neck. Do you think it was easy for my sister to get away for The Bachelorette? No, it was not. My sister has two children of her own and a husband who deals with an irregular work schedule which can include long overnight shifts. Do you think she has even seen her own family much this season?
I cannot speak for my sister, but with any person, I start with the assumption that, with whatever priorities they have in their lives, they are probably juggling all they can, and it is always some sort of sacrifice to share their precious time, especially with many strangers.
The events of the weekend
I arrived Friday afternoon and met up with my girlfriend (friends since I was five; have not seen her for years because I was living overseas; would not go to Chicago and not see her, period). We met with the owner of the VRBO apartment, got three sets of keys, and placed our bags in the apartment. My relative was driving into town, still on her way, so my kind friend helped me carry four heavy bags home from Whole Foods to load the place up with snacks, cheeses, chocolate, wine and more. The place was ready for my relative to arrive. I carried her very heave suitcase up the stairs for her.
I gave her the key to the apartment and told her that any time she needed to find the place, all you need to do is tell a cab driver “Northeast Corner of Wrigley Field.” That’s it! I had also given her this information in written form and text form. Why had I been the one to find, rent and manage all the arrangements for the VRBO apartment so all she had to do was waltz right in with no details like I was a concierge? Because this relative was too busy all summer (June, July, August) to arrange it. But again, I was very happy to help For the Bride’s Big Weekend.
Friday evening was spent at the apartment the bridesmaids had rented, doing the traditional “What did the groom say” questionnaire game, and drinking games. I have celiac disease and can only eat and drink gluten-free. They were doing Puckers shots and had other grain alcohols and a tequila that was not 100% agave. So I stuck to sipping the champagne, which I could trust was gluten-free by nature.
By Saturday I had learned to bring my own wine & snacks from Whole Foods. And I shared. I thought that was that. It turned out that while I was with the bridesmaids and bride all afternoon Saturday they had already agreed that my friends and I were bitches who don’t like their alcohol. (44 year old moms are known to prefer a nice dry wine – not Puckers. Not a shock, ladies). What IS a shock is that they were all in a sort of gang agreement but let us sit with them and imagine we were being included. And the fact that my little ‘sweet’ relative, The Bride, was completely complicit, is so hurtful. Nothing like cutting down the mom who is missing her son’s first Homecoming for you. Shame on you. Oh excuse me, your phrase is “I’m so blessed to have you all here for me.”
I think of Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, ramming her car into the car of a self-entitled snot, saying “I’m older and I have better insurance.” Ladies, I’m 44, a mother, and a wife. If I need to bring my own better wines, I will. As a ‘guest’ who flew from Florida to Chicago, if I show up and there’s nothing for me, I’ll bring my own wine, chips, and chocolate, to share, just as I did.
Saturday from top: Woke up to pouring rain. My friend and I were going to grab some coffee. My relative’s bedroom door was closed – so we knocked to see if she’d like to come with us. So we all got up and went.
…By the way, my ‘relative’ brought her friend, and in order to make everything smooth, we gave a full double bedroom to my ‘relative,’ another to the friend she brought, and my girlfriend and I shared a room, each of us on a twin trundle mattress. I had not even thought of that, but it was The Bride’s and the Bride’s Mother’s Big Weekend sooo I’ve always been very happy to anything to accommodate for friends and family. But I can see more clearly now, things are not such a two-way street.
Back to Saturday. After coffee we did a rotation of showers, hair blow drying, etc, as people do when they are sharing a 3-bedroom flat with only one bathroom. We then went to the bridesmaids’ flat and decorated wine glasses and enjoyed tossing about penis-related stickers and body tattoos. Bachelorette fun right? Wrong, as stated above, I had no idea they were insulting us behind our backs. I’m horrified I spent the afternoon with them.
Then it was time for the rooftop photo I’d arranged. We all migrated over to Murphy’s Bleachers Bar and climbed to the rooftop. My sister had just arrived from Washington DC for a one-day whirlwind visit to Chicago. She barely had time to go to the bathroom and brush her hair, but we all went with the flow and took many fun pictures. Bridesmaids spared not a minute in posting to Facebook and Instagram.
After the rooftop photo we went to dinner at a burger joint on the northwest corner of Wrigley Field. When the check came we were all happy to pay, but my ‘relative’, not sitting near me, motioned that she was taking the check. I’m always happy to pay my way for anything, and my sister and I have demonstrated that always, but she did, and so we all went with the flow.
Perhaps around 9:30 p.m. (I think) we went back to the bridesmaids apartment. We older folks, me, my friend, my sister, my mother, my sister-in-law were there to support the bride and her bridesmaids. We are the older group, but there to participate in the fun.
We sat around their flat for a good 1.5-2 hours I believe. For the most part, the bridesmaids were in the kitchen doing shots and we “olders” were in the family room chatting. I got a bit tired based on sitting there for so long after dinner vs. keeping the momentum. At home I rarely stay up past 9:00 pm and this was the second night in a row, so I was proud of myself. But we kept it going, despite sitting on a couch.
Then it was announced “The Uber car’s here to take us to Roscoe’s, a gay bar!” We all poured out onto the street and within minutes the Uber car’s driving away with the bridesmaids, The Bride, and my ‘relative’ inside. My sister, my friend and I were clearly not in the Uber with them, but they took off. We did not get mad, we just rolled with the punches, knowing drunk girls are going to be crazy. But clearly, that move does not show any concern or solidarity for me and my sister.
If you look head – you can jump to my ‘relative’ and The Bride yelling at us for not being wherever they were, not buying them drinks, and more. All adults are responsible for themselves. Especially adults who take off, head to a bar, and go into that bar, vs. waiting for those they ditched to catch up. I have two kids; my sister has two kids. Those are our only legal dependents.
Later that night when my “relative” was screaming at us for not being out with them, buying her daughter shots, suddenly ‘solidarity’ was her soapbox…But for now, it was totally cool for them to take off without us. And that also wasn’t anything they were accountable for.
So back to when their cab left us. We followed my mom and sister-in-law who were walking the same direction to a parking lot. Said goodbye at their car, looked for a cab, couldn’t find one, so luckily my friend had the Uber app on her phone and she called one. (This nice friend who was later one of the folks the Bride and Bridesmaid called a total bitch).
We get to Roscoe’s and there’s a line and it looks busy. It’s now past midnight. I have to get up at 5:30 for 6am cab. I was thinking “if we go in – when will we go out – I have to leave at 6am.” I was getting tired. My friend’s pinky toes were both raw and blistered so she was dangerously walking barefoot in Chicago. None of us were drinking like the bridesmaids were and my sister and I both had flights to catch early in the morning.
We texted the Bride. We walked down Halsted to look into the front windows of the bar. We walked around to the exit to see if we could see them there and we could not. We waited a bit and texted The Bride once to say “What’s your opinion- we’re thinking of heading home?” And then “Ok, we think we’re going in for the night. Byeeee!” We were all in agreement we’d like to go home. We walked home from there. We were standing outside Roscoe’s, and any bridesmaid or The Bride could have popped out to talk to us, see where we were etc. it’s a two-way street, ladies.
This seems like a small event, but later in the night we were screamed at for leaving that gay bar without coming in. So for the record:
1) We’re in our mid-forties, it seemed right to let the 20-somethings have their fun. They were clearly off and running without us.
2) We were texting them from outside the bar. IF THEY WERE TRULY CONCERNED about us any one of them could have come to the exit or any place on the side of the bar where you can see the entire sidewalk outside the bar. We came from Washington DC and Florida – the bridal party could have gone 20 feet to try to see us. Or even better, since their cab left without us, they could have waited outside the bar until we got there. Imagine that two-way relationship. But in the end, we were berated. You know what, if I were on a date, and that date took off without me, and when I caught up, he was already in the bar, and he was not popping out to look for me, I would not date him again. That’s not the sign of a two-way relationship. But again, we were screamed at for not foraging through to find them. Not what I seek in friends or family.
So my sister my friend and I get back to the apartment, my friend having walked the whole way barefoot. My friend begins soothing her sore feet in the family room. My sister puts on her jammies. I pull out some cheese, wine, and water (we were all dying of thirst). We began a really nice girl-talk session, and we get a call from The Bride saying we should watch out the window for her mother as she’d lost the key I’d provided her. We watch out the window and as soon as she gets out of her cab, I run down to letter her in. She mumbled all the way up the stairs and then once in the family room, she started screaming and pointing at my sister. MY SISTER who again, runs a political consultancy and clearly had to make great efforts to make it out of DC in the midst of one of our country’s most controversial elections ever, had been there 6 hours as a gift to these ladies, had not even unpacked her bags, and she was getting screamed at.
When we’d try to intervene my ‘relative’ screamed “Nooooo Nooooooo! Youuuuuu!!!!!” Slamming anything she could find on the table with strength enough to break it.
This relative screamed that my sister had ruined everything – that she (this relative) only paid for dinner because my sister agreed to go out and buy shots for the The Bride, that she (my relative) had slapped The Bride and it was our fault because she was just so mad, and their cab left without us it wasn’t her issue. (Pardon me, The Crazy is very much here.)
My sister, my friend, and I stood there. My whole body was shaking and my pulse was racing, and my head couldn’t even figure out what there was to do. It was pure aggression and rage without reason. A quiet couch chit-chat had turned into a madhouse because an aggressive monster had entered the room. She was slamming the table, leaning forward on it and pointing at my sister while she screamed. She has blue eyes, but I could swear they turned black, as if her eyes were completely dilated, like a predator locked in on prey. One doesn’t forget when you see blue eyes turn black.
I put my hand in the way and said “[Her Name], I think we need to take a time out so we can talk about this more calmly a few minutes from now, it sounds like you are upset but we’re having trouble understanding where this is coming from.”
While this relative, along with her daughter, conveniently adopted a new foreign vocabulary of graciousness just in time for gifting events like showers and weddings, e.g. “I’m so blessed to have you all here to support us!” … while that language was suddenly useful for the giving portions, this Saturday night she screamed at me when I tried to get her to calm down when she was screaming at my sister “I don’t even GIVE a fuck about YOU! Shut up! Just shut up! Go fuck your psychobabble!” That’s how “blessed” she is to have me in her life.
She then grabbed my sister and got in her face and said “Looooook at Meeeeeee! I’m Mary! I’m all psychobabble! Do you like my psychobabble? Do you???”
I said “I’m going to take (my friend) downstairs to get a cab because she doesn’t need to be here for this.” I took my dear friend downstairs and said a tearful goodbye. I was so sorry the evening was ending this way. My good friend whom I hadn’t seen in years, and the Crazy Lady had hijacked the evening. My friend was supportive and compassionate. We hugged and I’m so lucky to have good people like that to share earth and some portion of a century with. I would choose my friends over the abusive relative in a fraction of a heartbeat. And I will from now on.
Back upstairs in the apartment The Crazy was still raging. I could feel my stomach tightening and my hands were shaky. I took a deep breath amidst the craziness and slooowed everything down. “What do I feel.” …I asked myself. My stomach responded “You feel attacked. You feel confused by something that should not be confusing. You feel scared. Your adrenaline is running as if you are being chased by a wild pig.” And so I was. It was important to place myself in a safer environment. As an adult, we are lucky to be able to do that. Children don’t have that luxury.
I started to pack and my drunk abusive relative began to mock me. “What are you doing NOW Mary? Packing, Really? Where are you going to go? You’re being ridiculous. Just stop it. Stop it. Oh, just sleep here.”
“[Name] – No I can’t. I don’t feel safe or cared for here. I don’t feel respected as a person. I’m going to go elsewhere to be safe.”
As I ran around throwing all the bits and pieces into my suitcase–to leave the apartment I’d sourced and paid for, and find some other placed to stay–she started ranting something about my grandmother and how “Now I could see my grandmother wasn’t so perfect.” This gave me the feeling this person has not done the humble inner child work that is needed to heal childhood wounds and reframe experiences as a mature adult.
So I was hurting, but I had calmly advocated for myself, had been and communicative, and was holding myself accountable for my own safety, not playing victim. I hugged my sister, who chose to stay (she was in her pajamas already and had just arrived hours before and she needed to be sure to have access to a shower before leaving at 7:30am).
So I headed out onto the street, dragging a suitcase and carrying a sloppily-stuffed backpack. I decided the airport was the only logical destination since it was 1:45am and I’d have to be there early anyhow. I head south on Sheffield, no cab. I head west on Addison, and get to Clark. I see a cab on the far side and I cross. Waiting for the cab to move nearer me, I see The Bridesmaids. Then I see The Bride. The Bride, crossing the street. I call to her to come back. She comes and of course their question is, why do I have a suitcase at 1:30am on a Saturday night? I said “your mom just spent the last twenty minutes screaming at us that we completely ruined your night, we are ingrates, we’ve failed you, and that we should be out buying you and your bridesmaids shots. And that while you all took off without us, everything is ruined because of us. It’s our duty as your cousins and we suck and so on. I have an early flight in the morning so I’m heading to the airport now.”
Somehow I thought perhaps The Bride had better character than her mother. I thought perhaps she understood I’m 44, have many things going on in my own life, that the only DEPENDENTS I feel accountable for are my own true actual dependents, my children. I thought maybe she’d see a woman heading to airport with a suitcase at 1:45am trying to hail a cab, and maybe she’d have one ounce of compassion or empathy. No ma’am. These are stone cold brides and bridesmaids. They teamed up and railed into me
I could hear I was never a guest at her party. I was a supporting accessory. “Nether you or your sister of you are doing anything you’re supposed to This weekend is about me! You’re supposed to be focused on ME!” This whole thing sucks and you and your friends suck!!!
I said “we were focused on you!” She said “No – You brought your stupid friends!”
(Well, Bridesmonsters, I’m 44 and I have a right to have a few of my-age people with me while you all talk about things and people that I don’t know about at all afternoon and evening. Friday afternoon my was the one to help me arranged getting into the apartment for your mom and she lugged bags of groceries back to the apartment for your (unthankful) mom. You have also left me on my own a lot of this time so I’m thankful to have a friend rather than sit in a room alone like I’m a book on a shelf on hold until you need me. So yes, I had my two good friends with me. Thank goodness.)
Then another Bridesmaid chimed in yelling at me, me still holding my suitcase and my confused cab driver driving away. I’ll call her “Honor.” I don’t know Honor well, but her true colors came out loud and clear. “Yeah, Mary, we think you and your friends are bitches! That’s why I was mean to your friend today. It was on purpose! You are all bitches.”
I went white. All day I’d been following around their gang “just to show support” and I arranged the rooftop Wrigley Field pictures that are the highlight (still no thanks from any). I had hung out with Honor on a boat and on the beach in August. But she’d determined my life for me – I’m a bitch and so are my friends. Nice, Honor. Nice.
So while sitting next to them making wine class decorations that day, they were all in a secret agreement to hate my friends and me. I will never knowingly hang out with people who so childishly cull hate.
And The Bride chimed back in that none of what my sister and I were doing was the way it should be and we should all be focused on her. So I said “Ok, you all just focus on The Bride. I’m going to the airport, at 1:30am on a Sunday morning. I am going to get that cab.”
The O’Hare Hilton’s warm hotel room had a dearth of crazy people. And it was good.
My sister sent me texts to make sure I had landed safely. We made a few healing, benign stinky-feet jokes and said night night. I hoped she was ok.
In the morning, while the plane’s boarding process was underway, I decided I wanted something other than my LLC Tax book to read. I ran down the hall to the CNN News & Gifts shop and grabbed the first thing I saw that didn’t have the Brangelina Brexit featured on the cover.
This was it. A business leadership quickie entitled “Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely.” And I said “Thank you for appearing, teacher, the student is ready.”
My bookmark : the receipt for the airline’s baggage fee.
There is always a cost for the baggage you carry.
There are families that enjoy calling their ladies “princesses” from the day they are born. That is their value system. In my value system the label of Prince or Princess can only be earned in the way you treat people every day. And the honor of that label can only be bestowed upon another by the beholder. It can never be snatched up, owned, or bought.
- True colors leave a permanent stain.
- Wrestle with pigs and you just end up muddy.
- After being mocked for feeling feelings, I can say I use them as super powers for having a little self respect. It’s a good thing.
- I responded to this crazy relative calmly, even offering a hug at one point in case that’s what she really wanted (she berated me). I attempted to show compassion, and then I maintained self compassion.That’s all one can offer.
- If I expose my kids to family members who are abusive, and do not draw boundaries, I’m teaching them that’s normal. That would not be ok.
- Using others as accessories, noise, crowd fillers is not making true human connections.
- Yelling at people throughout the day, even prior to drinking, is not pro-social behavior.
- Everyone has a day wherein they can say “Ok, I think I need to start being a grown-up.” I can have fun without lashing out. And if I cannot, I need to get therapy and do some tough humble inner work to find out why I’m so angry at the world.
- Everyone has feelings. If I hurt, I can’t abuse someone else and think that will be better. They feel as much as I do.
- Chosen friendships are built one tiny kindness at a time. Unchosen friendships/familyships require the same if the are to last.
- Regardless of what happens in an evening on the town, no one should end up screaming at another person, and no one owns anyone, and everyone who is there has made great effort to get there. (There are others who were invited but chose not to come, so it’s funny that those who did make it there “weren’t doing enough.”) That’s a black hole. No one succeeds at feeding a black hole.
Moral: With my chosen friends, there is little denial and retelling of stories to smooth over the uncomfortable or inconvenient truths. We can speak of our lives, the good, the bad, the successes and heartbreaks, things we are embarrassed about, and things we’re working to improve, without forced cover-ups of what was really happening.
With un-chosen friends or family, we spend a lot of time saying things like “it was so funny, Jane walked into the wrong house and they threatened to call the cops!” When the truth is “Jane was so drunk she did not know where home was, and that is scary, unhealthy, and sad. And I can see that Jane’s daughter is suffering and acting out as the Adult Child of an Alcoholic.” I will only spend my time on people who are prepared to deal with the truth, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in mental sickness, and in health that can only be achieved through a humble, honest, inward journey.
#wrestlewithapigandyoujustgetmuddy #no-ma’am #bitchesbecrazy