(I was going to write this livid post about how all conservative religion wants to do is control women’s bodies, but, eh, been there, done that, so you’re getting this bit instead.)
Someone (a novelist, I think) somewhere said something to the effect of: A family is just a group of people who think they’re better than everyone else.
I think this is what people mean when they talk about “blood ties.” Love them or hate them, your family is going to inspire these super-intense reactions from you, because you’re part of their clan, for better or worse. And part of being a clan is the belief in your inherent superiority to every other clan.
Arrogant and self-serving as this is, I like this part of being a family. Of reveling in each other’s company and in your relatedness. Of feeling surges of pity for everyone else because they don’t get to be part of your clan. (This is why clubs and memberships are so appealing to us on the whole; we all want to belong to something that excludes other people, by definition.) It’s easy for me to feel this way, frankly, because I have this really fabulous, funny, and talented family.
I also feel this way about this band of friends I had during my freshman year at college. We operated like a mini-family (again, for better or worse). We ate daily meals together. We got all up in each other’s emotional business. We exchanged gifts and aphorisms. We created observable traditions. We were proud of each other and we bragged about each other’s accomplishments and talents, like cheerful siblings. We fought and forgave. And we eventually disbanded, but I still feel this surge of intense feeling when I remember them or see them, even from afar. It was a fraught family unit, but we loved each other, in our own clumsy ways.
Of course, the intense pleasant feelings for one’s family are always paired with intense unpleasant feelings too. It’s part of the bargain of clan identity. You will love and hate your family more than you will love or hate almost anyone else.
These are not especially profound or novel thoughts, but they’ve been taking residence in my brain. My family is traveling to the Midwest for my grandmother’s memorial service, and I am mulling over all of those little sayings (“these are the ties that bind,” whatever that literally means) about family and family identity. But on the whole, I am pleased to be a member of my clan and to bear all of the psychological luggage that comes with it. There are very lovably complex humans in our family unit, and I delight in being with them.
Best wishes for a pleasant Memorial Day weekend to those in the US and to all those who will be plunged into clan identity gambits.