I had a rough week. I didn’t pass the graduate portfolio, convinced myself that I’d have to join the military when I didn’t pass next time (eye roll), and was being constantly attacked by one particularly rabid and hostile family member. By the time I got to Thanksgiving dinner, I was weepy-eyed and barely able to speak without bursting into tears. I’m not particularly emotional around People Not Gail or Gramma, so it really said something about my mental state that I couldn’t function enough to keep actual tears at bay.
Every year, my family has what they call The Water Buffalo, which is a party where only the women who’ve finished high school get together and swim. The title refers to size, as many of the women are heavier and I’m not the only self-deprecating woman in the family. This year, however, I have decided they’re not buffalo. They’re elephants.
“There’s this YouTube video where a pack of elephants circles around their young and injured, attacking any threats. After the last few years, this reminds me of the women in my family. This would be a lot more flattering were the comparison not to elephants.” – A Thanksgiving Facebook post
I don’t know that my family has actually seen me cry since I was a child. So when I teared up because someone told me I wasn’t invited to Christmas dinner anymore, every single loud and blunt woman I love went full-on Mama Bear on me. They passed my phone around, reading the text messages in horror, and my Grandma (not Gramma) loudly announced that she was “sick of hearing about her* twat all the time” referring to the tendency of this person to discuss feminine issues far too openly. I made my white-haired Grandma, who once spent a half hour lecturing me on how to hold a fork, say the word “twat”, she was so enraged by my mistreatment.
*Possibly unnecessary clarification – not my Grandma’s (nor my Gramma’s) twat
Simultaneously, I was hugged and my pain was eased about my portfolio. My Grandma (not Gramma) told me she imagined I was shocked because everything comes easily to me. My aunt (dad’s cousin) who also has an MLIS told me she understood, because the directions are always so vague. My favorite actual aunt breathed a sigh of relief, because she was really busy on graduation day anyway.
The rest of the night was spent eating myself sick, discussing sales, and watching children chase each other through the house with a crossbow. I asked my cousin if being a musicisan meant he was “rolling in the pussy”. His mom (favorite aunt) was appalled and accused me of being the drunk one running her mouth this year. Neither of us took my apology seriously. I was repeatedly told that I am always welcome with this side of the family at Christmas time and promised they’d never uninvite me. The evening came to a close giggling over the bad CGI of the daddy-funded viewing of Breaking Dawn Part II with my little sister. She was horrified at my exclamation that if I ever had sex with an old man, it would be Woody Harrelson and I’d let him stick it in my ear if he wanted.
No joke. A fucking crossbow.
I realize, I truly did get something for which to be thankful yesterday. Two years ago, I was heartbroken and miserable, married to a soulless monster, watching my life crumble around me, feeling all alone. This year, I was weepy and insecure and surrounded by my loving pack of elephants, eager to protect me from the outside threat in my moment of weakness. If only I’d realized I had that support system all along, things might have gone differently. Perhaps I shouldn’t wish for that, though. Maybe I am 25, still in school, and divorced. Maybe I’m terrible at dating and still a little broken from my marriage and the South says this means I’ll die alone. Maybe no one but my family and dear friends know Belle, while everyone else knows Winifred, the persona I hide behind when I’m feeling raw. But it feels right. I’m meant to be here. I’m on the right path… and that’s more than okay.