Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Defend Myself.

Yesterday at Dinner with my cousins and some friends, I suggested we split the bill to make it easier. My cousin who I've noticed to be a bit pretentious looked me up and down surprised that I would make such a suggestion. "That's not the Christopher I know, I hope you're joking." Her tone was neither light hearted nor pleasant. I was offended. For years I looked up to her as an mentor only to realize, as I started to develop an opinion of my own, that she was still another cousin, an equal, that makes the same mistakes as me. But that didn't keep me from becoming sour the rest of the night. Apparently, splitting the bill was inappropriate.

Her comments kept pouring and her eyes pierced me as if I was her nemesis cheerleader on Bring it On. Her attitude was fierce and I folded over in my seat. "You know... he's my cousin, I HAVE to love him." It wasn't a half serious joke. It was a 3 quarter's serious comment and I couldn't look at her for 20 minutes into the dinner. I was embarrassed and hid under a rock, ashamed that she publicly announced that I did not meet her expectations. The tension grew thicker with my silence and her obnoxious friend egged her on. "He's scared of you." Yes, of course I am.

I look up to her, no doubt, but at times I feel as though her judgemental comments are made to reassure herself that she has control. It's as though seemingly confident people deal with a different set of insecurities because of expectations placed on them. As a result, they develop defenses that may rub others the wrong way in order to assert their authority. Her "humor" was hurtful, but she successfully established herself as the alpha-cousin at the table. And I couldn't brush her off because obviously her opinion means something to me; her words carried weight.

I wrote her an email saying that I was embarrassed and surprised that she would be so judgemental in front of friends and family. I turned to Mony asking for suggestions. He said, "It's your email, send it if you want." Dissatisfied by his "advice," I read his facial expression instead: "this is petty, don't let her get the satisfaction of knowing that you are so weak." Okay, makes sense. And then he gave me more information about what happened. I was embarassed enough to block the rest of what she was saying, but I should have paid attention. She said, "it's probably because he's been hanging with white people." Her white friends at the table ironically... ooooooo-ed as if it were an attack ONLY on me. She said "he" instead of "you" as if I wasn't there. She had made a fool of herself by making such inane and outlandish comments, but even her friends didn't know what to say. And I could have easily questioned her integrity... but I was weakened by her initial blows to realize.

It was as if she was subconsciously giving me a window to establish myself as adult. Fight back with words rather than cower in my seat. "Aren't your friends white? I think someone at this table is hatin' more than they should be." My rebuttal would have drawn more Ooooos from the spectators... and that would be that. I would have proven myself unaffected, worthy of being her equal; an adult sure of himself. But I chose to let her words offend me causing me to lose confidence.

She was testing me: I am 22, can I defend myself yet? If I can't from my own cousin, how am I expected to survive in a situation where "...but I love him anyway" is absent?


While on the subject of cousins, before we left for the restaurant, I was telling my other cousin about going to Sonic Burger and not being impressed. She reacted, "yeah! It's hella GAY!" Immediately I responded, "Wait, what? There are gay people there?" She corrected herself, "no no, I mean, you know what I mean." I responded, "yes, I know what you mean, you should choose a better word" and I told another story before embarrassing her too much.



dannie said...

thats horrible! cousin or no cousin she shouldn't be treating you like that. and that white friend's comment was quite uncalled for. can look at it from a diff point of view, and she might actually be jealous of you. which could be a reason why she's so negative towards you, and trying to look like the alpha cousin.

dannie said...

is this the same cousin as the sonic burger cousin that had nothing nice to say you to? if so, whoo!! show 'em what you got.

can't stand people using the word 'gay' for other meanings. watch me start throwing the word 'straight' around.

letopho said...

different cousin.

my cousins are interesting. lol