View Full Version : Big Red's Tales of the Uncanny
11-22-2012, 11:40 PM
What I did on my summer…er…forum break
Wow, how long has it been? Looking back at my old emails, it looks like it’s been about 17 months or so. One bad thing I’ve done in the last year and a half or so was to somehow lose the document where I saved all my old Tales of the Uncanny. I’m sure it’s around on some flash drive or other PC, but it will take some searching to find it. With the forums 2.0 here, I figured I may as well get another Tales of the Uncanny going. What better way than to bring you all up to speed on what’s been going on with me over the last year and a half or so. The biggest things that have happened have been family things. As you can guess, not all has gone smoothly.
Probably the biggest development for me prior to the forums going away was our 2-year-old being born. She was a huge relief to my wife & me because we’d had a miscarriage shortly before having her. One of the curveballs that hit us right after our miscarriage was finding out just how disgusting and petty some of my family really is. We’ve been dealing with poor treatment from them for a good twenty years now, but in our most difficult, trying time, they sunk to new, scarcely believable lows. Within two weeks of losing the baby, one cousin decided to sign us up for a bunch of baby tracker websites. You know the sort: they send you weekly emails tracking your baby’s progress and serve as a constant reminder of how long it is until your baby is born. Of course, if you’ve just lost a baby, all they do is remind you of your loss. They’re great for an expecting couple. For a couple who have just lost their baby, seeing 3-4 of them show up each week is remarkably painful and cruel. To my cousin, though, it was an “awesome” way to make fun of someone who she felt had more kids than they ought to (for the record, although I could never prove definitively that she was the one who signed us up for those sites, she made numerous, thinly-veiled Facebook comments about us & how disgusted she was that we were actually upset over losing our baby and it wasn’t hard to put two and two together). To drive her point home, she would regularly either sign us up for new sites, or update the information on the old sites to ensure we were getting constant reminders (more on that later). As luck would have it, three months was the interval she chose for her updates. We found out we were expecting our two-year-old about 3 months after our miscarriage, so in an amusing twist of fate, she nearly nailed our actual due date when she signed us up for a second round of baby sites.
After our two-year-old arrived, we knew right away that we wanted another. We tried our brains out for the next year before finally succeeding. In the meantime, while things were going great for us and the younger kids, my family grew crazier and crazier. Shortly before we found out our two-year-old was on the way, we found out that the cousin who had signed us up for the baby tracker sites was sending absolutely disgusting private messages to our son. He’d just turned 18 and, among other things, she was telling him everything he had a “RIGHT” to do in our home, and how we had “NO RIGHT” to expect him to live by our rules (and, yes, she bolded those words and a few other key words all throughout her notes). She wasn’t the only one hell bent on causing problems between us and our son, though, as a couple other cousins started in as well. The bulk of it was them telling him how mistreated he was because we were so abusive and unreasonable. By “abusive and unreasonable,” they were referring to the fact that we expected him to work and pay his college tuition (the other option being that he not work, not go to school and get kicked off a portion of my insurance). They later told him that we should be buying him a new car as well. Granted, none of my aunts & uncles had done this for their children, but us not doing it was abuse. It got even worse once one of my uncles joined in on it. He was even more vocal about it than the cousins were. He was also the one who made sure to show his absolute disgust with us every time either of us discussed my wife’s pregnancy with our two-year-old (dirty looks, sighs of disgust, leaving the room, etc.). It reached a head at our daughter’s first birthday party when he decided to yell and scream at me about our son as I was walking in the door, still holding the baby with the other three kids behind me. Talk about class, or at least something that rhymes with it.
Don’t think my son was the only one they went after. I had one cousin, a guy about 30, tell my then seven and eight year old daughters that they couldn’t sit with the rest of the cousins at a family event because they weren’t part of the family. Another aunt of mine, before we started avoiding her when we had the girls with us, spent about two years trying to convince our girls that they’d walked in on my wife and I when nothing of the sort had ever happened. When my daughters didn’t repeat the story as well as she would have liked, she took to spreading the rumor on her own. She thought it was absolutely hilarious because, with us having that many kids, we obviously devoted all our free time to trying for more so the kids walking in on us must be a regular occurrence. We asked her several times to stop, which she finally agreed to do. However, we later found out that she kept it up behind our backs. Several of my cousins were also regularly excluding my daughters from conversations at family parties when the other kids their age were invited to hang out with the older crowd. One went so far as to physically shove our oldest daughter away from the table and then scooted over to block her from rejoining the crowd. While some may remember from the old forum, I’ll point out here that most of my cousins are teachers which, to me, makes their treatment of my kids that much more deplorable.
My wife and I had more than our fair share over the last two decades, but these last three years have been mind-boggling. A few weeks after our two-year-old was born, we showed up for a family party where one of my cousins and the aforementioned uncle quickly rearranged the chairs at their table so that there were no spots for us. Considering my wife was still recovering from her C-section and had to walk to the other side of the room, I was less than pleased about it. When I later found out that the main reason for crowding us out of the table was so they could badmouth us to our son, I was even less pleased with them. A couple months later, at another family party, not a single one of them acknowledged us when we arrived. We walked in, said hi to the room and you could hear a pin drop. We said hi to several of them individually as we went to find a seat, but they all either stared at their feet or turned their backs to us. It was something else. The kicker was probably Christmas of ’10. We’d considered not returning to the family Christmas parties after someone gave my son a sex toy for his gift in ’09, but we decided to give them one last try. After one cousin made a nasty comment about us as we walked in the door, the bulk of the rest of the family treated us like garbage. One refused to speak to us altogether even when I got right in front of her and wished her a Merry Christmas. Another literally fell over top of someone in an effort to avoid wishing me a Merry Christmas. My wife was told she had to nurse the baby in a tiny bathroom, and when I refused she was stuck in the bedroom where everyone put their coats. A couple cousins thought it would be fun to come and rattle the doorknob & knock on the door while she was in there because, you know, it’s fun to disrupt a feeding baby. One cousin’s husband stood across the room from the baby & I, just out of earshot, making comments distasteful enough that the two cousins listening to him actually walked away from him in disgust. By the end of the night, anytime we entered a room, it cleared. When we finally left that evening I told my wife that, after all her years of pleading, I was finally giving in and agreed that we’d never go back to one of my family’s parties. Things haven’t improved since then as several family members we’d always been close to have distanced themselves from us. I suspect that it’s either due to direct pressure from one or two of the cousins, or out of fear of retaliation. One quit talking to me for nearly six months, going as far as deleting any comments I made on his Facebook page. One aunt no longer posts anything on mine or my wife’s wall (she only communicates with us now via Facebook). She’ll send us private messages but does nothing publicly, even though she still communicates freely with the rest of the cousins. A lot of it is more annoying than upsetting.
11-22-2012, 11:40 PM
Throughout all that, we did our best to ignore the bulk of what went on with the family. It wasn’t too difficult considering how busy things were. I’ll admit it got pretty stressful at times, but most of it passed fairly quickly. The worst was probably the incident at our daughter’s birthday party. Not only was it her first birthday but we had just found out that we were expecting again and the last thing I needed that early in the pregnancy was to put my wife through a ton of stress. My uncle angered me enough that my intention was to not tell my family about the baby until after she arrived. I would have gotten away for it, too, if not for those meddling kids and their pesky dog…I mean, if not for my mother’s incessant complaining that she couldn’t talk to her siblings about us expecting again. As it was, I waited until after our 20th week before announcing it publicly. As expected, none of my cousins acknowledged the announcement. No emails, no comments on my Facebook post, not even a single like. While I didn’t expect any (they hadn’t acknowledged our miscarriage, or the announcement that we were expecting our two-year-old, or the birth of our two-year-old), you have to understand some of the family politics related to this sort of thing. In the past, my wife & I have been lambasted for our “inappropriate” reactions to various announcements by my cousins. One of them lost a pet. It wasn’t even a dog, so it’s not like it was the kind of pet that counted. However, I still expressed my condolences on their Facebook post. I found out a couple weeks later that my aunt had been talking to all my other aunts and several of my cousins about how inconsiderate we were for not doing more. I don’t know what we were supposed to do—send a Hallmark, perhaps?--but whatever it was, we didn’t do it, which made us a couple of Class-A bastards. Around the same time, another cousin lost her job due to her own grossly inappropriate actions. Before I knew all the details of her dismissal, I told her via Facebook that I was sorry to hear she’d lost her job. In the subsequent discussion where she defended her own deplorable actions and attacked her former employer for letting her go, instead of calling her out as the idiot she was, I simply didn’t reply. I later found out that we’d been criticized again for not being supportive enough. A short time later, yet another cousin’s father-in-law died. I sent an email, posted on Facebook, sent a card and made a donation to the father-in-law’s favorite charity. The funeral was held out of town on a weekend my wife & I both worked. It was also far enough away that all our kids would have had to have missed a day of school for us to go so we stayed home. Yet again, we were portrayed as a bunch of unsupportive cretins. Conversely, when we had our miscarriage not a single one of my cousins expressed any condolences or concern. A few days later, one of my aunts called me to see how we were doing. She asked I’d heard from any of my cousins. I answered honestly and without any animosity. She then said, “Well, I’m sure they’ve sent you emails or at least a message on Facebook.” Once again, I told her no (I didn’t mention the nasty comments one of them was already making about us on there); I even made excuses for them, saying that they might have been too busy, or uncomfortable discussing the subject. After she told me she didn’t believe me, she called one or two other aunts and suddenly word got out that we were petty and ungrateful. Naturally, when a couple of the cousins finally had kids of their own this past year, I simply deleted the posts. I couldn’t bring myself to congratulate them or hit like on their announcements. I also blocked them from my newsfeed so I never got any feedback on what a horrible, inconsiderate person I was for ignoring them.
Anyway, our new baby finally arrived and, as expected, we didn’t get a single word of congratulations from my cousins (I think one of them liked our announcement on Facebook). My goal was to keep her completely away from the family. My wife insisted on inviting my one aunt and uncle over to see her, though, so I relented. This was the uncle who’d gone so nuts at our daughter’s birthday party not quite a year earlier, so I made a point of inviting them over on a night when my son would be working. In the first ten minutes, my uncle asked where my son was three times, growing more agitated every time he asked. I finally told him he wasn’t here to discuss our son and to drop the subject. After that it was awkward at best and slightly unpleasant a few times. When they left, it was a huge relief. I told my wife I didn’t think I could be around anyone from that side of the family again. Sure, there are some I still enjoy seeing, but I can’t think of too many scenarios where I could be around them and not have to see the others.
The new baby, for the record, is wonderful. She’s our fourth daughter and possibly the prettiest one yet, which is really saying something considering how beautiful the other three are. She smiles constantly and could very well be the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. It was a much bigger struggle going from 4 to 5 than it had been going from 1 to 2, or 2 to 3, or 3 to 4, but we’ve adjusted pretty well. Even the little struggles we’ve had seem pretty insignificant when consider what a blessing she’s been.
When our two-year-old was born, one of the first conversations we had in the hospital was about how soon we’d been trying again (the answer, of course, being “immediately”). With the new baby we had similar discussions but decided we wanted to wait a while. We knew we wanted her to be a big sister at some point, but our plan was to have that point be a bit further out. Being practicing Catholics we decided to take Natural Family Planning classes so we could space the next one naturally (not that we’d been doing anything unnatural for the last decade or so, but we’d either been half-heartedly not trying, trying, or pregnant for so long that it was something we hadn’t gotten around to yet). In an odd twist of fate, it turned out we were already expecting again before we took our first class. While we were thrilled, we both agreed that we wouldn’t tell anyone for a few months and that, this time around, we wouldn’t tell my family until just before the baby arrived, or possibly later. We didn’t any of their nasty comments getting back to us while we were expecting, and we didn’t want to give them the pleasure of knowing something had gone wrong if something did go wrong. While my parents have said several times that my cousins can’t possibly be as awful as I’ve portrayed them, I’ll point out that my cousin who signed us up for the baby tracker websites has either signed us up for new ones or updated the profiles on some of the others at least once every three months for the last three years. While she was clearly doing it as first to rub our nose in the fact that we’d lost our baby, I think she kept it up as a way to show her displeasure with us having more than 1.2 kids. Whatever the reason, the fact that she’s dedicated enough to being such a bitch that she’s carried this on for three years tells me that she’d take great delight in any new misfortune that might befall us.
11-22-2012, 11:41 PM
Sadly, my worst fears materialized two weeks ago. We went in for the standard first trimester ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. Oddly enough, when we got up that morning, my wife and I both knew, although neither of us said anything to one another. Still, when the doctor came in and confirmed what had happened, we were devastated. Once we were able to, we talked to her doctor about our options and finally decided to go with a D & C. We could have gone home and waited for the baby to come out on her own, but we didn’t think that was a good option with the kids. We went in for what should have been a routine procedure. Without getting into all the details, things were anything from routine and I almost lost my wife as well. We’re still dealing with some outstanding issues from that. We’ve managed to bury our baby and were lucky enough to have her just a few feet from the baby we lost a few years ago. We’d told much fewer people than last time and most of them have been very supportive. A couple members of my immediate family have asked for permission to tell the rest of the family (several of them were told my wife was having issues without any elaboration), which we absolute would not give. When it was made clear that we didn’t want to provide additional details, only one was still willing to show any concern.
All of that brings us to today, Thanksgiving. I got to have dinner with my family before having to work all night, so at least I got to celebrate the day with loved ones. Predictably, it wasn’t without a family-related hitch. I’ve suspected for a while that two of my cousins--one of whom has been one of my closest friends my entire life--have been ordered by their sister (the cousin who’s the worst of the bunch) to avoid my wife and I entirely. They both live out of town but managed to make it in for Thanksgiving this year. They called my brother earlier and said they wanted to stop by my parents’ house to see everyone. They called back a bit later to say they were on the way and less than 20 minutes away. My brother told them to hurry because I was leaving in 45 minutes and he wanted to be sure they got to see me. Somehow, they managed to not show up until two hours later just as my wife was leaving. Neither of them said a word to my wife, or even made eye contact with her, despite her saying hi and wishing each of them (including the wife & girlfriend) a Happy Thanksgiving. What it essentially comes down to is that I’m effectively and/or literally estranged from the branch of the family with whom I was closest the first half of my life. Some of them we’ve chosen to actively avoid not just for our sakes, but for the kids as well. Some we have no choice to avoid, mainly because there’s no way we’d be able to see them without seeing the others. Finally, we have no real choice but to avoid the few who are left due to the fact that we’re extremely confident they would be ostracized or retaliated against in some other fashion should they continue to keep in contact with us.
The bulk of my family values and positive family memories came from these people. The main thing I was learned from a variety of these family members, and it was repeated over and over through the years, was that we should always put family first. Amusingly, three of the four of us who most bought into this idea have now cut ourselves off from the majority of the family. One did so for other reasons, but two of us did so because of similar types of treatment. I know most of the reasons why this other person is treated the way she is. That doesn’t justify it, but at least there are some concrete issues these others can point to to validate their asinine behavior, even if just to themselves. As far as we go, however, I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around why we’re such black sheep. We’ve been as supportive as we can possibly be over the year, helping many of them in a variety of situations with and without being asked, and we’ve never mistreated any of them. I know there are several areas where we’ll never see eye to eye and a few others where they’ve made it clear they take issue with us (we don’t drink, didn’t live/sleep together before we got married (this seems to be a huge sticking point for a couple of them and years ago led to all manner of nasty rumors spread about us, even to one of my employers), have more than 1.2 kids, aren’t ridiculously materialistic, go to Mass every Sunday and actively live our faith as opposed to using it as just another means by which we can look down on others), but I think it mainly boils down to an issue of elitism. They view themselves as better than the rest of the world, and if you don’t measure up to whatever arbitrary trait they want to judge you on, you’re scum as far as they’re concerned (I’ve seen a few of them turn on friends on Facebook over minor disagreements, so this is pretty evident). One really frustrating thing is that the rest of the family has been treated to either witnessing or being on the receiving end of their venomous behavior over the years, yet they always give it a pass--so much so that the people on the receiving end of the bad treatment have often been portrayed as the instigators after the fact (the most egregious example of this was back when they were all in high school and three of them ganged up on one of the cousins and spent over a year ruining her reputation and driving most of her friends away from her, which prompted a couple of the aunts to blame her and say she brought it on herself). I personally bent over backwards trying to smooth things over and helping to hold the family together over the course of several years, but these last few years have shown me that it’s pretty pointless. Sadly, my kids (especially my youngest) will miss out on the raucous, big family parties I grew up with, but I’d be a fool to keep taking them around those people.
This all left me thinking about what I have to be thankful for today (well, yesterday now). I have a beautiful wife and wonderful kids. We’re still facing some big hurdles but we’re hopeful that my wife will recover fully and we’ll still be able to try one more time. My kids are all doing well, despite the occasional problems, but few of those are big enough to lose any sleep over. We’re generally healthy (recent issues aside) and we’re both employed. We also have Christmas just around the corner, which is always one of the high points of the year for me. We’re more prepared for it at this stage than we have been in years and are looking forward to getting our tree and putting up all our decorations tomorrow. And to top it all off, the GH forums are back online. All may not be right with the world, but it’s still pretty dang good.
11-24-2012, 12:45 AM
Wow. Makes the scuffles we have with my wifes step brothers and stisters seem pretty insignificant to your stuff. The only thing I forsee is having to answer your kids questions on how come they don't get to hang out with their family like thier cousins do. I sorta get that same question but it is only because we live in central Wyoming and thier closest cousins are in Lincoln Nebraska, their next closest cousin is in Texas.
Hope your wife makes a full recovery from whatever whent wrong.
P.S. I give my buddy a lot of crap because he and his wife keep popping out kids, but it is all in fun and If anyone here does it to you just remember its because your liked and just being ribbed on.
P.S.S. Man I didn't realize how much I misses reading your rantings. You guys should just move away.
11-24-2012, 05:30 AM
I'm still kind of scratching my head over my cousin's snub on Thursday. He never told me he was coming to town, made no mention of it on Facebook and has made no effort to contact me. As rude and out-of-character as it was for him to ignore my wife, I found out the next day that he also avoided my son. They've always been very close, so that actually pisses me off more than him ignoring my wife & I. He's always been the sort who thrives on acceptance, though, and he's done a lot of out-of-character things over the last few years in order to stay in good with the nasty crowd. This has included badmouthing my sister and a couple other cousins and telling several huge lies about me. We made amends after one nasty incident but now it seems as though he's avoiding me to stay in their good graces. When I brought this up to another family member, they scoffed at the idea that his sister could be holding such sway over her brothers. Years ago, it wasn't something you'd ever believe could happen, especially with the older brother. There was a major blow-up with them on Facebook a few months ago, though, that really solidified my view on the situation. Politically, the older brother is diametrically opposed to the rest of them although it's not something he's ever really been open about. He made a couple of very vocal posts on Facebook, including links to a few videos. I was fairly surprised since it was the first time I'd ever heard a peep out of him in that regard. I went to check the comments a few hours later and found they were all gone. I clicked on his wall and found that he'd received a virtual shout-down from his sister (the youngest of the bunch by several years, by the way), telling him what a disgrace he was to the family and essentially threatening that if left those comments up or ever made them again, his children would never be allowed to see their grandfather again. It was pretty insane.
My girls have already asked about why we've stopped going to the family things. We've arranged other plans around a few of them so we had a handy excuse, but otherwise I told them that we just weren't going. I've talked to my son about it quite a bit. Some of it being the angry shouting matches that resulted from the garbage my family was telling him, ("Oh yeah? Well even your uncle and cousin agree that if you two were good parents, you'd buy me that $40,000 car and pay my insurance on it!"), while others have been level-headed discussions about what's gone on and why we no longer see them.
Something that really gets me about all this is that my wife's family has done some horrible things to us over the years. One side conned her grandmother into signing over all her assets and power of attorney, essentially robbing my wife and her dad of their inheritance. We had people actively campaigning to end our marriage, making various threats against us and overall just treating us worse than I'd treat my worst enemy. The other side of her family wanted nothing to do with me for years, to the point of whole rooms emptying when I'd walk in, people turning their backs on me and whole groups refusing to speak English around me. Despite all that, I'd never expect any of them to do some of the things my closest extended family members have done to us in the last few years.
As far as how many kids we have, I don't mind the good-natured jokes; it's the nasty, spiteful, hateful treatment that gets me. It would be different if they weren't family and if we were neglecting our kids. I could also understand some negativity if our kids were ill-mannered, disrespectful and rude. Our kids are very polite, well-behaved, great kids. And unlike most of my cousins' kids, they're not vulgar and disrespectful (a fact which has gotten them mistreated by my adult cousins on numerous occasions--to be clear, my adult, teacher cousins have treated my children bad because they were sweet, well-behaved kids who refused to repeat bad words or act in other vulgar manners). The bulk of them are the sort who spent their 20's and most of their 30's partying before finally trying to have their token offspring. They tend to look down on anyone who hasn't done the same, particularly if they don't follow their one-child rule, engage in an approved profession or vote for their approved party. Also, despite all of us being raised Catholic, the bulk of them have a surprisingly vicious distaste for anyone who is a faithful, practicing Catholic. Don't get me wrong, they all still claim to be Catholic and occasionally set foot in a church on Christmas and possibly Easter, but anyone who does anything more than that deserves to be an object of derision. The fact that we're actively practicing our faith, especially those parts that tend to lead to us having five kids, is something that clearly disgusts a few of them. One of the things that's made it easier to cut ties with them is the fact that a couple of them have made it clear that they're unhappy with or disgusted by the fact that our two-year-old even exists (I haven't been around them enough in the last year to know if they feel that way about the baby, but one would have to assume so). I figure if someone hates our children just for existing, that's not an environment we need to expose our children to.
Believe me, if we could move away, we would. Anymore, we only get invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas, so if I were the sort who favored coming up with excuses, I wouldn't have to come up with many. I've avoided being blunt with them about our non-attendance until now for my parents' sake, but I refuse to fabricate reasons when we decline those invitations. It does annoy me that my parents still show up to all these things, mainly because, whether it's within their earshot or not, I know we're a topic of discussion (one of the family's favorite pastimes, especially after the alcohol starts flowing, is to gossip about the family members who didn't show up and to badmouth them for whatever their reasons were for not attending). For us, though, not attending has reduced the holiday stress a great deal.
11-24-2012, 08:45 AM
I would suggest quitting Facebook, but thats just cause I still refuse to get involved in that type of 'social media'. Anything that reduces stress is a good thing. Hopefully you raised you son the way you hoped and he will 'wake-up' to reality. During college, my parents did pay the insurance for my vehicle, but it was a very cheap vehicle, One I could afford bagging grocerys at a grocery store.
Wow. Makes the scuffles we have with my wifes step brothers and stisters seem pretty insignificant to your stuff.
My thoughts exactly! I don't know how you are able to put up with it BR!
I haven't had any negative experiences with FB yet, so I don't usually know about the "FB drama" people always talk about, but I would say you sure do. :/
11-24-2012, 12:07 PM
I would suggest quitting Facebook, but thats just cause I still refuse to get involved in that type of 'social media'. Anything that reduces stress is a good thing. Hopefully you raised you son the way you hoped and he will 'wake-up' to reality. During college, my parents did pay the insurance for my vehicle, but it was a very cheap vehicle, One I could afford bagging grocerys at a grocery store.
While I haven't deleted them from Facebook (I did block the one cousin from my son's account), I've adjusted my settings so their posts no longer show up for me. As soon as I delete them entirely I know that will cause some major drama. Amusingly enough, after one of them had their first kid, they blocked me from seeing any pictures they posted (I realized this when the pictures and some posts were showing up on my wife's account but not mine). Naturally, I got a call from another family member asking why I was being such a jerk and not liking or commenting on their baby pics. :rolleyes:
My son's catching on to a lot of what's going on with them, although when he's around a few of them (like the cousin who ignored him the other night) he tries to fit in and be part of the crowd. I think he's most at risk of major problems with them, either from the lies/badmouthing they do about us, or from him being hurt when he sees how much they're using him. While the girls' feelings would be hurt by some of this stuff, he's probably the one I want away from the most due to the fallout.
My thoughts exactly! I don't know how you are able to put up with it BR!
I haven't had any negative experiences with FB yet, so I don't usually know about the "FB drama" people always talk about, but I would say you sure do. :/
I've always been more of a peacemaker instead of confrontational or an instigator. Combine that with me putting such a high value on keeping family first and you end up with me making lots of concessions and bending over backward to keep the peace over the years. To be honest, when it was just my wife and I on the receiving end, it mostly just rolled off my back. They started dragging the kids in on it right before our first miscarriage. That would have been the breaking point under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, when we lost the baby, I was in a much different place spiritually and emotionally than I am now, so I took a very forgiving stance on the things that happened the first several months. Things escalated rather quickly after that, but it wasn't until the Thanksgiving party when my one uncle listed everyone who'd lost a loved one that year and made a point of leaving us off that list that I decided we weren't going to put up with it anymore. I talked to my priest a short while after that and he said loving your neighbor doesn't mean you have to like them. I took stock in what they'd done to us and a couple other family members and decided we needed to cut back on how often we saw them. This didn't improve the situation--made it worse, in fact--so we finally decided to quit seeing them altogether. Interestingly enough, several of them still suck up to my parents quite a bit so we'll hear about how so-and-so really misses one of our kids and always thought they were sweet/funny/awesome/whatever. I keep pointing out that the one who does this the most is the same person who once shoved our daughter away from a table and out of the "adult" conversation because she refused to repeat a bunch of vulgar phrases, and who on another occasion refused to acknowledge the same daughter she always claims she's so fond of when we ran into her at a store. I'm sure things will come to a head at some point, but for now I'm content not having to see them.
11-25-2012, 08:36 AM
After talking to a friend last night, I thought I'd preemptively clear up a misconception. I've mentioned religion several times on here and how that's one of the issues some of these folks have with me. This friend of mine seemed to think it was because I was shoving it down their throats, rubbing it in their faces, etc. If you'd hear some of what they've said about it, you'd likely get that impression as well. The truth of the matter is that nothing of the sort has happened. I did get into an argument with one family member (not one of the problematic ones) about some ignorant comments he made (after going to his parish's Oktoberfest, gambling away a ton of money and drinking himself silly, he told a mutual friend that the very existence of the Oktoberfest only served to illustrate the hypocrisy within the Catholic Church which, according to him condemns all gambling and drinking as mortal sins; I simply pointed out to him that nothing could be further from the truth, that both are fine in moderation, and that if he truly believed they were mortal sins then he was the actual hypocrite for overindulging in both), but this took place after we'd decided to cut ties with the other family members and didn't go any further than that discussion.
I will point out that I'm much more active and stronger in my faith than I have been since I was a kid. This isn't something I've talked about with these family members, and my reversion actually took place after my "extreme" religious views were already a topic of gossip among them. Their caricature of me was based on a handful of unrelated incidents from which they made a bunch of assumptions then later set these down as gospel truth about me. The first one took place several years ago at a family party. They were having a conversation of a contraceptive nature in earshot of several of the youngest girls in the family, including my two oldest daughters. The particulars of the conversation were such that I'd never be able to clean it up enough to give an accurate portrayal here, especially considering that Jodo might read it. When I saw that at least some of what they were saying was catching the attention of the 6-10 year old girls, I told them I thought it was a little inappropriate considering the audience, then took my girls in the other room. I didn't mention religion at all and would have done the same had they been talking about any other inappropriate topic. They took what happened and put a religious spin on it, then told a bunch of others in the family about our extremist views and reckless behaviors.
A short while after that, we announced we were expecting (this ended up being our first miscarriage). This helped to confirm the stories they'd concocted previously. It also brought out the really nasty anti-large family comments and comparisons to various extreme breeding movements and reality show stars. We'd been hearing the occasional comment ever since our first daughter was born (our second child), but with us "foolishly" embarking on a fourth pregnancy, their claws really came out. Our decision to get pregnant that time had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the fact that we'd been planning on having another since our third was born but hadn't gotten around to it yet. Once again, no mention of religion on our part, but a whole bunch of assumptions on theirs.
A third instance which helped to fuel the fires was the fact that I made Facebook comments about going to church two weeks in a row. If I remember right, the first one was a complaint about something that had happened at Mass. I don't recall the particulars, but it was entirely about someone being a jerk and annoying me; it just happened to take place during Sunday Mass. The following week I made a positive comment about attendance that week. We'd been hearing rumors for over a year that our parish (including the school) were going to be shut down and absorbed into another local parish. I'd expressed concern over this several times, mainly because we didn't want to have to move the kids to another, more expensive school, and we like having our church within walking distance. We'd recently gotten a new priest and a lot of people believed that his main duty was to come in and gracefully transition us over to the other parish. On the contrary, he worked his tail off to save the parish and that Sunday was the first time I'd seen the church that full outside of Christmas or Easter since we'd become parishioners. Amusingly, we now regularly get much larger crowds than that at one of our normal Sunday Masses; however, at the time, I was excited because it seemed like things were starting to turn around for the parish. Yet again, there was nothing overtly religious about what I posted, but that didn't stop them from once more twisting what happened into a story about how I was a religious nut and trying to force my views on them.
Another amusing aspect of all this is that when I heard some of the stuff they were saying about me, I thought they were kind of nuts. For one thing, at the time this all started, I was a semi-regular church-goer at best. I wasn't clear on a lot of the Catholic church's teachings and while I was trying to get my family to go to Mass more regularly, it wasn't a huge part of our lives. Since then, though, I've actually become much more committed to and active in my faith. In doing so, I've made a bunch of changes in some of the little things we do and now have some different motivations for some of the things we were doing all along. This means I'm actually a lot more like the person they claimed I was several years ago, although their characterization of me is still nowhere near factual or accurate. At the same time, it's exposed a much deeper level of hypocrisy on their part. One of the things several of them are fond of doing is pointing out what great, faithful Catholics they are, especially when compared to others (not just myself, but I would regularly see nasty comments along these lines directed at me). They don't go to Mass regularly (if at all), don't actively follow most of the Church's teachings and actively speak out about others. This somehow makes them better Catholics than my wife & I, who go to Mass regularly and follow the Church's teachings (and, for the record, that didn't cause us to have five kids now, but it helped give us the confidence to keep trying). We seldom expound upon faith matters outside of our own home, though, and never use religion as a tool to attack people on Facebook.
Long story short is that their animosity toward us over our religious behaviors sprung from their own assumptions and not from anything we actually did or said.
11-25-2012, 10:19 PM
Just be you. Anyone giving you grief about your being active in the church is probably just mad your making them look bad for actually doing what they say they are doing. My wife was raised catholic and it is a bane to my in-laws that I'm not and don't plan on ever being Catholic. Im a god fearing Jesus loving christian and Ill just stick with that.
11-26-2012, 03:53 AM
Just be you. Anyone giving you grief about your being active in the church is probably just mad your making them look bad for actually doing what they say they are doing. My wife was raised catholic and it is a bane to my in-laws that I'm not and don't plan on ever being Catholic. Im a god fearing Jesus loving christian and Ill just stick with that.
My wife & I have speculated a bit on the motivation for some of what they do, and this is an attitude we both agree is at play for a lot of it. In a similar vein to the religion, something that has really drawn the ire of a bunch of them is the fact that I no longer drink. My wife doesn't, either, but this is mostly because she's been pregnant or breastfeeding for most of the last 3-4 years. It's not something I bring up or expound upon; I simply don't do it. If someone pushes the issue I'll tell them I don't drink, but I don't go any further than that. I do have a problem with the amount of drinking a lot of my family members do, but instead of making an issue out of it I've simply avoided those gatherings or left before they turned ugly. This actually started before I quit drinking, mainly because I didn't have any desire to be around for the passing out and puking, or for when the vicious, verbal attacks spread to the point where they were going after people who were actually at the party (as opposed to the standard procedure of targeting people who weren't there or who were in another room). This last bit has led to some of the ugliest family scenes, with parents/in-laws of the nastiest in the group either in tears or kicking people out of their house. Considering how frequently this has occurred, it still baffles me that the parents not only pretend that their children don't behave this way, but defend them and attack anyone who complains about similar treatment. They've also vehemently defended their children's drinking, employing selective amnesia so they can claim that the new carpet wasn't the result of one of them vomiting all over the old one, that certain fights or other damages never occurred, etc. One cousin resumed her very heavy drinking within weeks of having her baby. Everyone knew this because she spent the last few weeks of her pregnancy posting on Facebook about how she was looking forward to drinking again, then documenting that first night out with pictures and posts whose incoherence progressed as the night went on. This was over a year ago and despite her ongoing chronicling of her wasted nights out, her parents are still adamant that she hasn't had a drop since the baby was born.
Getting back to my point, though, I know of several parties I didn't attend where a big topic of conversation was how a bunch of them were glad I wasn't there so I wouldn't ruin their fun by preaching about their drinking. As I pointed out, I've never done anything of the sort. Some of the comments that made their way back to me, though, sounded a lot like self-accusation on the part of the person making them. One cousin apparently gave a speech that I undoubtedly would have made had I been there condemning him for his back-to-back DUI's. Several others apparently have done similar things, pointing out what I would accuse them of, all of which had to do with either the level of their drinking or bad things that have happened as a result, including many things I'd never heard of until they brought them up at these parties. It absolutely sounds like me not drinking (or drinking less since a lot of this took place before I quit altogether) led to me being made a scapegoat for their own guilty consciences. It wouldn't be much of stretch to assume that something similar is going on in regards to the religious stuff.
12-07-2012, 02:26 AM
I may have posted about this in the old forum, but with more kids of my own, and with more relatives having their own babies, all that unwanted advice seems to pile up quicker than ever nowadays. I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about: Your wife's best friend--the one who's never had a child and can't keep a houseplant alive--comes over, watches how you handle an issue with your kids, then proceeds to tell you what you should have done to handle the situation properly. Worse, you tell one of your older children they can't do something and even explain your reasons to them, then you later get a call from your parents or a sibling who wants to know why you're being so unreasonable with your children.
The latest, though certainly not the greatest battle around here has been about my daughter's earlobes. More to the point, what if anything I'm going to let her stick through them, and when. I'm certainly not opposed to earrings and I know my daughters will likely all have them eventually, but I am opposed to having kids grow up too quickly and people who think they should be allowed to take certain decisions regarding my children away from my wife & I. We've been fighting the earring battle for at least six years now. My oldest girl was about to turn five and my mom wanted to know when we were going to pierce her ears. "When she turns 13," was my reply. Had she bothered to let me explain myself, I would have told her about how I don't want to rush any aspect of growing up and that I don't see earrings as a necessary part of being a little girl. I would have reminded her not only of some of my daughter's health issues, but also of my sister's and my cousins' numerous issues with their piercings; I would have then told her I didn't see a need to introduce any other potential health problems while we were still trying to figure out what was going on with these other recurring issues. Further, I would have gotten back to the problems with my sister's and cousins' piercings and reminded my mom how she and my aunts all said they wished they'd have waited until their daughters were older and more responsible before letting them get their ears pierced so they could have potentially avoided some of the nasty infections that came about due to them being too young and irresponsible. I also would have told her that I felt 13 was a pretty monumental age for a young lady and that getting her ears pierced would be a good way to commemorate it. Finally, I would have told her that they're my daughters so any decisions I made regarding them were my decisions to make, and not hers.
That's what I would have said if I'd been able to get a word out before she and my sister threw something of a tantrum over my ridiculous and outdated notions regarding girls, and how I had no idea how important it was to a little girl that she be allowed to mutilate part of her body. They went on for quite a while before I was finally able to ask what business it was of theirs. From the looks on their faces, you'd think I'd grown a second head. They finally agreed that I was a horrible person while I agreed to leave the room and quit responding. We had a replay of that at least 2-3 times each year for a few years after that but were lucky enough to get a break when my oldest daughter was 8-9 1/2. Then we started hearing it again because she was coming up on being 10 and my mom thought that was a more reasonable age than 13. I told her we'd just have to disagree and that I wouldn't discuss it any further. She didn't understand that last bit, though. She continued to bring it up, sometimes multiple times when we saw her, other times calling out of the blue to tell me how wrong I was. She made the mistake one time of telling me how this would let my daughter show off some of her individuality and personality. I quickly reminded her that, going to a Catholic school, they were only allowed to wear small, nondescript stud earrings; anything else would get them sent to the office. It was also toward the end of soccer season and since no jewelry was allowed during games or practices, she'd have to go long spells with the earrings out when she was supposed to be leaving them in non-stop. l My sister, for her part, had quit voicing an opinion because she'd recently had a daughter of her own and was hearing from her in-laws and a couple of our cousins on an almost daily basis about what a bad mother she was and how every little decision she was making was not only wrong but was going to ruin her daughter's life (we heard much of the same when our son was younger). My mom brought it up again when we were at their house having dinner. Once again, she told me I was being unreasonable by insisting on 13. I told her I agreed, but that now I believed 15 was a much more reasonable age. I offered to let her try for 16, but she decided to drop it.
We didn't her much about it again until a couple months ago as my daughter neared her 11th birthday. Once again, the earring issue reared its head. I deflected it without much issue the first few times it came up, but then my mom told me she planned on taking my daughter to get them pierced behind my back. I told her that would be a major violation of my trust and would cause huge issues between us. I also told her it would likely lead to the other girls not being allowed to get their ears pierced until much older. I reminded her that this was something for us to do with our daughter and not her. It's been a couple weeks since we've heard anything so I'm hoping the situation has been diffused, at least for another year or so. Throughout a lot of this, I did some commiserating with a friend who was in a very similar situation. Like me, she believes that 13 is a good age to get her daughter's ears pierced. She also hears a lot of the same griping from her mother and other relatives. She's used a lot of the same arguments I've used and has gotten similar results. As annoyed as each of us gets, it's not as bad as one of her friends who ended up moving out of state to get away from her parents after one too many earring arguments. Sure, there were other things going on, but the earrings were the last straw.
Over the years, we've faced far more interference regarding our son than any of the kids. Every last little decision we've made regarding him has upset at least three other people in the family. We spent years dealing with one group saying we should do XYZ. When we finally did, the other group would get upset and say we should go back to doing ABC. Honestly, there's not a single aspect of us raising him that didn't lead to calls, emails or heated discussions. We've had some periods where things weren't as bad as others, but it's been pretty consistent over the years. While I could write a book about the battles we fought over the years, I'll just mention the most recent one. With Christmas upon us, our son decided to email his Christmas list to the family. I should point out that I've struggled with him over his Christmas list through the years. One year he asked for nothing but big-ticket items and said that he'd throw a fit if he didn't get everything on his list (including the PC, big screen TV and the car). That was about the closest I ever came to wrapping up a lump of coal and having that be the only thing that greeted him on Christmas morning. Several years ago, clothes led to a huge fight. Or rather, several huge fights. He asked for a variety of things, from jeans to T-shirts and sweaters. We found some great deals and got him several pairs of jeans, a stack of T-shirts, some thermal shirts and an awesome sweater. He's really particular about what he wears, so we took this into consideration and only bought him dark, solid colors--no designs, logos, bright colors or anything else that typically sends him into a fit. While they weren't all black & gray, most of them were, while the others were dark navy blue, dark brown and dark forest green. Christmas morning he greeted the clothes with muted appreciation. Two months later he asked my wife to take him out clothes shopping because he didn't have anything to wear. According to him he had no jeans, no T-shirts and nothing warmer to wear while he was walking to work. She told him to tell me, and when he finally did I asked him, "What about your Christmas clothes?" As it turned out, he'd yet to wear a single item. Most of them were still in the plastic they came in, all sitting in a drawer in his bedroom. It was all I could do to keep from wringing his neck. We fought over the clothes for well over a month--until it got warm, in fact--at which point he went back to wearing his summer clothes without complaining. None of the clothes we bought him that year were ever worn, and we ended up giving them to Good Will. I told my wife that was the last time I'd buy him clothes, so now he just gets a gift card for Christmas. The other big Christmas fight we had was over last year's list. In addition to clothes, I've made a habit for several years of not buying him movies or music. The main issue is that most of what he watches and listens to is garbage. While most of it is just bad, some of it is truly offensive. My rule is that if it's not something I'd allow to be played around the girls, I won't bring it into my house. I don't pretend that I can keep him from ever listening to or watching stuff like that, but he tends to suffer from severe lack of judgment and will often play his music when the girls are in his room (the movies aren't as much of an issue since he made some really poor decisions that led to him no longer having a TV in his room). The Christmas list issue came to a point last year when he asked me to email his list out for him (long story, but I'd turned off his internet at the time). Me being his dad, I'm hopelessly ignorant, if not entirely stupid, so he was certain that I wouldn't know what those movies were on his list. I'm also not quite bright enough to Google the ones I didn't recognize. Even with my monumental shortcomings and insurmountable ignorance, I somehow figured out that those movies he was asking for were essentially softcore porn. I left them off his list then had an unpleasant discussion with him about why I don't let things like that in my house, especially if he's the one bringing them in.
This all leads to this year's Christmas list which was mostly filled with CD's, as well as the obligatory big ticket items. I told him immediately he wouldn't be getting the new PC or an iPad, then told him he needed to come up with something other than CD's since I won't allow any of my money to go to the sort of music he likes to listen to. After a couple weeks of this, I finally decided that I'd be coming up with my own list for him. While I'm sure he'll really enjoy the things I got him, I ended up mentioning this to my mom. She'd already bought him one of the CD's he'd asked for and she thought it was awful that I wouldn't buy him one. This is the same woman who wouldn't let me play the Violent Femmes at my high school graduation party and instead turned on the oldies station. She did the same thing at my 20th birthday party when I tried to play Jane's Addiction. Despite that she told me it was unfair of me to not get him what he asked for for Christmas. I explained the situation and she still told me I was being unfair. I brought up the porn from last year and she said that this was music, not movies, and I was being unfair. I told her that letting the girls hear the lyrics were just as bad as letting them watch those movies. She still insisted I was being unfair. I finally told her I guessed I'd just have to be unfair and that I was sure he'd get over it.
The other really big issue that's been causing tension is the one that really drives me nuts. I've mentioned before that the whole family is Catholic (for the record, I realize it sounds like I'm bringing this up a lot, but it has more to with what's going on with my family, etc. than me consciously trying to make this a topic). This goes for the bulk of my wife's family as well. Despite being brought up Catholic and going to 12 years of Catholic schools, though, until a couple years ago I didn't have a really full understanding of what was expected of me as a faithful Catholic. While I thought I was doing a decent job raising my kids in the faith, after studying up on it I realized that we'd been falling pretty short of the mark over the years. I committed myself to doing better and worked hard at making a lot of changes not just in my own habits but in how we spend time as a family as well. A lot of the younger people in the family are very lax in their faith (and that's being generous for a lot of them), and some of them have really looked down on us for this, but I figured this was something that would be looked on quite favorably by the older crowd, especially by the grandparents. If you've paid any attention to anything I've written over the years, you can probably guess that I couldn't have been more wrong.
The first one to really throw some opposition our way was my mother-in-law. She was over one Saturday and I was taking the kids to Mass. As Catholics, we're required to go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. She's well aware of this and usually goes on her own. I had to work that night and we had a family party the next day so I wanted to go Saturday night as opposed to Sunday morning (Saturday evening Mass fulfills your Sunday obligation). I'd just gotten out of the shower and was working to not only finish getting myself ready, but to get the kids ready as well. This was shortly after our youngest had been born so my wife was staying home with her. Things were going smoothly until my mother-in-law told the kids they didn't have to go. She then started arguing with me, saying that the kids clearly didn't want to go so they should be allowed to stay home. I tried to stay calm at first and went over everything I just explained above. In the meantime, my son had already taken his shoes off and was heading to his room. When he turned and saw the look I gave him, he went right back and put his shoes back on. The older girls didn't know what to do so they just stood in the middle of the room trying not to make eye contact with either of us. My mother-in-law wanted to keep arguing the point. What I mean is, she wanted to keep raising her voice since she didn't have any argument other than, "they don't want to go." I finally decided to show her that, especially in my own house, I could raise my voice much louder than she could, and that my argument of, "get your coat on; you're going with us then I'm taking you home," trumped anything she had to say. My wife finally intervened to get me to let her mother stay, but when we got back I had a very one-sided discussion with her during which I explained that if she wanted to keep seeing us as much as she does, she should never contradict me in front of the kids.
Things were calm with her for a while. A couple months, in fact. She was over on another Saturday, though, and she decided she wanted to be a problem again. Something else we're required to do as Catholics is go to confession at least once a year. The Church would like people to go more often, but once a year is a requirement. This wasn't made real clear to me growing up so I went something like 13 years between confessions, then another 6 years before going again. I decided I wanted my kids to get in the habit of going a bit more regularly than I had, so we started going as a family once a month, which is currently how often our priest offers it (I'll go more often if needed, either to another parish or by appointment with our priest, but I only take the family to the monthly confession). The whole thing usually only takes about 10 minutes if it's just me and the kids, up to 20 minutes if it's the whole family, or 80-90 minutes if we stay for Mass afterward. This particular week was just going to be me and our older girls. Once again, we had family plans the next day so we were going to stay for Mass, and the baby was sick so my wife was staying home. When my mother-in-law found out where we were going, she scoffed at the idea. She started to say something about it, but I reminded her of our earlier talk and she piped down. However, she proceeded to do everything she could to make us late. Since our parish's open confession only lasts 30 minutes, if we're a few minutes late and there's actually other people there, there's a good chance we'll miss out (this is something my mother-in-law had heard me talk about before when it was just me going). While I was getting ready, she spent the whole time asking the girls to do things for her--bringing her a blanket, refilling her water, etc. When I came out the girls hadn't even started getting ready. She then proceeded to piddle about, getting in their way and doing whatever she could to spare them from going with me. We managed to get there on time, but my wife was treated to hearing her mother complain about it the entire time we were gone (she failed to mention this until after I'd taken her mother home later).
Since then there have been several times that she interfered while we were getting ready for Mass. She's also had talks with the girls when I wasn't around, telling them that they didn't need to go with me to Mass or confession if they didn't want to. This led to another talk with her, after which we didn't see her for a couple weeks. We also had a less than pleasant time one night when she had to stay over due to some work being done on her house. We pray the Rosary each night as a family. Based on everything else that has gone on, I knew this was is something she wouldn't be too thrilled with. However, I wasn't going to skip it just to appease her. When we started I told her she could either join in, sit there quietly while we did it, or go in the other room until we were done. Instead, she chose to sit on the couch and ruffle papers, roll her eyes and scowl at me the whole time. It was truly delightful. :rolleyes:
While I was coming to expect such behavior from my mother-in-law, I knew I'd never have to deal with anything like that from my own mom. My grandmother was very devout and did her best to raise her kids to be the same way. Of all of them, my mom seemed to be the one who followed in her mother's footsteps. She's very involved in her parish and goes to Mass at least every Sunday, sometimes on Saturday and throughout the week. She does a lot of volunteering and is the sort who is much more likely to send out religious Christmas cards as opposed to ones with Santa or snowmen on them. She's also informed me of how distressed she's been at various times over the years that her children (particularly my brother and I) haven't stuck with their faith as well as she always hoped we would. I figured if anything, she'd be overjoyed at the fact that I was fully back in the fold and doing my best to keep my children that way as well. To be fair, her reaction to certain things has been nothing like that of my mother-in-law. However, there have been several issues. The first time she left me scratching my head was about a year ago when I went to a memorial Mass for some old friends. It was on a Saturday night and fulfilled my obligation for the week. I didn't take the kids with me, though, and made a point of taking them the next day. She seemed mystified as to why I'd do that since I'd been the night before. I thought that, of all people, it would go without saying with her and I honestly didn't know how to react to her. A couple months later we had a similar issue when the girls spent the night at my parents' house. My mom was supposed to take them to Saturday night Mass. I went to the early one Sunday morning then went to pick up the girls. When I found out they hadn't been the night before, I took them to a later Mass that afternoon. This time, my mom actually told me it wasn't necessary and that that girls didn't actually have to go (on the contrary, since they're over 7, they are required to fulfill their Mass obligations; being their parent, if I don't take them each week, I'm the one who's done something wrong).
The confession thing has been an issue for my mom as well. Her parish has confession every Saturday. It's fairly close to our house and it was my parish for a good portion of my life, so it's one of my go-to parishes if I need to go to confession or can't make it to the monthly offering at my parish. I prefer going to my priest, but I have three other parishes that I like to go to when I can't get to him, all for a variety of reasons. Anyway, we got to confession sort of late at my mom's parish and decided to just stay for their Saturday evening Mass so we could sleep in the next day. We did our penances then said the Rosary while waiting for Mass to begin. I should point out that outside of praying before dinner, we never prayed as a family when I was growing up, so the nightly Rosary took a bit of getting used to. It's also something that my mom and sister act sort of funny about when I bring it up. Not that they really should since we're all Catholic and this shouldn't seem out of the ordinary, but I've found that it's not that easy finding Catholics who still practice a lot of the typical, traditional Catholic customs. Anyway, my mom showed up shortly before Mass and saw us sitting in the pew. She came over and asked why we were there. When I mentioned confession, she got a funny look on her face and asked why I was bringing the girls. Once again, it was one of those times I was stumped. She clearly knows what's required of us, so having her question us doing it leaves me a bit speechless.
Not long after that we were at their house for dinner. We were talking about our plans for the following week, which just happened to be the one Saturday our priest hears confessions, and I mentioned that we couldn't do whatever it was until after 4:00 because of that. My mom gave me this look and said, "You know, I never forced you kids to go to confession when you were growing up." This was one of those times when I probably would have been better off had I been struck speechless. Instead, I said, "Well, maybe you should have." I had sense enough to stop myself from saying too much after that, but she clearly wasn't too happy with what leaked out before I reined myself back in. In my defense, though, it's like a parent wanting their children to speak a foreign language but they never take the time to speak it in the home. Years later, they can't understand why their kids aren't fluent in it. Then, a few years after that, they see that one of their kids has gotten pretty proficient in the language and is working on it with their children on a regular basis, but instead of congratulating them and being supportive, they tell them they shouldn't be doing that to the kids, and only start speaking it around the grandchildren after the parents insist.
I will point out that things have improved quite a bit with my mom. She very seldom questions anything we do with the kids related to our faith anymore, and is now talking to me about it much more openly than she ever has. She also knows that if the kids stay over, they have to go to Mass with her either Saturday night or Sunday morning (for the life of me, I can't figure out why she fell out of that habit with them). I figure in a few more years I should finally have her trained right. :D
12-08-2012, 03:58 PM
My daughter is not going to be allowed to get earings until she turns 13 either.
12-08-2012, 04:37 PM
My daughter is not going to be allowed to get earings until she turns 13 either.
I was going to give this a thumbs up. We need more smilies.
Like I said, I'm not opposed to earrings on principle and I'm not necessarily going to begrudge someone their choice, but they shouldn't criticize our choice, either. I think too many people either push their kids to look and act older, or don't take a stand when their kids look and behave inappropriately. We were at a function for our daughters' school and I couldn't take a picture of my one daughter because she was standing near her upper-class "buddy." This girl, who was barely 13, was dressed so skankily that I was honestly worried that having a picture of her in that outfit on my hard drive could get me into legal trouble. I have a young cousin about the same age whose mother lets her dress in a similar fashion. I ran into them in public not that long ago and got a lot of disapproving, disgusted looks when she came up and gave me a hug. She's a sweet, wonderful little girl, but the way she was dressed made me look like a pervert. They have the rest of their lives to make bad decisions. When they're this age, just let them be kids.
12-09-2012, 10:02 AM
I will say I do have a problem when I see babies with their ears pierced.
12-10-2012, 03:35 AM
A few years ago, a friend of a friend had her newborn's ears pierced. I thought there was some sort of age limit at most respectable places (even the mall kiosks), so this could have been a home job as the baby was just a couple weeks old. This friend of whom this was a friend is the same one who had another friend who I know I mentioned in the old forum several times who got her less than 2-year-old a tramp stamp. Anyway, the one who pierced her baby's ears didn't bother to take very good care of the piercings which led to a severe infection which nearly killed the baby. That was one of those incidents that got me something of a respite from the complaints about my daughters not having their ears done.
12-10-2012, 06:16 AM
Wait a second... Someone had their 2YO tattooed? Sounds like someone needs to have their child taken away and some tatto artist needs to be brought up on charges. That can't possibly be legal.
12-10-2012, 11:02 AM
Definitely not legal, which is why I suspect it happened at home instead of a parlor. We were at a birthday pool party and the girl came in with her baby. The baby was in diapers and a bikini top. From a distance it looked like she had a leaking dirty diaper. When I got closer I figured it was a temporary tattoo of a tramp stamp. As completely un-classy as that was, I didn't think too much of it until I heard a couple others discussing whether it was real or not. I moved closer and it definitely looked real. I was trying to nonchalantly get a closer look when I heard the mother talking about it. She mentioned how the baby cried while getting it and that it was still bothering her but it wasn't too bad if they kept giving her Infant Tylenol. As she was saying that the baby got close enough that I could see the tattoo better. The tattooed portion of her skin was raised a bit while everything around it was red, just like I'd seen from friends who'd gotten tattoos over the years. As my jaw was hitting the pavement I heard an aunt of mine say, "You have got to be f***ing kidding me!" The mother realized that the comment was directed at her, as were about a dozen sets of shocked stares. She grabbed her baby and left. When the shock of the idea of a mother actually tattooing a tramp stamp on her not quite 2-year-old daughter finally wore off, we tried to get the mother's name but none of her friends would give it. Several of us tried finding out her name for a couple months after that but my cousin refused to give it, then insisted it was a temporary tattoo--and, no, she wouldn't answer when we asked, "If it's a temporary tattoo, what's the harm of telling us her name?" She's one of my cousin's Facebook friends now so I get to see her trashy posts fairly regularly. The party was 5-7 years ago, though, so I don't think there'd be a point in reporting it now. And, yes, the mother's Facebook activity is just as classy as you'd expect from someone who'd tramp stamp a 2-year-old. I'm assuming the little girl has to have a stripper pole in her bedroom by now.
12-10-2012, 12:36 PM
That is sickening. I feel bad for the little girl.
12-10-2012, 12:37 PM
OMG. Forgetting the age of the girl, what about how it ios going to strech and distort as she grows.
12-10-2012, 01:34 PM
I've wondered that myself. Since I'm not friends with the mother I don't see any pictures she may post of the kid, but I'm hoping my cousin posts one at some point that shows how the tat looks nowadays. Even at 7-9 (however old she is now), I'm sure it's stretched considerably since she was two. I still can't get over the idea of indelibly labeling your kid like that at such an early age. It's like saying, "Honey, I don't have high hopes for you, but if you try real hard you might be able to be a pool-hall rat or truck stop stripper one of these days. Just like Momma."
12-12-2012, 06:12 AM
This is somewhat amusing. I got the invitation to the extended family Christmas party this morning. For the most part, my aunts aren't actively seeking to boot us out of the family. At the very least, the ones who go along with the ones who don't want us around would never admit to it. However, this is the second time out of the last three years that it's been scheduled on a Friday night. I've worked Friday nights for the last 15 years and my wife has worked them for the last six. I thought this was well-known by my aunts who host parties because it was a major point of contention a few years ago when someone accused us of working a particular Friday night just to avoid a family function. Even if they'd forgotten, the aunt hosting the party this year had been planning it for Saturday afternoon, going so far as to create an event on Facebook for it. She called my mom last night and told her she was trying to find out when everyone was available. Based on the conversation, my mother was under the impression that Saturday worked for the whole family, while we were the only ones not available for Friday night. Eight short hours later, the Friday night invitation came out. I won't go so far as to say that's a blatant hint, but one could certainly see it as such.
12-14-2012, 08:19 AM
Should just ruffle their feathers anyway and RSVP that you are planning in making it and then cancel at the last minute 'because work called'.
12-14-2012, 05:01 PM
We had that happen a few years ago for some other family get-together and it caused a major ****-storm. I'd RSVP'd that I'd be there with the kids but my wife had to work. One of my coworkers had a death in the family or something along those lines so I had to cancel my night off and work. There'd been lots of chatter about what a jerk I was before this because one of the cousins had been a major ***hole at a previous party and instead of escalating things, I left. Note that the person taking the high ground in the situation is the one who was considered the jerk, while the person who, unprovoked, insulted my wife, ruined my meal and a $40 pair of shoes was the victim. As the gossip flew, several said they expected me to skip the upcoming get-together just to show what a jerk I really was. I wasn't planning on it, but in the end I didn't have a choice. I had one aunt call me that night while I was working, chew me out for skipping the party and call me liar when I insisted that I really was working (the fact that I was in the middle of a conference call and had it on speaker in the background didn't convince her). After I hung up on her, she and the rest of them took it out on my parents until they finally left the party. My wife & I weren't invited to the next few parties as punishment for the problems I'd caused. Unfortunately, that meant I missed the epic party with the fist fight and the group vomiting incident. I still regret that. :rolleyes:
12-14-2012, 10:11 PM
Always dissapointing to miss a good ol fist fight.
12-15-2012, 01:00 AM
Yeah, although I don't know how bad it actually was. The people who were there the next morning were told not to talk to me about it. The mass-vomiting incident sounded more intriguing. I at least got a few details on that. If I remember right, a tablecloth and a big section of carpet had to be replaced. There was also some damage to the flowers and the lawn. The other details I got were a bit hazy, but none of them were good: broken glass, a big hole in the tile floor (I still don't know how that one happened), angry drunks dredging up their siblings'/parents'/spouses' dirty laundry, lots of shouting and crying, people going to the bathroom everywhere except in the bathroom, and several other really ugly incidents and bad decisions. I think it was the first time my wife said, "I'm so glad you don't drink anymore."
12-15-2012, 11:12 PM
Sounds like a high school party.
Or that movie that came out over the Summer, Project X or whatever it was called!
12-16-2012, 04:38 PM
Sounds like a high school party.
I knew of a couple high school parties that were that bad or worse. Very few of the ones I went to were anywhere near this bad, though. By late college (almost 20 years ago), most of my friends had outgrown that behavior. I've been hearing for the last decade or so that once my family members started having kids, they'd do the same. I haven't bothered to check what the excuses are now.
01-17-2013, 03:40 AM
My family's main PC died just before Christmas. I was lucky enough to find a floor model with Windows 7 at Best Buy for under $550. Since it was both discontinued and a floor model, that price tag was at a steep discount. It came with a 6-core processor, 10 GB RAM, a 2 GB video card and a 1 TB hard drive. I was talking to my son about it earlier this evening and he asked how it compared to the first computer I ever bought. My mind drifted back to early 1994. I got all misty-eyed thinking back to that towering, tan beauty. I'd purchased a state-of-the-art Brother word processor several months earlier at my dad's urging (he thought it was ridiculous to buy a PC because they didn't hold their value and would never catch on). I'd quickly outgrown the word processor (my stories and papers were spread across several floppies and I wanted something with internal storage to minimize the risk of losing them) so I bit the bullet and ran out to get a PC. It was an Acer running Windows 3.1. It had a top-of-the-line, lightning-fast, single core 66 Mhz processor. It was loaded with a full 4 MB of RAM. It also had an astronomically huge 512 MB hard drive. It came as part of a package with a 13" monitor and a color inkjet printer for only $2300 (before taxes and extended warranty, of course). I quickly upgraded, adding 4 more MB of RAM ($350), a 1 GB had drive ($350, divided into 3 partitions since Windows couldn't handle a full GB at the time) and an Epson scanner ($320, plus it required its own card to be installed in the PC), for a grand total of just under $4000. I quickly signed up for AOL, which was a monumental waste of money those first few months since all I could really do is read headlines and chat (it didn't have web access yet). Before long, though, I was able to get to the World Wide Web, my exploration of which quickly ate up my 20 hours per month (at a cost of $39, IIRC), often leaving me offline for a week or so until the new billing cycle started. This was also something that was mocked and scoffed at for several years, since nobody but a bunch of spectacled, pocket protector-wearing losers hiding out in their parents' basements and popping each others' zits would every use the internet. My 14.4 connection was awesome, though, and I could download one full MB in just over an hour. Not long after that I upgraded to Windows 95 (along with Windows Plus!), which set me back another $150. I also had one of my sticks of RAM die on me. When I went to replace it I was shocked to find that I could get 8 MB for $300--in other words, twice as much memory for less than I originally paid for that initial 4 MB upgrade. Jumping up to 12 MB was worth it, though, if only for the bragging rights.
All in all, after all the upgrades, I had well over $4500 invested in my Acer. It outlived its warranty, and I used that scrawny monitor well into the 00's (I was shocked when I finally upgraded to a 15" monitor). While the Acer outlived the extended warranty, it wasn't by much. My next PC was a Compaq. I didn't buy an extended warranty on it because I'd heard they were a waste of money. I should have known better because, even though we'd only been married just over two years at that time, my wife and I were already on our third washer. Since my monitor was still going strong, I just bought the PC. I forget all the details, but I do remember that it was a speedy 333 Mhz, had 32 Mb of Ram, a 26 K modem, and an absolutely monstrous hard drive, something like 12 full GB of storage. And it only cost me $2300, same as the base price of my Acer. Naturally, I did some upgrades, paying $128 for another 32 Mb of RAM and buying my first ever video card (I forget the specs, but I think it was 16 MB and cost around $300). I also had to buy a new printer as my original (Compaq?) had died. I went with an Epson, which never worked properly, then struck out with an HP and finally went back to Compaq. I believe I bought at just the right time so that it came with Windows 95 and I later had to pay the full upgrade cost for Windows 98. When all was said and done, I likely put about $3200 into that machine. It ran well and served me quite competently for a year or two. Then it died.
For my next PC, I went against the cardinal rule that I told all my friends, which was to never buy a Packard Bell. I was still nowhere near paying off the Compaq, though, and the Packard Hell was on sale. I stuck with my 13" monitor and was able to get the new PC for only $1800 or so, although I did have to buy a new scanner since the old one wasn't compatible, which, at $350, brought me awfully close to the $2300 I'd paid for the previous two. I don't recall the specs, although it was a PB so the specs were a bit irrelevant. I think it was basically about the same as my Compaq. One notable exception was the 56K modem. I was quite excited to use the higher speeds and even found a couple local numbers that connected at 48-50K. I had grown weary of AOL. I forget what the limits were at the time, but their service was awful and I was always going over. I started switching to NetZero, which was still free and unlimited at the time. One thing I noticed was that I never got the speeds I was expecting with NetZero. With AOL, I could hit 48-50K without a problem. With NetZero, I maxed out at just over 20k. Considering half their bandwidth generally went into downloading ads, that left me with very little. After a year or so of frustration, I finally read that AOL was known to infect modems and prevent them from utilizing their full bandwidth when accessing any ISP other than AOL. That was all I needed to finally cut my ties with them for good. I canceled my account and uninstalled the software. Unfortunately, that still left me with a hamstrung modem. I ran out and paid about $200 for a new modem. I came home and quickly realized why I'd been telling people not to buy PB's for so long. In addition to using proprietary hardware, they would seal their towers, making them impossible to open. Actually, I should say "near-impossible." After some trial and error I found you could get the tower open using a hammer and a chisel (or heavy screwdriver). By the time I was done, the external case was in pieces. The internal, metal case was as well, with mangled, twisted pieces of it scattered all over my room. Since the modem wasn't fully compatible I had to break the motherboard partially away from the chassis and leave it fully open. It also blocked the hard drive from fitting back in place, so that was hanging over the side of the chassis, connected only by the power and data cables. I had the PC sitting on the floor on some rubber pads behind a few cardboard boxes to keep my son away from it due to the risk of shock. Before you say anything, yes, I realized this was dangerous and stupid, but the thing wasn't even two years old and I didn't want to have to buy a new one. Common sense prevailed when the dogs kept coming into my room and getting dangerously close to the PC.
I think I went back to Compaq for the next one. This was in 2001, I believe. It was my first non-tan PC (it was gray), and cost me in the neighborhood of $1500. I went with a package deal this time, since everyone was making fun of my little 13 inch monitor and my printer had run out of ink (already, buying ink was about as expensive as buying a new printer). I don't recall all the specs, but I think I had 64 Mb RAM and a 40 GB hard drive (the hard drive's sitting in a pile next to me so I'm at least sure on that). I eventually added another hard drive and 256 Mb of memory (something like $150). I had a bad habit of buying components from computer super sales so I had no recourse when they'd die shortly after. My PC ran great on 320 Mb of RAM, but not quite as fast when one of the two 128 Mb sticks died a week or two after I bought it. Still, 192 Mb of RAM was more than any of my friends had, and very impressive at the time. That was a nice PC, and the less-than-$2000 I had tied up in it was something of a watershed for me. It was also the PC I had when I first got DSL. It lasted me a few years, until shortly before my father-in-law died.
My father-in-law had been through several bouts of cancer. My Compaq was also fading fast, possibly due to whatever caused the one stick of memory to fail. It died early in 2004. I quickly replaced it with an HP. I can't recall the specs, but it was nowhere near as much computer as $1200 should have bought at that point. However, as had happened a few other times, I found myself in desperate need of a new PC a week or two before the new models came out and just before prices on the old ones dropped. I was happy to have a new PC, even if it wasn't much better than my old one. A few months later, my father-in-law passed away. He'd just bought a brand new HP which blew mine out of the water. My mother-in-law had no need for it. She wanted to give it to our son, but since I actually needed it for something other than writing elementary school papers, we decided that I'd get my father-in-law's PC and my son would get mine. He'd screwed it up completely, but after some TLC and a new hard drive, it worked like a charm. He'd somehow shelled out big money for a Lexmark all-in-one printer/scanner/fax/copier/toaster, and had just bought new ink for it before he died. Although the Lexmark left a bit to be desired, I've bought all-in-ones ever since. I'd stick with Lexmark for the next few years, buying a new printer anytime I ran out of ink since it was much cheaper than actually buying the ink (I went through at least three of them). It also came with a 17 inch monitor. Looking at that made me wonder how I ever lived with the smaller ones. It finally died three years later.
Buying my next PC was a thrill. Not only did it cost less than $700, but the jump in computing power was greater than I'd seen until that point. It was an HP Pavilion with 4 GB RAM, a dual-core, 2.2 GHz processor and a 250 GB hard drive. It was blindingly fast compared to what I was used to, and even out-performed my work computers. As much as I liked it, I didn't think it was going to have to last me over 4 years.
Shortly before this, we'd decided to take my old PC out of my son's room. We ended up getting him another before too long, but in the meantime we moved my old PC into the living room and hooked it up to the TV. We didn't use it too often since we didn't have a wireless mouse or keyboard, but we enjoyed being able to get online when we needed without going down to my PC. My wife got to the point where she really enjoyed having easy access to the internet, her own email and iTunes, and she started asking about getting something better. Timing was on our side this time around and I found a great deal on an HP Slimline right before Christmas. It had a quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive and came in at just under $600. It was running Vista, but it had enough under the hood that that didn't matter. It quickly became our media/entertainment center and we gradually started watching less and less broadcast TV as we switched to Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and the internet almost exclusively. Instead of a bit of a luxury for my wife, it was soon an essential appliance. It was a great PC as well.
Last year, shortly before I started working on my Christmas cards and CDs, my old 17 inch monitor died. While I'd held onto them for quite some time, I no longer had my 13 & 15 inch monitors. I tried using my son's monitor but the video settings on my PC weren't compatible and I couldn't get the two to work together. I also couldn't get it to work with our TV. I could boot up and get to my files from other PC's on our home network, but otherwise it was useless. We discussed it and decided that four years without a new PC for me was long enough. While it had been a good PC, it certainly wasn't top-of-the-line when I bought it and it was showing its age. A reboot was taking nearly 30 minutes and simple tasks were taking longer and longer to complete. After talking it over we decided to put a little extra into my new PC and get something that would last. I got an awesome HP Pavlillion: 8-core, 12 GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive, 2 GB video card. It was more of a machine than I expected, and it increased my productivity greatly.
That all brings us back to the PC we had to buy just after Christmas, and the train of thought I had just after pondering my first PC. As much as I loved that thing, and I certainly never considered it a bad deal for the time, I now have an Amazon Kindle. These currently go for $150. They're about the size of a paperback, around 1/4" thick and are vastly more powerful than my old Acer. At the same time, a friend of mine just paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 for an Android PC the size of a flash drive. It has some bugs, but from what he's told me it's at least as versatile as my old Acer was. It amazes me to see the changes that have taken place in home computing in the last 18-20 years and makes me wonder whether I'll actually be buying another desktop once these two breathe their last.
Before long, though, I was able to get to the World Wide Web, my exploration of which quickly ate up my 20 hours per month (at a cost of $39, IIRC),
Mother of Pearl. XD That sounds horrible. :p
I have ALWAYS had trouble with the laptops I have owned. Although I don't remember the specs of them, both of them have had their disk drives go out for no apparent reason. The one I had when I was around 16, and it did ok for about 6 months. The last one I got when I was 19, when I started college, and it has done well until about 6 months ago. I went to put the new Norton 360 virus protection on it, and it never would read the disk. I can put the disk in, and hear the humming noise as if the disk is loading, but after that nothing happens. I went to My Computer, and it doesn't register anything in the drive.
I might add, that I don't really like computers overall. Outside of Facebook, and a few forums I am on, I have no knowledge of how they really work. :p
01-21-2013, 05:44 PM
I hate Norton and won't use any Symantec products. I'll just leave it at that.
As far as the 20 hours it took me to explore the whole of the World Wide Web, that was actually kind of accurate. When AOL bought out Webcrawler it only had access to 400 sites, 372 of which were porn (just kidding, although the 400 number is accurate). When they finally opened it up a bit it was a mess. You seldom got the same results twice and would sometimes never be able to get back to a site after you'd found it. It did open up early enough that I was able to start getting on Star Wars sites in 1995, which I did promptly after reading in the local paper that they'd just released a new line of figures then running out to KB Toys to pick them up. I wish I remembered the name of that first site. It was pre-SSG, although everyone soon migrated over there. I suspect at least a couple of the seven of us from that first site are still around.
I never think of SW sites even existing at that point in time. As a kid the computer was more of "that thing" we had, that I always wanted to type stories out in Word and print.
Later on, towards TPM's release, I can remember begging people to help me find new information on the new movie coming out. I think between the few tidbits we found, and the SW Insider magazine, that's all I really knew of new information about the new movie. I sort of miss those days....
01-22-2013, 10:09 PM
It's pretty cool to think back on how early I was able to get on the online Star Wars collecting bandwagon. That was one of the things that turned my brother staunchly against the Internet early on because it validated his ideas that it was a geeks-only domain. I know my timeline above is a bit off, but it's been 18 years. What I do remember of that first site I got on was that it had a grand total of two posts the first time I found it (the one saying "welcome to my Star Wars webpage," and the other talking about the news that there would be new figures), and the only graphics were a couple pics of old figures. I know the "message board" was very primitive and the guy who ran the site had to approve the posts; and that it definitely preceded SSG because one of the big pieces of news at one point was that there was a new collecting site to check out. I asked about that site in the various forums in those early years and even had Sir Steve tell me I was mistaken or making it up because he had the first site.
01-23-2013, 04:59 AM
My first exposure to the SW online community was receiving Adam Pawlus' e-mail newsletter. Wow, that was a long time ago.
01-23-2013, 03:08 PM
I never did any newletters. I also never got into the newsgroups, even though a lot of people I talked to back then were really into them. It wasn't for lack of interest, but AOL didn't have a newsgroup reader. At some point in '97, a coworker gave me a copy of Outlook 97 on floppy (I think it was 48 disks, which I still have in a box somewhere in the basement). I'd heard that Outlook had a newsgroup reader but found out I'd been misinformed after I installed it. I couldn't get the Outlook Express newsgroup reader to work on my PC until 2001 or 02, but by that time I didn't have any real interest in them. The forum communities had long been in full swing by that point anyway, so I don't know that there was even much value then.
01-24-2013, 05:20 AM
alt.rec.starwars.... Ahh... The good old days. Also, floppies.
01-24-2013, 08:10 AM
Never did the newsletters either. Didn't really get into the Star Wars Internet stuff untill around 97 or 98. But havn't left since. I finally this past summer threw away the last of my 5inch floppy discs. Was first introduced to the 'chatroom' in college back in 1993. One of the big news items right now in sports is the Manti-Taeo scnadal where a lot of the older sports announcers don't understand how he could be scammed into thinking he was in a relationship with a person just over the phone and the internet withought actually seeing the girl in person. Being the age I am I can fully understand their scepticism, but can also understand the other side where I have known people in college who thought they had fallen in love with someone just by chatting with them on the web. I actually miss having to enter numbers to a web address instead of a name, kinda nostalgic I guess.
01-24-2013, 04:35 PM
Back when I still relied on floppies, Staples or someone had a big sale. It was buy one get one free on a case of 300 floppies for either 4.99 or 9.99. I used those for years, although I was slow to adopt CD's for anything other than music. I used to get on bulletin boards with my Commodore 64 back in the 80s. The ones around here were utterly un-exciting, although they'd get a little active at night. When I first started using IE, I was pretty suspicious of the bookmark feature. I didn't like the idea that someone could get on my PC, hit my favorites and see which sites I went to the most often. As a result, I memorized the URL's of the sites I went to most often, one or two of which were just IP addresses. I got over that when I found myself having to write them all down on a cheat sheet which I kept in the drawer next to my keyboard (because, you know, nobody would ever think to look there). It was right next to the Post-It note with all my passwords.
I know plenty of people who can't grasp the notion that people can develop actual relationships online. I got to be good friends with several people early on and stayed close to a few of them for years. I've also read of several marriages that started as online relationships. At least two of them didn't see each other, even a picture, until just before the wedding. Granted, I still find it hard to believe that Mati-Taeo wasn't in on the hoax, but I'm a bit cynical about some things.
03-07-2013, 03:48 AM
In my youth I spent many an hour in a couple of the local pool halls. Before that, I spent even more time playing on my parents' table. One of the highlights of my early dateless years in college was winning the 9-ball tournament at the pool hall we haunted the most. I'm sure I mentioned it a few times in the old forum and won't go into all the details here, other than to point out that the guy I beat in the final game was something of a local legend and I was more likely to have lightning strike three or four times than win that tournament.
I got to reminiscing about my misspent youth the other day after I started playing 8-ball online and my son asked me about it. A good deal of my wife and my early dates were spent playing pool, so it was fun to rehash some memories. My dad's pool table had actually belonged to my grandpa, but when my grandparents moved when I was about 7, we ended up with it. We hadn't been allowed to play it too often at my grandparents' house, but once it was ours I played all the time. After years and years of playing, I wasn't much of a player. We were kids and we knew that the best, in fact the only way to play pool was to hit the ball as hard as you could and hope that something went in. The only game we knew how to play was 8-ball, although we'd occasionally make up games of our own. By the time I was 12 or so, I was a shade better. I knew that hitting the ball as hard as possible didn't work in every situation and I understood some of the basics of banking. When I was 15 or so, I saw a tournament on either ESPN or ABC's Wide World of Sports. In the middle of it they played a segment from a "how to play pool" video, and my life changed dramatically. That's when I first got a good explanation of English, or putting spin on the ball. I spent the next few months practicing my back spin (the only thing that really made an impression on me) and working on my bank shots and combos. I still only knew how to play 8-ball, but I was much more confident in my skills. By the time I was 18, very few of my friends and family could beat me, and never consistently. My dad actually quit playing me for several years at this point, primarily because I beat him soundly on a regular basis. I was so confident in my skills that at my graduation party, I offered to put my car on the line for a single shot. My cousin and I had been playing two of my friends in a string of friendly games. It stayed friendly after we started betting on our shots, with a 10-cent maximum per shot. It got much less friendly when we bumped it up to a dollar per shot. In the last game we got rid of the limit and I ran the table. I was up by $30-40 and had only the 8 ball left. It was behind two of his balls and sinking it would require a three-rail bank. The guy who was most worked up over the game said he wanted to take the limit up to $100. He was sure I wouldn't make it. Between my cousin and I, we only had about $90. I was on a roll and my cousin was willing to put up his half of the cash, but the other guy wouldn't go below $100. I decided to call his bluff and told him instead of cash, we should go for cars. Neither of us had a great car, but his was a bit better than mine. I was sure enough that I'd be able to make the shot that I didn't hesitate. We argued it out for about ten minutes and he decided to forfeit the game and walked out. My cousin and the other guy wanted to see if I could really make the shot, no money involved. I missed, horribly.
I started hanging out with the guys who would make up my regular stable of friends through college shortly after my 18th birthday. It didn't take long for us to realize that couldn't go drinking every night. This coincided with what would soon become one of our favorite hangouts opening up--the pool hall. This wasn't a bar with pool tables--there were a few of those we could go to occasionally during the 18 and up hours; this was a a good old-fashioned pool hall. They didn't serve food or drinks, or anything else for that matter. You could play pool, buy cues and supplies and sit around at the tables in back talking about pool and playing cards. It was open until 3:00 AM every night and was generally devoid of any drama except for that which was found naturally on the tables. Among my friends, I was the big dog. I had a killer back spin and a mastery of bank shots. I think it was our first night up there that we quickly found out that if all you had was a killer back spin and a mastery of bank shots, you didn't have a right to even try to play someone in a serious pool hall. The best part about that first night, though, is that we found out that the real serious players, at least around here, only played 9-ball.
I'd heard of 9-ball before but I'd never played it. I didn't know the rules, even. After that first night of playing it, though, I'd seldom play anything else. While 8-ball was fun, 9-ball seemed to take a great deal more skill and finesse. Since any serious game required you to call each shot, it also brought in a level of strategy that I'd never seen in 8-ball. We spent the next few months watching the really good players, playing the halfway decent ones and practicing until our fingers ached. The pool hall charged by the hour, not by the game, so we could stake out a table and play all night. If a big group of us went together, or if we met up with some other guys, we'd get 3-4 tables between us and swap partners all night. Some guys were highly skilled but had no clue when it came to strategy. In other words, they could make just about any shot you threw at them but they had no idea how to set up shots or stick their opponent without a shot. Other guys were great strategists but couldn't make a short, straight-on shot if their lives depended on it. Other guys were attention whores who knew a handful of trick shots and could put such a huge amount of English on a ball that they could send it wherever they wanted on the table, but had no idea how to actually play a game. I had decent enough skills and a mind for strategy that I could hold my own against a lot of the guys up there.
We very seldom played for money (it was against the rules), but we would play for drinks & snacks from the vending machines, or some of the cheaper supplies from the shop (chalk, talc bags, etc.). The best guys to play were the ones who knew just enough to think they were good. We'd lure them in by playing a smash & slam game (we'd hit the balls as hard as possible on every single shot), then kick their butts once Mountain Dew, Kit-Kats or chalk was on the line. We also played the handful of genuine, old-time hustlers who came in whenever we could. Even if we didn't pick up any new tips or tricks from them, $2-3 in snacks was worth getting to chat with them and watch them play for a few minutes.
Most of the decent players considered it poor form to use trick shots in a serious game. As such, while I got to be pretty good with my English, I didn't bother much with actual trick shots. The one I got really good at, though, was one I could work into games from time to time. The way it worked was if you had two balls, one at each of the two pockets on one end, and the cue was against the rail on one side. If you were on the right rail, you'd hit the cue toward the closest ball using upper left English. You'd knock in that ball then ride the rail to the other hole and knock in the other ball. It was a pretty easy shot to master, difficult to screw up, intimidating as heck against someone who wasn't familiar with it and frustrating to someone who was. I didn't get a lot of in-game opportunities to use it (maybe 10-12 total over the course of 3-4 years), but when I did it always went off like a charm. The best, though, was an absolute fluke. After knocking in the second ball, the cue still had enough momentum that it ricocheted off another ball, came back to the near end rail and knocked in a third ball. The guy I was playing walked out.
The two things I worked on most were setting up shots/leaving my opponent without a shot, and pocketing the 9-ball early. It was always hugely satisfying to end a game with an early pocket. On a handful of occasions I pocketed the 9-ball on the break (never in a tournament, which would have been awesome). The best times were when I pocketed it on a difficult or seemingly impossible shot. Improbable banks, using back spin to pull the cue back the length of the table and multi-ball combos always ended a game with an exclamation point. Then again, I also loved the long, drawn out games where you knew the only chance you had was to repeatedly leave your much-better opponent without a shot while trying to set yourself up for a combo. The handful of times that I beat a couple of the old sharks and hustlers was mostly by following this strategy. Running the table was fine, but it always sucked losing to someone that way, so it was never quite as satisfying for me when I did it myself.
One of the more enjoyable nights at the pool hall took place on a night after we hadn't been there in a while. My stable of friends had broken up a bit over some internal strife and it was just Gary and I that night. There was this pair of guys there who were absolute pool studs. This was the early 90s so of course their mullets were rockin'. They had pencil-thin moustaches and the short sleeves on their T.J. Maxx button-down shirts were, naturally, rolled up. They had neon aluminum cue sticks and monogrammed Zippos. They were all about the flash, baby, and would run through all their trick shots before even thinking of starting a game. We knew them by sight but they weren't guys we regularly hung around with. We'd been there a while and were two tables over from the thunder studs. They yelled and pumped their fists every time they pocketed a ball and did the double high-five whenever they won a game. If they were playing anyone over 16 (the pool hall had hit rough times and was letting kids in at this point), the half-hug accompanied the double high-five. They'd managed to pick up a couple of 14-15 year old girls (the studs were in their mid-20s) and were engaged in a complex mating ritual involving leaping cue balls, pocketing four balls at once and slapping each others butts.
Gary and I decided we'd heard enough hooting and seen enough double high-fives, so we sauntered over and complimented them on their bitchin' cues. They cautiously accepted our compliments, then gradually loosened up as we praised their skills and ignored their women. We watched them beat the stuffing out of a string of high schoolers, then suggested we engage them in a friendly game. They turned us down several times but finally agreed. We took things easy that first game, marveling at the ridiculous amount of spin they were able to get with their surprisingly flexible cues. We let them win, then got serious in the second game and beat them pretty handily. With things tied, they had to go for a rubber match. We wiped the felt clean with them. With their jail bait looking on, they had to save face so they challenged us to another best-of-three. We upped the stakes and played for sodas the first game, then Reese's Cups the second. The girls had been growing seriously disinterested in Reese's game, but then Gary started hitting on them. This all but guaranteed a third best-of-three, although this time we each put up $10. We whipped them in two straight again. One of the girls was all over Gary now, and the thunder studs were furious. They wanted one more go at us, this time for $20 apiece. We agreed and were shocked when they managed to take the first game. We then got things back on track, with Gary running the table the second game and me polishing off the last 6-7 balls in the final game. The thunder studs left deflated. We had the girls call their parents then sat around and ate Skittles with them while they waited for one of their moms to come pick them up.
When my wife & I started dating, the long nights at the pool hall with the guys came to an end. It wasn't so much that we didn't want to hang out anymore; it's that I got much worse at pool when I was playing with her. You can't exactly win a girl over when you're mopping up the table with her. I still tried to stay sharp, though, and occasionally managed to get an opportunity to challenge myself. I think the last really great game I played was against my cousin. I was a bit rusty by this time while he'd been playing fairly regularly. We shot around a bit to warm up then played a few games of 9-ball. He was never a big fan of the game, especially the more strategic elements, so we switched over to 8-ball. I hadn't played in years and lost the first game after instinctively pocketing the 8-ball off a combo right off the bat. I got my head on straight and we split the next several games and were finally tied up, something like 4 games each. On the last game I broke, knocked in two solids, gave it over to him for a couple shots, then ran the table down to the 8 ball. These were just friendly games, the only thing on the line being bragging rights, but I'd choked after running the table in an earlier game and was now facing an impossible shot. It was similar to the shot he'd seen me mess up years earlier at my graduation party, only a bit more difficult. The cue was buried behind two stripes by one of the near corner pockets, as was the 8 ball by the other near corner. The only way I could possibly sink the 8 ball was to bank the cue off the near rail, around the two stripes, then bank off the far rail, go around the two stripes by the other pocket, bank off the near rail again and into the 8 ball, sinking it the other corner. I called the shot which elicited a huge laugh from my cousin. He offered to not only pay for the table but my lunch as well if I made it. When the 8 ball dropped, so did his jaw. He insisted that I'd cheated somehow. He refused to pay up at first, but then set up the shot exactly as it had been and told me he'd only pay if I sunk it again. Which I did. I forget what I had for lunch, I just know that I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and that my cousin hasn't played me since.
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