Choosing families, one holiday at a time

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October 5, 2007

2:10 AM

I have a lot of guilty pleasures; I’ve exposed most of them in this column. One of my most favorite vices is “Engaged and Underage,” the reality show on MTV. I’d like to provide a transcript for the closing of every show.

p. Chick: This is my husband [insert baby-daddy’s name here] Dude: This is my wife [insert baby-mama/soon-to-be-knocked-up girl’s name here] Together: Some say we’re too young, but we’re our own family now.

p. And then everyone turns off the television and breathes a sigh of relief that they’re not part of that couple. Behold the power of schadenfreude TV.

p. Except that I kind of feel that I have found a second family and it makes me think I’m on my way to reality television.

p. No, I’m not talking about big/little sorority family stuff or that naive freshman BFF pact. I’ve come to a pivotal moment of my life in the liminal space between childhood and adulthood and between parent-guided and self-guided decisions. Decisions that may well only be the result of birth family or chosen family?

p. My mother is now the matriarch, a terrifying thought for her with terrifying repercussions for her children. As the youngest of three daughters and the only remaining unmarried child, I am the only one over whom my mother still has full holiday rule. I am therefore obligated to be at her beck and call for Thanksgiving, Christmas, solstices and Arbor Day.

p. But, like Jennifer Hudson, I’ve told her I’m not going.

p. That boyfriend I’m constantly writing about, well I guess he’s (among a very select few) my new family and I’m spending Thanksgiving with him this year. I already feel the seeds of guilt growing. I am abandoning my parents to celebrate a holiday with a significant other. This is Savino family blasphemy.

p. I thought I could blame my absence on distance. It’s an inconvenient trip to cold New York. Oh Mom, I have so much work due afterward, it would just make more sense academically to stay in the area.

p. She’s quick, that Emily Savino. My parents are coming down to Washington, D.C. to stay with my sister who lives there. My excuses go out the window, and now there are reservations and hotel rooms thrown into the mix. I hold my ground.

p. This is the e-mail I received from my D.C. sister: “Good Luck. Mom wouldn’t let me skip a holiday until after I married Leo.”
But now, it’s confirmed. I’m off the hook. I’ve chosen my Thanksgiving family and it feels weird. It feels heavy. I’m thrilled to have all of that time with my boyfriend, but I can’t help but feel awful that I get joy out of not seeing my parents.

p. The thing about holidays is that they’re a lot of pressure, at least in my household. There’s the eating everything while miraculously being thin, the forced conversation that on any other day of the year would be comfortable. There’s a certain level of judgment between the sisters, what’s our ranking this year? (To which I say, for the past few years or so I’ve been a solid second place.)

p. Last year, I was in Rome for the fall and became really depressed and then really full and then really drunk on Thanksgiving. I missed the comfort of my mother, the gossip from my sisters, the cousins and aunts and uncles in various states of food-coma around the house. And then, suddenly, this year I’m over it.
Like everything new this year, I chalk it up to being a senior.

p. Suddenly everything works toward or against independence. This step away from the home is just one of many that will have to happen before I create my new life. I’ve already made a firm decision not to move in with my parents (for more than six months) after graduation because I think it would stunt my emotional growth.

p. And as scared as I am to create an entirely independent life, it’s nice to think I could be successful. The most comforting part is knowing that I will always have a little piece of crazy to return to if I need it. Although, I’d rather not.

p. __Charlotte Savino is a Confusion Corner columnist. She’s spending the winter solstice with Jennifer Hudson.__

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