The Family Shame
Last week, at metaphorical gunpoint, I was forced to attend a rare gathering of the collection of what family I have left, plus assorted others, which makes it sound like a the plot of a Hammer Horror film. And to go along with that theme it gave an airing to, and a trip out for, the family shame.
As expected this coming together led to the dreaded, but inevitable, question from relations asking me: “What is it that you actually do?” If you haven’t worked out yet, as a so-called writer who’s still making no money: I am the family shame.
I was forced to explain what my “work” was about to one of my aunties and ended up mostly impressing myself thinking that I actually made it sound quite good and a worthwhile social document. Which is odd as earlier I described my life to the other auntie as “still not contributing anything worthwhile to society”.
The event took place in a local restaurant off the motorway which calls itself a “farm” but turned out to be in the middle of a concrete industrial estate using the slogan “more than just a restaurant”. Whilst I was reading the menu with the usual vegetarian dread I heard my mother describing the Carvery to someone, with it’s gammon-turkey-lamb-beef combo, and I started getting flashbacks to pensioner couple two years ago in Costa Coffee who’d taken it upon themselves to sell (to me, a random stranger, fifty years their junior) the notion of their favourite carvery… in which I suddenly realised I was now sat.
Paraphrasing the old gimmer’s pearls of wisdom he said to me: “It’d be a good place to go if I wanted to impress a girl”. So how could I not immediately get up out of my chair and go along to have a look at this Carvery of such wonder? I didn’t even impress myself. And then I discovered that the vegeburgers on the menu weren’t even vegetarian. I started believing the place to be “less than just a restaurant”.
I was attending under duress – shame being the enemy of public gatherings – and it was only whilst there that I discovered that the whole event was in aid of my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. It was literally news to me. Why am I always the last to know?
Throughout the meal much was considered about the previous clan gathering, in what had to have been my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary ten years earlier, where I met my now sister-in-law for the first time. That, for me, was also the time of American girl No. 01 in Bangor – ten whole years ago – and so I thought that if my brother was going to bring a girl then I would be avant-garde and bring one along too. It turned out, when I asked her, that it sounded less like a normal gesture of inclusively and more like a plea to “come home and meet my mother”. Didn’t end well. Didn’t end well at all.
So, using American girl No. 01 as an anchor, I can now consider everything I’ve done and everything I’ve achieved in the past decade… It makes me wonder how I have the gumption to ever leave the house at all. Me, the family shame.
I think I desperately need a girlfriend in time for the fiftieth wedding anniversary in November 2022… And a wife… And kids… And a paying job… I think I’d better make a list.