My relative stops in after work. I finish the dishes and we listen to the news before heading out for a bite to eat. Conversation flows as we share pizza, but he manages to rarely look at me – a habit he’s had ever since I’ve known him – instead watching a flickering television screen conveniently located somewhere in the distance behind me. I imagine staff and patrons guessing my relationship to the man I’m out with. Our body language is telling for those who know how to read it – familiar yet distant.
It is insanely warm. I am close to two heaters that are so hot my skin is on fire. There’s nowhere else to sit. I peel off my jumper. A man sitting across the room from me stares at my cleavage, giving me a brazen look when I catch him out. In those few seconds something in my returned gaze tells him I am not interested. It strikes me as ridiculous for my close family member to not be able to look me in the eyes, yet an unknown man and in fact strangers all around me are doing just that. Eyes and faces reveal so much and it bothers me that he won’t look directly at me, that he misses so much of who I am, and that he won’t show me his own self. He’s also just missed the opportunity to be protective of me. I am well aware that he is also bothered by many of my lifestyle choices and that we have an unspoken agreement to try to accept each other’s differences.
We talk easily enough until his wine is drunk and suddenly his voice is so much louder, louder than everyone else. Those around us are catching parts of our conversation. Words like prostitute and divorce and psychologist and breast are being tossed across the table somewhere between me and the TV screen. I am sometimes accused of talking too loudly about trivial/boring things. I am obviously not scandalous enough and won’t ever be while I am so highly self conscious. Close-family-member has no such qualms and I simultaneously admire and admonish his ego.
The whole evening has been strange and right and wrong and very very usual.
Family dynamics, huh!