Baby Michelle Was Melodramatic

It’s Poetry Tuesday! We are going to go back through all my old notebooks and look at the god-awful poetry I wrote when I was an angsty teen and then you will get present day Michelle’s re-interpretation/headdesk horror-filled embarrassment.

Family

They’re the ones you look to when you’re lost,
The ones who’ll hold you close when you’re scared,
No questions asked they’ll help you in a pinch,
Well maybe if their skins aren’t on the line,
You look similar and act even more similar,
Comfort you when your heart has been broken,
Then ask if you want the guy dead,
Everybody knows your thoughts before you say them,
Most likely cause they want the same dude dead,
They’re there to threaten your very first boyfriend,
Now look here, I want her home at this time.
Not a moment later or your carcass will be nailed to my door.
They give you advice, help and counseling,
This is how you threaten someone without threatening them….
They teach the most important things you’ll ever learn,
Never snort red pepper!
Hugs, kisses, noogies, wedgies and the always memorable cheek pinching,
You can’t escape ‘em,
They’re your family!


I probably wrote this for a school project, which means that I think this was Middle School Era, which means I had never dated anyone so I had actually no experience when writing these lines. It’s interesting to look back on this poem so many years later and how family and my view of my childhood have changed over time. This is obviously a very idealized view of family because it was during a point in my life when my family was pretty much all I had and where most of the dirty laundry had not come out, or at least I wasn’t aware of it.

I have found that as I get older my view and understanding of my family is continually shifting and changing, as well it should. I am not the same person I was at five, thirteen, eighteen, twenty-two, or twenty-five as I am now. My needs and personality have evolved and if I don’t upgrade my relationship with my family, something will give or break, and I don’t want that to happen. I know that this is all very vague and weird, so let me get back to the poem.

They’re the ones you look to when you’re lost,
The ones who’ll hold you close when you’re scared,
No questions asked they’ll help you in a pinch,
Well maybe if their skins aren’t on the line

This is something that has definitely changed, yes, I still turn to my family when I need advice and help, but I am working hard to learn how to stand on my own two feet. To turn to myself when I am lost and scared, and to trust myself. When I was younger, it was perfectly natural to want to lean on my parents and sister, but now I am an adult and they have their own lives. I can’t run to them about every little thing, not only is it unfair to them, it also creates a dependent relationship where we will never be on equal ground. They will always be up on a pedestal as a protector and fixer, so when they fail I will feel betrayed, hurt, and disappointed. I am a little surprised by that very cynical last line, I am sure that it was in reference to sibling shenanigans, but from this light, it’s really harsh and a little unsettling.

You look similar and act even more similar,
Comfort you when your heart has been broken,
Then ask if you want the guy dead,
Everybody knows your thoughts before you say them,
Most likely cause they want the same dude dead,
They’re there to threaten your very first boyfriend,
Now look here, I want her home at this time.
Not a moment later or your carcass will be nailed to my door.

I think the older I get, the more the tension in the word family comes out. There is your blood family. The ones who are supposed to have your back no matter what. This idea is reinforced over and over again by society and media. We cut ourselves up into our little nuclear families – those are the ones you are supposed to die for, do anything for, protect and cherish and nurture, and exist for. Then you have your extended family, which you are supposed to love and protect, but they are more easily cast off if they do something bad or wrong. Next is your friends who are often portrayed as interchangeable and unimportant. Your friends are important and you should stand up for them, but not over your family. Finally you have the rest of the world, which can be parsed out into more nuanced layers, but they are unimportant in the face of nuclear family.

This is what is shoved in our faces constantly, but what about when  one or both of your parents are abusers? Are you still supposed to love and protect and die for them? I think a lot of you will instinctively say “Oh no! Get away!” but then when they get older and need help, this narrative starts up that is “reconcile with them, you’ll feel better, you should take care of them, they took care of you!” But what if they took really shitty care of you? What if they fucked you up so bad and being around them fucks you up now? I stumbled across this article and it really made me wonder about this.

There’s also this notion of “chosen family.” Your friends, the people you surround yourself with. These are the people who live near you, who will probably be the ones to take you to the hospital, who are there to hold you when you are a mess, and to give advice in the moment.

I think it’s also interesting that my conception of family and what families do for each other in this section of the poem are all about death. Killing and death are mentioned three times. Why do we have this idea that real love (family, friendship, intimate partner) means that the other person should be prepared to kill for you or at least talk like they would kill to protect you or make you feel better. I have come a long way from this perspective. If you love me, if you want to protect me, you will live for me. You will survive and fight to be with me for as long as you can. Death and killing are not the kind of love I want to have in my life.

They give you advice, help and counseling,
This is how you threaten someone without threatening them….
They teach the most important things you’ll ever learn,
Never snort red pepper!
Hugs, kisses, noogies, wedgies and the always memorable cheek pinching,
You can’t escape ‘em,
They’re your family!

Again with the threatening! When I was in Middle School and High School I was a little obsessed with being able to intimidate people and make them think I was scary and tough. It probably stems from being one of the people who was picked on. I hesitate to say I was bullied, but I was definitely not left unscathed by the assholes of my schools.

Overall, an interesting poem, there are some memories in there, but as you can probably tell, I am at a point in my life where I am deeply questioning family. You can’t get to 27 years of age and not have seen enough fucked up families to make you tip your head and wonder. What kind of family will I make for myself and my future children?

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