A Partial Answer to "Why 'Maiden Aunt'?"

This past week I had one of those unpleasant experiences whose sting lingered a bit until I could put it in its place. The place, I found, was the Louisa May Alcott quote on this blog.

As I mentioned briefly in my prior post, my brother tried to rescind a dinner invitation not even two hours before the appointed time I was to arrive. Basically, he said he wanted to check if I was O.K. because he'd heard from his wife (who had made the phone call to invite me to dinner the day before) that I had a cold.

Maybe it was "pregnesia" as mom-to-be WordGirl terms it, but somehow my SIL had managed to change my response of "Perfect timing, because I had a cold all week and I'm finally feeling much better; I'd love to come!" into "I have a cold." (Of course, I find it odd that if she did think I had a cold, she didn't say immediately, Oh, that's too bad and we'll have to reschedule. And instead waited 24 hours and had my brother "handle it." But she tends to behave passive-aggressively anyway.)

So already I was stopped in my tracks that here I was on the phone with the threat of being dis-invited hurtling at me. As I'm baking cookies to bring for dessert. But what really floored me were the next words out of his mouth: "Because, you know, we wouldn't want the kids to get sick."

Sonofagun. My first reaction was, You think I don't have the courtesy to turn down an invitation when I'm sick. And I'm glad that's how I played it, because I would've been more upset had I dug deeper at that moment. I replied firmly but coolly, "No, I'm pretty sure I said I was getting over a cold and I was glad I could make it because I'm feeling much better." I went to dinner and everything was fine. I didn't sneeze all over anybody. Hell, I didn't even blow my nose or cough once.

Still, the next day, I didn't feel good about what he'd said to me. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't just "shake it off" and let it go. And then it finally hit me. The kids. The way he'd said it so authoritatively--as if I, as a single, unmarried, non-parent, could not possibly know how devastating it would be to have sick children and/or a sick pregnant spouse.

Well, I can't say it to him, because too much time has passed, and any way I approach it will present me as the "baddie." It will harm our relationship which, tenuous as it is, probably is the best it's ever been (and probably ever will be). But how dare you, Brother. How dare you assume that just because I'm not married, just because I don't have children, I need to be told what to do in order to protect your family. I've got news for you, Brother: your family isn't special. I know it's the most precious thing in the world to you (finally, you lunkhead), and you want to protect it, but that does not give you the right to view everyone outside of it--including your own sister whom you've known for 32 years--as a threat. Not being married and/or a parent does not imply that I'm ignorant and/or irresponsible when it comes to these things. (Having gotten married a year ago does not erase the fact that you had two kids out of wedlock within 15 months of each other, BTW, so just don't even try the irresponsible/ignorant approach.)

The bottom line is that no matter who invited me to whatever event, I would have enough sense to know whether or not I'm well enough to attend, and I never would knowingly share cold germs. To anyone. Never mind the fact that I love my niece and nephews to death and I definitely would be heartbroken if I made them sick. Never mind the fact that I've been babysitting and caring for children since I was twelve. I spend more time trying not to harm people, not to offend them--usually to the point of going overboard--and all that happens is that I'm looked down on because I'm not married and I don't have children.

So there's the connection to the quote. I have a warm, motherly heart, but people's prejudice doesn't let them see past the bare ring finger on my left hand. It hurts.

The hurt is doubled when it comes from inside my own family.

I don't know if there's anything I can do to change anyone's attitude, but I figure blogging about it at the very least might afford me some peace of heart, if not help me arrive at some answers.


Nina said…
Oh man, I know how you feel. Even though my brother and his wife trust me with their son, there is a germ-o-phobia situation in their house that is sometimes hard to deal with. I don't go over there sick, but I know I have been 'inspected' several times for suspicious nasal activity or muffled sneezing. I understand, but gosh, they have to know I'd smack my own self upside the head before I caused harm to them or their son. Bah.
Kate P said…
Inspected? Well, they haven't gone that far yet but it's coming. New baby arrives in March.

It just cracks me up b/c not more than a month ago, I put the youngest two to bed and I swear every freaking surface in their room was. . . sticky. And I knew what it was--they don't supervise the kids and my niece broke into the fridge and brought eggs into the room. That's right, RAW EGGS. Nice clean-up job, you sanctimonious health dictators. It's more likely I'll catch something from them first.
WordGirl said…
Start wearing a hazmat suit at their house? Assume that people in general are just asses and let it go? Rant when someone offends you?

I vote for #3. I used to take that crap. No no more, hoss. Things get cleared up tut suite in WG's world. Politely and firmly. It saves me time. And my sanity.
Kate P said…
Y'know, WG, you guessed very accurately that I have been taking crap, from a number of people, for 2/3 of my life. The thing is, when said asses are also clueless and prefer to do as they please, #3 handles the situation in the moment, but it doesn't clear up a darn thing for the long term. And considering the fact that in the past they have used their own children as pawns in their passive-aggressive games (Don't tell us you disagree with our dysfunction, Don't object to our ways, Don't speak up if you see us doing the wrong thing, etc.), I just can't bring myself to risk never seeing the kids again.

I guess that's where the Serenity Prayer comes in. There are some people for whom it's just unreasonable to expect they're going to treat me the way I deserve. But who knows--maybe someday I'll be pleasantly surprised.
WordGirl said…
Oh, I agree. I had to do the same thing with my sister. And now I don't see her kids anymore. I don't like that. But her demands on my life were making things, shall we say "unmanageable" for me. I never said anything about her disfunction until she started making false accusations about me and my husband. And then it was on. (I know you read my letter to her on the site.) I had to accept that her kids weren't my kids and that she controlled my access to them, like it or not. I miss them. But dealing with her got to be too traumatic, so... I had to leave them in God's hands. He'll do a better job anyway.

And I accept that she and my Mom are never going to change. I might get an apology from them, I might even get a temporary behavioral change from them, but I know they'll never "get it". But just because they'll never get it doesn't mean I have to compromise what I need for my sanity as well as what I am called to do as a Christian. Even though it might not make a dent, I still have to try. It might not change them, but it changes me.

And you're right, the Serenity Prayer is popular for a reason. It's hard to know where that line is most of the time.

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