Monday, January 10, 2011

Biology of the Family Gathering

Every family has their own colors and spectrum of “offbeatness.” For some families, cousin Jerry might be considered “offbeat” because he went to college whereas the rest of the family has always worked on and supports the family ranch. In other families, those members who are pierced and tattooed might be the offbeat coloration. Yet, in other families, the daughter who decides to marry her high school boyfriend in a traditional wedding ceremony with traditional wedding party may be “offbeat” to her counter-culture family.
                In my family, Funk and I are the “offbeat.” We are both tattooed and pierced, we are going to be wed by a gay officiant (Funk’s brother-in-law) in a non-religious, commitment ceremony and we are far more “left” politically than the majority of my family. Even for my set of parents that love my tattoos and celebrate the academic endeavors I jump into (everything from papers on the subversive nature of the bondage community to the inability of patriarchal language to fully describe a same-sex relationship) sometimes get question marks in their eyes when I try to explain why I don’t believe a vagina equals a woman and a penis equals a man.
                What this discussion aims at is questioning familial lines of respect. For example, a friend of mine always covers her tattoos when at a family get-together because she comes from a very traditional Hispanic culture. Another friend doesn’t  believe words like “shit” are cuss words but she keeps her language clean in front of her grandpa. Are these women sacrificing their identity or respecting their families? I don’t know. And this question comes up all of the time with me. Where does my desire to express my individuality cross over into disrespect of my family?
                The most recent example happened yesterday. Funk and I were confirmed Catholic but now have very different views  - Funk doesn’t believe in God but recognizes the power that a God, and other faith-based myths, have over those who believe them and I disagree with too much in the Catholic faith to practice it anymore (and this does NOT mean we don't respect people who do have religious beliefs). Yesterday, we baptized Droidlet in the Catholic church. Was this the easy way out to avoid family troubles? Yes. Was this harmful to Droidlet? No. Was this hypocritical of Funk and I? Most definitely.
                Part of the baptismal ceremony is anointment with oils placed on the head; all over the baby’s head. When Funk’s brother smelled Droidlet afterwards, he said, “Mmmm smells like oppression.”  And I laughed. Hard. In part because it was damn funny;  but also because I agree. Having the ceremony reaffirmed why our wedding is not going to be in a church. We just don’t recognize those beliefs anymore. But it also made me question why I’m so comfortable exerting my beliefs and individuality into events like a non-traditional wedding ceremony – walking down the aisle alone, non-religious based, no first dance – but not in other areas of my life. When does respecting my family become a denial of the person I’m constantly becoming? And how can I teach Droidlet the importance of open dialogue, especially about questioning beliefs and what you “know,” if I don’t actively have that open dialogue?
                What I do know is that I want Droidlet to think through decisions, research, explore, experience and come out the other side with his opinions and beliefs. Funk and I always joke that Droidlet’s “rebellious” stage will be him wanting to wear Abercrombie and Fitch and listen to Justin Bieber. Underneath the joking, we know we never want him valuing something only because it was how he was raised or it’s “tradition” but because it is something he honestly values. And I don’t want him hiding those values and beliefs from us just because we feel differently.


  1. Religion and the pressure that it imposes is the only discomfort that comes to mind when thinking of my relationship with Nate (Should he get a codename too? To be determined!). The two of us are perfectly happy with our beliefs not lining up exactly but there are others, whose opinions matter to me very much, that aren't of the same mindset.

    It's a bit of a balancing act because I'll do everything that I can to show Nate and his family that I am supportive of their faith (maintaining an open mind, going to mass and other religious events, etc.) but at the same time I want to be honest to myself and others about where I stand on things.

    As far as children and faith, my step-mother recently said something that made me see things a different way. I was raised in a Seventh Day Adventist family, attended a Seventh Day Adventist school for nine years, and went to a Seventh Day Adventist church every week for even longer. My step-mom (or "other mother" as she prefers to be called) was raised in a family that is apathetic, for lack of a better term. Previous to my conversation with her, I thought that I had less of an option while growing up as to what faith I practiced. She pointed out to me that not being exposed to a church in the way that I was can be more limiting than having that imposed. She was never given the opportunity to understand faith. And although ultimately I do not identify as SDA, I appreciate the community, morals, and understanding that are the result of my upbringing.

    I understand how baptizing Droidlet feels hypocritical to you, I just want to point out a positive way of looking at the experience. You're introducing him to just one of the many faiths that he can choose to adopt.

    As a side note, I'm glad you started a blog and love reading it already!

  2. I totally agree with you, Kristi. When Funk and I have talked about it, we decided we will still put him in the Catholic Education classes over the summer because 1. it teaches good structure and 2. he's learning about a faith - and the morals and values of kindness and selflessness that we do agree with will be taught. This way, Droidlet won't come home one day asking "What's this whole Jesus thing" or fall for some girl/boy in high school, go to a service with them and become a total orthodox within a religion without thinking about it. We also want him to see the traditions both Funk and I grew up with. We also just want to make sure that he knows it's not the only option and that no one is forcing him to believe anything he wants to question. I'm happy you're enjoying the blog and thanks for your comment!

    ps I think you've been doing a great job supporting the religious side of Nate, especially at family gatherings. I remember you coming to a Christmas Eve mass with us... how crazy does the veneration of the cross seem? *wink wink*