Always Second Best (AKA Always the Bridesmaid and Never the Bride)

imagesI can remember being second for as long as I can remember; I was born second in my family, for starters.  There was never a chance for me to be “the favorite” anything to anybody; there was nothing special about me, so I spent my life wanting to be “the first” or the favorite of somebody.

Many times in my life, there has been somebody who was number one to me; that special person who was a favorite aunt or uncle, or the one I would think of before anybody else.   Each time I was married, the husband du jour was number one in my life; I tried to make certain he knew he was more important than anybody else was.

Conversely, my husbands have not responded in kind; they have been narcissistic, and more concerned the children knew they were loved than preserving a relationship with me.  I actually had the conversation about my desire to come first in our marriage with my last husband; he found me to be selfish and immature.  So goes my last divorce.

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I have been spending the holidays with my uncle; I suppose I always thought of him as my “second favorite” uncle; but I have never said it aloud.  My other favorite uncle is one whom I have not spent much time with since I was very young; I have simply held those memories fondly.

The other night I overheard him on the phone talking to a friend; he was explaining my visit and he described me as being his “second favorite niece”.  He said it without one hint of irony or hesitation; juts flatly stated the truth.  Second.  I was stunned.

I have no idea who number one is; however, I suppose it does not matter.  He is only second to me as well, why should I expect to be any higher on his list of favorites.

The realization that I was once again second left me feeling cold; I would have almost felt better if I had missed the mark by six or seven.  I obsessed over which cousin is better than me enough to be the favorite, and why.  Is she less talkative?  Smarter?  Does she play a better game of Scrabble?  Live closer?  Visit more often?

Finally, I have resigned myself to being second place, the runner-up.  I imagine when the time is right; I will be the favorite to someone…

When I enter the world of the three-dimensional people and Technicolor…

Family Ties

imagesSo this is Christmas, I thought to myself, looking around the room at cousins I had not connected with for almost three decades.  I wasn’t certain what to expect when I invited myself to spend a few weeks with my uncle and he suggested we visit another uncle and my cousins for Christmas Day.

While I have always felt like an outsider in my family because they thought I felt I was too good for them, or better than them, when I really just wanted to escape; my mom has always felt as if she was the outcast in her family.  Her three brothers were all professionals who went to college, purchased homes, and traveled the world; conversely, my parents didn’t finish high school, moved their family around not very close to our cousins, and I did not see them after I was 10 except the rare business trip when my oldest cousin would breeze through town; twice maybe.

Growing up, I heard about my cousin’s adventures; one traveled to Australia to play soccer and got to go watch the Olympics with his dad; one studied for a year abroad in Spain; they all spent summers taking swimming lessons and going to camp; all three of the girls had big, beautiful weddings with white flowing wedding dresses, pictures on the beach, their blonde tresses flowing in the wind; there were trips to foreign countries, too numerous to name; ski vacations with their friends to the family cabin in the mountains; they were everything our family was not.

As adults, I had heard their lives were just as spectacular; much different than the disaster mine had been.  Each one was successful, happy; the girls married lawyers and other professionals; one of the boys married a very successful executive for a major network and owns a house overlooking Sea world; they own houses, have blonde haired blue-eyed children who adore them; they have loving spouses; and, they love their parents and are an intact family unit.

Needless to say, I was somewhat intimidated to visit for the holiday, even if it was only one day.  I had not seen them in years, but they all knew what my life had been like, up to and including all of the latest family drama.

Having already spent Christmas Eve with my uncle catching up and making the traditional secret family bread; we headed up the mountain early Christmas morning to visit my other uncle and my cousins.  Everybody would be there except two of my cousins, one of the twins, and the younger girl; however, the cousin I had been closest to when we had been young was going to be there along with her husband and kids.

When we walked in the door, I was overwhelmed by the warm hugs and welcomes; I was introduced to the spouse and girlfriend of my cousin K and M respectively, and reintroduced to my cousin B’s wife A whom I had met in 2001.  I barely recognized my cousins, but they warmed me and graciously invited me into their parent’s home.

There were children running all over the place opening gifts, screaming, playing, and taunting each other; it was after all, Christmas morning.  I went into the kitchen and greeted my uncle B while he was making a big breakfast for everyone; then turned around and saw my aunt P.  It was a crazy and fun madhouse.

As everyone settled in, my cousin’s K and B and Aunt P stood in the kitchen drinking mimosas cooking and catching up; they wanted to hear some stories about my life both as a child and as an adult.  I told them story after story; they were not surprised, they were somewhat saddened, though.  While my aunt knew we had a difficult life growing up, some of the stories were beyond what she saw as an outsider.

Later, my cousin K and I sat and talked for hours; she listened as I told her my woeful tale of feeling disconnected and flat, of not being able to love.  She looked at me with tears in her eyes; she stood up and hugged me, warning me to tread lightly with my relationship so I don’t end up alone.  We talked about how many times I had been in the area and had never seen or called anybody in the family for the past 20 years; she implored me not to continue the behavior.

K stood up and hugged me and I let her.

I felt incredibly warm and accepted by them, although I missed my family; my girls, my mother, sisters and brother.  The day was good, and by the time I left, I was no longer intimidated by them; they were truly no different from me.  We all embraced and said goodbye, I promised to keep in touch.

Before I left, I went to the restroom; my cousin’s 4 year-old boy was on the stairs, I asked how his Christmas was, he eyed me suspiciously and said, “I don’t like you.”  So it goes, so it goes.