I’m fairly indifferent to birthdays (my own, I mean), but one thing got under my skin a week ago. The only expectation I really have once a year, assuming there’s a family gathering, is having some kind of say in what the dinner is. That’s it. I don’t need gifts, I don’t need balloons (I actually fucking hate balloons)… none of that shit. Just… let me pick what we eat. So this past birthday I didn’t really speak up with a preference but my mother said that they planned to make london broil (that’s a steak, for those unfamiliar). It wasn’t my first choice, but it was good enough to quell my hankering for spaghetti and meatballs.
(I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written the word hankering).
A couple days before my birthday my mother tells me they changed plans and now it was going to be grilled chicken. There was a time when I’d pipe up and say “Oh, well… I was kind of looking forward to the steak idea.” Which, really, would have been a perfectly appropriate comment. But no. Instead I only expressed my curiosity, as opposed to complaining, and asked “Why?” My mother explained that my sister’s husband, Josh, had his birthday five days after mine and HE wanted london broil. Now, I don’t want to sound like a whiny little bitch, but… come on. They’d already kicked me off the family share plan with Verizon so they could open a slot up for Josh and that was a little insulting. But now this dude is taking away my birthday dinner too? Goddammit.
It didn’t help that I’ve always disliked the guy. He’s a pimply faced and overweight asthmatic and has one of the dullest personalities to top it off. He was my sister’s first and only boyfriend and he’s contributed to her unhealthy diet since they met. I have 36 cousins in my family and my sister is the only one that’s notably overweight so it’s certainly not due to genetics. He once uttered the words, “Butter makes everything better.” Sigh. I’ll never forget that. It should be on his tombstone.
But still, despite my displeasure at playing second-fiddle to the guy on my own birthday… I held my tongue. Look at me, all grown up.
So we have the chicken dinner and I see that the sides are pasta salad and baked beans. They happen to both be foods that I hate. The dressing my mother uses on her pasta salad has made me nauseous for years whenever I gave it a shot and when I was younger I wasn’t shy about advertising that disgust. And she hadn’t forgotten yet still made it anyway. How do I know for sure? Because my mother slipped up and said “Oh, try the pasta salad, David… you might like it this time!” No thanks. As for the baked beans… well, maybe there’s some excusable wiggle room. But I had never touched them in my life so you’d think after 28 years that would have been noticed. Full disclosure, I did eat them in prison but… hey, in prison it’s eat the shit served or starve. So for my birthday I had chicken (dry, I might add) and bread. Mm. Happy Birthday, David!
Then it was time for cake. This was also amusing, because at least a week beforehand I had talked to my mother about a healthier substitute, like a pecan-apple pie thingy that my Grandma had made recently which used very little sugar or butter. When she served it after dinner one night, she had told us all that it was the easiest dessert to make because it took about five minutes to throw the ingredients together. So I thought, hey, I don’t want to make any big fancy request for a cake, but I want something healthy and ideally easy to bake so it isn’t a burden. This pecan-apple thing seems like a win-win. I mentioned this idea to my mother and also brought up how dairy products hadn’t been sitting well with my stomach since I’d been released from prison. So when the cake was served, it was…
…wait for it…
ICE CREAM CAKE!!! The one cake that couldn’t be more loaded with fats and dairy! ZING!! In fact, I even told my cousin Ben, “Watch it be ice cream cake.”
The great irony is that for many years I had requested ice cream cake for my birthday and never got it. I recall fondly when my roommate in Albany back in 2008 bought me one for my birthday and I’d been sincerely appreciative of the thoughtful gesture. So it was ironic that the one time I ask for a healthy, non-dairy alternative… I get what I’d asked for years ago.
But I wasn’t an asshole about it, of course. I even had a big piece of it despite the stomach ache I knew would follow. Well, okay, I didn’t volunteer for a big piece… that was kind of forced on me when it was served. I could have very easily said, “No thanks, I told you before that I can’t stomach dairy”. But I didn’t want anyone to feel bad that the “birthday boy” didn’t eat a piece of his fucking cake so I appeased the masses. The whole evening I stuck to saying “thank you” and smiling. Did I enjoy the dinner? No. Did I enjoy the cake? No. But hey, why ruin it for everyone else? Granted, it was my goddamn birthday and I’d have been justified in saying something… but no. No no, I held my tongue.
So a few days pass and it’s Tubby McTubbs birthday. Now, my (shudder) brother-in-law isn’t a fan of me anymore than I am of him, so I thought he’d actually appreciate it if I didn’t attend his dinner. I’d be missing out on the london broil I’d looked forward to, but eh. One less mouth to feed, one less “unenthusiastic” guest to take up space… I thought I’d be doing him a favor. No, my motive was not purely selfless but I did sacrifice steak so it wasn’t entirely selfish either. I went to a friend’s place to hang out instead and then jogged about 7 miles back home. Win-win.
This was last night.
TONIGHT, I sit down for dinner with my folks on the outside patio and oh would’t you know it they bring up my absence from Tubby’s birthday dinner. Which, comes to find out, it was a VERY good thing that I’d missed.
My cousin’s boyfriend, Jared, had been in attendance. Why was that a problem? Because Jared had seen my “Prison Accountability Reform” petition and went out of his way to write on my wall that he supported the abuse of prison inmates because “scumbags deserve it”. Now, he knew I’d been in prison, that I had been abused by a Corrections Officer, and that it was all still very fresh. If he wanted to be apathetic and not support the petition, that would be fine (albeit disappointing, but fine). But to go out of his way and plaster his wrong-headed support for the continued inhumane mistreatment of the incarcerated? Way out of line. I attempted to have a civil dialogue via private messaging on Facebook but alas, he could not listen to reason. He continued to double-down on his insensitivity and got under my skin. I wrote his girlfriend (my cousin) as a courtesy to let her know the situation and to make arrangements that would prevent an escalated conflict. Fuck it, here’s exactly what I wrote her:
Hey cuz, do me a favor and give me a heads-up whenever Jared is expected to be at a family event. I’d like to either abstain from being around him or at least keep my distance because if I see him again and he’s within reach, I just might violate my parole.
(In the off chance he hasn’t shared, he wrote to me declaring his passivity to unprovoked prison abuses because inmates deserve it for breaking the law, regardless of what their crime was. I for one am shocked at his lack of humanity and empathy for his fellow man and am disgusted to the point that I am seeing red. He thinks its okay for cops to beat their captives?? Is this guy real??)
Not mad at you at all, Jack. Just him. And figured it would be wise to keep you apprised of the situation.
Well, Jackie took it as me threatening to beat up her boyfriend. Which is rather absurd. Yes, I expressed an urge to harm the guy… but I never said I wanted to nor that I would. I was simply informing her how upset I was and that I wanted to AVOID him to PREVENT a fight. AVOID. PREVENT. Key words.
Anyway, Jared then replied with further outrage over the misunderstanding. I clarified my actual intention, to avoid a fight rather than start one, but he decided to take things further. He made it personal and suddenly unloaded his deep-hatred for me, which was stunning because I barely had ever talked to the guy. I could count the number of conversations we’d shared over the past two or three years on one hand, none of which even took place in the past 12+ months. Yet he came out with the following:
Here’s the bottom line. I do not like you. I have never liked you. Here’s something else you can bank on. I do not care what anybody thinks of me. You can sit and play games with your family all you want but I promise you this. I am not a member of your family. Step up to the plate with me and I’ll show you the kind of person that I am. I would love for you to give me the opportunity to show you that. I would love for you to prove that you aren’t an adolescent child and you have the balls to back your big mouth.
You better believe I’ve harbored my resentment towards you for years for a long list of reasons.
You are a piece of shit not worthy of the gifts this life has given you. You have this sense of entitlement that you deserve more than you’ve been given. You abuse and hurt everyone around you that you can take advantage of. I hate people like you. I’ve had to watch this.
I don’t care if you believe me or not, I’m not the guy to call cops on you for breaking parole. Much rather break you myself. I’ll be seeing you.
Yeah, so… that happened. I asked him to explain himself on ANY of his bullet points but he refused to elaborate.
He seemed convinced that I’ve had life handed to me on a silver platter and I informed him that I had a father that beat me when I was younger and a mother that is rather bigoted and that the two of them had kicked me out of their home shortly after I had graduated college, unemployed, with only a shitty van and fifty bucks to my name. I never had the “support” he thought I did, nor did I have everything simply given to me. Hell, I was on the verge of homelessness back in early 2008 and when I finally sucked it up and called my parents and asked to move back home temporarily… they said no. I told them I was likely going to end up on the streets if they didn’t allow me to come back and they still said no. Fortunately I literally had just enough cash to make my rent that month, though I had to resort to eating bread and butter for dinner to do so. But I sacrificed, I took risks, and I pulled through by the skin of my teeth… fast forward three years and I had over $20,000 saved up (invested or in the bank), was driving a Toyota Prius, and was teaching troubled youth full-time for the local school district. Goddammit, when am I ever going to get credit for a single accomplishment?! I’ve had artwork and poetry published, did a book-signing, earned a black belt and a bachelor’s degree, I’ve maintained successful independence for years, I just completed the most difficult fucking boot-camp prison program in the goddamn world…
GUH!! Okay, David, breathe. Breathe. Relax, people appreciate you. They do. But some don’t and they happen to be your family. It happens. Breathe…. good. Much better. Carry on.
When I sat down with my parents for dinner tonight, I mentioned how it was a good thing I had missed Tubby’s birthday dinner because Jared ended up being there and the tension wouldn’t have aided the jovial atmosphere. No, I didn’t actually phrase it as “jovial atmosphere” but I said something to that effect. Immediately my mother jumped to Jared’s defense. “Well, you cannot expect everyone to share your opinions, David!” As if that was ever the point? The point was that Jared said a lot of nasty shit. His inhumanity, while not forgotten, was secondary to that. Their immediate defense of this asshole instead of their son… a common pattern of theirs… was infuriating. And it was then that I let it slip that I was sure “the birthday dinner I was supposed to have” was better without me anyway.
I knew immediately that my parents would derail the conversation and focus on that little comment. It was a mistake for me to say it. My father’s brilliant defense was, “David, haven’t I been buying you groceries that you like??” I told him I appreciated that, but that it had nothing to do with what we were talking about. (Sigh). My mother added, “Oh, honey, you’ve actually been holding on to that? Unbelievable!” Is it? Is it actually that unbelievable? I tried to defuse things by adding, “It bothered me, but yeah it’s fine. It’s done.” She kept whining about it so I added, “In the future I’ll make a point not to express myself at all just to be safe. There. Easy solution. I should have known better.” Sensing that wasn’t even remotely working and I didn’t want an escalated argument to develop, I opted to leave the table and went to my room. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Right?
For some odd reason, my mother starts yelling at me because the brownies she had baking in the oven had finished and I should have told her that the timer had gone off (she and my dad were still on the patio finishing dinner and didn’t hear it). I told her I didn’t even know she was baking brownies and she shouts, “You couldn’t smell them?!” Sigh. One of her moods. Of course I smelled something but I didn’t know they were done. What, is it my job to be her clock? If you’re going to bake, keep track of the fucking time! But I didn’t say any of that, of course. I simply shut my door in an attempt to take the high road and just keep my yap shut.
Annnnnnd then BOTH my parents barged in. So much for privacy.
They started making broad rants about how I’ve “shown no progress” in life and how I’m a detriment to the household. Note that they didn’t use the word “detriment”, as that’s too large a word to exist in their vocabulary. This brief dialogue between my father and I was entertaining and really highlights the stupidity of the conversation:
“You’ve shown no progress, David!! None!”
“Okay, so what would constitute “showing progress?””
“By moving forward, David!!”
“You just said the definition of progress.”
“David, you need to show progress in your life!!”
“You’ve literally said the same thing three times.”
He then stared at me blankly, then proceeded to threaten to kick me out of the house. Heh. Whenever he can’t keep up with a conversation he resorts to shouting an extreme threat of some sort and walks away as if he’s somehow just achieved a victory. I wonder if he’s even aware of it…
Then my mother bursts out with the revelation that Jared had shared with her and my father about my reference to them as “bigoted” and “abusive”. Way to double-down on being an asshole, Jared!! Talk about a cheap goddamn shot, right? I mean, why even bring that up to them? And why the hell would he do that at Tubby McTubb’s birthday dinner?? It’s a good goddamn thing I didn’t attend because that would have been one hell of a disaster! Talk about having good foresight on my part. Funny… at dinner tonight my father also mentioned that Jared would have “apologized” if I had showed up at Tubby’s dinner. Yet here’s what Jared wrote to me AFTER that dinner:
Here’s the deal. I was going to make this crystal clear in person but you are not here.
I have a developed a serious disliking for you as you have me. That is fine I can coexist. However, you crossed the line. If you disrespect my relationship with Jackie ever again we will have issues. And just to be perfectly clear, “if he is within reach I may break my parole.” This is an unacceptable event that I will not tolerate again. Same thing goes for my brother if you ever meet. Do not disrespect my girl, relationship, or brother. Hate me all you want, do not cross those lines and we’ll get along just fine.
That is all. Enjoy your life.
What the fuck is even talking about? Why does he continue to falsely insist that I threatened him? When did I disrespect his relationship? Why is he bringing up his brother? And where is that “apology” my father referred to? He defended this Jared prick as having apologetic intentions but… clearly that was baseless. And who is Jared to take the tone of “here’s how it’s gonna be” when he’s like, six years younger? Who IS this guy??
In summary… I hate it when dumb fucks say dumb fucking things to other dumb fucks, creating angry dumb fucks that go on to make dumb fucking problems for the non-dumb fucks.
Annnnnnd that’s when I started writing this borderline novella. It’s eased my frustrations and I welcome any comments on this week’s plethora of petty bullshit.
I should probably devote a blog just for venting but… meh. I’d probably just end up making a second blog to vent about the aggravations of keeping up with a blog devoted to venting. So fuck it.