The Guilt Trip
If you spend any time on social media at all you’ve seen it by now, probably multiple times. I mean, it’s certainly not new in our generation to the rise of places like Facebook, it’s a pretty old trope that probably goes back centuries. You know the one I mean. The one that, however nicely the language is phrased, amounts to “if you don’t go see your parents at the holidays you are an ungrateful ass who doesn’t appreciate all the did for you.”
Like so very many other common tropes in our culture, it’s a manipulative bit of horsepucky designed to play to and play on the emotions without having any real context or rational thinking get in the way. That’s not to say that it isn’t a valid general principle for living that one ought be grateful for the things done for you in your youth, and express that gratitude in ways that include, when possible your physical presence and attention. It’s a perfectly fine concept, as a general principle.
Where it falls apart, as with so many of our favorite cliches, is when you think about it. When you think about specific contexts. Suppose, for example, your drug-addict mother abandoned you and you were raised by her mother or her sister. Who, then, should be the object of your attention? Suppose you spent that childhood instead bouncing from foster home to foster home and none of them acting much like real parents. Probably there are a thousand different examples. But there’s one thing, one bit of hypocrisy that’s really on my mind as I write this.
All across this country, indeed the world, people will be alone this week, or with chosen family, because the family they were born into sent them away. Turned their backs and rejected them at the most basic level. Declared themselves ashamed to be associated with their own child, grandchild, sibling, or parent. Not because that family member is a predator or a thief or whatever other criminal act one might object to. No, but rather because they are lesbian, or gay, or trans. These people through no fault of their own go years, decades, the rest of their life even sometimes, because those who would style themselves “loved ones” had rather defend their own pride and place as to show some compassion and kindness to their own child.
I’ve written before about such people, I don’t think I could add much more on that subject. My ire is provoked tonight not by the simple, regrettable, reality that such people exist. No, rather, it’s that among them have the shameless gall to reject their child at their most fundamental identity, to put their own prejudices and politics on a higher plane than listening to and understanding and accepting their “loved one” and THEN parade out into the public square via Facebook or whatever and scold those who do not visit their family during the holidays.
It’s either absolutely shameless selfishness, or utterly blind obtuseness. Whatever other conflicts you may have had with your child (or sibling, whatever) when it is YOU to arrogantly rejects THEM, you DO NOT get to turn around and preach to them in an attempt to provoke guilt so that the one whom you abused will take their hat in their hand and crawl back to you seeking a blessing just because it’s Christmas.
Not only is my hat not in my hand, I do not even own such a hat. I am not angry, or bitter. I am content for the current circumstance to endure as long as we both are alive if that is how the world turns. I have other differences to be sure but none of them stand as a barrier to relationship except one. I will NOT be rejected, without even so much as a discussion or a hug or a tear shed, and then be guilt-tripped into coming humbly seeking approval yet again. If I am a disappointment and embarrassment (as I likely have been my entire life) then so be it…but what I am NOT, at all, is feeling guilty about it. I urge you, my friends, if you are among those so rejected, do NOT let such an attitude cause you guilt or shame and ruin whatever joy you might otherwise find this time of year. They do not deserve that power over you and your life. It is they who should feel shame over the current circumstance and you do not owe them your presence just because they raised you. Their obligation to love and support did not end when you reached 18 and it sure as hell didn’t end when you came out.
Throw that hat away.
Photo by: Quinn Dombrowski