I have friends whose families have been in this town for decades - maybe even centuries, I don't know. I'm not an outcast around here, but since my family is so tiny, it's weird to see so many people who can be so committed to each other and supportive of one another. I'm an only child, which has never been a huge issue, though I have contemplated what it would have been to be a big sister (or the annoying kid sister with a crush on all her adorably protective older brother's friends). It might get lonely, but I hear the horror stories and realize how lucky I have it to be on my own and totally accepting of that.
But we don't really talk to my dad's side of the family; just my mom's. Through her, I only have one grandmother, two aunts, an uncle, and exactly one cousin. One. Some of my friends can't even keep track of ages and birthdays for all their cousins. I've never been excited for family get-togethers, because there's never anyone my age to talk to. I've always been a little grown-up and, now that I actually am an adult, they still treat me like a child.
A long time ago, when I was just a kid, I used to spend weekends with Gran at her apartment in the city and, hell, those were some of the best summer times in my life. We'd eat ice cream or Jell-O and watch "Price is Right" and sit in the air conditioning. Sometimes, my aunt would take me out for some sugary confection, or to the rooftop pool where all her friends hung out. I'd play with my older cousins forgotten Transformers in the back room and I'd make Gran play restaurant, store, whatever I could imagine up for us. We'd talk. We'd eat. We'd sit. It was beautiful - never a dull moment.
And now, I sit here at the beginning of my first summer home from college, and I wish they all lived closer. I wish I could hop in my car and head a couple of miles down the road, or into the next town, and just drop in for lunch dates, movie nights, 500 Rummy sessions. I wonder about my dad's brothers, their notorious pasts, their kids who are my cousins, flesh and blood I've never met and, if they have their way, I never will. My mom's father died when I was a baby, but when my dad's father died years ago, I was old enough to understand and I didn't feel much. I was confused; I wished I had actually known him. I cried without really knowing who I was mourning.
I plan on marrying someone with at least one sibling and a good amount of cousins. I want to go to family reunions and have huge, warm holiday dinners. I also plan on having at least three kids. I didn't turn out so bad, but it did get lonely. I wouldn't wish some of the things I've felt on anyone.
On my right wrist is the world's shoddiest friendship bracelet. When my friend and I were given a huge craft box for our birthdays by two of our suitemates at school, a third, mutual friend declared that, on craft night, he would make us all bracelets. Of course, being male, he couldn't make the colorful strings do as he pleased. So, we each wear matching bracelets consisting of exactly three lengths of string - yellow for me, green for her, purple for him, our favorite colors - knotted a few times to keep it in place. We each expected those things to fall off by the end of the week.
You know what? It's been about two months, without sign of wear or tear. This thing isn't coming off anytime soon.
For some people, weight is always a struggle. Diets work, until they don't. Food is the significant other of ambiguous origins that you love with all your heart, but who enjoys doing nothing more in life than making you feel unattractive and ashamed of yourself for being so in love with him. Obviously, I understand this because I've been living with my own love-hate relationship with food my entire life.
My family brought me up to believe dessert ("special things," as they were known when I was young and still had to ask for someone to scoop me some ice cream) wasn't a once-in-awhile treat, or something earned for good behavior. You ate dinner, you got something sweet. Often, you got too much of that something. Especially when Granny was involved. End of story. I thought this was normal until I started getting out a little more.
Unfortunately, by the time weight began to matter to me, I was off the charts on both height and weight and the damage had been done. My sweet tooth, though reined in a bit nowadays, was fit solidly in place and here for the long haul. And it wasn't just sweet stuff I could binge on - I did (and, sometimes, still do) go overboard on chips, pretzels, Gushers, and other snack foods. I didn't have an eating disorder, no binge and purge, no swearing off food (I couldn't). But I did hate myself. A lot. Moderation? What was that shit? I do what I want, bitch!
Well, after a year at Curves and a few months on Weight Watchers, plus years in between of trying to stay fit, trying to get exercise, trying to keep myself on some semblance of a diet, I've come to see what I can keep control of and accept the things I cannot change. Sometimes, I can't deny a few extra cookies. Sometimes, I have just coffee for breakfast and I need a snack in the afternoon, after lunch. Sometimes, I look at a sunshiney day and choose to tan rather than run. I live off tea and coffee - thanks for nothing, College - and only really slip up during certain times of the month (wink-wink). My weight is a struggle, but it's not on my mind as constantly as it used to be. I try to be healthy for me.
And I'll never give up on food, in general or the specific foods I like to it. I can't. It's impossible. I like pasta and high-calorie sauces and meat and cake too much. But I also like skim milk, fruit, vegetables, lifting weights, walking, and being able to fit into whatever jeans I think are cute this season. The love-hate relationship with food continues, but I feel a little more in control today.