Just Like Family

22 February 2001

This journal entry will actually have something to do with the title. I promise. But first:

Tonight, at dinner:

Me: Okay, so we have this theory. Only Timprov was kind of tired when we came up with it, so-

Mark: I have a theory, too. I think the federal reserve in New York has a dragon.

Me: Uhh….

Mark: Because who else has a big pile of gold like that?

Me: Alan Greenspan?

[Thunderstruck looks from both of us.]

Mark: So Alan Greenspan is a dragon!

Me: Dude. [pause] Yeah, I think the only word that really covers that is, "Dude."

Don't you?

So anyway. In other news, before I ramble as I wanted to, I finished the first draft of "The Children's Village" today, making me five for five for the week. This is one of the hardest stories I've ever written, and I think it's going to take some hard work still in drafts two and three. To give you an idea of how hard this story was, I was emotionally tangled in it enough that I had to change what we were having for dinner - it was making my stomach yucky. Writing about little kids dying, with nothing people can do about it, and knowing that it's realistic extrapolation - that's pretty darn depressing. I think there's redemption in this story. I think there's hope. But there's a lot of pain and nastiness, too. This is not the fun part of this job.

But it needed writing.

So now I'm going to take a break to read some articles my parents sent me, and maybe watch "Whose Line" a little and work on the Novel. And it won't make me ill, and I'm proud of having finished the first draft of this story, so everything will be much, much better. I promise.

There are all sorts of groups running around there who claim to be "just like family." Cults. Fraternities and sororities. (And I know enough good "Greeks" to know that that's not quite redundant.) Even things like high school band and my junior high's anti-drug group will claim to be just like a family.

And, big surprise, they're not.

Except for the ones that are.

See, I'm an only child. I'm waiting, I'm waiting… yes, there you are, I heard you: "You must be so spoiled!" Yeah, shut up. (I know, Momma, I know. You don't like it when I say "shut up" to people. But sometimes it's the only appropriate level of discourse.) I'm the only child of an only child, pretty well guaranteeing that I'm going to hear that whenever I talk about my family. My latest theory is that people who ask about family situations are mad at onlys because we have foiled their conversational attempts. If we had a younger brother or two older sisters, they could ask after these people. We don't, so they have to figure out something else to say, and insulting us seems like the best option.

But one thing that being an only child will teach you is how to make up your own family. Pretty much everyone else has other people they can take for granted. They're called siblings, and even people who hate them realize that they're stuck with each other. Nobody is stuck with an only child except the people who have chosen to get stuck with us.

And when we're younger, there are all sorts of friends who will proclaim that we're just like siblings. Every single one of them is either wrong or lying. There is nothing like a sibling except a sibling. Mostly, the relationship in question has some distinct advantages over a sibling relationship. You choose your friends, so you presumably have a much better chance at having things in common, personality traits that click, reasons to be together beyond chance. But that doesn't make it the same.

From other only children, I'll take this, because they don't really know what it's like to be siblings, either. So we can maybe make it up together. But most people have sibs, and most of them don't mean it when they say we're like that. Most of the friends who say this are trying to express a deep friendship. Which is wonderful. A few mean that we're like cousins, maybe. Cousins, too, are a good thing to be like. I have a few cousins for whom I would do just about anything. But that's not close enough. Noooo. It's just like the l-words. Everybody in this culture has to love everything and everybody, or else not like them at all. Why don't we say to people, "I like you"? Why isn't that a really good thing? It sounds a little dorky to a lot of people, but it's at least true. Which is a major advantage in my book.

I know I had something else to say, something about my parents' best friends or other awesome people in my life. But right now, I can't for the life of me think of what it was. That story kicked my butt, and I am quite done with today. It's time to have tomorrow now.

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