27 December 2005

one day too long

As I waited for my flight back to Houston this afternoon, SHG and I were yammering on the phone about nothing, because we miss each other and that's what you do when you miss somebody. But then we talked a bit about how long one should visit with family, e.g., what is the ideal duration that balances being there long enough to make it worthwhile and have a good time with the problem of getting on each other's nerves. For example, one night at my folks is too short because there is lots to chat about, help them with, etc., but is good because there are only a couple of "your hair looks so much better long, why can't you wear it longer [in the back, like in the 80's, touching your collar]?" comments. On the other hand, four nights is too long because individual idiosyncrasies that you don't see at long distance and are purposely suppressed during the first few days drive you nuts, or certain unavoidable topics come up (such as, why don't you just marry M [G-Hopp], she's single, and please just have some babies?".

Anyway, I was home for four nights, and it was a generally good visit home for the holidays. I spent a decent chunk of time working on their computer - running Norton utilities and such, showing them how to do certain things, etc. Christmas Eve was spent low-key as always, sitting around with a fire in the fireplace, listening to traditional and classical Christmas music, and eating. And eating. And eating. Then we ate some more. As per a more traditional German Christmas we opened presents and such that night. It's just myself and my folks, and we don't get really out of hand with the presents - rather a few thoughtful items than a bunch of stuff. I tend to collect Christmas presents for everybody over the course of the year as I travel. This year I did not do very well at that for anybody except my folks. I cannot believe how light and quickly I managed to pack. On the way home I had virtually nothing in my carry-on bag, and had not a stitch of clean clothing. Perfect! Even more perfect was getting bumped to first class and drinking myself into a nice buzz for the ride home...and made it easier to ignore the guy masturbating across the aisle from me.

Christmas day was nice, again pretty low key, just hanging around and eating. And napping. And eating. And napping. You get the idea. I got my dad King's Table, which we only played once. I don't think he liked it, either because he just was not grasping it at first (he's really good at chess, so it's a serious shifting of gears), or maybe because what appears to be a straightforward, easy game dragged on because it may actually be more difficult than chess.

Then came the 26th. That got pretty irritating. In a nutshell: Bill O'Reilly. As many of you know, I cannot stand that fucker. It turns out that my Dad kind of likes him. Or maybe more than kinda. Then there's my Mom. She likes him because he's an Irish Catholic who has "made it big" and is well-respected in the news industry, which is dominated by, well, not-Irish-Catholics. Let's leave it at that.

OK, well, kaboom! I'm very, very different in my political views from my folks. I did not used to be. In high school I was much more aligned with them, just more towards the middle than rutted in the Right. In college, I began to think for my self a lot more, and about things more than just politics. This began to drive them nuts. However, the point of a liberal arts education is to teach one how to solve problems, think critically, ask questions, and come to conclusions independently, and so this was OK since I was obviously growing intellectually.

Well, after a while it became clear that I was perhaps growing too much intellectually and in other ways, too. We butted heads periodically, and with time the head-butting has increased in frequency. Now as they get older they are getting a little cranky and stubborn, so throw that in the mix as well. Ask my long-time friends about head-butting with my folks - it tends to drive me crazy.

But it does not drive me crazy quite in the way you would think. My folks raised me to not care what others thought, and to think for myself. The problem is that when college came along, thinking for myself wound up misaligning me with them. And this drives them crazy, because they got what they wanted: an independent thinker that voices his opinion, can defend it, can deconstruct an opposing opinion, and generally does not care what others think (this is not always true, though). So they're disappointed. Throw in the gay thing, and it adds up to a big disappointment. Which is worse than being a failure.