Recently, I went to the nearby family compound for a dual birthday party. In the interest of privacy, I'll try to be as anonymous as possible as I recount six highlights of the party, which was attended by 11 members of an extended family spanning three generations and three disparate sections of Los Angeles County.
1. Nobody bothered to tell one of the birthday celebrators that she was going to her own birthday party. It's not that it was a surprise party. They actually forgot to tell her. She seemed very confused. This made the party host unreasonably angry.
2. Before dinner, we were all sitting in the living room and no one was talking. It was uncomfortable, if not surprising. My family doesn't like small talk, nor any size of talk. To break the silence, my mother asked "So, what's new?" to everyone. One family member immediately said "I have Type II Diabetes." After that, the room became more silent and uncomfortable until...
3. My mother again broke the silence and said to two of the party attendees, "I heard that your father died. I'm sorry to hear that." Suddenly, there was a reason for everyone to talk - they discussed the (mostly estranged) late father's estate and arcane foreign inheritance laws for 10 minutes. Nobody seemed sad about the guy's death.
4. Dinner was take-out Thai food. When the birthday celebrator #1 stared at her food before she started eating, birthday celebrator #2 said, in a highly condescending food, "This is THAI food. It's from THAILAND."
5. A couple of the extended family members have become wine snobs. Before dinner, wine snob #1 said to us "I've waited 46 years for this. I finally get to drink a 'first harvest' French wine."
6. After wine snob #2 told wine snob #1 that he had been correct in letting the first harvest wine "breathe" for an hour before dinner, snob #2 took a sip and said "It's good but I taste a little too much "terroire." Snob #2 then explained that this was French for earth, or dirt.
None of this is really remarkable. As my friends know, I have many more family stories of unwarranted snobbery, passive-aggressive drama, silent treatments, weight loss bribes, years-long resentments, unreasonable expectations, broken engagements, second hand smoke, debates about which country produces the best rice, sibling favoritism, temporary abandonment, and Mad About You. Perhaps some cousins can recount some more stories in the comments. In small doses, these tales are amusing. Taken as a whole, I can't believe I'm still here - functioning, communicative.