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Relatives: You Can't Live With Them...You Can't Kill Them

Relatives. People you can’t get away from no matter how hard you try. If you’re fortunate enough to have family members in your life, you know the immeasurable joy they bring. Watching your parents celebrate their fifty year anniversary as they quibble over why he ordered chimichurri when it always upsets his stomach and she doesn’t want to have to listen to him groaning all night. Seeing your brother wait at the end of the aisle to meet a girl who’s obviously too good for him and praying she doesn’t realize it. Holding your newborn niece just minutes after her debut into the world, and wondering why the doctors would dip such a beautiful child in cottage cheese and strawberry jam before handing her to you.

But, as we all know, for every good memory, treasured experience and loving relationship family brings, there is an equal and opposite embarrassing experience, painfully maddening situation or homicide-provoking act that makes you think you are being punished as if you were Hitler in a former life.

As a side note, have you ever noticed how when people “discover” who they were in a former life it’s always someone impressive?

“I was an emperor.”

“I was Florence Nightengale.”

“I invented the iced caramel macchiato.”

Nobody ever unearths the fact that they were Caligula or the guy who invented tuna casserole.

But I digress. So family comes with no refunds/no exchanges. You take the bad with the good, the rumbles with the rewards, the crazy with the…um…not-as-crazy, which brings me to the people in every family.

Remember the song “The People in My Neighborhood” from Sesame Street? It talked about all of the people you’d find in the neighborhood and then pointed them out, so you knew them…the postman, the police man, etc.

Think of this as a version called “The People in My Family”. As I describe each of the people below, you will immediately identify them within your own, extended hoard. If you don’t know who it is, you haven’t met them yet. It may be a second cousin, twice removed, that lives in Germany and you don’t even know he exists. But one day, years from now, you may meet him and you’ll think back to this post and realize that I was absolutely correct. Every family has one.

While these characters may differ from family to family there are certain things that hold true. Select attributes or actions such as talents, physical characteristics, addiction proclivities and, of course, holiday gift-giving traits all provide insight into a person’s position within the family. There are at least thirty labels that are accepted as standard "types" by lay-psychologists such as myself. But, since I’m writing a blog, not a book, I have limited my list to the most common classifications.

Please note that all of this information has been scientifically validated by lots of amazingly important people from lots of highly important organizations that support this blog greatly and strongly. (They’re so important you’ve probably never heard of them.) Oh my gosh, I just channeled Trump for a second there.

Let’s start off with the most easily identifiable relative, the Goody-Goody. This is the family member that does everything right. Straight A’s, teacher’s pet, never in trouble, always courteous, makes great decisions and is destined to (or has already) become rich and successful. This is also the relative that gives educational gifts and savings bonds for birthdays.

The one time he did make a bad decision, it turned out good anyway. He exercises every day and makes his own soy milk. This family member will get married, have 2.4 kids, a beautiful house, a stable job, and die of a brain aneurysm by 45. Because as the wise profit, Billy Joel once sang, “Only the good die young.”

The second is the Cockroach. Now, it sounds much worse than it is. I don’t mean that this person is bad or disease ridden, or has an exoskeleton and antennae. This person is the Cockroach because they seem to live forever. This is the relative that looked 100 years old the day you were born and hasn’t changed a wink since.

The Cockroach goes automatically from 25 to 90. There is no verifiable proof that they ever experienced any ages in between. In fact, only two types of photos exist of this person…a handful of black and white pictures from ages 1-25 and dozens of pictures of him at family events over the last few decades, in which he looks exactly as he does today.

To give credit where credit is due, this nomenclature was birthed years ago by my uncle who used to joke about my Aunt Hazel. “When the dust clears after a nuclear blast, there will be no one left but Aunt Hazel and the cockroaches.”

Physically, the Cockroach is always slight…sometimes just skin and bones. Lots and lots of skin. Sometimes, I’m not even sure if they have bones. It might just be all skin.

In a medical anomaly, the Cockroach thrives despite being either an alcoholic or a chain-smoker. He or she lives so much longer than expected, that when death finally does come calling, everyone is quite truly shocked at the loss, assuming that he had sold his soul to the devil years before in exchange for eternal life as a century-old pod person.

A gift from the Cockroach is a true luck of the draw. A trio of Christmas gifts to great-grandchildren of similar ages may reveal a collection along the lines of: a one-dollar bill for Timmy, a half-eaten box of grocery store chocolates with an expiration date in the late 1990’s for Cindy, and a bottle of men’s mustache dye for little Rebeccah.

In general, children and animals find the Cockroach frightening and try to avoid contact as much as possible. A kiss from a Cockroach should be eluded at all cost. However, if one does get caught in the parentally required smooch, it will most certainly result in a cheek covered with food or assaulted with an abundance of random facial hair. (Yes, even from the females.)

Then there is the Convicto. This creature is elusive, showing up to family events bi-annually at most and only when pre-approved by his parole officer. He may or may not be a manufacturer of meth. But his elderly parents firmly believe he is legally employed at a gas station and was framed for all previous crimes, convictions and even accusations. They believe the monitoring device secured to his ankle is a new type of pedometer that he’s beta-testing for Apple.

He always has a tattoo of a well-endowed woman emblazoned somewhere on his body and a cross, somewhere else. Convicto doesn’t bring gifts to the family Christmas party, but will be happy to go out back with you and allow you to partake of his stash.

A word to the wise, if the joint is hand-rolled, just remember that someone had to lick the paper and the odds are this relative has several diseases for which science has not yet developed a cure. You’re welcome.

The female version of this degenerate is the Convicta. Like her counterpart, her presence is sporadic at family events. When she does show up, she has usually made the last part of the trip by foot because the dirt-bag she is currently dating kicked her out of the car mid-trip when she told him not to ask her relatives to invest in his lifelong goal of starting a dog-fighting ring.

Convicta usually has a billboard sized tattoo across her chest region because she knows that area gets the most viewing traffic. And if she’s spending $50 bucks to get “high class whore” permanently put on her body, she wants to get the most advertising bang for her pun intended.

She was jumped into a gang at age thirteen and her street name is Kiki Money. She carries a switchblade and brass knuckles in her knock-off Michael Kohrs purse and has had an old magazine photo of Jean-Claude Van Damme in her wallet since puberty. She picks up gifts for all of the kids on the way to the Christmas party…primarily whatever she can shoplift from any store she passes.

Another easily recognizable person within the family is Calvin…as in Calvin Klein. A Calvin can be male or female and is shockingly beautiful to behold. No one knows how this Greek god/goddess was born into the family. Everyone secretly thinks that there had to be a torrid affair because this statuesque vision clearly was created with a higher grade mixture of DNA than can be found in any other family member.

If Calvin is a male, he is offensively aloof and spends most of his time striking poses which accentuate his strong jawline and come-hither eyes. Most of his interactions with others consist of “Hey, man!” and little else.

It is clear he is used to having women swoon over him and he sits in the corner sulking because any harem he collects will consist of relatives. And while his Tinder profile defines him as “sexually adventurous”, incest crosses his very liberal boundary.

Female Calvin is just as annoying because she’s nice! She’s drop-dead gorgeous and sweet as honey. She knows just what to say and how to say it. She is an elementary school teacher, volunteers at the local animal shelter, and donates blood regularly.

When greeting everyone, female Calvin miraculously remembers exactly where you were in your life the last time she saw you.

“Did you ever end up getting that promotion you wanted?”

“I heard you moved to Temecula. How do you like it?”

“I remember you said you wanted my salad dressing recipe last year. I wrote it down for you. Here you go.”

She always brings an arrangement for the party host that looks like it was made by Martha Stewart herself. When she’s asked where she got it, she waves it off casually explaining it’s just a collection of foliage from her garden.

Ugh, she’s too perfect for words. And any female there would kill to be her.

The Crazy Uncle could also be a Crazy Aunt. This family member is the life of the party. Primarily because he/she is bi-polar and, if he shows, you are sure to be in for a memorable evening. If he’s currently crashing from a manic episode, he will skip the party to stay home and have a really brilliant, but untrue, story of why he couldn’t make it when you talk to him later.

Crazy gives gifts that are too. Too everything! Too expensive, too mature, too immature, too chocolatey, too silly, too sentimental, too much. The kids always love them. The adults always question them.

Crazy will sneak candy to the kids before dinner, do questionable imitations of people and inspire a family talent show or game of charades. She rarely helps with the meal or clean up. Crazy feels her contribution is to provide the entertainment for the party and conveniently gets sidetracked to avoid helping with the dishes.

Contrary to popular belief, crazy doesn’t drink or do drugs (aside from a wide array prescribed by psychiatrists.) Crazy will die relatively young from breaching the security at the zoo to try and pet the lions.

Judge Judy is exactly what you’d think. 98% of the time, Judy is a female. The other 2% of the time, Judy is a gay male. Straight males are inherently incapable of being Judys simply because they don’t care enough about anyone to give a shit.

Judy started life with good intentions. She simply observed and pointed out things people needed to fix about themselves, changes they could to make to improve their lives and solve all of their problems, which she happily defined for them. This initially came out of love and caring for other family members. But over time, as the joy seeped out of her life, Judy became more and more addicted to the satisfaction she got out of critically scrutinizing others.

Throughout the party, Judy observes from the sidelines, making snide comments about everyone. No one is exempt from her judgement.

In lieu of bringing gifts, Judy bestows each person with a brief fix-it list. Six-year old Jacob needs to “get over that lisp, and soon!” Fourteen year old Stephanie should grow out her hair because she looks like “Billy Jean King and Dudley Moore had a baby”. Mason, who has just celebrated his forty-fourth birthday needs to settle down and get married before his “sperm is too dried up to make a decent kid.”

Judy is understandably single and will leave her sizable estate to her (or his) six cats.

Grandpa Grossman gets his name from everyone saying “He’s gross, man!” He spends the majority of the party asking females if they have “fries to go with that shake”. He will take any and every opportunity to smack a female’s butt (relative or not) and has, on several occasions, fallen out of his wheelchair trying to look up a mini skirt.

This guy has been divorced since his wife left him in 1979 when she found out he had two other baby-mamas in his life. Since then, it is estimated he has fathered another baker’s dozen or so.

He hands out cash straight from his pocket to the kids for Christmas and they know him as “the old guy mommy always says she’s not going to invite again”.

Silent Bob is virtually mute until he’s four cocktails in. His wife is strict and controlling and he’s learned to just keep his mouth shut for his own good. But, every year, right when he starts nursing his fifth rum and Coke, it all comes out.

All of the sarcastic comments he’s held back for the last twelve months spew out of his mouth like scalding lava. Five minutes after the eruption has ceased, Mrs. Silent Bob has already wrangled the kids and her tipsy mate and marched them to the car for the drive back to the house, which is probably not at all silent. No one will hear Bob speak again until next year’s party.

Everyone assumes the gifts Bob and his family bring every year are good. But nobody really knows since they leave before the gift exchange, taking the wrapped packages with them. The general consensus is that if they were crappy, cheap gifts, they would leave them behind in their haste to beat feet. But Mrs. Bob is always sure to collect every last one before they leave, so everyone's convinced they’re full of cash.

Bob will die due to repeatedly smacking a beehive with a baseball bat, knowing full well he’s highly allergic. Every year thereafter, Silent Night will be sung at the Christmas party, in memory of Bob.

The true wild card of the bunch is the person I call X-Factor. X is the variable. When everything else remains the same, X pops in and throws everyone for a loop. This is the person in the family who lives for today…and only today. When the door opens and X is on the other side you never know what to expect.

1987…new spouse, straight out of rehab.

1988…shaved head.

1989…new boyfriend/girlfriend, fresh out of prison.

1990...sporting a Mohawk and has decided to get rich flipping houses. Who wants in?

1991…new spouse and four teenaged stepchildren.

1992…new spouse (one of the former stepchildren).

1993…new baby.

1994…pet monkey and baby dressed in matching outfits. Has decided to go to massage school.

1995…no monkey…no baby (nobody dares ask). New face tattoo, because who doesn’t want a masseuse with a face tattoo rubbing them?

1996…new boyfriend.

1997…new girlfriend.

1998…new boyfriend AND girlfriend.

1999…another monkey.

He/she will disappear and the story will be featured on 48 Hours Mystery. X will reappear four years later, living in a commune in Northern Arizona with thirty six people, eighteen goats and an alpaca. X will return for Christmas the following year, with handcrafted goat’s milk soap gifts for everyone.

Neurotic Nancy. Again, the name is not intended to convey that this character is only female. It’s just the name I have given. I know plenty of Nancy boys…wait, that doesn’t sound the way it did in my head. But, you know what I mean. A Nancy is hyperactive, high-strung and anxious to the point of being paranoid. He or she is constantly spouting questions asking where the kids are, what they’re doing, if anything has peanuts in it, if there’s a gluten-free option for dinner, etc.

“Does this patch of dry skin look like cancer?”

“Do you smell gas?”

“This casserole has too much cheese on it, doesn’t it? I just know I put too much cheese.”

Nancy brings gifts, but is always worried that they just aren’t right. All packages come with a gift receipt and an apology.

The rest of the family suspects that Nancy has a prescription drug problem. She will eventually die due to a freak accident while parked in a handicapped spot that she used because she thought it would be safer than a regular one.

Some families have combinations, which are very interesting to observe in the Christmas party environment. Like the Convicto Grandpa Grossman or the Neurotic Goody-Goody. I even heard once of a Cockroach Judge Judy. Legend has it they could hear her complaining about “whatever moron planned the funeral” as they lowered the casket.

As I said, this list is by no means comprehensive. There are many more members of the family that I have not included here, such as: Menopausal Marge, the woman who posts about every hot flash on Facebook. Bernie the White Collar Crook, a narcissistic, dressed up Convicto who is infinitely more savage and heartless. Raging Bull, the alcoholic who instigates a punching match at every family function. Man-Whore Max, well, that one’s pretty self-explanatory. And Don’t-Eat-What-He-Brought-for-the-Potluck Pete, who looks suspiciously like a lifelong hoarder and if you’ve ever watched that show on TLC…well, enough said.

As annoying, ridiculous, outrageous and infuriating as they sometimes are, all of these colorful family members also bring the biggest laughs, the most interesting experiences and the funniest stories to our lives. Imagine how boring the holidays would be if everyone were just normal like you and…well, like you.

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