So, more good news (not), this time from my side of the family: my oldest nephew and his wife are splitting up. These are my favorite people on my side, and I love their kids, and this was not a happy thing to hear on a Christmas where Sir John’s favorite relative isn’t speaking to him. I guess I can be glad mine are speaking to me, as well as grateful that Sir John and I are together, healthy, employed, and housed.

I’d tell 2016 not to let the door hit it on the way out, except that I expect in a few weeks, I’ll be begging 2016 to come back. It did, after all, contain half a sabbatical year, a trip to England, a couple of fun conferences, and the successful placement of the last chunk of the MMP. On the personal level, I’ve nothing much to complain of.

I also made Christmas calls to my other relations. Told one brother I’d had an essay accepted (not the journalist, who I knew would just talk about the number of articles he writes every day). Well. Bro #2 is a mucky-muck in his trade organization, so he writes and publishes an article every month in the trade publication. He has a tech writer or editor or something who puts together the framework, and then my brother re-writes so every sentence does what it should, because he is a better writer than the editor.

This is typical, and one of the reasons why I don’t see more of my family. I want to make it clear that I am not sneering at my brother for being in trade. He’s not only good at what he does, I can believe that he’s a better writer than the other person he’s dealing with. Writing and teaching are the family trades, at least in my branch, for a couple of generations now. What I mind is the complete lack of any attempt to understand the difference between what I do and what he does.

A few details on the MMP-1, since my brother didn’t ask: it contains over 14,000 words (a number that will grow when I revise further before publication) and 102 footnotes, it deals with multiple manuscript sources (one literary, at least five documentary), it involved extensive transcription from wills and other documents written in Latin and in secretary hand, it surveys critical literature in an area that is Not My Home Field, it included references to criticism read in a modern language not English, and the last round of readers’ reports included phrases such as “clear argument,” “very welcome,” “compelling” and “impressive.” Shoot, even its first rejection included the phrase “impressively well documented.”

Long ago, I decided that talking to most of my family was like teaching a pig to sing.* I suppose it’s only the sadness and uncertainty I feel about my nephew and his family that bring up all the rest of this nonsense. I should just let it go. Again. I have a partner, friends, and colleagues who get what I do and think it matters. That’s enough.

*It wastes your breath and annoys the pig.

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6 thoughts on “Familles, je vous hais

  1. Ugh, sympathies on the stress from the familial break-up. Those are hard on all involved, obviously most for the central figures, but the tensions on the rest of the family aren’t insignificant.

    I also hear you on trying to explain what I do to others. Even though all of my natal family are also academics, we work in very different disciplines/traditions. I think that they don’t have a lot of respect for history as scholarly work. *sigh*

  2. Any possibility that he’s just sharing his successes after you’ve shared yours? Or that he’s just trying to connect with you rather than downplay your accomplishments?

    1. When there’s no “cool!” or “good for you!” before going into his own stuff, what I hear is “I have a penis so what I do is more important than what you do.” There have been times in the past when this one has been more supportive, which is why I even try (from time to time). With both my brothers, nearly everything is automatically a pissing contest. They’re testosterone-poisoned.

      1. Soooooo not worth it. I got tired of the “you’re too sensitive” routine about 35 years ago. I have my methods of coping when I need to see them, and the rest of the time I ignore them. We’re not a close family. That’s in part why I’m sad about upheavals in my nephew’s family, because if it’s going to be difficult or awkward to see that set of people, then visiting my dad gets trickier. Cascade effect.

  3. My family doesn’t know how to deal with my success (albeit small) either. Fortunately, none of them are writers, except for my older sister who writes for social media/marketing. But she’s a comma-splice loving crackpot, so I ignore that. Anyway, I understand the contest element, though, as it seems like whenever I get together with my in-laws, they want to have a contest about whose life has been more stressful and difficult lately. Meh. Whatever. I usually try to change the subject or say, “Hey what are the kids doing?” and leave the room. But it really sucks when you feel like no one in your family either validates you or understands what your work entails. 😦

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