Because What Says ‘Christmas’ Better than a Blow-Up Penguin?

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, my Dad decided to decorate my house for Christmas–with lights and a blow-up penguin that rises out of an igloo, which is on some kind of timer so that it inflates and lights up at night, but which is so poorly lit it must appear to my neighbors like a giant white boob on top of which a nipple stands erect every so often. The Butcher thinks I see boobs in everything, but in this case, I think I’m right.

This visit has been weird. I think it’s been harder on the Butcher, since I’ve been sick, but, bless my dad’s heart, he has this way of turning everything into a test you cannot help but fail, which just proves that you don’t love him. Like, for instance, I have been sick, obviously, which meant that I could either cook things very slowly, which I had to do on Thanksgiving day, or I could not cook at all, which means someone else was going to have to step up and do it. Which he did this morning.

Which then meant that he couldn’t even come visit us without there being a long list of things we had failed to do–one of which being that he had to cook, when it was his vacation. And, apparently, I am not as good as my mom, because my mom likes to do things and not just lay around all the time.

Yes, apparently my being sick was not actually about being sick, it was about me refusing to be fun.

People, what can you even say in the face of that?

The older I get, the more I’m glad I don’t have kids of my own. It’s weird, I know that sounds kind of sour-grapish, like of course I am now glad I don’t have kids of my own since no one would ever have kids with a loser like me, blah blah blah. But really, I’m glad to not be teaching this dance to another generation.

When I was a kid, a lifetime ago, I made a couple of half-assed attempts at killing myself. Very half-assed. But in the middle of each one was just this overwhelming desire to not feel anything any more, to be able to endure the nonsense without having to feel it.

It’s weird that him running over my flowers this summer finally broke the thing I needed broken back then. But so it has.

If this shit upsets me, I can’t feel it any more. Which is both nice and probably not good. I’m expecting a rash or a tumor out of this, now.


My uncle has really fucked things up between him and my dead cousin’s kids (my dead cousin is the son of another uncle). The daughter has a kid or two my uncle refers to–in front of his friends, to his friends–by a cutesy racially derogatory term. Unsurprisingly, word of this has gotten back to her and now neither she nor her brother are speaking to my uncle.

This, in my family, is cause for some measure of disbelief, because, apparently, there’s just some level of emotional abuse one must be willing to put up with for the sake of the family. Yes, a person can go too far, of course, but the line which constitutes “too far” is always something pulled by some other family member. Never the one in question.

The one under discussion may be “that way,” but we all have to understand that he’s “that way” and still participate in his life for the sake of the family.

Anyone who would chose not to participate for the sake of the family is considered to be not a very good Phillips.

Which is true.

They are indeed failing at being miserable sons-of-bitches.

And yet, I cannot help but suspect that they are happier for it.

My mom would like to get together with my dead cousin’s brother and his wife the next time they’re in Michigan. “But how do you do that without getting Uncle B. involved?” she asks me.

“Are you kidding?” I say, too sick to not be blunt. “You make arrangements and go see them.”

The thing that scares me, that scares me the worst about my family and has scared me since I was old enough to know to be afraid of it, is that they are constantly cringing. Sometimes really and sometimes just figuratively. But they are constantly cringing.

They make the shape the abuse gives them. They bend, even just in anticipation of a wind that has not yet come.

Or to stick with the dance metaphor, they are already moving backwards in the proper pattern.

How can they not help but find partners that know those dances comfortable? The shape fits.

I am terrified of ending up with someone like my dad.

Or worse, someone like my mom, so that I become the fist, the wind, the monster.