We're at a family wedding.
Not immediate family. Extended family. The worst kind. The judgiest ones in the bunch. The one's who keep inviting you as an afterthought, because, well, you never come anyway, so when your husband convinces you that it's an afternoon of cake and dancing, you RSVP Yes + 1--and blow their judgy little minds.
I'm the black sheep of our family, one of a handful, and so they've seated us at the "loser's" table. I actually overheard someone at the wedding call it that.
It really is the loser's table.
It's the absolute worst table in the room. It's way in the back, next to the kitchen, so far away from the action that the music takes a minute or two to reach us, causing the the band's lips to appear out of sync, like an old Charlie Chan movie.
They run out of food by the time it's our turn to hit the buffet. And cake. My hubby and I share the last sliver of cake.
We are seated with two non-recovered alcoholics who are shit-faced and speaking what sounds like a stylized form of pig-latin to each other, what looks to be someone's fourteen-year-old pregnant niece, an old hippie who took way too much LSD in the'60's--and a convicted felon.
In stark contrast, the horrible bitch-faced woman who was married to my dad and quite literally drove him to his grave is smiling sweetly at my husband from across the room at the bride and groom's table (I can see her with my binoculars)--because she knows how to write an epic thank you note (which in our family accounts for over 50% of your acceptance grade)...and she plays the game.
I can remember looking at pictures of myself as a baby and wondering if I'd been a stowaway on a ship from some far-off galaxy that was looking for signs of intelligent life and when they realized this was an okay place to leave me--they did just that--in Santa Monica California--so, not too shabby.
With my thick white hair and tanned skin, I didn't resemble my pale, dark haired, freckle-faced siblings in the least.
I also arrived with the most vivid imagination, a song in my heart and a skip in my step. And this saved me.
Rickets skinny with large buck teeth, I forged my way through childhood wondering if my people were ever going to swing back by this way and pick me up.
That had never been their promise but still, I held out hope.
I've always been different. I can't explain how or why and at times it caused me a world of hurt.
As much as I loved Catholic school (especially the uniform, see, I told you, weirdo), the dogma never made sense to me.
God got angry? And he punished us?
Whose God were they referring to anyway? Mine told me knock-knock jokes and led me to the fields with the most ladybugs to catch. Mine wasn't hanging over my head bleeding on a cross, mine lived happily ever after, laughing and loving in my heart.
This caused me to question things. Mostly authority.
I could never do or believe something just because someone older told me to. And I just could NOT bring myself to "play the game."
That spells trouble for a kid.
And not the obvious punky trouble. Rather, the kind that challenges parents and teachers with all of it's "Why's?"
Still, I decided to ALWAYS pledge allegiance to the wild side, and by wild I mean overgrown.
The unbeaten path.
I broke some of our unspoken family rules as a teen by addressing the elephants that had taken up residence in pretty much every corner of our house. It sounded like sassing, back talking, and disrespecting authority and it was resoundingly unappreciated. But as long as I kept my 4.0 GPA and place on the honor roll, it saved me from long weekends grounded in my room.
I was an anomaly at the time. Not a paint-by-numbers slacker and not your typical hippie-druggie--just a high performing, insufferable, pain-in-the-ass.
I think it was my dad who first labeled me. He could never figure me out. That day, it had something to do with the fact that I got an A in Science Class without ever buying a book, yet, I was lobbying to get the teacher fired for being a dumb-ass.
Black sheep. I'm guessing most of you were black sheep too.
I quit college to pursue acting.
I retired from Catholicism.
I didn't want to work the "family business".
I was divorced by twenty-six.
I decided NOT to have children.
I'm unafraid of confrontation.
I don't like ambrosia salad.
I hate green jello, bridal showers and baby's breath in flower arraignments.
I love to sing and dance. Anytime, anywhere.
And that vivid imagination, the one that led me to believe that there was something greater out there for me. I know many of you feel the pull as well.
I'm back at the wedding, with all of its criticisms hidden in polite discourse.
"So, I guess no children for you, Janet?"
"No Aunt Barbara. You do realize I'm over fifty now."
"Huh. But you've finally married. A Frenchman. American men aren't good enough for you?"
I decided right then and there, in the midst of this family of strangers, to declare my status.
"I guess not. You know, I'm a black sheep."
The old woman looked up at me with something? Recognition perhaps, as I gently guided her back to the "winners table".