The Pink Slip Society, Ltd.
Yesterday I read a simply lovely, albeit sad, story by one of my favorite Medium peeps Ann Litts. She shared her family history, which included a piece about how she had been given the pink slip, as it were, by a part of her family that deemed her far too weird, too unworthy, too strange to be acceptable.
This hit home so deeply, but at the same time, tickled my funny bone (if only because the same shit had been thrown my way, we are in a unique club here) that I had to pen this in response.
Every time I’m at the gym with my ear buds in, I listen to a George Carlin riff that nearly makes me drop my dumbbells on my feet. He’s talk about word choices and the origins of phrases. In this case, pink slips. He says that he got fired a lot. “You can tell,” he says. But in his case, someone would walk over to his desk and say,
GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!
In families, if you get the familial pink slip, this is precisely how it feels.
While in Carlin’s case, it’s funny as shit, in families, it isn’t.
When I told my father he was an alcoholic to his face, the same thing happened to me.
HOW DARE YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH TO THE ALMIGHTY ME???
I got banned from the house, couldn’t speak to my mother for years until after he died.
My brother had pried the last of my mother’s savings out of her hands. Then he came after her again. I told him that there was no more, and that he might kindly leave her Social Security alone since that was all she had to live on. He decided I was the Evil Witch of the West. I got the pink slip from him, a serious alcoholic and drug abuser. At his wake, most of his friends didn’t even know he had a sister. So it goes.
What Ann points out is that the Familial Pink Slip frees us up to find our real fam. They are legion. They are everywhere.
I have spent my entire life collecting mothers, dads, brothers, sisters (Ann is now one of them, thank you), cousins not only in this country but all over the world.
These people are open, soft and curious. They share their hearts, their bread, their houses, and welcome me in with open arms. They love me without condition and find that which makes me weird and different delightful.
By definition these are my family. These are the people with whom I feel the safest. They are all colors, all religions, all backgrounds. They are wicked-ass poor, wicked-ass different, wicked-ass wonderful, funny, interesting, and not the least bit threatened. They are middle-class, Black, Asian, Kazakh, American, Spanish, you name it.
They are my family.
Each year at Christmas I spend from seven to fourteen days with a gun-toting, NRA member family up in Spokane. Republicans. By those descriptors, you’d think I would hardly fit in. You’d be wrong. I love this family as my own. Twenty years ago they pulled out a chair at their Christmas table and sat me down to a salmon feast. I’ve been part of their Christmas ever since. Those few things that are different between us do not in any way affect the love I have for their fast-growing family.
In fact, when the matriarch died, I was the one who flew north and spoke formally at her wake, wove the stories of her life into a tapestry and honored their family in the best way I knew how.
They are my family.
My blood family is all dead now. They are somewhere else. Their pink slips that said that I was unworthy, all long forgotten. No longer matters. The scars have healed, layered over by the love I get from friends, in whose inner circle I am brought with great enthusiasm.
Every single time I step onto an airplane, as I am about to do next week, I am off to meet more of my family, this time in Mongolia.
In this lovely turn of phrasing, Ann speaks to why family waters are so troubled:
Because everyone knows family dynamics can be some of the most dangerous rapids Our Souls run. The boulders and logs hidden just beneath the surface are deadly to our self-worth, our psyches, sometimes our very beings.
When you and I head home for the holidays, our families know which buttons to push. Why?
They installed them.
As Ann writes, you don’t have to stay at the table if Love isn’t being served. I didn’t. I left home at 16 because Anger and Hate and Sexual Abuse were the main courses.
While there was plenty of that to come, those people whom I have cottoned to over the many years of my life don’t do that to me.
Mostly. Even adopted family can hand out pink slips.
A few years back, one long-term friend accused me of sleeping with her husband. Nope. But she had gotten infected with that sickness (he had done this before but not with me) and that cost me a family. You can’t do anything when a family member gets diseased. All you can do is find more family.
They are waiting for you and me. The Pink Slip Society. We are strange and different and wonderful. There are plenty of folks out there who would be delighted to have you and me in their families. Because despite the quaint notion that Blood is Thicker than Water, when I have flown over water I have often found family far more loving and accepting than my own.
Blood curdles. Water flows.
The Pink Slip is your permission to fly out to find family. There are billions of warm nests all over the world that are eager to make room for you and me. Our birth family is just that: where we began. If we get kicked out of the nest, spread your wings. Plenty of other places where the Pink Slippers are welcomed with open arms.