Last Sunday, I was arguing with my sister about whether or not she should accompany my mother and I to our grandmother’s apartment for Mother’s Day. My mother and I felt that more people would diffuse the awkwardness of sitting in mostly silence, which is only broken by my grandmother telling us what she hates. These things include:
Computers (“too many buttons,” she says, so I don’t know if she’s ever experienced one that was actually turned on)
Cars that are loud
Baseball (“because nobody on TV knows how to play it,” she says, so I don’t know if she is aware of the rules of baseball or if the term “professional athlete” means anything to her)
Applebee’s (“too many fancy things,” she says, referring to the odd parsley leaf garnish, and seemingly unaware that the food under the garnish is terrible)
Any animal except birds or fish
My grandfather (who died in 1995)
The way I close envelopes containing greeting cards
Her answering machine
However, she does enjoy the following, so we try to keep conversations in these areas in order to pass the time more quickly and make us want to stab our own eyeballs a little bit less:
James Patterson books
Writing letters to some cousins I’ve never even heard of (…even though I’m almost 30 years old. To be fair, though, one of them is a 50-ish man named “Kenny,” so I don’t think we’d be friends, anyway.)
I don’t speak to my grandmother very often because, well, because I am obviously a terrible person who does not fully appreciate her elders. But I also don’t talk to her very often because I don’t like to. And it’s not just the old age and confrontation of mortality and all the stuff I’d care about if I were more interesting. I don’t care that she’s old. It’s that my grandmother is a downer. She bitches about everything. Everything! I bitch about some things, but with her, aside from the four things I listed that she actually likes, every. Single. Topic. Is grounds for complaint. She hates everything, says awful, sometimes racist things about everyone, and I’m pretty sure she’s doing it because she thinks being old means she can. While I enjoy people who can rip things apart with both style and gusto, I have very little tolerance for people who complain for complaining’s sake. It’s depressing to listen to. It’s exhausting to endure. Which means that contrary to what my sister said when I told her why I didn’t like going to our grandmother’s place, I am not “pretty negative all the time, and most people don’t like that.”
For starters, um, yeah, they do. My sister doesn’t have the Internet or know about most of the things on it, but she should be aware that as far as it is concerned, I do okay for myself.
Second, like I said, there’s a difference between complaining in a funny way and complaining because you’re a big fat bummer. That difference is the same one between being smart enough to think critically about something and being dumb enough to just hate on everything, regardless of its value.
Third, if you’re stupid enough to think that “negative” is the same as “cynical,” then you wouldn’t get the joke, anyway.
Fourth, just because my sister goes to my grandmother’s place twice a month doesn’t mean she should get out of going there on Mother’s Day. She doesn’t go over there to be a good granddaughter, she goes over there to clean some non-existent dirt and get paid. For a period of about five years, this bi-monthly cleaning was the only job she had. Now she also works about 18 hours a week in her friend’s office and considers a part-time job to be a real back breaker. So of course it was too much to consider going to our grandmother’s place on a Sunday after my sister had worked a 6-hour shift on Friday. I imagine it was agony.
Fifth, how dare you call me negative when I BOUGHT THAT GODDAMN COOKIE DOUGH. My nephew is selling cookie dough for school. He’s 4, by the way, and in preschool at a Catholic school, which I assumed could draw money from the archdiocese instead of whoring out a bunch of toddlers to pay their priests’ salaries. I have no interest in most child fundraising goods, such as wrapping paper, Gladware, or candles, and because of my nephew’s age, I thought I was safe from the candy bar fundraising effort for at least two more years.
But no. About a month ago, he called to say that he and my sister were coming over “to just hang out” and when he arrived, he smacked the order form down in front of me.
“What the hell is this?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Some stuff my teacher is making us sell.”
“I like your attitude,” I told him. “I was the exact same type of salesperson when I was your age.”
I scribbled down an order for two tubs of cookie dough. I don’t even remember what I kind I got. I don’t make cookies very often, either. I prefer slightly more complicated things like scones or cakes involving veins of sugar/caramel/a combination of the two. Really, I was thinking more about how awesome it would be to have raw cookie dough whenever I wanted. But I didn’t complain about the cookie dough, nor did I gripe when I gave my sister the money and tallied up the order sheet when she couldn’t figure out basic math (and when I’m helping you do math, something is seriously wrong with the fabric of the universe). I bought that fucking cookie dough and I’m picking it up today, at which point I would like my sister to clarify this whole “negative” thing, because I’m not seeing it.