Friday, 15 July 2011

Families are funny (Part One)

 Pic courtesy of
"I was always fascinated by people who are considered completely normal, because I find them the weirdest of all." Johnny Depp

When you watch sitcoms, it seems that other people’s families are generally embroiled in complex webs of lies, constant pranks and practical jokes, and huge emotional drama. (Hey, you get all that in one episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, as well as a healthy dose of psychological insight into how numskulls operate.)

But how often do you see the kind of screwiness that really exists in your family? For instance, my family employs a number of silly voices and equally childish nicknames. I have never seen an episode of Frasier where he greets his father with “Good morning!” in a squeaky Bronx accent à la Betty Boop. (This happens to be the standard greeting for my parents.) My brother was called “Professor Klompi” for some time, after a letter came mistakenly addressing him as a professor. I think the “Klompi” part was something to do with the wooden stairs to his room in the attic.

I know I'm not alone in this weirdness. In fact, my family, with their daily quotes from Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, seem quite normal. Some families verge into disturbingly weird – I know I keep banging on about  but you would not believe the kind of behaviour some families accept as normal! One such lark is when your  new mother-in-law asks you what you’re buying your husband for Christmas, then gets him the same thing. (Astonishingly common, this oedipal battle but easily countered, I’d have thought, by telling her instead what YOU’D like. Simples.)

Sometimes disturbing and hilarious appear in the same person, such as Aunt Grace, the relative of a friend who shall remain nameless. Aunt Grace has the excuse of old age now, but she has always been... inventive. According to her, she once owned a pet horse that ate at the family dinner table. She also describes with relish the physical fights she had with her father, often culminating in her picking him up and throwing him bodily over a hedge. (She is 5’2, he was a strapping 6 footer.)

 This picture isn’t really relevant to what I’m saying but it does come from and it makes me laugh.
Having kids is the great leveller, because let’s face it, kids are nutters and they bring out the weirdness in everyone. A friend of mine used to have her hair washed over the kitchen sink. She and her siblings hated this routine, so for some reason, her mother invented a character called The Crazy Operator, who would wash their hair, chatting away in a Swedish accent. (She was not Swedish, but the operator evidently was.)  

Hanging out with parents of small children means conversation will constantly be interrupted by such classic lines as “We don't lick strangers,” "Where did you leave your poo?" “Your willy doesnt go in there....” and “That's the dog's treat, not yours.” And my all time number one, heard in a public bathroom: "Yes you can be a crocodile if you want to, but be a crocodile who is doing a poo".
Parents are also famously embarrassing; my favourite story is of my friend’s father shouting "SHE JUST WOULDN'T LISTEN!!" when someone enquired about his wife’s black eye. Cue the bystander slowly backing away and the embarrassed wife hurrying to explain that she had actually hit her face on the counter.
You will be pleased to know that in my family, we keep a record of all the stupid things we say, it’s kind of (best website ever!) on a more personal scale. We call it “The Book” and have now reached our fourth volume. 
Sometimes the mere circumstances of a quote reveal our inner weirdness. For instance, I recently burned myself on a baking tray as I removed it from the oven. As I had started by saying “Ooh!” I followed it up with “Oo oo ah ah!” in the style of a monkey. Naturally, my mother joined in with this. Then she announced “It’s because of our past lives, as monkeys.” I might mention that she has been attending a Baptist church for the last 15 years.
More quotes to come soon...

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