The realization that all families are weird |

The realization that all families are weird

Jarid Shipley
Features Editor

I came to a stunning realization the other day. It came to me as I dabbed borrowed pink shaving cream on my face in Kate’s family’s house in central Pennsylvania. This is the first time in a long time I am spending an extended period of time observing someone else’s family dynamic.

I had always assumed that how my family operated was normal and that every other family was either acting different because I was there or because they were, well, weird.

Yet, as I dabbed another dollop of pretty pink cream on my face (I’d forgotten mine), I realized that my family wasn’t the norm and neither is Kate’s.

The realization is that all families are uncontrollably, uniquely, please-lord-don’t-let-the-neighbors-find-out weird.

So, what’s wrong with Kate’s family you ask? Nothing, absolutely nothing and I have had a wonderful time in Pennsylvania.

(I’m yling-la because they ead-ra my olumn-ca).

For those of you who have never voluntarily traveled across country to meet your significant other’s ENTIRE family, here’s what you are in for.

First off, you will be hugged an enormous amount of times. It’s going to happen and the longer you fight it, the more awkward it will become.

Yet the overwhelming feeling you will get is that you are like the circus act in the center ring; everyone wants the opportunity to see you, if even for a moment

“Did ya hear about Jarid? He’s Katie’s new boyfriend, he’s a writer and very creative.”

Sidenote: Everyone refers to her as Katie, just like when I go home everyone refers to me as “I’m sorry, who are you?”

So I’m a writer and very creative which really, when you meet me, is not a skill that is conducive to impressing people.

“Step right up folks and watch as the Incredible Jarid conjugates verbs!”

So, I got that going for me.

So word of my “magical powers” has spread throughout her circle of family and friends, but ” just like the circus ” some of it was incorrectly interpreted. Like the 12-foot bear that can juggle boulders turns out to be the 7-foot bear that sits there.

Like one of her relatives who described me as a “life partner” at a family gathering.

As in: “Oh Katie, well she moved out to Nevada and she found her life partner and is doing really well.”

So I get to use this introduction a lot. “Hi, I’m Jarid. Not a lesbian and very pleased to meet you.”

Really though, this trip is all about impressions. It’s just like the bear in the center ring. Nobody in the gallery really wants to hear the bear’s life story ” they just want to see it dance.

You can tell the members of the family that have been where I have by the way they greet me.

Most conversations start similar to this:

Kate: “Aunt Ethyl, this is Jarid.

Jarid: “Hi Aunt Ethyl, I’m Jarid. Not a lesbian and very pleased to meet you.

Ethyl: “Nice to meet you too and how was the flight/trip/travel/journey?

Empathetic relatives’ conversations go slightly different.

Kate: “Jarid, this is Cousin Roger.”

Jarid: Hi Roger, I’m Jarid. Not a lesbian and very pleased to meet you.

Roger: So, what can I get you to drink?

Once you realize you are the bear and just give the people what they want, it’s really not that bad.

Just smile a lot, make sports references to reinforce the “not a lesbian” idea and make sure you smell appropriate, you know, something that suits your personality.

And not, for example, tender pink passion shaving cream that you didn’t realized smelled until you had it all over your face.


Got a weird family? Tell me about it on the Party of One blog at

– Jarid Shipley is the Features Editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him a or 881-1217.