DEAR CAROLYN: I’m in my mid-50s, reasonably successful and comfortable, with meaningful work and a wife (no kids). I’m pretty happy with my life.
This wasn’t the easiest place to reach. I come from an extremely dysfunctional family (alcoholism, drugs, suicides). Basically, I have no contact with my living relatives. It’s my choice, and I’m at peace with it.
Yet everybody else seems to have a really happy family with mostly deep, satisfying relationships.
Those fortunate enough to have this kind of family have my admiration. The problem is – what do I say when people ask me about my family? Of course, I can just try to change the subject (“They’re fine, how are yours?”), but more often than you would believe, people want details and quiz me. I want to shrug and say “I don’t really know,” but that invites more questions.
I’m comfortable with not having some version of the Waltons as my family, but others are not. Suggestions?
At a Loss
DEAR LOSS: Their comfort is not your problem. Truly. Repeat whenever your doubts bubble up.
I realize it feels like your problem when you’re being grilled and life-coached by fellow backyard barbecue guests, but thinking of it that way is what leads to the temptation to make stuff up. A happy lie, after all, protects you only by satisfying their need for you to fit into whatever box they hold dear.
If instead you approach their curiosity as not your problem, then you are free to deny them whatever need drives their dive into your business.
Because their comfort is not your problem.
So keep that mentally at hand at the barbecue: I have my crazy, you have yours, let’s talk about something else.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.