Jul 3, 2013

No One Expects the Clannish Imposition

DEAR Ask A Punk -
This is unbelievable. I got out. I got completely out. I left my hometown and my fucked up, drunk, shithead family four years ago. I moved 500 miles away to a city that isn't all that big, but big enough for me and made a new life for myself with a half-way decent job, new friends and a chance at a decent, better life than I had going at home. Not necessarily a bigger life or anything. I think I would have liked my town if it wasn't for my family, so I'm not a city snob or anything, and really, this place barely qualifies as a city since there are a little less than 200,000 people here. But compared to 10,000 where I grew up? It might as well be New York. I love it. I still don't know what my future is going to be like. I will admit that I've only dabbled at a few college classes and have mostly just been having a good time paying my bills and living in a nice, quiet apartment that I can call my own. I even have a cat now. I work. I go to shows. I date cute boys sometimes. I might start or join a band this summer. I admit I'm proud of myself. I'll spare you the details of how I grew up, not because I'm ashamed, but because it is the same old story you always hear: drunk dad, drunker mom, and an automatic reputation as a member of "one of those families" even if I never, or almost never, acted like the rest of them. So bad start, happy ending, right?

Wrong. About a month ago my brother came to "visit" and never left. It would almost maybe make sense if he was a little brother who was finally old enough to escape too, but he isn't. He is my older brother - by 4 years! I don't even remember exactly how he weaseled his way in the door, but it was something about "looking for a new job" and "checking up on his little sister"  BOTH of which I knew were bullshit. He never looked out for me. He was a bully who stole my babysitting money to buy beer, used to beat me up and was always a complete shithead and fuckup. I figured I would let him crash for the weekend and then he would drive home or something, but of course his reasons for showing up in the first place were a lie. I'm not in regular contact with my family so I didn't find out untl a few weeks later that he had actually been thrown out of the house because he got in trouble with the cops for something. Not that my parents would usually care. The police aren't exactly strangers at our house, but he must have fucked up bad to actually get thrown out. So now I'm stuck with him and I AM PISSED OFF. I'm am not a doormat, and am usually pretty fierce at standing up for myself, but this is different. I don't know what to do. -- Not Brother's Keeper.

Dear NBK-
You try to set up some healthy, 500 mile-wide boundaries with your family and they get ignored. That does really suck, but you have to take a little responsibility for the situation you are currently in. Saying "I don't even remember exactly how he weaseled his way in the door" is a sure sign that you're the product of a chaotic, alcohol-fueled childhood... No matter what, you have to deflect some responsibility for whatever situation you find yourself in. That little bit of wiggle room with the actual, full truth has often come in handy I'm sure. It is just one of what I'm sure are many survival tactics you honed throughout your childhood. You survived and you escaped and for that you deserve a metal. Seriously.

...but you do have to focus on the fact that your shithead brother is currently messing up your apartment, life and towels because 1) you opened the door in the first place and 2) you haven't kicked his ass out... yet. So you have to ask yourself the real reason(s) why you let this happen. There is every possibility that the honest answer is this: That you felt like you were powerless to stop him. It is important to recognize that, because it is a sure bet that your brother knew he had some sort of leverage he could use on his little sister, otherwise he wouldn't have made the trip.

So there it is. You're tough, strong and independent, but someone you apparently despise can still manipulate you into giving him what he wants. That is nothing to be ashamed of, trust me, that isn't why I'm harping on it, ...it is something to be understood and (eventually) conquered. 

But in the meantime, how do you get his ass out of your apartment and make him stay out? The most straightforward answer is to do to him what you would do to a stranger or non-blood relative bad-news friend: You could just call the cops and have them haul the douchebag away. From the sound of it, the cops back home are probably still looking for him right? Keeping him under your roof might even make you an accessory-after-the-fact to whatever crime he committed. He might be an unwelcome guest, but to a bunch of cops, it might look like you're helping a fugitive to "hide out." ...now wouldn't THAT suck?

OK, maybe you don't want to get the authorities involved, what then? 

The first issue is this: You said he used to be a bully and beat you up etc. Do you still feel AT ALL still at physical risk from him? ...even a little bit? If the answer is yes, you have to protect yourself. You said you have new friends in your new city right? Make sure they know what you're going through. Make sure a few of them are in your apartment ALL the time. Then, send your brother out for something, or heck, take him out to lunch, and bring a long a friend or three as well. Have his stuff already packed if possible (I'm sure he is traveling light) or, have some friends back at the apartment pack it up for you while you're out with him, and tell him it will be sitting OUTSIDE your apartment door. Then give him money for gas or bus fare back home. 

DO NOT feel like you have to explain yourself or give an extensive list of reasons. DO NOT try to settle the scores of childhood hurts you've got in your memory banks and DO NOT respond to anything he says. He might start yelling, making demands, making threats... those are easy to ignore... what you really have to watch out for is: apologies. If he breaks down and starts telling you the things you've been waiting to hear from him for a long time... DO NOT cave in. He is working from the same playbook you grew up with - tears and remorse and whatever other lies it might take to get what he wants. By all means thank him for the tears and apologies, but tell him he still has to leave. Immediately. No excuses. ...and don't leave any wiggle room. Do not offer any possibilities that start with "maybe in the future..." or "If you can really prove you've changed..." etc... ANYthing he says will be pure bullshit. Say it with me: Pure bullshit. And tell him, clearly, that if he pounds on your door even ONCE, your first call will be to the police (and mean it.)

Then, when he is gone - change the locks IMMEDIATELY. Any dysfunctional relative worth his/her weight in douchebags will have surely made a copy of your apartment key. Count on it. 

As I said at the beginning. You wouldn't tolerate this kind of behavior from an acquaintance or a roommate/friend... why is it acceptable from a family member? It isn't ...or at least it shouldn't be. You really need to get some insight into how and why you opened the door for him in the first place and why you let it go on for so long. 

You have made a great start, but even at 500 miles, your family history is pulling you in directions you don't want to go. You've have made some great and heroic first steps, but clearly, the work isn't finished. Keep fighting the good fight. You deserve a life that you get to define for yourself... don't let "them" do it for you. 

Good luck.