Never date anyone who talks shit about theirfamily, a cool girl, whom I had a wild crush on, once told me over dinner at a static restaurant in the West Village.
Why? I asked, my hazel eyes meeting her seafoam ones. Talking to this girl was like swimming in an endless sea of wisdom, and I just wanted her to continue to throw philosophical gems about life and love at me.
Because if she talks shit about herown flesh and blood, no one is safe, Zara, she said.
I noticed her glass of wine was pretty much full, while mine was pretty much empty the perfect metaphor for our dynamic. She sipped her wine slowly, and I nervously guzzled mine back, as if the answer to all of lifes problems was at the bottom of the fucking glass.
But what if they have really unfortunate families? I pressed.
It doesnt matter. Its very telling HOW exactly someone talks about their family.
I went back to my steak and stopped challenging her. I was in this new phase of letting new ideas settle in for a minute before staunchly refuting them.
Later that night, as I was lying awake in bed listening to a useless sleep meditation, thinkingabout what my girl crush had warned me against, it suddenly struck me: I had been down that road before, kittens.
I had teetered in four-inch heels down the cobblestone streets of a family shit-talker, and it was a disaster.
Several years ago, I briefly dated a woman who had nothing niceto say about anyone, especially her family. She didnt come from an abusive family, but she claimed she came from a neurotic family.
Its important to note that she saw a Republican lesbian therapist, too, who really wound her up about her family. (Thats another reason I have a distaste toward Republicans, especially lesbian Republicans.)
My mother always PUSHED me to do things I didnt want to do. I resent her, Zara. In fact, my mother is a huge bitch, she told me on the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Orange County to meet her parents.
My brother, hes a real dick. My therapist thinks hes a narcissist, she went on to say, making an unnecessarily aggressive left turn at a yellow light. I held my breath and clutched my nonexistent pearls in fear.
My sister, well, shes a royal bitch, like my mother. Shes a serial cheater, and to be perfectly honest, shes a total cunt to her new boyfriend. In fact, shes a total cunt period.
I didnt think much of what shit-talking about her family actually said about her because I was totally used to it. In the two months we had been dating, she said the most vile things about everyone in her family, including the cat. She claimed the cat was a racist and probably a homophobe, too, sincehe scratched her every single time she picked him up. (Maybe the cat just didnt like to be picked up without warning? I mean,I get it.)
I was nervous to meet this (apparently) wicked, mean, selfish family of hers.
Her mother answered the door and gave me a huge hug. She had a southern accent and warm-as-honey eyes.
Oh, sweetie, its so lovely to meet you! Arent you so, so pretty? Can I feed you? You look thin. Oh, but all you city girls are thin, huh? she said, with an authentically-sweet smile plastered across her kind-looking, round face.
I could instantly tell she was a big-hearted eccentric and theres nothing in the world I love more than big-hearted eccentrics.
See, there she is body-shaming you! my then-girlfriend whispered into my ear as her lovely mother ushered us into their cinnamon-smelling house.
Oh, Zara! I saw your pictures on Instagram, and I think we should be best friends! her sister yelled, pounding down their spiral staircase.My sister is so happy with you, too! YAY! She embraced me like we were long-lost sisters finally reunited.
I have excellent bitch radar, and trust me, this girl didnt have a bitchy bone in her 100-pound body.
The rest of the day was amazing. I devoured cookies with her mother, I was proudly showed a slew of childhood pictures of my then-girlfriend by her sister and I never wanted to leave.
On the car ride home, however, former-girlfriend creature spat out more nasty trivia about her family. She kept going on about resentment, not being validated as a child, her mothers problem with being overweight, her sisters alleged anorexiathat she cultivated for attention (a vile, vile accusation) and the way they both thought they were better than everyone else.
I felt myself become super uncomfortable claustrophobic, even. I suddenly knew there was something totally off about this woman I was dating.
I mean, no family is totally perfect, but I had never heard anyone say such horrible things about the people who raised them.
My friends and I all hail from non-traditional families, and while we occasionally complain about them, were proud of them. Wealways throw in an I love my sister before the but shes acting like a royal bitch. My girlfriend was shit-talking to a whole other level.
And when me and the family shit-talker broke up, I found out this girl shit-talked me, too, to a level of shit-talking I had never experienced.
Im a gay woman who writes on the internet. Ive heard it all.
Word got around that she was telling every entity in town I was a manipulative liar, and she assumed I had been cheating on her the entire time.
For the record, I had never given this woman ammunition to think I was cheating on her. (Im a wild flirt, but Ill kick that habit to the curb the moment Im committed.)
She wrote a public, nasty comment on my Facebook page, which, as an internet writer, is a place of work for me.
She even told my best friend I was probably a sociopath. Look ladies, Im many things, but a sociopath, I am not. Im an overly-sensitive kitten who cries daily. I cant even watch a movie without having a meltdown because I feel bad for all that the characters go through.
I couldnt believe someone, who had once claimed to love me, would turn her back and spit out such venomous, wicked words about me.
It felt like a betrayal. It actually felt like she had cheated on me.
Arent relationships, even the ones that dont last, gorgeously sacred? I mean, how can someone who was once intimate with you had sex with you and brushed her teeth next to you turn around and say the most hurtful words about you to anyone who would listen?
Someone who can roar vicious words about their family will have no problem roaring fire about you, babes.
I get it. Some of us have been undeservedly robbed in the family department. Some of us have good reason to harbor resentment. Some of us even need to make ahard choice tocut our families out of ourlives because theyre a source of such negative energy. Im not making a sweeping generalization that all of us have great relatives.
But regardless of how dysfunctional a persons family is, its very rare that they can so candidly and easily spew such petty garbage about them not just after a squabble, but all the time.
A family is your flesh and blood. There is a genetic connection we all feel toward the womanwho gave birth to us, no matter howmuch we butt heads and differ in our political views. Its typically against human nature to hate them because they didnt pick us up from ballet class once (an example my ex used).
If youre dating someone who incessantly talks trash abouttheir flesh and blood, dont think for one minute they wont turn around and do the same thing to you. Like my girl crush said, if their family isnt safe from their shit talk, no one is.
Now, I pay close attention to how the people I date talk about their families, and Ive found a pattern: People who respect their parents, despite the way in which they grew up, will have an inherent respect toward their partners.
The first relationship we ever have is with our family. Regardless of how that relationship unfolds, we wouldnt exist without them.
People who understand the sanctity of that relationship and people who hold their family in their hearts, no matter what, are the people who understand unconditional love.
And thats the only kind of person I ever want to be with. Someone who understands that, no matter what we go through, intimacy is sacred and love is unconditional.