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Socially Handicapped

weather: mostly cloudy
outside: 5°C
mood: disheartened
My [maternal] family is a surreal experience. I have to learn that no one else's family is like us. I have to learn that we are an anomaly that doesn't exist anywhere else.

I have a family that will beat down my door to help me and provide for me at every opportunity. I have to strenuously reverse bargain with them to let me help them out and to take less from them than they want to give me.

Whenever we make food, we always make enough for each other. We all take turns making cool new food and sharing it.

Whenever we go out (grocery shopping or whatever), we deliberately ask if there's anything anyone else needs. We don't put everyone's stuff on separate bills and when we come home, we don't ask for the money back because we know that the next time they go out, they will pick up what we request and not ask for payment either. That doesn't stop us from trying to pay someone back for our personal stuff and making up lame excuses for giving them extra ("It's for gas"; "You paid for my stuff last time and I've been busy, so I'll pay you back to even it out"; "I won't have any money next week, so you should take this now"; "Nono, keep the change, I don't want to carry around heavy coins"... it was a $20 bill for a $1.25 thing).

Whenever we go out for dinner together, we fight to pay the bill.

My wedding was the first time I stood up to them like a Big Girl™ and refused all monetary help. I still had to let my Dad bail me out because the restaurant forgot to tell us that they only took bank drafts or personal cheques(!) and we were stuck there at the end of the night with a $15K bill to settle. I paid him back the very next day though. But I'm glad they were there. =P

That is my family. This is how I was brought up. I have learned this behaviour and I naturally expect it from other people, that it will be reciprocated in time. And when I realize it won't, I'm disappointed and disheartened.

At first, I was amused at how incredibly easy it was to take the bill when I went out with other people. I only now understand that most people will never pay unless I discreetly refuse to. I now understand that true friends will have the decency to at least try to take me on. *wry grin*

I've never had the problem of having my family refuse me money, refuse to help me or pull any crap on me over money. They'd never demand payments and surcharges for completely fabricated and unreasonable items. Nor have I ever had to deal with emotional blackmail or extortion(!!!) from them. It nearly killed me to learn that immediate family members could do this.

Much to the contrary, my family keeps offering to do so much for me, but they have barely enough for themselves. This source of income will be gone next month. That source may or may not be there anymore. There's that other huge thing that needs to be paid for in a while. The way I see it, they could use the money/help that I give them. I've recently had to comfort and reassure a family member when they* broke down in tears because they genuinely thought they should have done much more for me "that one time" ten years ago. I know they love me, but I don't see how they can possibly have the resources to offer me the things that they do. This is why I'm so uncomfortable accepting their help.


* — I'm purposely using "they" as a gender-neutral, third person singular pronoun.


Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
chenpion
Nov. 3rd, 2003 08:41 pm (UTC)
Huh. Must be nice...
I think I've only heard of such a family (in real life, and not in fiction)... once or twice. It's rare -- definitely to be cherished. Hope you treat 'em right!

... and hope that their problem(s)? work out. If I'm reading your post correctly.

Out of curiosity... how long did it take for you to realise that (other) people were... uh... taking advantage of your generosity when you took the bill all the time?
bride
Nov. 3rd, 2003 08:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh. Must be nice...
Hope you treat 'em right!

I try =)

... and hope that their problem(s)? work out. If I'm reading your post correctly.

Heh, somehow we manage. We always do. Thanks though =)

how long did it take for you to realise that (other) people were... uh... taking advantage of your generosity when you took the bill all the time?

It's hard to pinpoint, it's just not something I thought about. I just did it because that's what my family did, y'know? I was also the first of my friends to have a decent job, so it was kind of "expected". Not in a mean way, it was just that I made more money than they did, so I treated more often.

And I thought that was fair. But, they've all gotten jobs since. It was only in the last year or so that I realized that no one else ever offered to treat. I stopped taking the bill and then everyone started paying their own share.
chenpion
Nov. 3rd, 2003 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh. Must be nice...
That's pretty interesting...

Out of my university... classmates (not friends, that's too strong a term), I was the first to get a job, and a decent one... so I treated people to dinner because it was 'expected'... yet, afterwards, even when I knew they had a job -- maybe one that didn't make a lot, but still, a decent enough one -- they never even called to meet up to celebrate.

I thought it was just me. It's... nice?... no, that's not quite the word I'm looking for... but sad, I guess, that this sort of thing happens the world over. If people know they can take advantage of you, they will. On the other hand, you don't want to be mean and stingy by refusing them in the first place... the world's a cynical and bitter enough place as it is!...

... ah, well, just rambling. I get like that in these moods.

Anyways, back to the main point. G'luck with everything. *wanders off to lunch 'n stuff*
bride
Nov. 3rd, 2003 11:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh. Must be nice...
Yeah, you just have to play it by ear. See what other people do and go along with it.
pne
Nov. 4th, 2003 01:05 am (UTC)
That sounds like a lovely family, even if it becomes difficult to offer or refuse help sometimes when you feel it might be appropriate.
bride
Nov. 4th, 2003 09:42 am (UTC)
It got so ridiculous sometimes. It's comical when I think back on things, but boy, we'd get into the almightiest rows trying to be nice to each other. =O =D
retrospeck
Nov. 4th, 2003 03:45 am (UTC)
I've found some of that with relatives/family friends.

I actually consider fighting over the bill at a restaurant one of those "Chinese things".

I think I subconciously work that way too, not like I make a lot of money or anything (haha) but I've always tended to be a little more generous than I should just because I automatically expect that I'll be compensated in some sort of way in the future.

I like to think that it'll all even itself out in the future, i'll pay for... whatever, now, they can grab the bill next time or that kind of thing. I've learned that doesn't always work out, but at least I know now, right?

I'd say more but i'm supposed to be working on this project right now, and I can't think of anything else to say, so i'd better get back to that. *hugs*
bride
Nov. 4th, 2003 09:39 am (UTC)
...I automatically expect that I'll be compensated in some sort of way in the future.

That must sound bad to someone who doesn't understand, but I know what you mean. It's not that you'll do anything about it, things should just even themselves out and be fair.

And I'm sure it will be. Either I will learn to adapt or I'll see them less.

So, yeah, we can talk when you're less busy and I'm less busy. =)
retrospeck
Nov. 4th, 2003 01:39 pm (UTC)
well it's not like a keep tabs on everyone or something, but i'm the kind of person who just works on convenience. okay, so you don't have money today, it'll be my treat, i'd love to have your company anyways. next time you can pay and so on, blah blah blah.

That's what Ian and I do, actually. I coughed up for some shirt he wanted (and he actually paid me back for it), he took me out to dinner, this morning I had a craving for Red Lobster, we ended up going to Perkins instead but since he didn't have cash on him I paid, and just earlier we had decided to visit this other restaurant sometime, so it's going to be his treat then.

Actually, he kind of loses out because I think he ends up paying more, but maybe I'm such a wonderful friend, it doesn't matter. ;)
(Deleted comment)
bride
Nov. 4th, 2003 09:49 am (UTC)
Perhaps they grew accustomed to your taking it, thought you liked to take it, thought you might ask for money later, or something.

I'm sure that's a part of it. That's just the pattern it got into.

Or, another thing I thought about was, maybe they thought of my paying all the time as "condescension". *shrug* I'm learning. =\
yanchi
Nov. 4th, 2003 02:23 pm (UTC)
A little sharing
This is an interesting topic as I see that often in my family as well. My parents are generous and they often take the bill for dinner and people generally reciprocate after 2 to 3 treats. That's alright. Those who are less well-off can treat lunch or bringing other stuff in return but that's all that matters - the token of their esteem (is that how you say it?) My parents work with the principle that - we want company and we have to eat anyway and it's easier (to order) and happier to eat with a bunch of people so as a family of 3 we always end up with 12 people (not family members but friends only). There was 1 time they all fought so hard for the bill that the bill was torn in half! That was hilarious.

Also my parents have the belief that it's more of a blessing to be able to help others than to receive help. (you know the chinese saying for this? I'm not sure if I'm translating well) Like you, they believe that things will eventually even out - we might be offering monetary help to others now but we might need their help in the future in their 'expertise', who knows. Just like my mum, she is good to everyone..and now my grandma is sick in HK while we are in NZ and mum can't go back coz of me, mum's friends are eager to help my grandma...so that's how things work for us. =)

Sorry my English isn't very good..I still struggle with expressing myself...and hope you aren't bothered by this sharing.
bride
Nov. 4th, 2003 02:53 pm (UTC)
Re: A little sharing
It's a cultural difference, I think. Sometimes, it takes a little time to reconcile it in your mind with people who don't have the same attitudes.

and hope you aren't bothered by this sharing.

Not bothered at all =)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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