Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Elegy For The Bad Girl In The Family

One of my cousins, whom I shall call “Xenia” (the warrior princess), is the black sheep in her family, just as I am the black sheep in mine. As I confessed several months ago on this blog, I spent a night in jail and a day in court as a youngster, but Xenia has done better (or worse) than that. Much worse, in fact.

Xenia’s life has been a tragedy. She was the youngest child of older parents and probably never got the love or attention she needed. By the time she was twelve, she was getting drunk with her friends. By the time she was in her twenties, she was a party girl and an alcoholic.

(I even met her in a bar during my pub-crawling days – and I’m almost ashamed to admit that I didn’t know who she was at first, and tried to pick her up before I recognized her as kin and recoiled from my mistake. Yes. An embarrassment not nearly on the level of Ryan O’Neal cluelessly attempting to “game” his own daughter, Tatum, at Farrah Fawcett’s funeral – but bad enough.)

By the time Xenia was in her thirties, she’d had a child out of wedlock. A few years later, she lost her driver’s license after a series of DUI arrests. Not to be deterred by the state of Massachusetts, she continued to drive – only to be arrested on a DUI without a license and sentenced to six months in prison. I don’t know if she served the whole term, but after she got out she was arrested again for beating up her social worker – a male social worker with whom she was having an affair – and sentenced to a month in the county jail. Years later, she is – miraculously – still alive. She may or may not be clean and sober, but she still breathes.

I was never ashamed of her exploits or embarrassed by her awkwardness at family gatherings. I never shunned her or condemned her. The worse thing I did, contrary rascal that I am, was to take perverse pride in her bad girl status. That may have been worse than condemning her, but – hell – her rebellious ways made her damned interesting in the context of my family’s stifling lace-curtain snootiness. But the fact remains that her mother is now dead, she has no husband, her only child has not grown up with her, and now she is alone. Sin and bad luck are different things, and there are scoundrels that prosper while good people fail, but sinners who are not lucky should not be considered the worse because of it.

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