On My Uncle

College has made me a much better judge of character. I think, mostly, because I’m in contact with a larger number of people than I ever could have met before, from a wider range of backgrounds, and who are all, for the most part, willing to talk to me since we have no pre-existing social strata like the ones that followed me in my hometown from moving there in 4th grade to running out after graduation.

When you meet a bunch of people who are all very different, you realize that there are a few constancies in character. It’s possible for people to be generally respectful. It’s possible for people to refrain from trash talking. Etcetera.

These realizations came gradually, and weren’t really realizations but more an adaptation of my expectations of people. I recalibrated my judging machine. These were my new norms.

The real realization came when my family visited me at the beginning of summer. This coincided with a realization that I would see my family less and less, and that I needed to learn to cherish them. With that mindset, I’d like to think I was somewhat more rational and forgiving than I used to be when interacting with my relatives.

What I found through my new goggles was that my aunt was petty and childish. My mother was overly critical and image-driven. My cousin was negatively entrenched in gender roles and disrespectful of her parents. My brother displayed, actually, a marked improvement in his willingness to cooperate and to make small sacrafices for a team. And the real winner of that week was my uncle.

I’d never really known my uncle. I was quiet and reticent at family gatherings, and after I’d fielded off his attempts at building a rapport since I was a child, it took my more mature self to break that streak.

But during the trip, I realized that my uncle was even-tempered, reasonable, funny, forgiving, and all-around a wonderful person. He stabilized the temper tantrums and complaints my aunt tossed around and calmed her whirling sexist concerns and deflected antagonizing comments directed towards any of the kids by the adults. He told jokes and laughed at everyone else’s. He was pleasant and bright even though he’d worked all night and gotten 2 hours of sleep. I couldn’t believe it. I could see why my aunt needed him, but why in the world had he married my aunt?

Anyway. Just a shoutout to my uncle.


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