On Cousins and Embarassment.

Cousins are weird. I mean, they’re great and I think mine are way cool, but cousin dynamics, generally speaking, are weird. Almost every awkward family story I have ever heard has involved cousins. Or sassy grandparents, those admittedly are my favorite stories. I think a lot of times cousin relationships are weird because there’s a lot of pressure to be close: your parents are bff siblings so obviously they want their children to be close, too. Sometimes cousins even look alike so there’s added pressure because even your bodies are like, LOOK AT HOW MUCH WE’RE RELATED. Those bits of identical DNA floating around your bodies (I have zero idea how genetics works) insists your relationship be special.

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All the grandparents and adults love watching “the cousins”  playing together (adults love saying “the cousins” like we’ve all formed a band and that is our terribly uninspired band name), but I don’t think it’s ever the utopia they imagine. Grouping us all together actually made tensions high sometimes: when I was little my grandfather would give all the grandkids a present on my birthday. He was sweet and cute and didn’t want anyone to feel left out but that is literally the point of birthdays. For others to be left out because there is hardly enough room in this day to celebrate me (and yeah I would also get presents on other cousins birthdays too, but that is wildly beside the point). Hard to be best friends with punk kids who get presents on your birthday. I’m sayin’.

More than that, cousins are tricky because the odds of having one your exact age are not great. In my family it was impossible.

I was six years younger than most of my cousins. And the ones I wasn’t six years younger than were nearly six years younger than me. 1 or 2 years isn’t a very big gap, but six is pushing it. Six meant that while I was into Barbie’s, my older cousins were into crushes. We didn’t relate to each other. They knew it, but I did not. While it has never been admitted to me, I know that I was an annoying little cousin. They probably thought I was lame in the way that all 12 year olds think all six year olds are lame. Because I was. But my perception of the situation? I thought they were the most cool people I had ever seen in my life and that if I tried really hard, they would think the same thing about me. One cousin in particular, who is now one of the sweetest momma’s I have ever seen to three beautiful girls, was so cool I could not even. Even as a child I was unable to even. She wore a two piece swim suit, had piercings, dated boys, and listened to music that wasn’t on the only Christian radio station I was allowed to listen to.

She would always courteously play dolls with me when she came to visit, but I’m sure this wasn’t the highlight of her trip. Getting to hang out with my older sister was probably much more her speed. After all, when she was with my sister she could do things like watch PG13 movies. You may not know this, but PG13 movies are much more fun than painting your little cousins fingernails.

When I think back (mildly in embarrassment..) to our time together when I was little, one memory always stands out. It was the most insignificant thing to EVER HAPPEN IN MY LIFE, but I carry the shame with me to this day.

Her dad, my mom (the bff siblings), and the two of us were on our way to go bowling (in hindsight, probably another outing that was much more fun for me). I felt like the coolest kid around because there I was – a 7 year old with knobby knees sitting in the back of my mom’s old silver Volvo with a teenager. Not realizing my perception of our dynamic was way off, I was flying high. Unfortunately, much like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. And in this story, the sun is the 90’s sensation Hanson.

The radio was playing a Hanson song that I had never heard before because my CD stack included the soundtrack to Mary Kate & Ashley movies, Rebecca St. James, and the Newsboys. Hanson did not make it through my mothers strict boundaries (praise the Lord she had strict boundaries because the filth that young kids are exposed to is outrageous) (sometimes even I am like “whoa, self, grandma much?” when I hear the things I say about kids and music and brooches). My cousin however, being the older and cooler girl that she was, loved Hanson. When the song began playing she was singing along and bee-bopping in such a way that I knew it would put me in a really nice spot if I showed her that I, too, loved Hanson. Thrilled with the opportunity to show her how much alike we were, my mouth went faster than my brain. I turned to her and said, “I love Huffy too!”

Huffy. Huffy is a brand of bikes. It isn’t the name of a 1997 superstar boy band.

A lame brand of bikes, by the way.

My cousin ROLLED in laughter. She could barely form complete sentences. “HUFFY?! *laughter laughter embarrassing laughter* THEY’RE NOT CALLED *laugher* HUFFY!! IT’S HAN*laughter*SON!!”. It felt like this went on for hours. Her not even being able to handle me, and me trying to will my body to melt into the seat while praying my sweet Father in Heaven would just end me then and there.

I don’t remember a single other thing about that day. Just the horrifying moment when I revealed my true self. I wasn’t cool. I was seven. And that was it.

(another weird thing about cousins is that they have crushes on each other sometimes. I thought this was just my messed up family till I heard a few other similar stories. When I was little I had a crush on a cousin out in California that I had only met maybe twice in my life. I kept the school picture his dad sent to my dad beside my bed like an incredible creep. Then later in life, a cousin up in Ohio who I again had only met a few times, had a crush on me. Being on that side is even creepier.)

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