Dear family members,
It has come to my attention that you wonder why my family and I no longer attend family get-togethers. I am sure you really know the answer, but refuse to be introspective enough to recognize it.
For many years, I struggled to be accepted and loved by you as a group. I spent every holiday trying to pretend that your words and actions didn't hurt me. I tried to be understanding when I got in more trouble than my cousin (your daughter/niece), Jane, even when we were both naughty and when it was her idea in the first place. I tried to not care when my feelings and likes were ignored.
I left every family event feeling depressed, angry, irritated, ugly, unloved, unlovable, socially unacceptable and just "wrong".
As I got older and a little stronger emotionally, I tried to assert my own self-worth. I then found out that my christian beliefs were the wrong brand of christian beliefs (apparently Christ didn't mean that whole "turn the other cheek" bit or the "blessed are the peacemakers" bit). Every event was a celebration of what was wrong with me - I was too skinny, too tall, too many freckles, too much gray hair, too big when pregnant, starting to get fat (when I weighed 135 lbs at 5'8"), I went to the wrong school, the wrong church, had the wrong job. I was used to it, I was even willing to put up with it.
Christmas of 1997, Mr. Gaia and I arrived at 4:40 for a 4:30 event (we did drive an hour and a half to a large, unfamiliar city and to a house we'd only been to once) and found that all the gifts were opened, all the wrapping paper cleaned up and people eating seconds of christmas dinner. I didn't make a scene. I did ask why you started before the scheduled time and was told I was "too sensitive" and "the kids couldn't wait, besides you were late!", when I pointed out that that didn't all happen in 10 minutes, I was told I was being argumentative. I didn't point out that for years we had waited over an hour past the start time for John and Jane to get there. I heard the message loud and clear - I was not as valuable as John and Jane.
Christmas of 2004 everyone in the family knew I was moving 2 days after christmas. Moving 750 miles away (and many times I think it wasn't far enough). I made no secret of it. When did you decide to schedule family christmas? The Saturday after christmas. The reason you gave was so full of holes a 2nd grader could have picked them apart. "Aunt Marcia has to work and that's the only Saturday she has off". Aunt Marcia works for a christian bookstore. She doesn't work Sundays, nor does she work all day on Saturday - we've often had family christmas starting at 6pm. I heard the message loud and clear - you didn't want me and my family to attend.
At this point, I stay away because I won't sit idly by while you "tease" other family members (always the young, the girls, and the "weak"). I understand that you would not be able to handle an "uppity woman" and that my standing up to you might make you violent (oh yes, I've seen the violence lurking just under the surface, I know it's there). I will not expose my children to your bullying.
I know much has been made of the special effort we make to see Mr. Gaia's family and that it "hurts" you. I make a special effort to attend events with them because they make me feel smart, attractive, loved and lovable, and just "right". Being around them is uplifting and wonderful.
You've conditioned me to apologize for saying these things. But I'm not sorry. You know in your heart that these things are true. I can't change you, but I can decide to not be around you.