On being the sad drunk aunt

Once upon a time, I was the over-achieving golden child who got straight As. Then I was the black sheep who got retrenched and then divorced, and whose life imploded. Now I’m the sad, drunk childless aunt at family functions, who doesn’t fit in anywhere and has spent the past six years having regular meltdowns.

My mother harbours fantasies that my oft-repeated avowal to never have children is somehow just a phase. I’m about to turn 40, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body and my life is a mess, but nonetheless she holds firm to the hope that I will change my mind.

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My niece’s christening today was ruined by my own naive stupidity: I tweeted an image of the gift, a painting, and two people (one of whom knows me) likened it to vacuum-packed, framed meat with no thought as to how receiving that insult might actually feel, especially in the context. I spent the service either struggling to hold back the tears or with panda black streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t face any of my relatives and fled to the car where I buckled over in pathetic wrenching sobs. “Pull yourself together,” my father said. I think my parents of sick of me by now.

Fifteen minutes earlier I sat there, in the same church where my parents were married, where I was christened and sang in the church choir, and got married, and where my grandfather and mother-in-law were sent into the hereafter, and thought: this is how I have ended up. Surrounded by people whose lives follow the prescribed, approved narrative, when mine is just a complete fucking disaster.

So I spent the gathering glugging wine and trying to kill the pain. I made snake tongues at the older of my two nieces (she’s going through a stage) and pretended to be a dinosaur. The sad, childless, clownish, awkward presence in the room, the drunk aunt who fits in nowhere. This is my destiny.

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