A Birthday Party Gone Bad


My extended family was getting together to celebrate my aunt’s 87 birthday. It was a big deal to have this sole- remaining matriarch still here leading our family in love and togetherness. We were meeting at Jumbo China Buffet for lunch, my aunt’s choice, which offers a huge variety of food for a variety of tastes. As far as my family goes, however, I don’t see huge variety in beliefs and principals. Half Italian, half Polish, they are an outspoken bunch but love usually trumps indifference.

We were positioned in a private room with three or four rows of long banquet tables and my cousins and their children, as well as some of my siblings, were scattered about. In the middle of draping ginger slices across my rolled sushi, I was surprised to hear my male cousin yell from across the room, “Hey Cindy, if you had to vote tomorrow, who would you vote for?”

Are you kidding, I think to myself. He wants to have a political shouting conversation here and now during this birthday lunch celebration. Everyone in our extended family knows that everyone in my immediate family is a staunch Democrat. Believing in equality across the board, we are soon welcoming an African American into our family, my geographer/anthropologist daughter’s life work is climate change and its devastating results, a son-in-law is working on his PhD in Buddhism, and the whole family works on social change. Who we would not vote for is pretty crystal clear. This felt very uncharacteristic of this particular cousin who is historically known for being the sweetest, kindest, most considerate male. What is happening here? Was I being bullied?

“Not Trump,” I replied.

“But the economy is so good!” my cousin yelled.

“Of course, if you roll back environmental regulations,” I commented.

He made another remark or two and I replied, “I am not having this conversation here.” This did not feel good. Everyone knew Todd and I were outnumbered. It felt unkind.

Then his children and another cousin looked at me and did fist pumps shouting, “Go Trump” with smirks on their faces.

“Why not?” my brother continued. “We should be able to talk about politics and hear each other’s sides.” I looked at my 87- year old aunt happily peeling steamed shrimp by my side. This potentially-volatile subject would not be her choice of conversation. It wasn’t the place or time. It wouldn’t be fair to her, plus, I was not up for it. In all honesty, I am never up for it when it comes to my family.

My brother and his wife proceeded to tell me about the wonderful conversation they just had with a pro-choice man at the recent pro-life rally they just attended in DC. They did not know that my immediate family had just traveled to DC to march in the Women’s March a few weeks earlier, to support women around America and the world. What a juxtaposition of beliefs, in this same family. I did not engage. I just felt sad. How could good people be so polarized?

My cousin came up to me after we sang to my aunt and began to say our good-byes and heartfelt apologized multiple times, telling me that he loved me and he wanted to keep the peace. I appreciated his attempt to redeem himself but it still felt bad.

Todd and I talked in the car on the ride home. “Is it really mostly about money?” we questioned.  That’s all we hear from the other side, “The economy is doing so well.”

Never mind that we are now working to poison our environment, sell off our country’s most beautiful wild places and develop them, allow foreigners and anyone who is not of the white race not just feel marginalized but fearful, the same people who protest for the right to own any type of gun, including assault weapons and believe in less government control, believe that a government should interfere with the personal beliefs of women and tell her what she can and can’t do with her body, and while the rest of the world looks at us with increasing distrust and disgust. Then there’s the unborn babies, more important than the children who are already here struggling for a leg up out of poverty and beyond drug addicted parents, who may have been brought into the world via rape and sexual assault. I just don’t understand. And when did unkindness become ok and disrespect and inconsideration towards someone else’s beliefs become acceptable? How can I expect my cousins and their children to behave any differently than the leader of our country?

Excuse my French, but fuck the economy. I’m on the side of kindness and mutual respect. How about if we just come to an agreement that the best president of the United States should be the one who inspires us to be better people. Let’s just start there and let that guide us in making our decision on who would be the best leader. As far as the current administration goes, I’m not seeing a lot of that. If unkindness and disrespect can reach all the way down into my beloved family, how hard it is to feel hopeful.

In respect towards my family, I apologize for any hurt I may have caused you by writing this blog, but as author Ann Lamont said, “If people wanted us to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”


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51 thoughts on “A Birthday Party Gone Bad Leave a comment

  1. It was definitely inappropriate for your family to put you on the spot at such an event. You handled it it perfectly.

  2. Cindy,
    The state of our country makes me sad too. I’ve taken a break from watching and listening to the news because it upsets me so much. I don’t understand how people can support such an immoral man as the president.

  3. John and I cannot agree with you more, Cindy. Very well stated. I am so fearful that this horror will continue for four more years. I worry about our wildlife, our wild places, our democracy and our very humanity. We cannot survive another four years of this. God help us all!

  4. Well said…agree with you 100 %…we have friends who disgust me only caring about their investments…having toured Dachau last winter I am afraid for the similarities that led up to those atrocities…

  5. Truth! The incivility and falsehoods in discourse have become so pervasive, and I’m so with you on the belief that kindness and mutual respect should outweigh economics! (Although the rising deficit – very unRepublican – makes it seem like an economic house of cards.)

  6. Consider googling Heather Cox Richardson to get on her daily newsletter list. This woman uses irrefutable historical facts to lay out a daily analysis of the events in DC. It is sobering. But history once again repeats itself. She is also on FB with nearly 250K followers and remarkably has very, very few trolls. It gives me hope. https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson/ I often use her context to refute supporters lies. Sadly though, in the end, they never listen and we can only hope that at some point common sense and ‘right’ will prevail. I”m sorry about your family. That is sad. And the economy IS great if you are in the stock market or have a 401K. It is miserable if you are lower income and one of millions of the under employed. This can’t last. We will pay the price someday, but it could be too late to right the wrongs. We have unprecedented trillion dollar debt. We will never – I hope – be Venezuela – but with the current despot in office, anything could happen. Thank you for being a shining light in the dark – when your own family has been blinded by the propaganda.

    1. You are of course welcome. Your posts are always inspiring and I read each one several times. But this one I took the next step and actually posted something. Keep on shining my friend. You and others like you are the hope in the dark.

  7. As usual, very well said my friend. The constant diminution of civility that this president practices is both shameful and sad. His bullying and name calling demonstrates he’s at a maturity level expected from a rude 10 year old on the playground. All in the name of glorifying his narcissistic nature. As for the economy – don’t get me started!

  8. Well put, Cindy Lou!!! Leslie’s family has been split in two for over a year for all the same reasons. If I have to hear “But the economy is so good.” one more time I’m going to scream. It is so short sighted.


  9. Very well said, Cindy, and I couldn’t agree more. The economy was already rebounding under Obama but many chose to ignore that fact or are not aware, probably due to the right wing media.
    I think there is something that most people would agree is more important than money- health. If only the Trump supporters and/or money hungry would open their eyes and see that reduction of environmental controls causes dire health consequences. Do they really not care that their loved ones get cancer etc?

    1. thats’ what i don’t get too- don’t they need clean air and water and healthy food to survive or are they such old geezers and so close to death that spending their last buck son earth is most imp- not Seven generations?

  10. I can’t even imagine living in a society like that. That elects (and probably re-elects) Trump and tries to justify it* ex post with (partially made up propaganda of) oversimplified and undercomplex economical „facts“.

    (It being a collection of misogynist, racist, bigot, straight up untruthful and openly lying – promoting behaviors that are disgusting by themselves but just incredible if justified by economic arguments because in the end all this comes down to “discriminating based on skin color and reducing women to usable flesh is ok if it is done by someone financially successful”)

    I can’t even travel to the states at the moment because I can’t even fathom to see first hand what has happened to the country of my dreams (dreams that basically died when George w was re-elected).

    How do you do it? How do you just not up and leave? I admire that.

    1. I love my country geographically- its land and wildness- and my friends whom are kindred spirits- and my children who are here- and what America can be. When I lose all hope, then we might think of leaving. I miss you- someday I’ll see you again. My children are coming to Germany for a few weeks this May. My son-in-law schooled there as an exchange student in HS and going to visit- as well as the town of Gladfetten- on the border of Germany and Switzerland, where Todd’s family is from. What town are you in in case they are nearby?

      1. Frankfurt. Dead center. Unlikely to visit on purpose but likely to fly to 😉
        Hook us up and we’ll be happy to show them around if they like.

        As for you: agreed. Missing and looking forward to see you again. Just move out of Mordor (If only for a trip where we can meet) or expel the evil powers with torches and pitchforks already?

  11. L. O. V E. ! I have the same differences in my family. Also l stopped going to high school class reunions and luncheons because of their love for lQ45. I suspect racism for most of them.

    What a great, timely article you wrote although l felt sorry for your aunt having to witness it on her special day.

    Thanks, Linda Steere

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. How upsetting. You really handled this well. The truth is this: People believe what they want and then find the “facts” to justify their beliefs. You would think people could at least agree on what it means to be kind and respectful, but apparently, many people can’t even do that. Of course money matters. But those who put their bottom line before the health, welfare, and safety of others are indeed sad people.

  13. Cindy, I’m with you girl. I feel physical pain every time I read about another environmental rollback. I just hope that we can get him gone soon and start the very long process of undoing the harm he has done to our country, our environment and our planet.

    Unfortunately, I have cousins like yours. Thankfully 250 miles separates us and I have put them on my restricted list on Facebook so I don’t need to see their propaganda any more.

    Keep up the good fight.

    Joe “EarthTone” Harold

  14. Bravo ~ for the well written words and for keeping the peace at the birthday party. When I hear trump supporters with their empty words I want them to stop, really stop, and think about what they are passing on to their grandchildren. I’ve tried this and gotten the brainless answer of a great America. It makes me so weary. I love you!

  15. There are a lot of us who feel the way you do. I am now working with refugees and their struggles. I just finished work with a family from the Congo and helped them resettle in the Denver area. They are thriving. But that is only one of millions. The refugee program here in the US is almost non existent now. I hope that will change. But I don’t see it yet.

    There are also other problems like the destruction and exploitation of our wild places. And with lifting of and bypassing of many environmental regulations we are heading for more health problems. As for climate change we only have to look at what is happening in Australia.

    There are so many problems with the current situation in our county I can see why many are losing hope for our future. I have not yet lost all hope.

    Whoever will be next leader of our county will have a monumental task ahead of them. And let us hope this nightmare that we are currently with will end come November. Keep the faith all is not lost yet.

    1. Hey Earl- no I have not lost hope yet either- it will be a very long dig out of the hole we are making for our country and the world. Thank you for your good work in the world- there is so much to be done- Hope we met someday soon too! Love to you and great thanks for who you are.

  16. Hi Cin, just now read your blog. I’m sooo sorry! I’m glad I wasn’t there to experience this. I love you all to the moon and back but I would have stood up and said that “we are not going to do this”, or something like that. I’m planning to come next year to mom’s gathering. It won’t happen again. I will see to it precious!

    Blessings, Diane


  17. Terrible to be put in the middle like you were, but very well written. It reminds me of how I was bullied for six long years in middle and high school. At my 25th high school reunion, a woman tried to drag me into a heated argument which is somewhat similar. She made me a little uncomfortable But I was going through that again. I blow her off and ended up having a good time.

    I was completely myself. I let my hair down, danced and had fun with the few classmates I got along with. The rest of them only stood afar and glared at me. One even loomed me a couple of times and followed me halfway to my car at the end of the night. So, I won’t be attending any more reunions. The looks I got from some of them were looks that said, “I want to kill you.”

    I’m proud of the graceful way you handled your situation. And writing about it only allowed you to process it and get it out. Keep speaking out.

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