Wednesday, August 20, 2008

in vino the veritas comes out

My nephew is 19 years old. He dropped out of high school and hasn't gotten a GED. He's unemployed and blames his mother's live-in boyfriend for preventing him from getting a job (the boyfriend supposedly does this by tying up the phone lines all the time, so places where my nephew have put in applications can't reach him), but he has also said that no one will hire him. He lives in an small, dank room in the basement of his mother's small, cluttered house (his room is actually meant to be a storage room; it doesn't qualify as a bedroom because it has no window for ventilation). S. gets into fights often and is anorexic. For opaque reasons he doesn't want to take the GED. He claims the local community college won't let him take classes (it does not sound to me that he filled out all the enrollment paperwork). He gets into lots of fistfights, many of them with his mother's boyfriend, who is allegedly a dirty fighter who often resorts to "choke-outs."

He does devote time to writing horror stories, and his great success in life is acquiring girlfriends. Having been broken up with by one just before he left to visit me, he's already got another one positioned via IM and Myspace to take up the role on return.

Since he got here a few days ago, we've been tactful and tiptoeing around the subject of his plans, which appear to be to do nothing at all as the years creep on. I've been mindful of the fact that no one likes nagging or judgment. The Sober Husband has made noises about wanting to hear from S. why he lives like this.

Yesterday my nephew spent the day sitting on the couch IMing and Myspacing, although he's in one of the world's most loved and visited cities and has been presented with a map and a key to the house. I took my niece, great-nephew, and children to a children's museum for a big part of the day, leaving the nephew to his own devices (I was irritated because the night before I'd taken him to "Tropic Thunder", and he hadn't thanked me or had any interesting conversation to offer). Feeling fed up with both my niece and nephew and depressed, I escaped into my bedroom in the late afternoon and tried to sleep. Eventually I gave up and came downstairs, where I drank a few glasses of wine while making pasta with lake beans, fresh tarragon, and bell peppers in a wine sauce, with traditional polenta on the side ("traditional" meaning made in the manner of a Sicilian peasant, where you add the corn meal grain by grain to the boiling water and then stir it for half an hour over low heat to prevent lumping)(yes, I know it sounds heavy, having polenta besides pasta, but I was cooking for a brain-damaged 2 year-old and a 5 year-old who eschews all spicy flavors among others, and very good polenta is one of my secret weapons with picky eaters).

Over dinner more tactful conversation was made, and I found my nephew's evasiveness and excuses maddening. I erupted into a wine-fuelled monologue:

"You have to do something! It doesn't have to be college; you could pursue a trade [lengthy foray here into the examples of an uncle who is a very successful stonemason and my beloved hairdresser's boyfriend, who after unfulfilling office jobs has more happily taken up installing solar cell panels). I can't stand to see someone who is so smart not doing anything! You're a smart guy; you could go to college so easily! College is an easy way to try living somewhere else, since you say you don't want to stay where you are forever. [A weak assertion that college is impossibly expensive was quashed by my pointing out the options of state schools and community colleges]. When I was your age, I did things! I was engaged, I traveled, I had jobs, I went to college! When I was your age, I was studying in Madrid, and all I had to do for that was fill out some forms and get a couple of professors to write letters, and then my college bought me tickets to Madrid and found me a place to live there! I went all over Madrid not knowing the language well and not knowing anything, and I learned so much! [This appeared to score, as my nephew looked a bit like he'd been punched in the gut]. You have a lot of girlfriends now, but TEN YEARS FROM NOW when you're still living in your mother's basement and you don't have a job and you aren't doing anything, no one is going to want to date you! You can get away with that with charm when you're 19, but when you're 29, it won't work!"

While I was monologuing, my niece, husband, and Iris Uber Alles all silently excused themselves from the table and started clearing everything away.


Amy said...

I love how much you're posting lately :)

hughman said...

i think you did the right thing. you expressed your opinion when it was needed. you voiced what was hidden inside and got it out. he may not get it, but at least you are free. that's one big plus. too bad for him if he ignored you. you have said your piece. on with your life.

thi said...

AND someone did the dishes for you. I always respect new ways to get that done, love.

My nephew lived with us one summer a few years ago and I thought he'd be that way too, but he's been working with his Dad, spending a month at a time in other cities (construction), and is probably learning enough of the world to enjoy it.

Some folks just are afraid of that first step - maybe this'll encourage that first step. Offer to sit down and fill out community college forms with him (PDFs are our friend).

"You can do anything you want in the world, but you have to DO it, not just talk about it." - my Dad

hokgardner said...

Excellent way to get someone else to do the dishes.

And I loved your point about how no one is going to want to date him 10 years from now if he's still unemployed and living in mom's basement storage area. That should hit home, if nothing else does.

Anonymous said...

i appreciate what you said to your nephew, and i have an unrelated question for you. i'm new to your blog, and i was wondering why you refer to yourself as "overeducated." how can anyone be overeducated? is there a proper amount of education to have? can the joys and excitements of education ever be inappropriate? if you are both educated and a feminist, i think you are doing very well.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I say "overeducated" because I take a self-deprecatory note now and again. I think it goes over better than saying "I have a prestigious graduate degree", which sounds like bragging. Also my expensive education left me with huge student loans, and I'm not really using it much these days, although you'd be surprised how it comes in handy now and then. This morning I read a 50 page patent application as a favor for my husband, reading out loud to him the parts he needed to check over.