Awkward Family
People who come into our lives always leave marks. Some are good, some are bad, but they all affect us in one way or another. And we give all these people in our lives labels. It’s quite natural: This one is a friend, that one is a neighbor, that one is an acquaintance, this one is a co-worker, that one is family, and this one is like-family. It’s these last two that was brought to my attention recently: the Family vs Like-Family.

It was from a conversation just the other day. I was expressing myself to someone who is very dear to me, and said they were like-family to us. They responded, “to us, you are family.” I couldn’t help but sense (right or wrong) that my “like-” may have been viewed as a step below “family.” So I thought long and hard about it (as I am wont to do…), and this is what came of it.

I believe a lot of people (probably even the majority) think that way. “Family” (for most people) is the epitome of a relationship between two people – excepting, of course, marriage; but that’s a whole other discussion!

When one reaches the level of “Family,” it is viewed as a very privileged status. Family always acts themselves around other family, because family knows family. I am with my brothers the way I’ve always been with them, because we knew each other from childhood, getting into trouble together, getting each other into trouble, practicing the Three Stooges moves, ignoring each other because we knew it would piss them off, barring them from the bedroom because it’s mine, or inviting them in for a one-on-one discussion about something they can teach me… Family can say almost anything and almost always be forgiven. Family will sometimes work on your last nerve, but somehow you always get over it.

I know not everyone looks at their family as a happy scene; some even avoid their family for any number of offenses (and I don’t judge any of them). But “family,” in the positive sense, always has your back. Family is there to love you unconditionally – unconditionally – simply because you are family.

Friends, however, who have reached that sanctified level of “Like-Family” are invited into that privileged and honored state that “Family” enjoys. But unlike the understanding most have that “Like-” is just a slight step blow “Family,” I understand it as yet one step above. And here’s the difference:

We are born into a family. We have no [conscious] choice in the matter. We are merely dealt the hand we have and it’s up to us to make the best of it. True, blood is thicker than water; but it can also stain. Like I said, family is thrust upon us at birth and we adapt. But “Like-Family” is born from a conscious decision. “Like-Family” are people we have invited into our lives to be Family; and as such, at least in my book, that elevates “Like-Family” just a little higher for that one, simple fact.

Of course that statement doesn’t diss “Family” either, because even Family can become Like-Family. As we grow older (and hopefully UP) we do choose our Family. We gravitate toward groups of people that are more like ourselves, and this process can also include members of our own family. And in that way, even our family becomes Like-Family.

So the next time you’re told you are “Like-Family,” hold your head high and know that you have been invited into a privileged level of love and acceptance – one that expects an honest answer when I ask, “Do these jeans make my ass look fat?”

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