It's not always about being funny.

Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

On Easter Sunday, I had brunch with a large group of my immediate and extended family members, during which I posted this on Facebook:

Monday morning, I received an irate phone call from a different member of my family who expressed severe displeasure over the fact that I shared anything that happened at a private family event with the Internet, especially something that paints my family in a bad light.

It wasn’t my intention to make a universal declaration of intolerance. I was frustrated with a conversation that I had with a family member who was shortsighted, intolerant on an almost absolute level, and at such odds with my own worldview that I vented about it in a public forum. And I won’t apologize for that. I can understand that many older generations and even many people in my generation can’t grasp my need to share the things that I do, but it doesn’t change the fact that I will continue to thrust my life, and any interactions that are a part of my life, into the public spotlight as I see fit.

“What happens with the family should stay with the family” was the mantra told me on the phone yesterday morning. I think that if there’s some belief or maxim or thought that you have that you wouldn’t want to defend in a public forum, maybe you should reassess the thought process behind that belief. I’m not saying that the relative who called me has any beliefs like that, but I am saying that as a general rule. And in the end, I didn’t air any dirty family laundry. I didn’t use names, I didn’t identify gender – I didn’t even say whether or not the person who said the statement above was related to me by blood or through some tenuous connection. I think that the fear that my post somehow cast my family in a bad light was all that mattered, and that wasn’t my intent.

The point of this post is two-fold: firstly, to talk about everything above. Secondly, to talk about something else I was told yesterday: “Your friends will come and go, but your family is forever.” This is not the first time I’ve been told this -my mother has said this to me many times over the last few decades. It’s a variation of the old phrase “blood is thicker than water”, and it’s one that I don’t necessarily agree with.

I disagree with this notion that we have to give an additional benefit of the doubt, additional credence, and additional weight to the statements and actions of those who are related to us by blood. Do my parents get more consideration from me because they raised me? Yes. But once you get beyond parents and maybe grandparents, how far do you go? Does a second cousin deserve special treatment over a best friend you’ve known for your entire life? Does an uncle or aunt get chance after chance to demonstrate that he or she is a good person when you know that if it wasn’t for the bloodline, you wouldn’t give that person the time of day? Everything has to be done in moderation, and the philosophy of blood being thicker than water is no different.

With a public Facebook profile, a blog that shares a large percentage of my life, and a discernible lack of shame, I am aware that my actions and words may cause my family some consternation. While I regret the fact that what I choose to write may occasionally frustrate or infuriate those I know, I stand by my words and my choices. In the end, I would just say to any friend or family member who takes issue with what I say that only I am responsible for my words and actions – the simple fact that you are related to or associated with me does not mean you agree with what I say or even support anything that I do. My decisions and discussions are not a reflection on you – they are only a reflection on me, and it’s a reflection with which I’m perfectly content.

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60 Replies to “Is Blood Thicker Than Water?”

  1. B.E. Earl

    Admit it…the quote from Easter Sunday was yours. And it’s going in your act. Right?

    Seriously though, it’s a slippery slope. One that I’ve had to deal with my own (very different) way myself. Best of luck…

    • Avitable

      @Moon HalloranLeady, this isn’t even me making a stand – it’s just my attempt at explaining that they shouldn’t see anything here as a reflection on them. My family is not a group of bad people in any way.

  2. Wendy Thomas

    This is exactly why I don’t allow anyone in my family into my internet. Ever.

    As for blood being thicker and all that, I don’t think so. I don’t talk to either of my brothers because they treat me like shit. In fact, except for my parents and one aunt, I basically have no use for my family. However, I created a “family” out of people who FEEL like family to me. And for those people our bond is stronger than blood. Call it spirit blood. lol

  3. Capricorn Cringe

    This is why I hesitate over writing anything that my family might freak out about. It’s not that I care so much about what they think, but I just hate having that discussion because it’s exhausting and pointless. Because you’re right. It’s a reflection on me, not them.

  4. SciFi Dad

    I remember reading a book when I was in elementary school (and fuck if I can’t find the damn thing now, other than a made for tv movie) called “Brothers By Choice”. Short version: two boys who grow up as friends but are more like family to each other than their biological family.

    There’s stuff I’ll rely on my family for, but there’s also stuff I know I can’t rely on them for. With friends, I can rely on them for everything.

  5. Rachel

    Well said. I love my family but I have friends who are closer to me than most of my blood-related kin. Usually I save my familial ire for the in-laws (and I guess that doesn’t technically count as “family”) but I totally understand the cringing and tongue biting that occurs at some family gatherings. Everything in moderation. Including family.

    • Avitable

      @Rachel, my family tends to skew a bit more conservative than I am, and when they all get together, I get to hear the ridiculous conspiracy theories and teeth-gnashing that they love to blame purely on liberals, so it can be hard to be objective at times.

  6. Jennifer

    “What happens with the family should stay with the family”

    This is the common motto in abusive families. Not that I’m saying yours is abusive. Mine was. My father freaked when he found out that I had been in therapy. He freaked some more when I told him that I won’t allow his verbally and emotionally abusive wife to have access to my children.

    I’m actually enjoying his freaking out.

    I’m getting to the point where I don’t consider him family at all.

    • Avitable

      @Jennifer, my family is definitely not abusive – I think that phrase also is very common among tight-knit families from places like the Northeast, where you don’t talk to strangers or therapists or anybody else about your problems. The fact that I went to a therapist when I was going through a divorce still bothers my family.

  7. muskrat

    I got the same speeches as a child, but then I’d hear my mother talking to her friends on the phone about the stupid things my brother and I had done the previous few days, which we found embarrassing. No, I don’t think special courtesy should be extended to the second cousins twice removed.

  8. Zanthera

    I’d like to say something about it all but this would be coming from someone who has disowned her family for backstabbing, abuse of all sorts, and belittling to no end. Main issue(s) were being in the Arts/Communications is not smart enough for collage and I should do bankruptcy and go on welfare to just have children for my mother and the rest of the family main issues were that my father was an immigrant and that I would prefer to speak English.

    If it counts I thought your post to be perceptive, giggled, and thought of what patience you have for everyone around you.

  9. Grant

    Thank god they don’t have a relative who likes to display his testicles online for holidays. That would be really embarrassing.

    And you already know my feelings on family. They don’t get a free pass just because I have the misfortune to share some genetic code. They can earn my respect (or not) like every other random jackoff.

  10. mandy

    I’ve written off a handful of family members over the past year (including my sister and 1st cousin who was like a sister), because the “blood is thicker than water” excuse went way too far for them. It doesn’t mean you can say or do whatever you want and expect forgiveness because “we’re family.” I have friends that are more of a family to me than they are, and I really have no issue with it. Blood is thicker than water, but water runs deep, and when blood dries it turns black and cracks and gets all crusty and is a bitch to get off your clothes. So blood really just sucks a bag of dicks and you probably need water to get the stain out anyway.

  11. Crystal

    Excellent! I fully agree…blood is no longer thicker than water. I have more friends who are close to me that family and they will always garner more support for being a part of my life, vs. a part of my family. In some cases I feel friends are more family than my family.

  12. Megan

    I think that if there’s some belief or maxim or thought that you have that you wouldn’t want to defend in a public forum, maybe you should reassess the thought process behind that belief.


    I have seen people treat those that are their family horribly. I also know people who would do anything for their friends. Blood is only thicker than water when there is a genuine bond there that makes it so.

  13. Dave2

    I don’t write about offline friends and family period. It’s just easier that way, because I would have no idea where the line is for something like that. I’d imagine it would have to be an all-or-nothing kind of thing, so I’ve gone with nothing.

    • Avitable

      @Dave2, the line for me is this: if it’s something that I’m involved with, directly or indirectly, it’s fair game. I’m rarely going to write stories about someone else that I only heard second- or thirdhand.

  14. Krëg

    “I think that if there’s some belief or maxim or thought that you have that you wouldn’t want to defend in a public forum, maybe you should reassess the thought process behind that belief.” I swear I’ve heard that before. Who was it that said that? Galileo Galilei?

    Not to suggest that racism is a forward-thinking idea; it isn’t. Racism sucks yak taint. But stifling or abandoning your beliefs because they are not congruent with society’s expectations is a cowardly course, and ultimately a recipe for cultural mediocrity.

    • Avitable

      @Krëg, I didn’t say anything about stifling or abandoning your beliefs because they’re not congruent with society. I said that if you’re not prepared to defend your beliefs, you should reassess them.

      Unpopular or not, if your beliefs are important to you, you should be willing to defend them, or else you’re a hypocrite.

      • Krëg

        @Avitable, So a willingness to defend a belief is a key component of having that belief? Because ANY belief can be defended if one knows how to regurgitate facts without accounting for other mitigating factors…

        Population by Race

        Crime by Race

        …including horribly racist beliefs.

        I’d also like to point out that radio and television are flush with pundits and talking heads who do little other than spew and defend hurtful and/or hateful views and beliefs. Is that alone enough to validate the belief?

        What qualifies as “defense” of a belief? Morality? Statistical validity? Righteousness? Articulation?

        • Avitable

          @Krëg, of course any belief can be defended. I suspect that you’re being purposely obtuse, but this obviously has nothing to do with whether or not it can be defended, only the willingness of the speaker to defend it.

          If any belief is important to you, even if it’s a reprehensible belief by social norms, you should be willing to stand by it publicly. If not, you shouldn’t speak that belief in private.

          • Krëg

            @Avitable, I am purposefully being obtuse, I’ll admit.

            If a thought enters your head that you will NOT stand up and defend, it was probably never a belief to begin with.

  15. hello haha narf

    but you pick your censoring. you choose not to talk about most of your dating life here on this site…which means you are censoring yourself because it benefits you (you have a greater chance of getting laid by the same woman more than once). why not hold back a thought or two because it is important to a family member?

    i’m not saying that i would have kept quiet about the fucked up comment at easter, but perhaps i might have if i knew i was hurting another family member that i loved very much. i easily could have not thrown something on twitter, choosing instead to express my exasperation directly with the speaker, other family members or friends verbally while leaving the internet out of it.

    please know that i agree the comment in question was awful and i believe we need to not remain silent about injustices, but perhaps there can be a way to discuss how shitty the statement was and still respect a different family member that is known to be sensitive to social media comments.

    • Avitable

      @hello haha narf, I don’t pick my censoring – I talk about what’s important to me and what affects me emotionally. With a few exceptions, which I have blogged about, dating hasn’t really been anything different than eating lunch or brushing my teeth.

      In addition, if I’m hurting another family member because my actions and words reflect badly on them, that’s not hurting them. That’s the case of someone taking responsibility for something for which they have no responsibility.

      It’s more of a generational issue than actually hurting someone, and if my method of dealing with an issue is to write about it, then that’s what I’m going to do, and anyone is welcome to not be my friend on Facebook and not read my blog if they don’t want to read about it.

  16. Nancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas]

    I saw you post that update and chuckled because:
    a) everyone has a biggoted idiot in the family
    b) you are one of the few folks I know who are ballsy enough to put it out on FB

    If your family member worries they will be cast in a negative light because you exposed the idiocy of another member of your family, perhaps they should better turn their attention to the source of the problem rather than the possible leak of the “family secret.”

    • Avitable

      @Nancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas], I think they just prefer to ignore it and maybe even view it as the innocent ramblings of someone who’s just venting, but I don’t want to speak for them.

  17. cagey

    Sigh. Dude, I hear you. The noose on my social media outlets has gotten tighter as even my grandma’s sisters and brothers are hopping on the wagon. Yep, even great-aunts and uncles are now friending me on Facebook.

    I do think this experience is good practice for you as you stand on the cusp of changing careers. A person’s family is a fucking goldmine for comedic material — with good reason.

  18. Seven

    “The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to.” – Dodie Smith.

    I’m old school, I treat my family differently, it’s just how I was raised… I honestly can’t help it. Having said that, I would never attack a family member for speaking their mind, because no one in my family can manage to NOT speak their minds, and thank goodness for it.

    Go on with your bad self.

  19. John

    I agree totally. Family is subject to the same criteria as anyone else. For the most part, I’m fortunate enough to be related to rational people who I enjoy being around, and who don’t get offended when they end up in my internet. But that doesn’t mean I think they’re all gems. For example, my cousin, by adoption, is a child sex offender. Do I think he’s different from any other child sex offender? No. I think he should get raped in prison with all the other ones. Would I think any differently is he was my blood cousin? No. Blood relations are just silly. As for stuff showing up in my internet, it’s again, the same criteria as friends. At an open gathering where everyone is just hanging out? Open season. I’ll even mention the specific person if I know them well enough. Talking to someone or a small group of people in confidence? I don’t care if it’s friends or family, you don’t put that on the internet. Same criteria for everyone.

    • Avitable

      @John, I would put something on the Internet that was told to me in private as well, if it affected me emotionally and I needed a place to talk about it, but I’d respect the privacy of the person who said it and wouldn’t identify them in any way.

  20. Lisa

    Blood hasn’t stopped family members from saying hurtful things to me; in fact some of the most hurtful things ever said to me have come from family. I would be much more inclined to shelter a good friend from criticism than most of my family.

    I also agree that if you are willing to make a statement out loud, especially an inflammatory one, you should be willing to own it publicly or keep it to yourself.

  21. Poppy

    Isn’t this a Bruno Mars song?

    If that’s too obscure, I apologize for my overly acute sense of cultural awareness.

    I was thinking this through… And I remember almost being thrown down a very long set of stairs by a blood relative under a very scary set of circumstances, and yet I continue to love him dearly and trust him with my life. If a best friend did that to me I’d press charges and visit them in prison every weekend just for spite. 🙂

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