How to Politely Swallow Family Relationships

In a world where we finally figure out we can pick and choose the relationships we invest in, then comes the reality that sometimes life chooses for you.

No one can outrun the staple truth that family is a completely different sock draw,  which operates on the same toxic principles of high school.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be awesome. Human companionship something we all need as social animals. However, this connectivity comes at the price of having little to nothing in common with people who you are obligated to love and feel close to. 

Life and it’s many ironies peaks out of your jacket pocket, as you stare across the table at your nose on someone else’s face. 

Seated across from me is a man that makes me feel warm. Not by contact but by instinct.

Definitely not because he is a hugger, emotionally available or expressive in any way. 

He is a stock-broker. Money stuck in his mouth to which he has always had trouble swallowing before he comes home. 

This has facilitated my mother’s departure, my childhood misconfigured and a few thousand dollars worth of extra straight teeth. 

I look at him and see two years of endless dishes of pasta this, meat that and our bellies bulging due to his lack of culinary know-how.

 I remember him brushing my hair back into a pony tail; one hand wielding the brush while the other grabs the rest of it, trying to merge the two in an unlikely coupling.

I see hands glued together between the transfer of cash sealed by the sound of a kiss on the cheek before I head to school. 

My Dad expressed love in a more functional, masculine model with ‘I love you’s’ that would never dare be said.

So like every night, I am seated across from him and a strange deja vu feeling curls up the sides of our table.

The feeling can only be describes as being stuck in a marriage which fell stale 10 years back. I begin to zoom out of his ramblings and into the self-hatred for a relationship I may/may not have in my inescapable future…

This idea only expands with the catch phase  “how was your day..” which leads to

“what did you have for lunch?”

This really means to say: “I don’t know what else to say, so here, have this to chew on….”


A month back I decided to take the route less traveled and electrocute the spark back into my dad and my dead-fish-of-a-relationship.

 My aim was to chat to a side of my dad that is only accessible to his work friends/clients.

A place where his automated response is not triggered by my facial recognition. ** Cue nagging, lectures and for desert a step-by-step summary of my worst money fails to date. ( Yes dad, the weave must stay, even on a student budget. I know you don’t understand but putting it simply, I feel less Beyonce and more Solange without it. )

So I start the experiment with this:

“I once didn’t get my period for 9 months last year. “

Him: Um… that’s not good. We should… go get that checked.

Me: Nah, I thought it must have been 2 of 3 things;

1. My body thought I was pregnant.

2. I misused my pill medication.

3. A unicorn found me in my bed one night and touched my womb with it’s horn, whispering “Holly, you have budgeting issues. Here is 9 months to save $90 you would otherwise spend on sanitary products. This is your moment. Neighhhh!” 

I think he was quite taken aback by the last part of the story, with the application of money and savings tempting him to my way of thinking.

I remember after our shared moment he left the table pretty quick, claiming he had to go brush his teeth. 

We were at a hotel buffet… but his loss was my gain and with his autopilot switched off, I saw it as a win for both me and my belly. ( Chocolate-croissants raining all over my plate.)

Another time came about in STARBUCKS~  (proper noun) the temple where white people get whiter, on account of caffeine and laptops being sexier alternatives than the sun. 

My dad SIMON, a man of repetition

tells the cashier when they ask for a name, “HENRY.”

As usual he bathes in this signature chuckle, accustom to all 56 year-olds who get their kicks out of legal forms of human deception, all for the affordable price of $5.95. 

So I decide to take this time to continue my experiment. 

Me: Whenever you say that name, I think of the USYD boy I almost had sex with last year. His name was Henry. He was a prick.

Dad: …. no chuckle.


Next I watched him busy himself, heading in the direction of the straw dispenser before diving deep into his own contemplative pool.

I like when he goes there, it means he’s thinking. 

A loud talker, unfiltered-nagger and a quiet thinker.

I never really noticed that about him until then.


And so the experiment took another seat with us, another time at breakfast.

Our bean-pod of three slides into a vacant booth. My Chinese step-mum who can’t understand most of our Australian sarcasm came for the food. 

A baby begins to howl behind us.

Dad: Shut it up already or take it outside. 

Me: Mmmmm, I don’t get why it’s crying. It’s getting free breakfast without having to suck some D.

Dad: What? 

Me: You heard me. It’s breakfast not a a pap-smear….

Step-mum:  I’m getting the eggs. Holly, pancakes?

Dad:  …                 ( Back into the chilly contemplative pool he swims. )


I also have taken the tact of encouraging deep-thinking in my dad. He hates this. 

I do so by writing positive affirmations on his full-cream milk,


And in his usual cereal box, I scribble notes on paper like “ YOUR PRESENCE IS A PRESENT TO THE WORLD. “

“ You are the creator of your reality.  ” 

“ BOLD, CURIOUS and wonderfully alive, ”  (my last Tinder bio.) 

Sometimes I even send him motivational texts and I gain a response; 

Him: LOL. 

I can’t help as well but see the funny side in attempting to bond with the ones we love, with the hope of uncovering some sort of transparency.

Of course this line of thinking can lead to more arguments and less connection than intended but I do know it is the quickest way to change table conversation.

I think anything that can cancel out the familial gaze that reads ‘DO NOT READ THE FINE PRINT’ is a positive start. With family, the daily-cycle can very easily be stuck on INSTINCTUAL rather than noticeable or curious.  

Perhaps our parents and siblings will always be a collection of enigmas we will never crack and just have to sit next to. 

Throw them into the ‘Life’s Weird Ironies’ bucket and just smile as they are our life-long companions that we will never fully understand nor see. 

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