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Saturday, May 27, 2006


Dear Rabbit,

This summer, my sister is marrying a guy who believes he is, among other things, the reincarnation of Adam, Enoch, the Archangels Michael and Metatron, Philo of Alexandria, and the Apostle Thomas. Oh, and he thinks he's going to be the Messiah and in his own words, "Bob will be called Yaweh... Bob will be named for the Kingdom of Kingdoms." You can read all about my future brother-in-law, Bob the Messiah, here: [Name changed and urls omitted by management to protect the anonymity of the self-proclaimed messiah in question.]

My sister is not mentally retarded. She's actually finishing her third year of pediatric residency, and will soon be a licensed pediatrician. But she's not a mentally healthy person, and that's why she's susceptible to Bob's charms.

My sister is 31 years old, and she's worried that if she doesn't find love and get married soon, she never will. She's got a lot of things that don't work in her favor. She's a conservative Jew, and won't date anyone unless he's Jewish, or at least calls himself Jewish while believing he's the Messiah. That's not a bad thing, but it does limit her dating pool. Out of this limited dating pool, she needs to find someone who can handle her hair-trigger temper, her oppressive neediness, and the fact that she has suppressed her emotional pain so much and for so long that it has become physical.

She went from doctor to doctor, in her early twenties, trying to find one who would give her a physical diagnosis rather than refer her to a shrink. Finally, she found one who diagnosed hip-dysplasia, as a symptom of a "non-specific connective tissue disorder." This doctor was happy to forego suggesting physical therapy, and performed hip replacement surgery on her when she was 25. Her pain didn't go away, and she became a cripple.

Despite her crippled status, and the weight gain, brought on by lack of exercise and the use of sweets as tranquilizers, she claimed in her J-Date profile that she was athletic. When asked how she could truthfully make this claim when her body fat percentage was 50, she replied that it was truthful, because she truly wanted to be athletic. As you can imagine, most men who saw the high school aged picture she put on her profile, and read that she was athletic, were disappointed when they met the real person. It didn't help that she was an incurable slob, with garbage piled two feet high all over her apartment. One date met her at her door, glanced around, and then quickly excused himself.

One person my sister didn't scare away was Bob. And, my sister has been so happy to have found someone who gave her back-rubs, helped her to get up when she was sitting down, and was allegedly good in the sack, that she has been able to overlook the fact that Bob is 17 years older, has two kids, the elder of whom hates her, has an ex-wife who suffers from multiple personality disorder and is a constant presence in his life, owes $40,000 in back taxes to the I.R.S., and is completely, mind-bendingly, insane. My sister doesn't believe Bob's messianic delusions, but she sees them as quirks, that she can easily enough ignore. And, as for the other problems, who cares? The important thing for her is that he's a gentleman.

My father and mother have both told my sister that if she wants to back out of the wedding, even at the last moment, they'd be happy, no matter how much had been spent. We've also all asked probing questions, meant to awaken her to how horrible a choice Bob is, but to no avail. This is going to be a bizarre wedding, because there is not a single person in my family who is happy about it.

Nevertheless, we've stopped short of telling her that we cannot support her wedding to Bob. We're all acting according to the conventional wisdom that if a family member plans to marry someone of whom you disapprove, standing firmly against the marriage will only drive the affianced closer together, and alienate you. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should suppress our Cassandra like impulses, and endeavor to be as supportive as possible. We hope that by continuing to support my sister, we'll still have relationships with her when she's ready to ask for our help. Conventional wisdom is smart in that way. It's also smart in that, in most cases, the disapproving relatives haven't a clue what's good for the person they're trying to help.

My concern is that this is a decidedly unconventional case, where conventional wisdom does not apply. Bob is a freak. That's not a subjective interpretation. Might this not be the time to bring out the big guns, stand united, and tell my sister that marrying Bob is madness, that we can't support it in any way, and that she needs help? On the other hand, I'm plagued by the thought, that as unstable as my sister is, Bob might be the best mate she'll ever find. It's not as if, were we able to get rid of Bob, my sister would suddenly be a happy healthy person. But, I still hold out hope that she could get treatment, and get better, and then find a healthy love.

So, should we drop our duplicitous masks and give my sister a healthy dose of the truth? Or, should we continue to follow conventional wisdom, paste fake smiles on our faces at the wedding, and enjoy the fabulous and hilarious dinner conversation we can have when we mention our megalomaniacal in-law?

Please dear Rabbit, give me your sage advice.


Concerned Brother

Dear CB,

If there were a time to bring out the big guns, I think it was back when your sister started seeing Bob, or maybe when they first got engaged. But even then, I'm not sure that telling your sister that her main squeeze is a freak is the best idea. Obviously, you've talked to her about his delusions of grandeur, and she doesn't care. Clearly, she's aware that he's something of a nutjob, that he owes money, that he has nasty entanglements with a crazy exwife, that one of his kids hates her. She's determined not to be bothered by these things. I'm assuming that someone, at some point, sat down with her and discussed how these kinds of troubles are harder to take as the years wear on and she's paying all of the bills and keeping him comfy in his old age. Now, if he really is the messiah, maybe he can heal his own sickness, plus turn the meager french bread and salmon filet she picks up at the market into a week's worth of groceries. That would be cool. Unfortunately, I think it's more likely that she'll be carting him to doctors, handling the nutso ex, and paying for everything and everyone for the rest of his life.

It's an unpleasant turn of events, to be sure, that your sister will be dealing with this man's freakjob status for most of her life. It's unpleasant to have a brother-in-law who thinks he's the messiah. Funny at dinner parties, yes, but unpleasant nonetheless. But here's the thing: There's a big difference between having a frank talk with your sister about how this marriage might screw with her life, and announcing that you and the rest of your family can't support her marriage to the man.

Just to be clear, there are cases where such a boycott would be warranted. If your sister were marrying a registered sex offender and had concrete plans to have children with him, that would be grounds for a boycott. If she were marrying a guy who had molested someone else in the family, or someone in his own family. If Bob had a history of abusing his kids or his exwife. If Bob were an addict, and your sister was falling into addiciton. You know, it's not as if families are supposed to sit on their hands when they see someone they love hurtling down a dangerous path.

But it sounds, from what you say, like Bob is a reasonably nice person who loves her, gives her backrubs and makes her feel happy and safe. For someone who's had trouble finding happiness and love, who's lied to people in search of it, who's suffered a lot and struggled a lot and had trouble connecting with most people, this is no small feat. You wouldn't have included that part if you weren't already taking it into account, and it sounds like it's informed your decision to stay out of it and let her have her happiness with her loony fiancé. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, freak though he may be, Bob is a pretty good guy, he's not a complete idiot if his writing is any indication, and he loves your sister very much.

OK, maybe I'm making it sound a little bit more bearable and positive a situation than it is. I can see the potential disasters that lie ahead clearly, too. But, you know, most marriages carry with them a few liabilities. There are past entanglements, debts, illnesses, tendencies to exaggerate, lose one's temper, fall into a depression. It's easy enough to picture future trouble for two people who are in love, but who have tons of baggage that they haven't really sorted through completely.

As worried as you may be for her, though, telling her that, as a group, you won't support her marriage is really like standing up and saying, "You and your messiah can go straight to hell!" It's pretty extreme. Imagine how much it would suck to get married and have none of your family at the wedding. Or imagine if they were there, but you knew that they disapproved, all of them, and were grim about your future with a man who you really loved, maybe the first guy to treat you well in your entire life.

Families don't have to watch their loved ones put themselves in harm's way, but short of that, they do have to grin and bear it a lot. When your sister or brother or mom or dad makes a choice that you'd never choose for yourself, that seems ill-advised, that strikes you as absurdly foolish, sometimes you can say something about it. But when it involves a person they love and intend to marry, or a person who they're already married to, nine times out of ten it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut. Again, you can have a discussion about the possible burdens the person could place on her life, but to say "We're against the man you love"? That's a terrible cross for her to bear, and you'll have to live with your statements for the rest of your lives, as well. Brothers-in-law, mothers-in-law, and in-laws in general really do tend to fall into a pesky "grin and bear it" category.

I know that not everyone feels that way, that many people feel that it's important to tell your family members exactly what you think at all times, or that this guy's status as a grade-A freak should make it obvious that someone needs to take a stand against the marriage.

I don't know. Personally, I find the freak thing unpleasant, but far less worrisome than the allegedly insane exwife and the massive debt. And look, lots of people have debts and crazy exwives, and their families still go to their weddings and act happy for them. Going to someone's wedding and acting happy for them is sort of what's expected of a brother or sister or mother or father. It's part of the package. It sucks for you, I know, but as long as Bob is a gentleman, I suggest you juice it for good dinner party conversation, and that's it. And look, if he turns out to be the messiah, your whole family might be saved from hellfire and damnation. At the very least, he could arrange for you to win the lottery.

Wishing I had a messiah in the family,


10:39 PM

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Ah, now that got your attention! I have tons on my goddamn plate at the moment, but I'll post next week for sure, and at least a few more times in May than I did in April. I swear, I have a good excuse, I really do. And rest assured, I remain, as always, committed to your happiness and well-being, first and foremost.

Oh, let me just add that I thought the "Veronica Mars" finale was a little lackluster. Too quick-like. Why do they speed along like that? They should do a two-hour finale if they really want to pack in so much stuff. I couldn't really believe that the guy/girl who did it/those things could really be the culprit - it all happened too fast. Of course, it helped that I had the whole thing spoiled for me by the subtitle on the front page of Salon. Yes, I'm an ass for not watching in a timely fashion (I told you I was busy), but still - one glance at Veronica's face in the little title box, the eyes wander to a few key words, and the whole finale was a wash. I called my boss to stomp my feet and whine about it and they changed it. But still... I hate spoilers. Hate. Them.

Yes, I have more on my mind than TV. More soon, I swear. Have a truly joyous and juicy weekend, honkies!

9:39 PM

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columnist for new york magazine & bookforum, author of disaster preparedness, co-creator of filler for the late, great suck.com

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