On being photographed with a cocktail in hand

In her family, people fought bravely with addiction and depression. They made gut-wrenching personal decisions and accepted tough financial times with graceful humility for the good of their children.

His family was full of drunks and crazy people. They had abortions and lived off food stamps.

In her family, when someone’s binge turned violent or self-destructive, a family member was summoned to call a doctor, who offered a referral to a very nice facility where the beloved and suffering person might be brought for rest and reprieve.

When this happened in his family, the person in the house suffered alongside the crazy drunk person until giving up and calling upon a sister, cousin, daughter or ex-spouse, at which point passing the crazy drunk person to someone else for awhile.

If you needed money in her family, you asked. If you needed too much money, you sold a house. If you needed money in his family, you got another job. If you needed too much money, you title loaned your car.

Once a generation or so, young people in her family messed up and got pregnant and discreetly dealt with it. In his family, though no one ever said so, he knew he was a byproduct of one of these “accidents”.

Money was a difference between them, but the bigger one was presentation.

She had been trained, for example, to set down her wine glass before being photographed. Had he become acquainted with this practice, he would have dismissed it as disingenuous – an inauthentic gesture created for propriety’s sake.

In many ways her life was easier because she understood the audience’s expectations of her, and she acted accordingly. She had more opportunity, more influence, a bigger world open to her.

But his world was entirely his own.

Neither one had the wrong idea about life.

[Note: I don’t normally use fictitious characters in my essays, but every once in a while I find that it makes the most sense to go that route. Like with this one. And this one, too.]

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