Crazy for You

 

 

by John Tyler Connoley

 

October 27, 2004

 

 

Every family has one -- the eccentric relative whom everyone loves even while loving to talk about her behind her back. Maybe it's crazy Aunt Lulu, or weird Uncle Ichabod. I've been to several family get-togethers recently, and since I'm destined to be the crazy uncle in my family, I've been watching closely so I know how I should act once I'm crowned. I'm providing this list of duties free of charge for all would-be eccentric relatives to read and observe.

 

Take pictures. Most people are too shy to take pictures, so as the eccentric relative it's your responsibility. Go ahead and step in front of the official photographer at weddings. Snap the oddly shaped toilet in your hotel room. Photograph anything and anyone that comes into your path, and ignore the groans of "Your flash is making me see spots." They may jokingly call you Grandma Kodak, but everyone knows who to go to when they don't remember what color dress Isabel wore to the junior prom. Fred and Mary's children will also come to you when they want to secretly enlarge some pictures for a surprise 25th anniversary party.

 

Show affection. Pinch cheeks and kiss foreheads. Give big bear hugs. Peck your nieces and nephews on the lips in public, especially when they're in junior high and around their friends. Continue doing this even when you're eighty and they're fifty. Of course they'll squirm and try to get away, but everyone needs a little lipstick on his forehead, and who better to give it to him than you. Of course, after you smudge him, take a picture for posterity's sake.

 

Dress up. You can't smudge foreheads if you're not wearing red lipstick. But even if you're an uncle who doesn't wear makeup, it's still important to dress up. Wear that white suit with the fuchsia tie. Grow your hair big, not long. Wear as many rings as you like, and more than is comfortable. Gold tennis shoes are always a bonus.

 

Your job as the eccentric relative is to make all the other relatives feel less self-conscious about their outfits. If they accidentally packed only jeans for the wedding, they can still think, "but at least I'm not my seventy-year old aunt wearing an off-the-shoulder dress and rhinestone stilettos." All eyes should be on your shoulders and painted toes, not on their jeans and rumpled shirt.

 

Dance. Dance. Dance. This is one of your most important duties as the eccentric relative. Most people are frightened to go on the dance floor. They enjoy the music and want to dance but are afraid to make a fool of themselves. They're sure if they step onto the parquet, everyone will look at them and laugh. You, on the other hand, should love to dance and not care who knows it. You should dance the Macerena one beat behind everyone else, with a silly grin on your face. When you're eighty, dance to hip-hop and teeny-bopper music, even though you have no idea what you're doing. If you're a man, learn to lead and then dance all the young ladies around the floor. If you're a woman, ask the young boys to dance, and then lead -- because they don't know how.

 

The point is to have a good time, and get others to have a good time too. The kids will get a kick out of watching you try to do the tush push, and will forget that they're supposed to be self-conscious about their own lack of rhythm. They won't even think about themselves until they suddenly see the after-spots from your camera's flash, and by then it'll be too late.

 

Improvise. The eccentric relative is called eccentric because she's herself in a world of cookie-cutter people, so if any of these rules don't fit, ignore them. Don't assume you have to wear red hats with purple dresses to be eccentric -- everyone's doing that these days. Wear what you want. Do what you want. And poo poo the naysayers. You're an inspiration to the younger generation, even if their parents fear they'll grow up to be just like you.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2004 by John Tyler Connoley

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