"My grandma forced my aunt to have an abortion when she was 16. It went terribly wrong, and she was never able to have kids. My grandma did it because she didn't want her daughter to have a child with a sleaze ball. 35 years later my aunt is married to said sleaze ball. My grandma dealt with her guilt by spoiling the crap out of my aunt's adopted daughter. I learned about this when I was about 19, I was never able to look at my grandma the same again. I also understand now why my uncle was always salty towards my grandma."
"My younger half sister who is 11 believes that my dad's wife is her actual birth mom when she really is not. See, he moved my family (mother, brother and me) to the Philippines for his job. He ended up not only cheating with our nanny but ended up knocking up her cousin! Obviously, my mom found out, got a divorced, and moved us back to the States. Dad ends up marrying the nanny and she is raising my half sister as her own. Eventually, he returned to the US with his new wife and my half sister, leaving the real mom in the Philippines, so keeping this lie is easy for them; my dad swore us to secrecy but I think it's messed up!
"My mom and brother have a very Norman bates-esque relationship and we never speak about it. He's 20 and she still bathes him. God help me for saying this out loud.
He's the youngest and my mom clung on to him like a tumor. All of us are dysfunctional because of her but we all managed to get out somewhat ok, but not him. She has a toxic energy and has pitted us against each other all our lives. For example, if I invite my brother to the movies and he comes along, he won't hear the end of it all day because she stayed home alone and sad while he was out having fun and then would proceed to tell him how awful children we are. He's also the weak link in the family so he just eats up all her bull and in turn, hates all of us and worships her like some sort of brainwashed cult worshipping its deity. It's to the point that I sleep with my door locked, you know, just in case. Messed up thing is she doesn't even know she's doing it, it's literally her way of showing love; needless to say, I'm her least favorite."
"Came home from school early one day. I was standing in the kitchen quietly reading the mail and contemplating getting something from the refrigerator.
Suddenly my father, a very hard and stoic man, who did three tours in Vietnam, is a factory worker, and has a handlebar mustache, comes bursting out of his bedroom wearing nothing but a diaper and clutching a teddy bear. He's trotting like a toddler. My mother comes out chasing after him dressed in a leather dominatrix outfit swinging a riding crop saying something like, 'You get back here you bad baby.'
They see me standing there slack jawed. They run back into the bedroom; We never spoke of it."
"I was with my ex-girlfriend for about four years and her mother was a bit crazy. I think - with the benefit of distance and hindsight - that my ex's father probably was a bit asexual, so basically, the mother went looking elsewhere for her horizontal exercise. When I met my ex, and when I was introduced to her family a few weeks after we started going out, the mother was living with her boyfriend in the master bedroom. My ex's father lived in the same house, in a downstairs bedroom. The mother's new guy had been their boss when my ex's mother and father were still married, and they had carried on an affair together for years before they built this new house together and all moved in together as described. I have no idea at all how this was eventually negotiated between them. My ex had three brothers and a sister. Two of the brothers were twins, and the big elephant in the room was that they were the result of an affair the mother had carried on 20 years before. Everyone seemed to know this except the brothers in question, and it was talked about fairly openly - at least amongst the other kids (in their 20s) - and only when the twins weren't around.
Whilst my ex was growing up, her father used to occasionally and tearfully confide in her about what a horrible person the mother was, and my ex (as a child of 10 or 12) used to urge him to divorce her. A few years later my ex was abused by another guy that the mother had an affair with; at that time the mother was horrible to my ex because she was getting the abuser's attention (this is not an uncommon phenomenon). I don't believe this stuff was so widely known amongst the other family members, but it was certainly a little elephant-y for me.
In the past, my ex had hated her mom and had left home as soon as she had been legally allowed to, rarely returning home for visits. After the mom finally moved in with her steady boyfriend (who she eventually married) with the father/ex-husband living in the spare bedroom, things seemed to stabilize, and my ex would visit. She got along very well with her dad and he was happy and contented in this final arrangement. However my ex and her mother still argued occasionally, and getting on with them was pretty much a matter of going back to visit and pretending that the previous dispute had never happened. The mother was pretty vacuous, really, and would make a big deal of being nice to people, and you just had to play along with it and (basically) pretend like she wasn't a complete witch."
"I was emotionally and physically abused by my mother's second husband for 10 years (not sexually, thank god). Everyone saw it happening, aunts and uncles kept their kids away from our house, and yet no one did a thing. For the last 20 years, everyone has pretended that nothing happened and my mother is still the 'favourite sister' in the family, despite allowing her kid to be abused for the entirety of her marriage. I've held onto a lot of resentment over it, but it's typical of my mother. I've cut her out of my life at this point because her focus has always been on herself instead of anyone else. To be honest, with the stepfather situation in particular, I'm more frustrated with the rest of the family than I am her. I was a child, I couldn't take myself out of the situation, but they could have. My dad didn't know until I was an adult because I didn't tell him. I don't fault him at all for that."
"I come from a big, and fairly close, Indian family. We have one household in the family that stands out a bit against the rest of us but there is one thing that stands out as the elephant in the room. Of the four kids my aunt and uncle had, one just happens to be black. We don't know what happened, and no one really talks about it-- some members of our family suspect infidelity (as my uncle is blind), but again, no one knows and we never really bring it up around any of the members of that household. He is probably one of the nicest people in our whole family, he'll call whenever just to say hi (which can't be said of his siblings), always ends a conversation with 'love ya fam' or something along those lines, and whenever I visit he always goes above and beyond all expectations to make sure I enjoy myself. I do feel badly though, as their whole family dynamic is a bit screwed up, and certain events in their family are also sort of elephants in the room."
" Last 4th of July one of my younger cousins, who is 8, pushed my great aunt's beloved elderly Dachshund into their pool and he drowned. Everyone knows she did it, she even said she did it because she was angry about having to get out of the pool for dinner. Unfortunately everyone was inside eating already when she pushed him in. She was down by the pool by herself when her mom stepped out to tell her to come back inside. They argued and mom said something to the affect of 'I'm going inside, if you're not in here by whenever you're in trouble.' Then she came inside. Obviously, if anyone had seen him in the pool someone would have jumped in to save him. But her mom and grandma are still in complete denial and tell her she didn't actually do it. My immediate and extended family have all tried to convince the mother and grandmother to take her to talk to someone because this tiny human is full of anger, but they refuse to see any issue. This most recent 4th of July was so awkward. She needs to see someone. And most of us really are trying to make that happen. Each time I personally brought it up to her mother I was dismissed because she says I don't have kids so I couldn't possibly know what its like to raise a child on my own. Other family members with children have tried talking to her and she's dismissed them as well saying they don't really know what happened and she (the child) would never do something like that. I honestly don't know what else to do."
"My cousin is going on kid number three and neither she nor the deadbeat 'husband' (they're not married) do any real job of taking care of said kids. No one wants to address it. No one wants to call social services (I'd do it if I knew where they lived, but they've been evicted so many times I've lost count). It's just the same old song and dance every major holiday or family gathering. She and her good for nothing 'husband' come over. The kids look terrible. They eat like they haven't eaten in weeks. The grandparents coddle the kids and pretend this will all work itself out some day. It's not going to work itself out. But god forbid we actually ask if this is the best interest of the children. Gam-gam would have a heart attack. I live a significant distance from the rest of my family and only see them 1-2 times a year. Also, I've asked before what their address was and no one knew (ignorance or withholding, I don't know). Her father knows, but he isn't saying anything."
"Me: newly converted Muslim. The room: Christmas dinner with the extended family. The deed: my polite decline of the bacon-wrapped olives. Somewhere within the ensuing 10-minute silence, I realized that the elephant was me. I think somebody eventually started talking about football. Later that evening, my aunt got drunk and confronted me to ask if I was going to blow up her family in the night."
"My sister, who had her first kid at the age of 17 with a guy she met while he was in jail, swears she conceived her second child 2 weeks before her boyfriend died. She's white, he was black, and the second kid is as white as her with blue eyes. At his funeral, we (our side of the family) noticed a friend of my sister's deceased boyfriend consoling her, and he's white with blue eyes. Nobody, including my sister, knew she was pregnant at the funeral. It wasn't until 9 months later when the baby was born, and my sister had been 'seeing' this white, blue-eyed guy fairly frequently, that we all realized the baby was not her deceased boyfriend's, but this guy's. My other sister, a numbers gal, did some calculating and realized that conception prior to the death was nearly impossible based on doctor's dates and that it had to have happened within the week after he died. So my sister slept with her deceased black boyfriend's best friend the week after he died, had a white baby with blue eyes, and refuses to admit the baby came from her dead boyfriend's best friend. The entire family talks about it openly when she's not around. My other sister tried bringing it up with her, but it was fruitless. Her boyfriend died of alcohol intoxication, was a jerk, hit my sister, and treated their first born terribly. The other dude, his best friend, was in and out of jail the year following the death. My sister dated him for a minute but ended it when he got a longer term for assault with a deadly weapon. She's now engaged to be married to a dude she had a baby with 9 months, ahem, after their first date."
"My aunt and uncle are insanely religious and sheltered their children like crazy. They were very critical of the way the rest of the parents in the family raised their children. They harassed my mom often over her allowing us to do such 'worldly' things, such as going to school, reading non-religious books, watching secular movies, or being allowed to use gasp the internet! Their children were not allowed to do these things, therefore, they would grow up to be godly people as opposed to the delinquents my mother would be raising.
Their son started dating a girl that just happened to be pregnant. He was adamant that she was pregnant before they started seeing each other and that he just loved her so much, he decided he'd step in and raise the child as his own. They married and a baby boy was born about 6 months later. We were all a little shocked at how much the baby looked like him. Conveniently, he got to skip the adoption process by putting his name on the birth certificate. And oddly enough, no baby daddy drama has occurred with the 'biological father' that no one seems to know. As he got older, it was really hard to imagine the baby was not his. Like, I wouldn't be able to tell their childhood pictures apart. He has very distinct features. I get the feeling we all know the truth. Knowing glances are exchanged but no one speaks a word. I'm not sure if it's a lie my aunt and uncle are in on. Maybe they feel like they're saving face with the rest of the family after being so vocal about how perfectly they were parenting their kids. Or maybe he just feels way too intimidated by them and their expectations to be truthful. Either way, it makes me sad that he is so bound up in their rules and morals that he can't honestly claim his own son. And I really can't imagine how my aunt could hold her first grandchild and not have flashbacks when she looks at that face."
"My wife and I were visiting my parents. My brother and his wife were also visiting. My mom got drunk. She walked into the room and said to me and my brother, 'It's okay that you married white women as long as you are happy, but when you get divorced you should marry some good Korean women.' The day after my brother and I told her she needs to apologize to our wives, she never did and denies it happened. Haven't talked about it since, but you can tell my mother remembers."
"This was back in the '70s and for the record, my grandmother's family is all crazy. My grandparents were married and had 3 kids. My grandmother's younger brother was married, but he and his wife had been unable to get pregnant. The older brother had just divorced his first wife and was running around with a divorced friend of the family, who had a child with her first husband. Anyway, the older brother knocked up the family friend. This was BAD NEWS because the broad is/was totally crazy. He didn't want the kid and definitely didn't want to marry the chick. The wife of the younger brother decides that she and her husband want to keep the baby, but no one can know it's adopted, including the kid. My psychotic grandmother hatched a plan. The family friend who was totally crazy checked into the local hospital, under the name of the younger brother's wife, to give birth, and the younger brother attended as the father. All bills were paid in cash and the birth certificate was signed with the younger brother and wife's names. Life went on. The younger brother and wife ended up having a child naturally together a few years later. The older brother ended up marrying the totally crazy family friend ANYWAY and no one ever told the kid who she really was. The kicker is that she looks exactly like the family friend. Exactly. It's the biggest open secret of my family, but the kid is in her 40s now and has no clue, or doesn't want to admit that she knows."
"My parents announced they were getting divorced when I was in the sixth grade. My brother and I were so upset about it for a couple of days. I remember writing it down in my Harry Potter planner. After that, no one ever brought it up again. I'm now 25 and my parents will be celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary this September. It's like the announcement never happened. My brother and I talked about it a few years ago, but have never asked our parents what the whole thing was about. They seem very happy now, so we've just left it alone."
"My sister got pregnant while we were in high school. No one in the family talked about it, even while she got bigger and bigger. One day she and my dad left late at night. He came back the next morning, but she came back two days later. Not a word was said about it, ever, to this day (20 years later). Typical Irish Catholic denial."
"My father was an alcoholic. A quiet one, but an alcoholic nonetheless. He sat in front of the television every night after work and drank until he was drunk enough to go to sleep. Everything that happened in that house revolved around his dependency on alcohol. No one ever talked about it. Dad watched TV a lot and kept to himself. That was all as far as anyone else in the house was concerned.
Once he accidentally hit me in the nose (I assure you it was accidental) when I was about 10 or so. My mom heard me yelling from the other room and told my brother to quit hitting me. When I yelled back that it wasn't my brother but rather my dad, she didn't say a word. That's how much we ignored that elephant. My brother could hit me and you can bet my mom wouldn't let it slide, but when the drunk guy hit me it was taboo to confront it.
He eventually went to rehab and I was expected to confront all those emotions, feelings, and truths that I had been raised from day one to believe were anathema."
"Two years ago my 40-year-old cousin showed up at Christmas high on meth. Everyone knows he's an addict. His poor high school age son holds on (he's on his way to a good university with all sorts of well-deserved scholarships), so at least we never have to worry about him going down that road. my cousin's dad (age 67) and stepmom (age 56) sorta ignore the whole thing since they're just happy to have him around for the holidays. My folks are unbelievably oblivious since they're otherwise engaged with preparing the family meal and are just glad he's not sleeping on the couch (as is his usual custom). My sisters (in their 20's) and their boyfriends and husbands are in the same boat as me, feeling extremely awkward. Because we're in the 'non-judgmental demographic' he feels comfortable rambling on and on with us, but what are we supposed to do? Anyway, he doesn't totally ruin everything, he just makes it so awkward for the half of the room that's in the know. I guess you could say he's a 'functional' user if such thing exists. He's not really functional, but at least he didn't ruin this particular holiday or anything."
"I grew up around a woman named Mary who was friends with my grandparents. After my grandmother died, Mary and Pop started dating. Many years later, I found out that he had two love children with her about 30 or so years before. How did I find out? One of their daughters attended an after school program where I worked and started telling everyone that we were cousins. I asked my mom about it and she confirmed, but everyone else in the family knows and it's never been talked about, not once."
"Every year on December 23, my cousins and aunts and uncles all gather and we do a big Christmas party. One year the hosting family put together a slide show of photos taken at previous year's parties. In one of the group photos, the wife of my dad's cousin was shown holding hands with her ex-husband. One of her kids from her new marriage asks who the man is, and she gets all defensive and freaks out. Apparently her kids had NO IDEA that she had been previously married, and she acted like we'd outed some horrible dirty secret."
"A few years ago I was doing my thesis defense for my undergrad degree (I was in the honors program for my department) and my presentation was open to the public. My mom, who was a raging alcoholic/drug addict, came and she was totally wasted. She reeked like an alcoholic (anyone who has smelled that smell knows what I'm talking about). Everyone in the room knew, including my peers, my advisors, everyone. She even (very drunkenly) asked a few questions after my presentation. I feel like I died up there, from shame and hurt. It was all I could do to keep from crying. Everyone knew. It's not like she was there to ruin 'my special day.' That's not it - her alcoholism and drug addictions were a great source of (very private) pain in my life and now it was something everyone in my professional life knew. No one said a single thing to me about it. Ever. Honestly, I wish people had talked to me about it. At that point I didn't want to, but I think it would have done me some good. I grew up with that white elephant, and the weight of ignoring or hiding it was a huge burden. I can talk about it now, though."
"My father has long been a cheat on my mother, made more convenient since he spends half the year overseas from where we all expatriated from. Recently my mother went back overseas to visit my grandma for two months and well, there's his mistress. She's a family friend and we all should know what's really going on, but we don't talk about it. I rent an apartment above my dad's so I see them daily. It's very awkward.
Whenever I visit she's napping on my mom's bed, using her computer, watching TV; I try not to talk to her at all."
"I had just come out to my parents (and only them, nobody else) and we went to a dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. During dinner, I was expressing my anger and general dissatisfaction with my college experience, etc. My parents mention why I don't have a girlfriend yet (I think they secretly meant boyfriend or maybe they just forgot already) and said maybe that's why I'm so frustrated. It was then that my brother announced, 'Yeah, maybe you're gay and that's why you are so angry, frustrated, and upset.' Clearly, I froze up for a bit and so did my parents. I didn't want to leave the pause for too long yet I didn't want to just completely change the subject. Luckily there was some bread on the table so I grabbed it and said, 'Yeah...maybe...' I couldn't think of anything else to do. He didn't notice though; disaster averted."
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