I should know better. The times when I try to be nice in the ways expected of me, when I respond to convention simply because it is, it always leads me astray. It's like when my very unconventional mother used to say to herself, "Well, other mothers would...." - to disastrous results. Convention for the sake of convention goes against my principles.
It's been a long time since I have been in touch with the majority of my extended family, for various reasons I will not go into here. In a rare effort on my part to be polite to my estranged uncle, I gave him a little used email address where he could write me, only because he asked how to get in touch with me and if I was in Paris yet. The real reason I responded was not so we could actually strike up a correspondence - I really have no desire to - but because he asked my sister how to contact me. To not respond would have put her in an awkward position, and that I do have a desire to avoid when possible. So, I was nice, short and sweet, and answered the basic curious question of where I am (not in Paris, but waiting in Atlanta for the work visa) and how to reach me (this new email I will rarely check). Admit it, you all have email addresses for similar appeasment purposes.
Suspecting the nature of my uncle had not much changed since the last time we had contact, I checked the inbox not 5 minutes after I had sent my message, and lo and behold, there was already a reply, accompanied by the annoyingly chirpy voice, "You've got mail!" Aargh.
It began by a vaguely couched reproach at how long it had been since he had seen me, and then went straight into how my aunt and he might be in Italy for a month, and they just might pop over to Paris to see me. It ended with the infuriating "I can't wait to tell people, 'I just heard from my niece in Paris'....it will do wonders for my provincial image!" This from the man who called Spartanburg, South Carolina "internationally cosmopolitan."
I don't take kindly to being used as a way to impress the neighbors. There is no need for us to really have contact for that, just go ahead and make shit up, who will know the difference? No doubt he will flaunt to the other family members that he has my email address, and will hoard it to be the purveyor of news updates about me and my Paris adventures. I do so hate to be co-opted. Gossiped about, I don't so much mind, but co-opted so your little life doesn't seem so boring really chaps my hide. I have half a mind to make shit up about myself, and send him little scandalous missives of my Gallic gallavanting. There is a lovely, well written blog of a London call girl called "Belle de Jour" - perhaps I'll just filch some of her musings and really give him something to talk about.
It remains to be seen, of course, what, if anything will come of this, and how much it will matter. But for the moment, it's got me in quite a tizzy.