John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Back Seat

I am writing this entreaty from the back seat of my wife’s mini van. My daughter is sitting in the font seat and controlling the music and music volume (keeping it turned up just slightly higher than she knows I want it to be) and my wife is driving and the two of them are chatting away (somehow) over the music and seem to be laughing and enjoying each others company.

I, as always, am alone in the back seat. I feel like a refugee from another country who can’t speak the language and who doesn’t understand the cultural customs.

I sometimes feel the loud music is to keep me muted. I can’t engage in the conversation anyway because 1) I can’t hear well enough to understand it (even without music blaring); 2) I don’t understand it even when I can hear it, 3) I make really “stupid” comments even when I can hear and understand what is being said.

I am worried it won’t be long until I am asked to move to the trunk part of the minivan when we go out to eat—the part behind the final row of seats and the rear hatch. It is really cold back there in the winter and even lonelier than where I am sitting now. But only by a little. (Although I suspect, on the positive side, the music won’t seem as loud)

jyb_musingsI am writing because I, frankly, don’t know how this situation happened. It wasn’t long ago that I confidently strode to the front passenger seat every time my wife drove the family out to eat. And I didn’t even have to run to get to the front seat first. At first it was an inconvenience but it was still clear (to me, at least) who the head of the household was. But it wasn’t long –maybe two weeks or less–before that sinking confidence that I was still head of the household turned into spiraling self-doubt about my status in the family— to the current state of near obsolescence. If it wasn’t for the annoying contributions I made to family outings, my wife and daughter may not even think to acknowledge me at all.

I’ve tried to turn things around by playing to my current strengths and being even more annoying than usual but that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I thought about offering to drive but I have a smallish compact car that the family never wants to drive in anywhere –even to circle the driveway. I’m now out of plans to reassert myself to a position in my family, not of dominance, but simply relevance. I am much more realistic now. I don’t have to actually matter…just as long as family members would be willing to pretend like I “could matter.”

Is that asking for too much? Or should I start dressing more warmly and placing pillows around the flooring and sides between the hatch and back seats, where I seemed destined to find myself any night we next go out for dinner?



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