Families best shaken, not stirred or blended
The blended family is the signature dish of contemporary society. Indeed, we must be getting close to the point where step-families are actually the norm. Perhaps in another couple of generations people will look at nuclear families like we currently look at virgin brides - a harmless anachronism.
I for one would be sad to see the nuclear family go though. And there is a degree of species shame. You’d have thought if swans could pull it off we could. Surely, it would be better for people to stick together for the duration.
What matter 50 years of bitter silence, laced with the occasional poisoning fantasy, when you’re producing social stability.
And spare a thought for the manufacturers of dolls’ houses and their contents. It used to be so simple: one father, one mother, one brother, one sister – same hair, same skin, same woody little face.
Where to now – the HR assistant from Dad’s work, and Mum’s second husband from her trip to Barbados, for only $10 with any nuclear family purchased?
If we are to concede the high ground to swans, I propose following Emperor penguins henceforth - with their very contemporary and rather sophisticated take on serial monogamy. Serial monogamy seems to tie in quite nicely with the modern taste for self-actualisation.
But with unprecedented numbers of adults motoring in and out of matrimony, in their dinghies of love, the statistics on blends are only heading one way.Given this, it seems time to tighten up the terminology.
More specifically, it’s time to get rid of the term “blended family”. Not only is it wet, it makes an assumption - that families blend. Moreover, it is replete with implication.
The implication being that through skillfully combining the parts of different families we can produce something really special. Think “home blend”, “house blend”, “special blend” and “blended by our Brazilian nutritionist specifically to give you the maximum dietary benefit”.
Yet in discussion with other blendees, alternative terminology like “forced family” and “crammed family” has been touted.
Which terms do not altogether surprise me, because, in my experience, many families blend like oil and vinegar – as long as you shake them.
But it could be worse, consider for one moment the modus operandi of an actual blender, which can turn many elements into one, but only through the destruction and complete denaturing of those individual elements.
The problem with using a term that is so saturated in assumption is not simply that it may mislead, it also creates an unholy pressure.
The term “blended family” is a great example of appalling expectation management. And poor expectation management means poor satisfaction.
Unless we want to pre-destine the millions of people entering these fragmented family situations to disappointment we need to be realistic, and that starts with our language.
Telling someone they’ve just joined a blended family is like telling a porky new gym member they just joined a hot body club.
Have I got a replacement term in mind? No. But we can just have a competition - the one for the Opera House was ages ago.
By any name, these blends are a tough gig.
It’s one thing having a step-mother on your bookshelf, it’s another thing having one storming around your living room.
And if you thought the fruit of your loins wasn’t all apples, try raising the fruit of someone else’s loins. So kudos to the kids that deal with it. And to us adults, keep shaking.
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