Thicker than water

For the past few weeks I’ve had family on my mind. I’ve been delving into all kinds of definitions and portrayals of family and here are a few of my faves and not-so-faves:

According to a simple Google search:
fam·i·ly/ˈfam(ə)lē/
A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.

From Wikipedia:
In human context, a family (from Latin: familia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children.

From Merriam-Webster:
a: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
b : a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock
c : a group of persons of common ancestry : clan

From the U.S. Census Bureau:
“A family is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together.”

After a while googling and contemplating two-dimensional meanings of the term family, I considered more entertaining portrayals of family, such as:

The Bluths. (and my personal faves) Photo courtesy of Womansday.com
The (new) Addams Family. Photo courtesy of Fanpop.com
The Arnolds! Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com
The Hoovers from Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

I much rather the depictions of family that Hollywood provides because the mom, dad, sister, brother, dog, cat realities that are out there are, frankly, a dwindling version of the kind of family that currently exists in the majority of households around the world.

When I was growing up in San Francisco, I didn’t really pay much attention to the family units of my classmates. When I moved to the suburbs, said family units were all up in my face and I quickly realized that my type of family unit was just…”weird” (for lack of a better word AND to use a word that an insecure, 14-year old might use.) I had my mom, of course, the solid rock in my life growing up. I also had a stepfather I actually really, really hated though I think I blindly tried to convince myself that I liked him AND, even funnier, that he liked me. I had a sister but said sister was always in Chile so I never really grew up with her and for the record, never, ever – to this day – bonded with her. I had aunts, uncles, cousins – all who lived in Chile, all with whom I never shared more than a week out of each year with. In short, I kind of grew up a loner (in the family sense.)

Given this, who, in turn, did I look to – and still look to – as my family? Well my well-intentioned, solid-as-a-rock, often-times-pain-in-the-ass mother, for one. And I could NEVER even utter the word “family” without immediately conjuring up images of my Tio Pato. Along that note, no image of my family could ever be complete without also picturing my cousin Tony, Uncle Pato’s son. With this, I also throw into the mix a handful of amazingly good friends and at that, we call it a day. For reals.

When I was younger, my “weird” version of family really bothered me because I compared myself to other people and what their families looked like – from the outside. But that’s just it – I saw their families from the outside and most likely projected my ideals onto them, even if that wasn’t necessarily their reality either. Who knows? Maybe their families were even weirder than mine! And of course, as one grows up and meets people from different walks of life, one begins to realize that all KINDS of families exist out there and that, just because I grew up in Edward Scissorhands-town where all family units seemed to be derived from the 1950s mold, not everyone had the standard, formerly stereotypical family. It felt good to realize this and it felt good to let it go.

That’s not to say that certain things about “family” don’t really toy with my emotions and/or generally piss me off. To begin, yes, it does make me a bit sad that my soon-to-appear kid won’t have little cousins and lots of aunts and uncles with whom to share memories with. I have one sister, divorced, (that I never see) who happens to have kids that are either 15 or 9 years older than my soon-to-appear kid; G has one brother who isn’t tied down and who doesn’t have kids. Between the two of us we have one aunt and one uncle to offer our kid and two cousins, both boys. It’s slim pickins’ for the little one, slim pickins’.

That makes me sad. What pisses me off is the fact that my father’s side of the family, father included (and yes, biologically I do have a father) kind of threaded through life pretending I didn’t exist – type of “out of sight, out of mind” just because I lived in another country. And the irony here is that THAT family is typical in so many ways and there are lots and lots of cousins and second cousins, etc that would MORE than make up for the lack of siblings G and I have to offer … but alas, that entire group is pretty much a non-issue due to the way things worked out in my life. As a result, they’ll be a non-issue for the soon-to-emerge kid.

My immediate family now consists of my husband, my beloved Obi and of course, my mom. Soon we’ll add a daughter. I think about G’s kid’s version of family and I actually think it’s awesome. They have an active mom and dad, they also have a stepmom (me) and will soon have a stepdad. Then they’ll have a half-sister (the current pea-in-the-pod) and I’m sure that their mom will likely have more kids and so then they’ll have yet another half-sibling. In addition to this, they have three or four uncles, all of whom have small kids ages 2 months – 6 years old. Despite not living in a “traditional” mom and dad household, they truly have a lovely version of what is family. For them, family get-togethers are truly family get-togethers.

I think the best those of us with the non-traditional sense of the word family can do is embrace the people that matter. I know this sounds simple and elementary but at the end of the day, I realize that as time passes the “traditional” family has morphed. It no longer includes JUST your dad or JUST your mom. It no longer includes only a sister and a brother, uncles, aunts and cousins. And it might just be a mom, dad and dog or mom and daughter. Or uncle and son. There are a million variations and everything seems pretty legit.

From my personal experience, blood does not a family member make. The proof for me is apparent in my reality. I have five uncles and aunts on my mom’s side of the family and in turn, through them, have 12 cousins. The reality is that of all those “family members” I truly only consider half of them family and only 2 of them true, immediate family. On my father’s side I have four aunts and uncles and through them about 12 cousins as well. Aside from my nephews, I consider NONE of them to be family (they should be so lucky.) And we’re supposed to believe that blood makes the relative and that relative makes the family? This truly is a subject matter that is up for interpretation and a subject matter that begs the redefinition of the concept of family.

Would you agree that the word and meaning of family is fantastically loaded? Do you think it’s open for real interpretation?

Discuss.

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My Love Affair With Licensing

In my former life, I worked in licensing. I realize there are many people out there who have no idea what licensing is about and I know this because before I entered that world, I was one of those people.

In the simplest of terms, licensing is the act of granting permission to someone to do something. In my former life, I worked with authorizing, granting and allowing the use and release of animation – specifically Japanese animation.

I call to mind a phenomenon I take for granted everyone remembers: Pokemon.

Even as I incorporate use of this image, I know I don't have the right to do so.

Now, I wasn’t involved in any way with the evolution of Pokemon in our everyday lives and in fact, the first murmurs of the explosion-to-come were heard in the late 90’s (1996, I believe, though I could be wrong.) During that time, I was tucked away at college, figuring out my life and where I wanted to go with it. I had no idea what Pokemon was or even, what licensing was or how it would someday wrap me into its snug little world.

The point is, we all remember when Pokemon exploded onto the scene. We didn’t even have to have kids to know that every kid across America (and then some, I would later learn) was engrossed with collecting these devilish little Pocket Monsters. Based on a video game and then turned into animation, it suddenly seemed that the entire world was being taken over by 1) weird looking Japanese animation and 2) that yellow dinosaur/dog thing called Pikachu or what have you. Yeah, kids went nuts over this little animation property and you know what made said frenzy possible? Licensing!! Licensing the shit out of these images allowed said characters to appear on everything from notebooks, backpacks, toys, bedding, tshirts, etc. And I’m willing to bet that we can probably even find said Pikachu on vibrators and such (though of course, not legally licensed for such use.) And once there are things with an image on it, there is always somebody out there, a kid, teen or adult, who just CAN’T POSSIBLY LIVE WITHOUT THAT PIKACHU YELLOW PASHMINA!!!

Before Pokemon, we can remember licensing in all its glory with none other than our beloved Star Wars. Now there’s a licensing jackpot. Let’s think about this for a minute: though Lucas has, without argument, many wonderful creations (Indiana Jones, Willow, American Graffiti, to name a few) there is nothing that compares to the cinematic and licensing success of his mega empire called Star Wars. One of the biggest factors that lends to the success of a licensing brand, if it’s based on a movie or tv show, is its longevity. If it’s a tv show, everyone wants to know – how many episodes can we count on? Why? The longer the series or franchise, the longer someone has to make sure that notebook they develop has time to become a roaring success in retail as well. This is what makes Star Wars so f-ing amazing in the licensing world!! Back in the day there were only THREE movies – movies, not even episodes that air on a daily or weekly basis but a movie that lasts a mere weeks in theaters – and Lucas built an empire the size of China based on THREE MOVIES that came out THREE years apart. Think about it – would you buy merchandise based on Titanic? That was an explosive movie at its time yet it came and went, like movies do. Yet Star Wars remains. Brilliant.

In any case, the point of this post, along with offering you a little background into the world of licensing and how it pulsates around us, is to tell you that, once a year there is a convention dedicated solely and exclusively to the licensing world and it’s called – what else – Licensing Show. Actually its official title is “Licensing International Expo” but no one in licensing calls it anything else but simply and purely, Licensing Show.

The first time I attended Licensing Show, as an Exhibitor, was in 2004. Back in the day, this convention was held in the greatest city on Earth – New York – during the hot, summer month of June. It was nothing short of pure chaos, with people coming and going and my superiors presenting new brands that were on the horizon, compliments of my former company and its intended licensing efforts behind said brands. The following year (and for several years after), we exhibited yet again but this time with a booth twice the size of earlier years, with a reception area and five individual meeting rooms that accommodated six meeting members each. The chaos multiplied. Half hour back-to-back meetings from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm where one basically repeated brand information from one would-be client to the next. This was the typical DAY of the exhibitor and what followed once the convention doors closed (at 6:00 pm sharp!) was any number of cocktails hosted by well-known companies (Disney, Viacom, Cartoon Network, Hasbro, Mattel, etc), followed by dinner – perhaps with a VP of a television network or Creative Director of some sought after agency. One would trek through the trendiest of neighborhoods in Manhattan, from the convention, to the cocktail, to a the posh dinner, only to plop into bed at about midnight, buzzed off business and wine and hurrying into slumber to be in tip-top shape for the first 9:00 am meeting the following day. Past 6:00 pm the cocktails were hard to avoid. Meetings could continue past 6:00 pm but that meant that they were scheduled at a bar and usually, one reserved that prime-time for a favored company – one that allowed you to mix fun and work. It was an exhausting week, that one, but without a doubt, the one week I looked forward to each and every year.

I met my husband at this convention, actually. I don’t recall our first meeting but he tells me that I wore glasses and a white skirt (that’s all he seems to recall so I wonder if I bothered putting on a top that day.) We actually met years before we decided to like each other, but the year we DID fall in love (in November) we attended Licensing Show like always (the June before) and partied at a rooftop bar in NYC. Another splendid tradition: the last night of the convention, all the Latins (Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, what have you) got together for a celebratory, let’s-toast-to-another-Licensing-Show-gone-by-and-hey-it’s-awesome-to-see-you-again drink.

Me and future hubby partying circa 2008 at the rooftop bar. I look super sober.

And so, what’s my point with this? Tonight G is flying home from Licensing Show 2011 as I type. This is the first year he attends in which I am no longer involved in the world of licensing. I envy him. I remember what it was like to prepare for that trip, to wake up knowing you face a full agenda of the day’s meetings. I remember being a licensing rockstar if only in my own reality. I remember looking at all my fellow licensing colleagues from Latin America – sh*t, even from Chile – and thinking “Wow, how cool is your gig? In licensing and in Lat Am, what more do you need?” I remember the meetings, the cocktails, the dinners, the parties, the negotiations, the encounters and I miss.it.all. Though I’m happy G is still a part of that world (I can live vicariously through him!) I can’t help but feel that I’ve fallen from grace.

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I’m about to slap this day silly

How perfectly unacceptable has my day been? Seriously, from beginning to end (so far) it’s been less than stellar and I’m beyond depressed about it.

Actually only two things make the list:

A window washer guy, pissed at me for yelling a frantic “no” to him so that he WOULDN’T pretty please wash my windshield, proceeded to squirt the bottle of filthy soap water on said windshield, using his squeegee to smear this gross concoction all over it. All.Over.It. Spread, spread, spread … and then he walked away leaving my windshield with a film of dirty, crusty soap water through which I couldn’t see.

So, yeah. That was fun.

Then today my boss and I had a meeting with the Mall Plaza people in a section of Santiago called Huechuraba. Usually in cabs I never tend to put my seat belt on but today thankfully I decided to do so because, oh, about 20 minutes later another car decided to plunge into the driver’s side of the taxi we were sitting in, tossing everyone and everything about, except for me. I was strapped in you see, like a good Californian. I knew it was just a matter of time before I’d be in some kind of accident here in Chile. If you’re a follower on Twitter, you’re then keen to the fact that I live in a city full of asshole drivers and though I know I didn’t have the privilege of living  in LA where the rest of the asshole drivers live, I take what I know … AND WHAT I KNOW IS: Chile has got some A-S-S-H-O-L-E drivers. It’s just too bad that today I had to literally cross paths with one.

And to put the final cherry on top, today my husband hates me. Marriage is hard sometimes, all this cohabitation and getting used to the in’s and out’s of one another. I’ve heard that the first year is hard and I’ve got to say that I’ve been lucky in that I don’t really think that my first year has been bad. But today. Today has been coupled with all of the above. And though I’m sad that my husband just left without saying goodbye (yes, WITHOUT saying goodbye) I know that he’ll be back (after all, his computer is here) and I hope we can perhaps get off on a lighter foot. At some point. I hope.

Great. I just named three things when I thought there were just two. So now I’m more depressed. Oy.

For now I’ve decided that today was less than stellar and so, me and my glass o’vino blanco are going to my room to watch “Pulp Fiction” – newly acquire, but forever cherished.

That movie always makes me feel like a bad ass and I kind of want to act out this particular scene (minus the guns, of course):

Now, I’m willing to bet that this chick never feels like she’s had a bad day.

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