Family Tradition

The Utsler women are all very strong.
This may not seem like a particularly unusual statement until you realize that most of them are in the family because they married Utsler men. The truth is, our family practices a particularly brutal form of social darwinism, and only the really strong women survive. It’s not that we have an unusually high incidence of divorce either, the weak ones just never make it anywhere near the altar. What is it about us that scares off all but the bravest females of the species? We’re not violent, we’re not mean, we’re not even particularly smelly. So what is it?

You know in all those Cosmo polls, how the women always rate ‘sense of humor’ as the most important thing in a man? Those women haven’t met my family. In the same way that gangs jump in new members by beating them mercilessly, my family jumps in potential spouses by teasing them within an inch of their sanity. The difference is that once you are in a gang, the beating stops. In my family you thicken your skin and sharpen your wit, because if you aren’t giving – you are most certainly getting. Teasing or "picking" is done as bonding behaviour between parent and child, between siblings, and between spouses. It’s done as chastisement for bad behaviour and as punishment for being “too serious.” It’s also done as training. Teasing begins with the first date (or, preferably, at first sight) and ends… well… my Uncle Elmer died years ago and we still tease him. (It’s okay, he can take it.) I’ve found that it’s best to come out of the gate strong so that you don’t waste your time with the lightweights, because there’s no sense in getting attached to the ones that aren’t going to make it. Within the Utsler family you should tease your potential mate mercilessly, because you know the rest of the family will, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. We’re a close family and we all love each other, but nobody gets special treatment – and we can smell fear. Last year my sister in law went "Back to Iowa" for the first time, and I have to tell you that we was a bit worried. I can’t even imagine what it was like for my cousins, trying to date in Winterset where everyone already knew the family.

There are families full of star atheletes, destined for scholarships and endorsements. Other families produce purebred doctors or lawyers. For others, it’s crime. Our family breeds smartasses. Not run of the mill sassmouths you understand – I’m talking about sarcastic, barb-tongued, humor bullies. We’re merciless. We have to be, we’d never have survived childhood if we weren’t. This is not to say that we are without compassion – quite the contrary. Most of us use our power for good – fighting hatred and injustice with sarcasm and wit. Oh sure, there are a few among us that would gutshoot you with a sharp comment, leaving you shamed and confused, the object of laughter and derision for the world – but they’re the exception. Really. The rest of us are a bunch of sweet and fluffy bunnies who would never do anything to make you feel bad. Oh sure, we’ll tease you a little, but it’s all in good fun…


Three Questions for Crazy Uncle Joe:

1. How did a guy like you end up with a girl like that?
Well, I met her when she was young. We started going out when she was 14, and I think I warped her mind.

2. You’ve been together since high school?
No. We dated for about a year, but she was all hung up on this "grades" thing – something about getting into a good college. We didn’t really break up – we just… we had scheduling problems.

3. So what happened? How did you get back together?
I pursued her vigorously. It wasn’t called stalking back then, it was called dilligence. I kept in touch, calling her whenever I got the chance, and we used to get together during winter break. Eventually she got tired of me bugging her and agreed to move out to California. Eight years after that, she finally got tired of me bugging her and she agreed to marry me.

4. What about the rumored "Deal with the Devil"?
Like I said before, there’s a three questions limit.

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