As someone born and raised in the Deep South, I feel compelled to explain the incest cliche. First thing you need to know: in small towns, almost everyone is related through marriage. It’s not uncommon to date someone and meet their family, only to learn you share a few cousins. As long as there’s no blood relation, it’s forgiven. If you’ve seen Lone Star State of Mind, you know it’s also possible for your partner’s parent to marry your own. Then it becomes a matter of who had dibs on the relationship first. Like all rules, there are a few exceptions, but common sense stuff. Don’t get nitpicky, we’re talking about incest.
Now, with the main explanation out of the way, we can move on to actual incest. I’m not trying to tell you it doesn’t happen, but it’s rare. I know a few siblings who were known to… experiment, but they were never romantically involved. They grew to have normal lives by the basic social standards; married with children, etc. I knew one or two cousins rumored to do the same, but I’ve never seen blood relatives marry and start a family as most cliches lead you to believe. I feel I lived in the thick of it long enough to know at least one family if it were actually a thing.
You got it? That’s how it happens. Unless you’re me. If you’re me, you find a new way to power the cliche. Before I dive in, let me start by clearly stating: I have never committed incest in any form. But I really made it look like I did.
For those who may not remember, Bestie returned to stay with Nana during summers and holidays. I visited often enough to be adopted into the family. She had two (blood) cousins living there due to their own crappy parents cliche. The boy, I can’t help feel he’d want to be called Goku, and his younger sister became my cousins too. Likewise, their grandmother became Nana.
Goku and I grew up together from an early age. We slept next to each other after playing gameboys late into the night. We came to have more in common than Bestie and myself. He will have his own story one day, but for now you need to understand, from ages 8-20 we were together for everything. For Grey’s Anatomy fans, he was my Person, we regularly fished each other out of hell. He was so much more than family, though I struggle to find a worthy word. That being said, you can see how… awkward, things could be for someone he or I dated. We decided, “hey, what if we said we were cousins?”
Yea, that fixed the problem. We were teenagers in a tiny town. Have you noticed people rarely question how you’re related? It took less than a year for our relation to be common knowledge. After 5+ years, you could identify one by describing them as the other’s cousin.
When Crook and I separated, I went deep into my Dark Place. I was forced to move into my parents house, and hated working at the western store. Goku was my rock, along with a close friend I haven’t told you about yet, let’s call her Tiny. Difficult events in Tiny’s life resulted in her mother kicking her out. She was the sweetest girl who ever lived, even Mom loved her enough to let her stay with us. We shared my car and a mattress on the floor while she worked things out.
I was genuinely happy for them when she and Goku began dating, but I was also desperate not to be alone. Goku’s best friend was the trashiest little shit you ever saw. I can sum him up perfectly with one statement. He has a giant “FTW” tattoo across his neck. It stands for “fuck the world” and he was proud to tell any who asked. Could he say “for the win” just once when Dad asked? Hell no, trashy.
I’m ashamed to say I was desperate enough to date the idiot for a few weeks. I kept my mind away from sobriety to endure his presence, somehow it was better than being alone. When I ran out of excuses not to screw him, he dumped me. I can’t say I was disappointed, but that’s what triggered the incident. When the four-some turned into a three-some, it made Tiny the third-wheel. I didn’t see it until it was too late. Tiny’s habit of drinking away her depression until she passed out gave Goku and I a lot of quality time together.
At some point, Goku and I had a late night talk that lead to startling revelations. I’m not going to attempt writing out gushy romantic dialogue, ever. Instead I’m going to tell you it was one of the few times life copied tv exactly. We were best friends and loved each other all along, you get the point. But what were we suppose to do about Tiny? He was dating one of my only three friends, I never thought I could be in that situation. I lived by the chicks before dicks code, but Goku was hardly some dick. All night I played conversations in my mind, deciding the best way to explain this cluster-fuck to Tiny. I wasted my time, I panicked and blew it anyway. That too, played out exactly the same as tv. Being so preoccupied with her, I completely missed the problem of what it would mean to a town who believed us genuine cousins. I wouldn’t realize that until the next day when a coworker saw Goku walking into the store.
The owner was a horrible man. I’ll tell you about Mr. Hooker Lover later, including the time he was caught with a hooker and dildo in his office. I’m sorry I can’t control my thoughts well enough to write stories in a linear time-line, but I have no way to control it. Be glad you aren’t in here with me, it’s like being inside a tornado the way random crap hits me. Anyway, I knew how it would play out if I didn’t explain Goku perfectly. I ran to tell him, “get out” politely as possible, and asked the coworker to take a smoke break with me. If you have something complicated to explain, there’s no better atmosphere.
Only after explaining the circumstances of our meeting and terms under which we began the ‘cousin’ rumor, did I tell her “and now we’re trying to date. How do I explain this to people without being a cliche?”
When she stopped laughing, she was matter-of-fact. “You tell them exactly how you told me. And pray they listen.”
“But it’s a long story, that’s gonna suck.”
She stood to leave, shaking her head. “Yea… tell you what, I’ll tell everyone inside for you. Save you the trouble.” I heard her laughter resume as she walked inside. I smoked one more.
Inside, I was welcomed with a fresh wave of laughter. The other girls had a few initial jokes, but all in fair play, it was funny after all. The owner almost ruined me. That bastard told every customer, vendor, random person who stopped by, “hey, did, did you know she’s dating her cousin?” He laughed hysterically each time like he was performing a play.
If I didn’t stop to tell the whole story, he let them go on believing it. The looks I got from that were worse than any ‘what the hell is wrong with you’ look. He told it in such a serious way, people wouldn’t believe me unless one of the girls confirmed my story. I hope Karma has done her duty over the years. He ran the store into the ground almost 10 years ago, but I’m not sure what’s happened since.
Goku and I went through three weeks of hellish incest jokes before we decided we were better off as family. Every place we went, we saw those disgusted looks. We couldn’t unring the bell, the damage was done. The sad fact is, most people prefer the rumor. They don’t want to hear the reasonable explanation. Reasonable explanations are no fun to talk about at the dinner table. Screw ‘em all. Goku was a wild guy, he wasn’t ready to settle anyway. He had a hard childhood, and life beat him down time and time again. One day I will write about all the wonderful parts of him, but it’s hard. He died a few years ago, and I can’t tear down the wall blocking that part of my memory yet.
Let’s leave it there. I wasn’t trying to get into anything heavy. I genuinely believe some people may find the truth behind the cliche interesting. Hey! That would make a great tv show! I call dibs on the idea for an anthology series explaining the origins of life’s cliches.