Remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld? He was called a “Nazi” because of all the strict rules and arbitrary dictates his patrons had to adhere to. Failure to comply found George ejected from the shop, soup-less, and Elaine banned for a year.
I would like to posit that every family has one such “Nazi” in their midst. Let’s call that individual the Family Fascist because I’m fond of alliteration.
The Family Fascist could be any member of the household who attempts to exert an undue measure of influence over the conduct of others in the family unit. If these attempts fail, this person will expend a great deal of effort to maintain the particular order he or she desires to characterise the home, possibly grumbling all the while. Such characters may be domineering in whatever context they find themselves in, or may be like this only amongst the closest of kin.
Today, I won’t be writing about the overbearing social guest or inappropriately assertive work colleague — I’m isolating this discussion to the domestic dictator.
This character could be the ex-military dad, who insists that everyone in the house make their beds as per army regulations or refer to 4 pm as sixteen hundred hours. She could be the order-obsessed mom, who didn’t mind how late you stayed out on the weekend, but was alarmed to find a closet door left ajar in your bedroom or your homework strewn all over your bed. He could be your formerly overweight brother, who has taken to the gym with such vim and vigour and has now appointed himself the family nutrition expert. Or the supercilious daughter, always ready with some critique to level at your appearance.
Then again, one family member can encompass all these neuroses, setting him or herself up as the total household despot.
So here’s an admission: I am that multifunctional authoritarian figure in our little nuclear unit. I am the Full Family Fascist.
Before you commence launching spoiled foodstuffs at me, hear me out.
I know nobody enjoys being around a control freak. But sometimes, when things are amiss, someone has to step in and maintain a semblance of order. Someone has to guide the group. Someone has to make sure that the magazines are stacked neatly and that the recycling happens, goddammit!
You see, it’s a matter of sacrificing my peace of mind and a chunk of my leisure time for the greater good. I, as a Family Fascist, am actually a heroic figure.
When I’m staying with my parents, I attempt to assert some form of dominion over what’s going on around me simply to make sure everything is on the right track. I perform the indispensable service of outfit consultation for my mom, who is very fashion conscious. I suggest substitutions if need be, help her select accessories, and attempt to evaluate whether a particular footwear choice is comfortable or not (this last one being advice she usually doesn’t take into consideration, even though she should). I’m a FashionNazi, I can’t help it.
I watch what my folks eat like a hawk. Someone has to do it, because although my parents are all about whole grains and lean proteins, just this morning I found a jar of “Lite” peanut butter in the pantry. If a product containing evil trans fats has crept its way into our kitchen, it means that an update on nutrition is sorely needed.a Admittedly, I go about my nutrition monitoring high-handedly, going so far as to swat hands away from second helpings.
Whenever I stay with my sister, I impose standards of tidiness on her that she seemingly is unable to live up to.b So I wander the apartment, fluffing pillows, clearing bedside tables of clutter, folding away discarded clothing, fishing things out of her wastebasket that belong in the recycling bin, because I find myself unable to tolerate any degree of disorder and I really care about recycling.
I’m aware that the strategy I employ with her is one that severely backfires: when left to her own devices, she becomes the tidier rather than the tidied-after. But only once the disarray reaches a certain breaking point. Not surprisingly, her breaking point happens to be far more elastic than my own. And once you know there’s someone around who will always pick up after you, you relax into a routine of leaving dishes in the sink, towels on the bed and yesterday’s outfit in the armchair — it’s only human.
So, yes, I’m aware I have a problem. Rather than allowing everyone in the house to live and let live, I constantly impose my views, strictures and dictates on the long-suffering members of my family. Do I suck? Yes. Big time. Am I doing it because I think it’s for their own good? Yes — but that doesn’t make me suck any less.
But so long as low-fat products and the like keep appearing in our cupboards, so long as there are items of clothing not properly put away, so long as someone’s eyeliner needs adjusting — I will be there to save the day!