Monday, November 15, 2010

Einzelkind

I am an only child. I have zero brothers and zero sisters . There comes a time when you’ve been acquainted with someone for a significant amount of time when they will ask you how many siblings you have. And I have always wondered what anyone hopes to learn about me by the number and variety of siblings I have. Why are they so curious about precisely one half of my genetic make-up (nothing more, nothing less). And which part is it ? Are they curious about the part of me that’s the same as my siblings, or the part of me that’s not. I find that entire line of questioning mildly offensive.

A kid, I suppose, is interested in whether I have lots of fights and/or boardgames and whether it would be fun to play with me. As a tween, teen or adolescent, I imagine they’re interested in dating my heretofore unknown kin ? As an adult, I suppose they’re largely interested in psychobabble. They feel compelled to know if I was pampered, do I know how to share, am I selfish, did I grow up not knowing what to do with all the time I had on my hands ? They always proceed to tell me whether they had always suspected it. And they're always jubilant whether or not they suspected. "Hey I could totally tell!" or "Really! You don't say!". They promptly proceed to compare me to other people they know who are only kids too. And I never know what I should do with this new information on my hands. Start an only-kids anonymous club (where we'll teach other the 12 steps of adopting each other as siblings)? I’ve never seen anyone say “oh I know x yz. S/he has 1 brother and 2 sisters too”. And often I sense a dilemma – are they to take pity on me for never having had the joys of siblinghood, are they to be mean to me so as to offset the ills of pampering, are they to feel envious of me that I never had to put up with hand-me-downs or fight for the TV remote ?

Apparently, I, and others of my kind are specimens. Outliers in nature’s need to procreate jointly and severally and profusely. So I shall present the requested psychoanalysis as well. For the record, almost all of my cousins are only kids themselves. And apart from the general trend that the females among us are more troublesome than the males, I can see no other marked similarity. As for am I pampered – I wouldn’t know. Present to me a control case, where all other things are held equal, and the only difference is a couple of siblings, and fully define “pampering”. I could then tell you if I was pampered. Am I selfish ? This whole post is about me and my assumed “uniqueness”. In what way can I answer that question and not sound either self-effacing or vain ? Do I know how to share ? I am always willing to partake of anything you have to offer.

And finally, did I grow up not knowing what to do with all the time I had on my hands ? As an indirect way of answering that question – I was one of those people that learnt to tell the time quite late. I hid my face behind digital watches before I made the switch to analog for a very long time. I imagine that if I were completely bored to death, waiting, waiting, for time to move, I would’ve learnt to read clocks sooner than most other kids my age. I must have found something else to do ( in fact, a lot of other things to do).

The one word that I have managed to remember from German class is “einzelkind”. Thanks to the language’s love for compound words, “only child” is unified into a single concept. Einzelkind defines me by what I am rather than what I did not have. I am all of my DNA. And I'd love to share ALL of it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really liked your blog and made it a point to send it to the Einzelkinds I know.

When I sent it to one of my kid cousins, I was wondering if she could relate to what you were saying considering the fact that more and more children in urban India are Einzelkind.

Janani said...

@ anonymous
thanks for dropping by.

to be fair, I grew up with up with many aunts and uncles willing to act my age. I never gave it much thought until I grew a lot, lot older.

VIDYA said...

Haha @ the above comment :D
Loved it Jan.
So,where's Club Einzelkind Headquarters?I need to register,you know.:P

Ps-I didn't know you were taking German classes!How are they coming along?