Familiarity Breeds Contempt

One of Mother’s signature sayings was:

Familiarity breeds contempt.

ChaucerThis often quoted threesome of words has been around apparently since Chaucer’s time in the 1300s. It’s meaning is negative in nature and simply put means the longer you are around people, the more you will find them distasteful. Not exactly something young children want to hear coming from their parent. But be that as it may, this was the message we routinely heard from our mother while growing up.

As my sister Abby and I grew older, we learned that Mother used this phrase when talking about family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, just about anybody she came in contact with during her day. I guess she thought that most people, including her family, were to be held in contempt.

SignNow this explains a lot about Mother and her interactions with others. Once again her thinking was flawed. Instead of saying that her family was important to her and she would go to great lengths to protect them, she said and did the opposite. She rarely took our side in most cases and usually found fault in what we had done and said no doubt it was deserved. No self esteem booster, Mother did teach us by her lackadaisical manner that we were survivors and that we had already been to the edge and had nowhere to go but up.

Enter our stepmother Beatrice, stage right (or wrong). She agreed with our mother about familiarity breeding contempt. She would say:

Well, she’s certainly right about that. The more you know someone, the more you dislike them.

Crossed WiresBoth of them had their wires crossed on more than one occasion. Our blended family, especially the children, did not find solace in knowing they both held us in contempt. But, as is common in dysfunctional families, we pondered how both of them felt about relationships and continued on our merry way. Not paying much attention to either of them was our best bet. We didn’t wallow around in the muck and yuck. Instead, we laughed it off and added it to our treasure trove of material to be used at a later date. Guess what? That date has arrived, thus the blog!

DoormatAs Abby, Sissy, Kevin and I look back on our far from normal upbringing, we still can find great comfort in knowing that we are OK. And we are proud of the way we have lived our lives. No blaming or shaming. Just full speed ahead, together. To hell with “familiarity breeds contempt.” We live by a different saying, “Family First”!

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