July 12, 2010

Black sheep (and my own wishful thinking)

ALL families have one.

It’s the relative who doesn’t quite fit in the traditional mold of the rest of the family.

He is the relative who possesses the least number of personality traits that usually marks one as a member of that clan.

He is the one who sometimes brings embarrassment to the rest of the kin because of the things he or she says, or his or her aberrant behavior.

* * * *

Often called the family oddball or eccentric, his antics sometimes run from the quirky and harmless—you know, like Lady Gaga, who dresses up in outlandish but creative costumes—to the truly wild and jawdropping, like the relative who feels the urgent need to declare to the entire world that her partner gave her a sexually transmitted disease.

There’s no rhyme or reason for the black sheep. He just happens, much like the Joker in the deck of cards you’re shuffling which you thought you’d already removed.

In a number of families, he or she is just the constant butt of jokes—like your elderly aunt who always shows up for the family reunion with yet another escort young enough to be her grandson.

Then there is the drug addict in the respectable family of lawyers who constantly fails to get rehabilitated.

* * * *

I MUST admit that when I was campaigning for then-senator Noynoy Aquino last year, the most difficult criticism I had to fend off was not that he had no credible political track record to speak of, but that he had Kris Aquino, the TV celebrity, as his sister.

Unwarranted or not, Kris has become the epitome of what family black sheep are all about. One could easily dismiss it as her being born in the month of February and being an Aquarian, given to eccentricities, but even I, who share the same birth month and zodiac sign with her, and can come from the left field at times, am constantly stumped by her erratic behavior.

The potential voters I talked with then warned me that if and when Senator Aquino would become president, Kris would lord (lady?) over it in Malacañang. After all, Aquino has no wife, so who else would function as his First Lady? Certainly, they said, his other sisters—Ballsy, Pinky and Viel—had their own lives and families to get back to, and they felt that Kris, who always seems to crave the spotlight, would revel in the role of de-facto First Lady.

I, of course, defended my then-candidate that, no, Kris would have her showbiz life to go back to, and also her family—Josh, Baby James and Big James. I remember saying that with the amount of financial support Kris would send her brother’s way for his campaign, she would need to earn these back through more showbiz projects and product endorsements. I supremely believed then that when he won, Aquino would thank the bunso for her tremendous backing, then send her merrily away back to showbiz.

I guess those guys I talked with last year are now laughing at me, because what they had predicted has come to pass. Who else could have suggested to now President Noynoy Aquino to appoint Girl Abunda as tourism secretary? Ach. (By the way, just for the record, I also admit that I eventually didn’t vote for Senator Aquino after seeing how he poorly handled the infighting in his camp.)

* * * *

BUT what family, like I said, doesn’t have a black sheep—a relative who can be a continued cause of embarrassment? Of course, for political families, it can be quite devastating.

A story by ABC News in 2007—published on the occasion of the arrest of Al Gore III, son of the former US Vice President and then-yet-to-become Nobel Laureate, for possessing marijuana and prescription drugs—cited a number of famous political black sheep.

Former US President John Henry Adams had a son, Charles, who was an alcoholic. Others include the great Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s son who became a Republican; the drinking and free-wheeling Alice, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt; William Henry Harrison’s sons (one an embezzler, another an alcoholic); the late Sen. Teddy Kennedy—himself a black sheep because of the infamous Chappaquiddick incident—and his son Patrick, now a congressman himself, who had a substance-abuse problem in his youth and was dragged into a rape controversy with his cousin William Kennedy Smith, among others.

And even before Kris, there have been also quite a number of presidential siblings who had gained notoriety: Jimmy Carter had Billy, who was on the payroll of the Libyan government; George W. Bush had Neil, who was said to have engaged the services of prostitutes; and Bill Clinton had a half-brother, Roger, a cocaine user and alcoholic (not to mention, a bad Elvis Presley impersonator).

To their credit, the older Aquino sisters knew that Kris could be a liability to their President-brother’s governance, so they apparently exhorted her to give up her showbiz talk shows.

(Of course, Kris being Kris, she stole the show once more just three days before her brother’s inaugural by admitting to the entire world that she has given up on her marriage to basketball player James Yap. UPDATE: Kris and her children flew to the U.S. on July 8, 2010 and is said to be taking a 3-week vacation.)

One only wonders how these six years of semi-seclusion from the public life will affect Kris. For all we know, being under the constant watch of her sisters could do her good. It can’t be easy for Kris, who lives to hog the headlines, to have her every action monitored and controlled by her siblings.

What many wish for Kris—and really, despite her antics, I admire how she always puts her children’s needs ahead of hers—is perhaps, a Teddy Kennedy moment. Once an embarrassment for his entire family, Kennedy - also the bunso among nine siblings and born in February as well - eventually shed off the bad behavior and became one of the most revered politicians of our generation. (Now, I don't mean that Kris should become a politician like Kennedy or her brother and father, although it wouldn't be surprising if she does enter the field herself, but to just well, grow up. And maybe shut up about herself sometimes. It doesn't have to be all about you all the time, Kris!)

So, you see, there is some hope for black sheep after all. I would like to believe that, eventually, Kris will find her real place in the sun, and instead of being someone that her siblings would always have to watch over, become a constant and major source of pride for her family.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life Section of the BusinessMirror. Black sheep photo from www.mi9.com. Yap family photo from Reuters via www.daylife.com)

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