How Keeping Up With The Kardashians Helped Me Reconnect With My Family

Yes, I am completely serious.

I had a tough childhood. With a history that led to severely entrenched trust issues, difficulties with authority figures, and several years of therapy, I do not have a strong emotional connection to my family. I spent many years blaming them as well as myself for the many things that went horribly wrong in our lives. I’m a bit of an odd bird, a loner, prone to suspect the people around me, and to keep myself under wraps. Relationships are difficult for me.

My therapist recommended another form of therapy several months ago and so I switched therapists for a short period. I described my family relationship (or lack thereof) and talked about how little we communicate with each other including how this year my father had to message my siblings and me and ask that we remember to wish our youngest brother happy birthday.

“That’s really sad,” my therapist said.

“Is it?” I asked. I hadn’t really thought about it.

That’s when my roommate and I began watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

I somehow managed to avoid the Kardashian craze (or is it kraze?). I’m not on Twitter or Instagram, I don’t watch the news or gossip shows, and I don’t really pay attention to famous people unless I love their acting or writing and then I consume their art like it’s a no-limits buffet restaurant. As you can imagine this left little room in my life for the Kardashians.

That being said, I don’t think they’re dumb. I think they’re rather smart, marketing themselves and their products. They’ve certainly made enough money off of that to live in ease for the rest of their lives. I can admire that. They did start out working hard and being exceptionally driven.

What fascinates me about them, however, is that they function like a normal family. They’re messed up, just like my family. They fight, they make mistakes, they do stupid stuff, and sometimes they amaze each other by how weird they are. They’re people. Watching them interact with each other began to draw me in, and I was mesmerized by how their relationships worked. They’re fluid, they change, but in the end, they always have each other’s back. There’s this irresistible urge to come back home. They are a family.

I began to understand what my therapist meant about how sad it was that my family didn’t have that kind of bond. I decided to try to do something about that. I called my brother instead of just sending him an e-card for his birthday. We got into an argument about Frozen, feminism, gender binary and traditional gender roles that left me shaking with anger, reminding me of all the times we’d fought tooth and nail previously. “Strike one, ” I thought.

I couldn’t get in touch with my other brother. He lives in the same state as me and I haven’t seen him except maybe once or twice in the last few years. I try to keep in mind that he’s in college and that eventually if he wants a relationship he’ll reach out, but we were close as children and I can’t understand what happened. Did I do that to him when I went to college? “Strike two,” I said to a friend.

Finally, I reached out to my sister. We have never gotten along. The first memory I have of her is when she threw a My Little Pony at me across the room and hit me on the head. We never really connected. She is the technical master, the one who speaks three languages fluently and performs on the violin across Europe and the U.S. She’s tall and slim (and blonde). She’s beautiful. And then there’s me: short, stocky, brunette me. The one who daydreams all day and can barely string two words together in front of a stranger. The one who lacks confidence but desperately wants to do something that matters.

I didn’t think our interaction would go well, judging by my attempt to connect with my brothers. I kept thinking about the bond that Kim, Khloe and Kourtney had, however, and I couldn’t give up the nagging feeling that I had to try. So I decided that I would tell her something very important about myself. Trying to have a deep conversation with someone you don’t know that well may not be the best idea, but in this case, it worked.

We began talking pleasantries, as usual. We mostly stopped there and called it a day, but the next time I started sharing some really serious things – my feelings about the loss of my husband, the difficulties of having to figure out how to live my life, and then I took the plunge and shared my orientation with her. We talked about everything, from our thoughts on orientation and gender, gender binary and religion, therapy, health, all the stuff I never would have thought we shared views on, ever. We stayed up all night. We literally talked until the sun came up.

I was still in shock over the next few days. Was this what it was like to have a sister? To have that person you can share anything with? I kept watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians with my friends, marveling over the change that had occurred between me and my sister. I paid close attention to how the Kardashians talked about each other and how they treated each other.

They aren’t perfect. But in a way, that’s a relief. We’re humans. We’ll make mistakes. But watching them apologize to each other and listening to each other, attempting to try harder, gave me the courage to keep going in this new connection with my sister. We talk at least once a week now, up from never talking except if we got together on holidays and the occasional Facebook message. We’ve apologized for past mistakes. We spend hours together over Skype, and we share what’s going on in our lives.  We are breaking new ground.

I’m also talking to my parents more, even considering a short trip to go out and see their new place. I’ve talked more with the one brother and we have managed to have some civil conversations. The other brother is still maintaining radio silence, but there’s a chance I will get to see him this summer. I’m thankful for therapy that has allowed me to maintain a relationship with my family while working through panic attacks, depression, and other issues that kept me away for so long. I’m beginning to realize that we all have our own problems and that in our own ways, we’re all struggling to survive. Some of us are a little further in the process, but almost all of us are taking steps, and it’s bringing us closer.

I never would have thought that a reality show would be the key to unlocking a relationship with my family, but you never know what will affect you. TV helped me make sense of my world, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians showed me what I was missing.

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.
K.M. Cone

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