An ideal family is the one that sacrifices willingly for each other, even to suffer for one another. But a family in the most general terms does not necessarily have to meet that requirement. “Friends come and go, but family is forever” is a heartwarming adage of a loving supportive family yet another saying, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family” may illustrate a more common reality.
Alison Bechdel’s comic-memoir Fun Home analyzes family coalescing in the belief that family whether good or bad is stuck with you for life simply because they are family and they are you and to deny them is to live a half life. On page 118 on Fun Home Bechdel explores a scene where Alison and her father Bruce witness a mannish-woman entering the luncheonette they’ve stopped at on a business trip. In the first frame, Bruce and Alison are both curiously peering at the truck driver.
Alison’s face is full of wonder and identification yet her father also recognizes the woman in a similar way. Bruce, firstly, identifies this woman as being like him in certain ways. Secondly, he recognizes that what he views in this woman he sees in his own daughter, not only because this woman, but because what he sees in his daughter he knows in himself as well, “I recognized her with a surge of joy. Dad recognized her too”(118). In the second frame on 118 Bruce’s prompting question, “Is that what you want to look like? is pleading, seeking out confirmation of his daughter homosexuality so that it may qualify his own. In many families, the individual feels alone,isolated, and misunderstood from the rest of the household; the characteristics that define individuality arise from our families however, therefore we are never really alone. Some trace of personality paces from generation to generation. Comments like, “He’s a born leader” or “She has her father’s temper” seem like just phrases but the passing along of traits is not just genetic.
Both Alison and Bruce have always been different, separated from their families on many different levels, never fully able to express who they are. In each other they find solace. Yet on page 119, prompted by her father’s query, Alison replies with a meek and flat, “No. ” “What else could I say? ” Alison ponders. At such a young age Alison is not a fully realized individual who can claim and make solid decisions about who she is. Bruce, on the other hand, knows who he is yet denies himself a true identity.
He searches through his daughter for self-realization. To test a young girl in such a way is cowardly at best. It it not until the pages 220 and 221 that Alison and Bruce finish what they started years ago. They openly discuss their pasts and their common sexual orientation. As father to daughter yet Alison is the teacher, “But which of us was the father? I had felt distinctly parental listening to his shamefaced recitation” (221). Family good or bad is what helps to identify the individual.
Bruce’s desired life as an open homosexual man is Alison’s future yet if he had made that life for himself Alison, most likely, would not have been born. Family is basically this, you are stuck with the hand your dealt. There is no running away from them, they will continue to define a person. To leave one’s family is to ultimately be alone, even if the family is the worst thing you can run away from. In Alison Bechdel’s memoir, family becomes inescapable as to flee from your past is to remove destiny creating a dishonest future from oneself.