This is not a post about general brats. We all know about them. The selfish, whiny, unusually loud beings who pervade our entire retail environment. No, this blog post is about that other breed of brats, the ones who, thanks to an early cruel twist of fate, have thrown themselves down the path of social rebellion out of a perverse desire to make others feel as miserable as they are. Often it’s covert social rebellion. This usually takes the form of screwing people over, talking about them behind their backs, expecting the world to cater to them and just being a cut below a quality person.
Introducing the orphan brat, folks. No, I’m not talking about the cool orphans here, like Oliver Twist or Harry Potter. People like that are gems. The definition of a gem is someone who is nice and kind and helpful. Someone who walks the message: ‘Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you’ rather than the message: ‘Do unto others as you feel life has done unto you’. The orphan brat hits that second message hard. They wake up in the morning, look out their window and think, “Look at that world out there full of people with their mothers and fathers, all happy. I’d better get a move on if I’m going to be on time to completely mess it up.”
It may be hard to recognise the orphan brat at first. They often don’t walk around screaming, “I’m an orphan! Die, world, die!” In fact, they often come off as nice, responsible people, even inspirational. It takes a keen eye and a lot of patience to see them for what they really are. Nice – until they sense someone else in the world has got it better than them. Then things change. The orphan looks to the skies, channels their orphan power and kaboom! Next thing you know, you’ve been screwed over – and the universe, which you thought was on your side, gives you the cold shoulder.
The reason the orphan brat can pretty much get away with murder is that the universe is, actually, usually on their side. Their orphan status doesn’t just garner them sympathy from people; spiritual forces also jump in to help them at any and every time they need it. This is fine as long as the orphan in question is humble and gracious (and I have known a few humble and gracious orphans in my time). But what if they’re not? If they take the attitude of: sit back, enjoy the goodies, and complain why there aren’t more? God help anyone who is around this second type of orphan. God help them if they hit on some good luck and the orphan brat is there to witness it. Because up until a certain age – say, mid-fifties – you can expect the orphan brat to always get his way. Why?
Most of us will have lost or be starting to lose our parents or guardians in our fifties. This is therefore the age at which the universe looks down at the orphan brat and thinks, “Hmm, not so special anymore.” They now have company – that is, all their friends and loved ones will also be losing or have lost their parents. The universe now has competing sets of orphans to look after, and the orphan brat will find themselves having to share their unique orphan universe’s special treatment podium with increasing numbers of other people, many of whom will be smarter, kinder, more capable and more humble than they are. In a similar way to a supermodel getting old and dumpy, the orphan brat now has to step into the real world and live a real person’s life – not the bubble life they’ve been living up until now.
I’m certainly not saying orphans don’t have it hard. Far from it. Some of my closest loved ones were orphaned from a very young age, and they’ve done it damn tough. But here’s the thing: they did not turn into orphan brats. They turned into wonderful people. This is what puzzles me when I look at the orphan brat and compare them to the wonderful orphans I know. Why do they not also turn out wonderful? Hasn’t life given them the opportunity to develop a great character, compassion and love for others?
Instead, what I see when I look at the orphan brat is someone who is bent on dishing out as much misery as they possibly can. A non-orphan doing the things an orphan brat consistently gets away with on a daily basis would be shunned, ridiculed and probably even imprisoned. The orphan brat, however, knows nothing will happen to them because – well, because they’re an orphan. They’ve suffered, right? Other people have parents, and they don’t. Hence they should ALWAYS get their way. Right? Even if others have to suffer. Right? Even if they put a curse on someone and it results in that person’s death. Right?
Well, thankfully, the universe doesn’t let this kind of behaviour go on forever. The orphan brat’s days of using, abusing and screwing over every unfortunate soul who crosses their path and revelling in their power to do so are mercifully numbered. For the day inevitably comes, usually, as I said, in the fifties or sixties (if they live that long – not all orphans are lucky, brats or not), when the orphan brat, riding high on the universe’s wave of seemingly endless favour, doing what they do best with all the attitude that comes with never having been disciplined or controlled, comes to a sudden, grinding, sometimes humiliating halt. Suddenly their favour has run out. The wave has crashed into the shore, and there’s nowhere else to go. As the universe retreats above them, they now have no option but to come back down to earth and live with the rest of the mere mortals they learnt to step on, degrade and despise in the midst of their self-hating orphan brat path.
I’ve been around orphan brats who told me flat out, “I don’t care about other people’s kids. I only give a shit about my own.” I heard one wishing death on a loved one simply because of a small misunderstanding. And on it goes. You’ll have the OBs who shaft people and then gloat with faux humility to the very person they just shafted about how things always work out for them, “…somehow.” Meanwhile, the poor soul they trod on has no option but to walk away and get over it. Because nobody, no matter how great and present their parents are, can take on the freaking universe against an orphan. I don’t care if your parents raised you to be Superman. You have no chance against the orphan brat, even if he’s the master criminal of the world. Even if he wants to destroy you and take everything you have. He will get his way. The only choice you have is to get out of his way and take your shit with you. Then wait it out until your own folks are gone. That should even things up a bit. Then come back swinging.
Why do I care about orphans all of a sudden? Because I have witnessed evils nobody in this world should ever have to witness. I have heard things that would make great bedtime stories if kids didn’t need therapy after hearing them. The prayer of an orphan can heal the world. But if it’s an orphan brat you’re dealing with, you may as well prepare for Armageddon. We lock murderers up and sometimes throw away the key. We have not yet come to grips with the idea that the orphan brat is also a very efficient killer. They leave no fingerprints. They don’t need a hoodie because they never even need to be at the crime scene. They just need to be pissed off and believe the universe cares. Then watch out. Better to be an orphan yourself than to be at the mercy of one you have wronged, even unintentionally.
You could be out with your children one sunny day and oops! Their ball flies into the lap of that nice, young lady who’s eating her sandwich on the park bench. She smiles, hands it back, laughs at the vivacity of the young… Then, one not-so-fine day, you get a notice in the mail that informs you balls are no longer allowed in the section of the park your children so love to play in. It might even be less concrete: for the next month, every time you take your kids out to their favourite park, it rains, or there’s a scary dog, or some weird guy with binoculars is creeping about. You had your fun; now the orphan brat gets to have theirs. Ha ha.
Lest any orphan brats reading this begin to puff up with pride before sauntering out and promptly shmanoozling the next unwitting being who stupidly gets in their way, consider: the last orphan brat I came across sending out negative vibes … well, let’s just say things didn’t go so well for her in the end. For years it was as if she had a free pass to screw people over without consequences (except for having no friends). Then one day, it was all over. Irrevocably over. A mountain of misfortune hit her out of nowhere. It was as if the universe had been saving it all up and then unleashed it all at once. The saddest part was she was no longer at an age where she could pick herself back up. She also had nobody to help her because, well, nobody liked her. She’s now alone, lonely, friendless and utterly miserable.
Being an orphan, like being a supermodel, may get you into all the cool places and heap a lot of freebies into your lap which you didn’t work for. I have no argument about that. We all like free stuff. All I’m saying is once you’re through that door that only admits the special people, be nice to the ones who opened it for you. Be gracious to the ones who were left outside. And be humble in general because your accidental good fortune will only last so far. After your forties, fifties and especially sixties, the good things that come your way are entirely a result of what you yourself have spent your whole life sending out. If you decide to send out good things, then like JK Rowling or Susan Boyle, despite having been deprived of a parent (or both of them), your life will get exponentially better as time goes on. The good you’ve been doing will catch up with you and support you through your own trials and losses. If, however, you decide to use the universe as your spiritual rubbish chute, making it responsible for all that’s going wrong in your life, even though it’s always supported you in the absence of your parent/s, then you will one day find yourself neck-deep in the very stuff you generously dished out to it. Like chucking a soiled nappy out of a speeding car window, that stuff will just fly on back and hit your windscreen, slimy side-down, and stick.
We all, if we’re lucky enough to live that long, will have to endure the loss of a parent at one time or another. For some of us, that moment will hit early, making us always wonder what it would have been like otherwise. For others, that moment will hover at some imperceptible point in the distance, making us always wonder when it will finally pounce and blow the candle of our happiness out. And for yet others (who perhaps have Jewish mothers like moi), that moment will be lived hypothetically many, many times over in parental guilt trips before it actually happens.
The concept of the good orphan vs bad orphan may never have been dwelt on before thanks to literature painting all orphans as angelic cherubs worthy of our constant compassion and sympathy. But we no longer live in a world of woodcutters saving little girls out of the stomachs of wolves, nor in an age where princes saved damsels in distress and were happy to be sent off with a kiss on the hand at the end of a busy day of slaying dragons. We live in a cutthroat world whose citizens take every advantage they can get. This is a world where the orphan, especially the orphan brat, can actually thrive.
Think about it: he has no parents, so he is free to travel and roam, make bad choices and take risks, and never has to hear a word of criticism from anybody. If anyone tries a bit of constructive criticism to help him out, he can simply make them feel bad: “I don’t have parents like you do,” or “You’re not my father, so f*** you.” Or he simply won’t ask for advice, making others feel foolish for trying to contribute. He thinks because God took away his mother or father, that means nobody cares about him. (He couldn’t be more wrong). The media feasts on this insecurity of the orphan brat. It feeds his brain steady imagery of sole survivors, “chosen ones” and hermit-like loners venturing out alone against the world and, often, against their friends and loved ones (usually spouses). It creates a warrior, but it also fashions a distrustful and often mean person.
This person will be the first one to dare to counter your apprehensions about taking risks with comments like: “What if you didn’t have your parents? What if you were all alone? You’d do it then, wouldn’t you? What are you afraid of?”
Of course, there is always a place for questions like this in life. We must all be willing to battle our fears and apprehensions. The problem is that when an orphan brat makes a comment like this to someone whose parents are still living, it’s often not helpful for one main reason: their parents are still alive. Their path is different. They do not live like an orphan and throw caution to the wind and take off somewhere leaving their loved ones behind because, at the end of the day, that is not responsible. And I’ll bet the orphan brat, if they, too, still had their folks with them, would do exactly the same as the non-orphan brat. What is wrong with spending your days making your loved ones happy? Is there not a noble kind of courage in looking after your parents in their old age and striving to make them happy? Why don’t we ever see movies with people who decide no, they won’t go searching for adventure but will find joy in bringing happiness to the ones they’re lucky to still have in their lives … before they lose them?
This world has a lot to answer for in pushing people to separate themselves from their families and go off in search “of themselves”. It seems to be more prevalent in the New World. Australians used to kick their kids out at 18, maybe even 16; now, the kids are coming back and roosting with mum and dad into their forties and beyond thanks to an impenetrable housing market and skyrocketing costs of living. Meanwhile, in Italy, business is moving along as always, factories are still manufacturing nice clothes and enviable footwear, and guess what? Mr and Ms Older Junior are still living with mum and dad and loving every minute of it! Nor are they human furniture; they help out around the house and provide their parents with company so that the latter don’t succumb to dementia earlier, as we’re increasingly seeing in Westernised countries.
The orphan myth started out in such a family-oriented culture as Italy’s, probably because when most people have a loving home to go to and little else in the way of material possessions, the only ones who miss out actually are the orphans. But in a materialistic world where hardly anybody gets to spend much time with their families and material things of worth are still as expensive as ever, it seems that those who miss out are anyone but the orphans. We live in a world that rewards people who have no family. It rewards individualism, leaving the family business and striking out alone, being confident even when being dead-set wrong, and not taking anybody else’s opinion into account but your own. And even if you stuff up royally, it’s okay, because you were out doing what you wanted. You rock! Your failures will probably go viral and you’ll be the next self-made social media idiotillionaire.
In light of all this, it’s easy to see why the number of orphan brats is rising. This is their era, after all. At no time in history has the idea of family posed more of a threat to the people who seek to control mass opinion than today. Perhaps a lot of them are orphan brats themselves. If they are, I can only warn them thus: remember the dirty nappy…
(Written by someone who lost one of her mothers as a teen.)