Man Chooses Wife’s “Needs” Over Sister With Down Syndrome, Expects Cookies
I came across an article on Time.com yesterday, titled “I Almost Didn’t Get Married Because I Was Obsessed With My Sister.” Obviously, I clicked, thinking it would be something horrifying. I was right, but not in the way I thought it was going to be.
In this essay, actor Brian Donavan tells the supposedly heartwarming story of how his devotion to his sister Kelly nearly ruined his relationship to a woman who is somehow named “Tempany.”
The first thing Donovan wants us to know about Tempany is that she is a “good person.” She told him this on their first date, which is how he knew she was THE ONE. She was also, he reports, “smart, assertive, talented, sophisticated yet childlike in her curiosity and excitement, kind and caring.”
Childlike? Really? You’re calling a grown ass woman childlike? Can you imagine a scenario where someone would say a man was “childlike” and mean it as a compliment?
But I digress. All was perfect in Brian and Tempany’s relationship until six months later, when Tempany said, “I’m supposed to be your other half, but there’s already a half there.”
His supposed other half? Donovan’s sister Kelly, who has Down Syndrome and visits him for two months per year. The fuck?
First of all! If I met a dude who was super devoted to taking care of a sister with special needs, I would think that was great — but it’s also like the bare minimum of human decency. Second, it is gross and weird to think that being devoted to another person somehow impacts the amount someone can care about and love you. Especially a sister, jeez.
Donovan then goes on to explain his “soulmate status” relationship with Kelly. He describes standing up for her in front of bullies, and lipsyncing to “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease.” I hate to break it to him, but that is not much different from most other sibling relationships. What kind of shit doesn’t stand up for their little sister when she’s being bullied? I mean, to this day if someone hurts my sister I go all Hulk Smash. Again, bare minimum of human decency.
When I left home in the 90s to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, I missed her so much that we eventually figured out a way to have her come stay with me for two months every year. When I picked Kelly up for our annual visits, she would run across the room, jump in my arms, look me in the eyes and say: “Thank you for saving me.” She made me feel like a superhero with a sense of purpose, and rewarded me with unconditional love and devotion. During this time we were inseparable and gobbled up as much as Hollywood had to offer—we even finagled our way onto the back of the Bee Gees’ tour bus so Kelly could squeeze her man, Robin Gibb, while 50,000 eager fans at Dodger stadium chanted for them to get on stage.
I am already getting the feeling here that this dude’s relationship with his sister is more about him getting to feel like “a superhero” than it is about her and her happiness and well-being. Given the fact that this was written to promote Donovan’s documentary about Kelly (called “Kelly’s Hollywood”), I think I might be right.
Apparently, Donovon’s “devotion” to his sister two months out of the year (again, how is this a big deal?) had impeded many of his relationships with women:
There was one who loved writing notes that always started with: “Why can’t you ever say no to your sister?” followed by, “You make me feel so last place!” Another demanded: “Why is there a picture of Kelly on your desk, but none of me?”and “Why does Kelly sleep in your bed with you? Why can’t Kelly sleep in the living room when she visits?” And another, my only live-in, who asked one night: “What if something happens to your parents? Where will your sister go?” We both knew the answer.
THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? What kind of human being asks a question like, “Where will your sister go when your parents are dead?” and wants to hear “Oh! Don’t worry honey! We’ll send her to an institution!”
And somehow, this dude is like “Yeah, those horrible people had a point!” and begins to explain how he learned the totally great lesson of how he can’t love his sister unconditionally, thanks to the wisdom of Tempany:
It was about six weeks into Kelly’s annual two-month visit when the elephant reared its head again, and Tempany uttered those fateful words: “I’m supposed to be your other half, but there’s already a half there.” I knew I couldn’t rebuff with the usual retorts, but I tried anyway: “This is nonnegotiable. I told you how it was when we first got together.” This didn’t go over very well, but I was on a rat wheel and didn’t know how to change direction or get off. I was delusional in believing that if I finally found the right “good person,” and Tempany really loved me unconditionally, she would succumb to taking a backseat to my relationship with Kelly. But, of course, this was a condition, too. My self justification and past demands had come back to bite me, and my dream wife was quick to point it out.
We sat in silence most of the night, afraid that what we said next might lead us further down the path of no return. Eventually Tempany softly said: “I need to know that I’ll be the other half someday. I need to trust that you would place my needs above Kelly’s if it ever came to that.” I froze. How could I do that? How could I abandon my life’s mission of 38 years for someone I’d known for six months?
What? Really? People say things like that? Out loud? What the hell kind of “needs” does this awful woman have that she fears will be impeded by someone taking care of their sister? The hell is wrong with her that she can’t deal with two months? I can’t fathom saying that about anyone, much less a person who really did need other people to help them take care of their needs. Where do people get this shit? Is it from the “Real Housewives” or something? Would Tempany say that if he had kids from a previous relationship?
God, I hate Tempany. I hate her fiercely.
Apparently, the situation got so fraught that although they became engaged, they eventually entered couples therapy. Their counselor — possibly sensing that Tempany was a monster and Brian Donovan’s relationship with his sister was more about him feeling like a superhero than her actual needs — actually encouraged them to break up.
But it all came to head when, in the parking lot, Tempany said, “You need to choose.” Which, holy crap, is fucked up. It’s two months a year, lady! I have a feeling that Tempany owns a lot of things that say “Princess” on them. Just a feeling.
Although I find this utterly horrifying, this was apparently the “wake-up call” Donovan needed:
I gradually told Kelly “No” more often and spoiled her less and less. I shortened her annual visits and made every effort to put Tempany’s needs first.
It was at this point, dear reader, than I nearly punched a goddamned wall. What the hell are this woman’s “needs” that they can’t be met if Kelly comes to visit for two months a year? Is she like some kind of black hole of “needs”? What about Kelly and her feelings, needs and desires? What is she, chopped liver?
Donovan says that all of this taught him that love should be “conditional” rather than “unconditional.” Which seems like an odd lesson to learn. Personally, I think that Tempany needs to learn that love is not a hierarchical situation, and that someone you love also loving their sister doesn’t take away from how much they love you.
Somehow, Donovan manages to conclude this essay by stating, again, that Tempany is a good person. Which, judging by this particular glimpse into her character, I’m not so sure is true. Frankly, it seems like the only “good person” in this story is Kelly.