Many of you are looking forward to going home to see your family during the holidays. But some of us dread the holidays. Every trip there reminds us why we moved so far away to begin with. And why we only visit twice a year. I am one of those people.
A lot of my friends, who have never met my mom, have a difficult time understanding why I say I sometimes don't like her very much. If you were to meet my mom, you would think she was a very friendly, thoughtful, fun and supportive mother. The first time CN observed me talking to her on the phone, he thought she was really nice. (He could hear what she was saying, because he was sitting next to me.) "I don't know what you're talking about! Your mom is really supportive!" he said. Gradually, as I have started to tell him the stories and the crazy things she's said to me, he's starting to see where I'm coming from.
When he came up with me last summer, she was also putting on her "nice" face. She's always nice when there's someone outside of our family nearby. That's why I like bringing friends home with me and going shopping with her -- she isn't mean to me in those situations. But when outsiders aren't around, she has a tendency to hurt my feelings. A lot.
The first thing she says to me when I get to her house is, "Well, you look like you haven't lost any weight." Not "I missed you!" or "It's good to see you!" Or even "How was your drive?" Nope. It's a perfect opportunity to make a comment about how I am too fat for her liking. This is how she likes to start off the visit. Gee, it's great to see you, too, Mom. So glad I just drove 6 hours to hear you say that, I think to myself. So I step out of the car, and am instantly on the defensive. God forbid she just be nice. As much as this bothers me, I do have a large amount of respect for my mom, and I was raised not to sass, so I have to just take it. What I'd really like to do is retort, "Gosh, and you're looking so old!!"
When I get inside, I will inevitably remember that she doesn't keep any food in the house anymore, because unlike me, her world "doesn't revolve around food." She doesn't really cook anymore, which I understand, because it's just her and my little sister. So I usually have to get back in my car and drive a half hour to the store to get something to eat. Despite the fact that she knows I don't like eggs for breakfast and I can't stand salad, this is all she ever has to eat at the house. Coincidence?
When I get back from the store, if I'm lucky, she won't see me putting the food away. If she does see me, I get to listen to her criticize my decisions. Later, if she sees me eating something she doesn't approve of, she will take it away from me. Yup, you read that correctly. Snatch it right out of my hands. I am 3 when I am at her house. This is the sort of thing that happens incessantly when I'm home. I could be anorexic, snorting coke, fired from my job and crying myself to sleep every night, but as long as I am thin, that's all she cares about. She never cares if I'm happy. Just that I'm thin.
Anyway, after that, I will clean the kitchen, change the sheets on the bed and clean the bathroom. Then, I will put up the Christmas tree, decorate it and then cook dinner.
Now, I'm not trying to sound like an ungrateful daughter, because I do think I should help out while I'm there, and I don't mind doing the Christmas tree stuff or the cooking. By no means do I expect a red carpet to be rolled out for me when I get there, but dammit, can I feel a tiny bit less like a maid and a little more like a houseguest??? (In her defense, cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom are more my idea than hers, but that's because they are always filthy and I can't use them until they are cleaned up, because it bugs me when they are dirty.) I mean, if she could just put some damn towels out for me, it would be nice. Or even actually be there when I arrive. (Sometimes she's not even home when I get there, which makes me feel like crap.)
Great holiday vacation so far, huh?
At some point during the visit, I will get a big, fat lecture. If it had an official title, it would be: "Let me tell you how you are f***ing up your life". It could be a lecture about how fat I am, how I am not good with money, how I am messing up my love life by not remaining a virgin, how badly I need to get a new job or all of the above. I know I'm not unique in receiving these lectures. Lots of moms give these lectures. I just wish she'd realize that I'm almost 30, so I have heard them each a billion times. At this point, I'm pretty numb to them. I just wish she'd leave me alone and let me get back to whatever it was I was doing when she decided it was Lecture Time.
She wants to give me a new one, I can tell. She wants to tell me she doesn't like CN and thinks I can do better. I know she thinks this. The other day, she said to me, "Well, just know that if you two get serious.....you have my blessing. I think he's a very nice boy." (This translates to: He is not good enough for you. I wish you would dump him, because I think you are dating beneath yourself.) But she knows that saying that would piss me off, so she hasn't said anything. Yet. Getting serious with CN really bothers her for 2 reasons: She had no role in picking him out for me. (She would like nothing better than to set me up with some Tucker Carlson-type guy. She is a total control freak and always thinks that she knows better than I do about what makes me happy.) And also, it disproves one of her theories: No one will want to marry me if I don't lose some weight. So I know it bugs her. I know she wants to say it.
At another point in the visit, she will "forget" that Sammy likes to wander away when left to his own devices in the outdoors. This makes me panic, because I can't find him. When I realize that she is the one who "accidentally" let him out, it makes me furious. If I say anything to her, she will say, "Dogs belong outside, anyway."
This year will probably be a little different. I'm pretty sure we will have a HUGE, screaming fight. Which sucks, because it's Christmas. But right now, I am pretty hurt by one of her most recent emails. It's been about a week since she sent it to me, but I can't shake it. Which means I will still be upset about it when I go home next week. I am not very good at pretending like nothing is bothering me, which means I will say something about it. Because I have a big mouth. And I already resent her for all the other reasons I've just mentioned.
Ok, remember how I am painting my bathroom? I'm looking for the right shade of dark, purply-blue. With hot pink accents, white trim and lots of silvery, mirrored accessories. I was describing my decorating plans in an email to my mom a few days ago. Home decorating is a pretty safe, neutral topic for us to discuss. Or so I thought.
Her reply? (And I quote!) "It will look like a 1920s whore's bathroom! Love it! -- Mom"
Now, wtf is that supposed to mean? Aside from all of my mother/daughter issues, it doesn't even make any sense. Do prostitutes have a particular interior decorating preference? And if they do, how does she know what it is? Not only that, but when was the last time you ever heard someone describe a room as "whoreish"? That's not even a decorating style! It has no meaning! Unless I said I was going to use a pimp cup for a soap dish, I fail to see what reminds her of a whore house!
If you include my mother/daughter issues, there's a WHOLE other side to this email. Let me explain. According to my mother, if you have sex before marriage, you are a whore. Plain and simple. I know this is what she thinks, because when her friends' daughters have shotgun weddings or babies out of wedlock, she calls them whores. Not to their face, of course. She is not stupid as to why I am on birth control. So it's safe to assume she thinks I am also a whore. And yes, she uses that word. She is not one to sugar coat things. (I personally think she's probably being hypocritical about the whole thing, because she spent her 20s in an alcoholic stupor, passing out every weekend, so who KNOWS what she did when she was my age.)
Of course, she is not so rude as to come out and call me a whore. That would be mean and hurtful and judgemental. She will deny that she is like that until the day she dies. No, no. She phrases things in a confusing way so that she can get away with sort-of calling me a whore. Then she tacks on the "Love it!" to make it sound like she likes it, so she can confuse me. That way, I can't accuse her of actually meaning it. "But I like it! That's what I said!" she would say, if I brought it up. If I kept pressing the issue, refusing to believe that she didn't mean any harm, she will blow me off and refuse to talk about it anymore, claiming I am being too defensive or sensitive.
Which may be true. But really, when someone treats you the way that she does, can you blame me??? I think I have made a pretty good case against her behavior and how it makes me feel.
I cannot think of any other explanation for her choice of words. I mean, why would you EVER say that? Over email, no less, which she must realize has a higher chance of misinterpretation.
It used to be different, when my dad was still alive. He would call her out on stuff and tell her to knock it off. He understood where I was coming from. But now that dad's gone, there's no one to stick up for me. It's getting worse every year. My brother, Fat Dog, tries to stick up for me, but he doesn't understand why I can't just let it roll off my back. She treats my little sister the same way. Smurf must REALLY get it because it's just her and Mom most of the time. And she's only 16. She's not old enough to really see how Mom is or understand that Mom's not always right and you don't have to blindly do what she says or accept her behavior. At least at my age, I can see what she's doing. And I can move away and avoid her. Smurf doesn't have that ability.
Although I know what's going on and I am getting better about just ignoring her behavior, I don't know what exactly I can do to improve my relationship with my mom. I don't talk about it a whole lot, but it's been getting really bad lately. I know you are all like, "Talk to her!" "Write her an email explaining everything!" but it doesn't work like that. When you are dealing with a controlling and snarky person who NEVER admits that they have any bad intentions, it's impossible to get through to them. Accusing her of being cruel to me or hurting my feelings will only cause her to tell me to stop whining and being so sensitive. She will deny everything and tell me I'm misunderstanding her. And if I get her really riled up, she will get all drama-queen on me and say things like, "Well, if you really feel that way, I guess we just should never speak again!" and leave the room, which leaves me with a huge guilt trip. I mean, how the hell do you deal with someone like that???? That's not what I want! I love my mom. I just wish she would be nicer to me. For some reason, that is a lot to ask from her. I don't know what to do, so I usually just take it and never say anything. But it's building a LOT of anger and resentment inside me. And as a financially independent adult who lives 2 states away, I have the option of cutting her out of my life. Lately, I'm really liking this idea, because all she does is make me feel bad about myself. She only brings stress to my life.
I have gradually scaled back the number of visits I make to see her. I used to come up about 4 times a year. Now it's 2. I'm thinking about cutting it back to one. Or none. As sad as it is to say, I am considering not having a relationship with my mom at all. At this point, I only go home at Christmas to see my siblings. If I had my wish, she would not even be there.
I am not perfect. I make bad decisions sometimes. I know I'm sensitive. I know I need to lose weight. I know I am defensive. And she may not have meant anything in that email. But I can't ignore how she continuously makes me feel like a loser and hurts my feelings. You can't help how you feel. It just frustrates me, because she sort of robs me from expressing them. She's so caught up in proving that she's right all the time, and trying to control all my decisions, she doesn't even see how it's affecting our relationship. If I told her all of this, she would die of shock!
Thanks for letting me vent. Apparently, I didn't get it all out last night when I poured my heart out to CN and cried all my makeup off! It's really hard for me to talk about this, because it's really painful and personal. As much of an open book as I am, it is really hard for me to talk about this, even though I don't know most of you. I'm feeling a little vulnerable right now. But I'm like a volcano. I have been holding it in for so long. I just can't do it anymore. Sorry if I bummed any of you out. What's funny is that today is her birthday, and I feel really guilty for saying all this about her, even though she doesn't know I'm doing it!