Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I Only Visit Twice a Year

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!

14 comments:

cmk said...

Oh, sweetie. I am the last person to tell you to 'just talk it out' with your mother. I cut my mother--and the rest of my family--out of my life several years ago, and I am MUCH better for it. (NOT that I would suggest the same to you.) I probably am closer to your mother than you in age, so I have 'taken it' a lot longer than you. My health began to suffer and I had to make the move away from The Family. My biggest regret is that I didn't do it earlier and now my two daughters don't see the manipulative, vindictive person The Mother is--at least one of my girls is STILL trying to get her approval and not really succeeding. It is so sad for me to watch.

I don't have any advice for you. Only YOU know what needs to be done. What will make you happy and healthy? I am so sad you have to go through this and hope for the best for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

kimmykins13 said...

Oh VB - ***Hugs***

You don't really need this at a time that should be so exciting for you!!

Are you really sure she doesn't want CN for you as a potential husband? If she didn't, then why would she give you her blessing? Is there a possibility that you are reading into that aspect wrong? I guess you know better about the true meaning behind her comments re: the situation with him. I hope you are wrong though.

It will all work out I'm sure. At least you do not have to spend the whole 3 weeks you have off there.

Alison said...

One good thing that will come of this? You will be a wonderful mommy to your little ones. I hope the visit goes well next week.

kimmykins13 said...

Oh, and BTW: Since I know what you look like I just want to reinforce in you that you are Lovely inside and out - and YOU ARE NOT FAT!!! CN knows this too, obviously.

Stuck said...

First, let me say that I am not defending your mother in any way. Now...

She is entitled to her opinions, however wrong they may be. For her to speak them without thinking is a product of what I refer to as "Mother Mouth." My mom does it too, just not to the degree of yours. Hell, lots of old people do it. If she loves you, she's saying it out of love, however fucked up that sounds. If she doesn't love you, though, cut and run. You don't need her.

As for the purple and pink cathouse bathroom... I agree with her. But I can explain why. When I see those two colors together, the first thing I think of is a strip club. They're one of the few building that revel in purple and pink neon lights. It's almost like the Red Dot on a liquor store. You see the fru-fru neon and you know there are gonna be chicks taking off their clothes in there! But maybe that's just me... and even so, painting your bathroom in those colors doesn't imply that you're going to be stripping in there. (Even though you will be, since it's a bathroom... just not in a sexy way. Good Lord, am I making sense? I'm just gonna stop typing.)

Capricorn Cringe said...

It's really easy for me to sit here and tell you what you should do ... so I will :)

If it's at all possible, just toss it right back at her. You can do it in a nice way. "Oh really? 1920's whore bathroom? Damn. I was SO going for a 90's whore look."

For one thing, she will be absolutely shocked that you came back at her, but she can't claim you were rude or disrespectful.

I hope you don't have to cut her out of your life, but I can understand why you would feel that way. It took me a long time to learn how to respond to people who are so negative and underhanded. It isn't always easy to do it, either.

Caz said...

Hugs doll!

While I am lucky I have a pretty good repationship with my mom, the only reason it is that way is because we don't live together. We currently see each other once or twice a year (I used to live across the country, and now I live across the world) and while I think we'd still get along if I lived closer, I KNOW I couldn't live WITH her again. After about 5 days of visiting I start to get annoyed, frustrated, fed up, etc.

Meghan (The Declaration of MY Independence) said...

Oh VB, you know I can relate to you on so many levels of this. I have never talked to my mom about these things either, and just TRIED to ignore her.

Mom actually started treating me like an adult when I got married. Had I known this earlier, I would have married a rich man right out of high school and scored an awesome piece of alimony treasure.

And I know you were taught not to sass, but maybe the next time your mom makes a comment on your looks, just tell her "Well, everyone always says that I look like my mother."

Thats what I do and it shuts her up everytime.

Fluffycat said...

Ya know, I don't think you need to "sass" your mom back, but you can learn about setting boundaries for yourself so you are less hurt by it all. I read a good book called Boundaries on this subject, and it's really about just protecting yourself, without hurting others, but setting a "do not pass" line with people. Because even if she's your mother, there's no need to have to put up with that kind of verbal abuse. I'm sorry you have to deal with it.

Coco said...

I have just been thinking some of these same thoughts myself-not about my mom, but my grandparents. So, I know the feelings you're dealing with . . .the guilt of not wanting to spend time with her, but when you DO spend time it's entirely filled with dreadful thoughts of "when is the other shoe going to drop? when is she going to say something to hurt me? when will things go south?" It taints every moment. I am very, very sorry that you have to deal with that. At least I have my mother to commisserate with when my grandparents stick it to me, and I'm grateful for that. I hope that you can extract yourself, and think positively that while you DO love her and value the good parts of her, you DO NOT deserve to be bashed around like you have no feelings . . .and if that means you have to take time away, then she will have to deal with that. SO sorry!! :(

teahouse said...

Hey, VB--

Mothers can hurt us in a way nobody else can. Her behavior is classic passive-aggressive. It likely stems from loneliness at being widowed, coupled with a desire to maintain control over her life by being close to you but unable to express her love in a normal way.

As you know from my previous posts, my mother in law is very similar. After 30+ years of dealing with it, my Husband's solution has been to limit contact with her. We visit her twice a year, make sure she's comfortable and healthy, and limit our visits and phone calls to < 1 hour. It's not what he would like, but he recognized as a teenager that it was the only way he could survive to adulthood with his psyche intact.

In retaliation, she calls in the middle of the night, badmouths us to all of her neighbors, tells relatives that she has a neglectful daughter-in-law (me), writes us angry letters reminding us that she's disinheriting her son, and has been known to starve herself to make herself sick and get rushed to the hospital, all in an effort to get his attention. It's destructive and bizarre. But it's all about exerting control over him.

To his credit, my Husband has not taken the bait (I respect him more and more each day for it). He's learned from a lifetime of being manipulated by her. God help me, if he'd ever let her control him like that, I would not have married him in a million years.

I'm not saying this to draw attention away from your situation, which I know is unique like all situations are. But in our case, limiting contact has been the only way. It's sad, but some people are toxic, and limiting exposure to them is the best way to prevent the poison from spreading.

That said, it's not the right thing for everyone. It seems that in the short term, you can try saying things to your mom like, "You know what, Mom? I'm not going to let you talk to me that way. It's hurtful." And follow through by walking out if necessary. Usually people who are passive/aggressive/martyrs will "behave" when facing the alternative of having the person walk away from them. I hope that helps.

I'd be happy to talk with you via email more about crazy mothers and mothers in law. I have some other ideas, but this comment is already getting too long!

Good luck!

teahouse said...

Hey, VB--

Mothers can hurt us in a way nobody else can. Her behavior is classic passive-aggressive. It likely stems from loneliness at being widowed, coupled with a desire to maintain control over her life by being close to you but unable to express her love in a normal way.

As you know from my previous posts, my mother in law is very similar. After 30+ years of dealing with it, my Husband's solution has been to limit contact with her. We visit her twice a year, make sure she's comfortable and healthy, and limit our visits and phone calls to < 1 hour. It's not what he would like, but he recognized as a teenager that it was the only way he could survive to adulthood with his psyche intact.

In retaliation, she calls in the middle of the night, badmouths us to all of her neighbors, tells relatives that she has a neglectful daughter-in-law (me), writes us angry letters reminding us that she's disinheriting her son, and has been known to starve herself to make herself sick and get rushed to the hospital, all in an effort to get his attention. It's destructive and bizarre. But it's all about exerting control over him.

To his credit, my Husband has not taken the bait (I respect him more and more each day for it). He's learned from a lifetime of being manipulated by her. God help me, if he'd ever let her control him like that, I would not have married him in a million years.

I'm not saying this to draw attention away from your situation, which I know is unique like all situations are. But in our case, limiting contact has been the only way. It's sad, but some people are toxic, and limiting exposure to them is the best way to prevent the poison from spreading.

That said, it's not the right thing for everyone. It seems that in the short term, you can try saying things to your mom like, "You know what, Mom? I'm not going to let you talk to me that way. It's hurtful." And follow through by walking out if necessary. Usually people who are passive/aggressive/martyrs will "behave" when facing the alternative of having the person walk away from them. I hope that helps.

I'd be happy to talk with you via email more about crazy mothers and mothers in law. I have some other ideas, but this comment is already getting too long!

Good luck!

RWA said...

For what it's worth, I suggest sitting down with mom, telling her about the issues. Put it on her. Tell her if things don't change, you aren't coming back.

Tell her you're tired of submitting yourself to all of that, and you're just not going to do it anymore. Period.

If she isn't will to change, or if she says she will but doesn't, don't go. If you're already there, leave.

Again...just my suggestion.

The Frog Princess said...

I sympathize fully and completely. I moved across the country to avoid my mother and it worked...until I had a baby. Now we're stuck with at least two visits a year. If you figure out how to deal with your mom let me know, because I could certainly use some pointers.

Hugs and good luck to you sugar.