On some level, I know that I am not perfect. I have adult acne and I’ve probably gotten the oil changed in my car about three times, ever, out of sheer laziness and denial. However, being around my mother must somehow trigger some chemical in my brain that deludes me into forgetting my own imperfections and forces me to nitpick at hers.
That woman, she brings out the insufferable liberal, environmentalist, feminist, body positive know-it-all in me like no other. Normally we only see each other for about seven days out of the year and I can kind of stifle my kneejerk reactions to some of the behaviors that are nonsensical to me (like buying bottled water to drink at home when there are perfectly good water filters that not only save time and money, but don’t mess with our planet as much) or awkwardly pretend not to hear the bits of homophobia that slip in and out of everyday conversation.
Now that I’m posted up in her house for a few weeks, waiting to high-tail it France, I’m having to really, really check myself. A couple of days into my extended visit, I realized that there is no point in being angry that one of my closest relatives is sort of oppressive-minded. (Is that a thing? You know what I mean.) Correcting her every move and grimacing at her every word is not only ineffective, but just plain mean. She’s not a bad person and I genuinely believe that I’ve rubbed off on her a little over the years, just by saying and doing radical things, like not hating myself for being fat.
So, if you’re home, for the holidays or for longer, know that your parents are fully formed people who will not change how they feel about gay marriage because you make them watch “Glee.” Also, consider that your parents just want to be accepted for who they are, you know, sort of like you.
I came to this realization pretty early into my moving-back-in tenure. My mother was pacing back and forth between her bedroom and another room, trying to get her printer to work. I could have tried to help her. Except that I genuinely try to avoid the frustration that is trying to help her figure out anything technical, because there are no direct answers to questions and lots of important information omitted. Instead, I ask her what she’s printing and she says a cupcake recipe.
“To bake tonight? In your kitchen, right now?” I ask. Yes. This confuses me because she has an iPhone and an iPad. “Can’t you just pull up the recipe on your iPad instead of printing it?”
No, because she has the link on her computer.
“But you could just email yourself the link and pull it up on your iPad.”
Well, she just likes to have the paper. Then some long story about a man at her job who still prints all of his emails because he’s been working there for like 50 years and just likes paper.
“That’s very green of him.” Sarcasm from me. A look of utter hurt and disappointment from my mother.
“I’m sorry I’m not new school,” she says.
UGH! Why am I such an annoying bitch?! Because I just am, apparently. Sure, not printing recipes and emails is the more responsible thing to do for the trees. But the one-million megawatts of power I use on an hourly basis to keep my laptop, iPad and iPhone juiced aren’t great either.
The problem persists, though, that my mother says a lot of things that are problematic to my belief system. Stuff about traditional gender roles and entertainers who are “slowly going to the other side,” and fat people and who may or may not be Muslim. I don’t want to make her sound like some nutjob. She’s not. She’s very smart. She just thinks very differently from me.
A little bit of therapy whereby I only talked about my relationship with my mother has made me realize that a lot of my anger at seemingly tiny things that she does has a lot to do with resentment over how she raised me. For example, I blame her, a lot, rightfully or wrongly, for the fact that I hated my body when I was younger, so when I hear her comment on someone being fat it cuts deeper than it probably should.
But, I’m not somehow passive-aggressively rectifying my childhood by lecturing her when she throws away plastic bags. (Just throws them away, like it’s 1958 and reusable bags aren’t a thing.) So, I’ve decided to quit the mom-scolding, cold turkey.
And here’s something about me—I don’t go to church. Like, ever. I sleep in my childhood bed with the covers over my head as she worships. Or, I wake up early to go get donuts at my favorite place and still don’t go to church. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but in my family, that’s huge. Especially because I don’t even have the decency to make up an excuse for not attending with the rest of my family.
But, has my mom said anything about this all of the Sundays that I’ve been home? No. She is stifling her natural urge to chastise me about my heathen ways, so I figure that I can do the same.
At least, for the next few weeks.