My mom drinks. My mom favors my sisters over me. My mom enabled my father as he assaulted and cheated and defrauded his way through life until he died under extreme poverty in his native African country.
People tell me to forgive. Many parents drink and emotionally abuse their kids. You’re not entitled to a childhood that Dr. Spock would have approved of, they say. You’re resilient. Bounce back.
My parents squandered what little money they had, and we girls felt it like piercing bullets. I learned my own brand of financial irresponsibility. But as my irresponsibility ended and my social awakening began, my mother held on to the past –- the seemingly successful husband with his swank office job, our house in Westchester -– and it strangled her like a noose.
She and I moved to an inner-city housing project. She got a job as a nurse’s aide, yet the healthcare-industry money didn’t satisfy. She moved to her own apartment in the hood, and it became a trap. She put my sisters through college, and as they entered the world of work, she ruined her own health in the process. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Swollen feet, swollen ankles, cyst in knee.
She has her pina coladas and wine. It makes her wind down. It makes her forget that she ruined her life, and has no friends or resources in a harsh world. It makes her rant. Rant about politics, which these days is always painful.
Many people -- many people who are actually honest -- say that divorce is liberating. You can speak your mind without being shut down. You don’t have to have sex with somebody you don’t love or lust after. You don’t have to lie to your kids.
I say that it’s the same with divorcing your mom.
I didn’t legally divorce her, but I cut off all contact with my mother. Just before I made this decision, I was at her apartment. It was a terrible night, with torrential rain flooding most of the East Coast. PBS News came on with a segment about the botched execution in Oklahoma. I saw three white pundits -- two women and an angry, middle-aged man -- who want all murderers (and probably lots of rapists, thieves, and potheads too) injected with mortal brew and I snapped. My heavily medicated mom just glared glassily at the TV.
Usually, my mother I would start arguing, and in a strange way, I would feel loved. This time, she continued to glare at the TV.
Life had fallen on her. She had victimized herself and she wanted somebody to pay. I wasn't going to let it be me.
As many angry white men yell and scream their hurt, their fear of a changing world, taking up arms and sometimes using them, many middle-class people, especially women who have sank into the lower class, take their pills and work their menial jobs and sacrifice for their kids. Their rage is more subtle, showing up usually online, including in my favorite frivolous social-media platform Pinterest. They are the fetid underground river of a turbulent America.
Just as you run away from a maniac ready to assault you, you separate yourself from a self-destructive person raging inside. Yes, it’s about being selfish. This world is tough enough. You need to breathe. And this Mother’s Day, I won’t send flowers to my mom. I’ll buy my own flowers.