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06 April, 2009

The Dress-Up Doll

For the last few years, I have lived at an amiable distance from my mother. We had our little sweesaws (she tends to alternate between 'we have the bestest mother-daughter relationship ever, we're so close!' and 'I don't know what to do with you, you shut me out, you're so hostile' at more or less random), but for the most part managed to construct a basic irrelevance to each other. I had stopped being actively closeted from her, but was not engaging with her about basics of my life; she didn't ask, because she blatantly didn't want to know.

Then I got pregnant.

Then things got ... surreal.

Her immediate first reaction to my pregnancy was, "I get to be a grandma?!" (Compare my father's reaction: "I am pleased and terrified with you.") Followed by what I hope was a joke about taking pressure off my brother (me: married eight years, stable life situation; my brother: serious financial issues, health issues up the wazoo and no insurance, recently in new relationship). A few "that reminds me of me!" stories, with an almost accidental smattering of advice, and inappropriate disclosure about her sex life with my father.

And her first request was that I ask my husband to take a sequence of photos of my belly so that she could vicariously enjoy the experience of my pregnancy. Which I honestly barely noticed as something to remark upon before my family all responded to it with, "Isn't that kind of ... creepy?"

She sent me the most amazing wedding anniversary card - it was so amazing I brought it to show my shrink - that on the surface layer was all supportive noises, the subtext of which was, "Children will destroy your life. You'll decide it's worth it, but you've chosen to sacrifice everything for them, and they now own you. By the way, since you're my oldest kid, this was all for you, you know. Bear the burden well, and enjoy your pregnancy, because it's the last of life you get for twenty years."

I talked with her on the phone while we were in the process of picking out a prenatal medical practitioner, and there was much more "that reminds me of me!", with some follow-on "And I haven't infected you with panic recently!" about the necessity of being properly prepared for Catastrophic Hospital Births Like My Brother's.

She asked me my due date; I told her about when. She was so sad; she's a part-time art teacher, and that fell during the summer semester. So she wouldn't be able to sit by my side, you know.

I answered the phone at one point, thinking that it might be the doctor's office calling about some blood tests, and it was her. We talked about some books she was considering sending me, and various other things, and she suggested that I should imagine that she was there to rub my belly since she wasn't actually there to do it. My skin crawled off and wound up under the couch.

After that, she followed up with a "And, you know, your lifestyle is outside my comfort zone, but I really want to understand..." and I finally figured it out. The woman who was so uncomfortable with my family that she fled the room and cleaned the kitchen when I sat snuggled up to my liege on the couch, whose response to my saying my liege had recently bought a car with almost her exact criteria was to ask if my husband had any advice instead, has suddenly recognised that pretending it isn't there might cut her off from the intimate position in my life that she wants, the one where my pregnancy is all an experience where she can vicariously go through the whole parenting process without actually having to do the work parts.

I'm still not real to her, not really; I'm a vessel for whatever she wants to pour into me. The fact that I had my own life, with things she doesn't understand, was something that kept her away, up until I had something she wanted. And then there's the quick leap to those things that had been avoided for years to try to smooth it over and make our relationship something where I would be amenable to the intimacy of letting her colonise my head again.

Realising it made the package of books much easier to deal with. Not the books themselves, but the letter that came with them, which can be summarised as:

  1. Here are the books I could find to send you.
  2. I totally loved this one and looked at the pictures every day.
  3. I'm glad to hear you're feeling better.
  4. I felt the best I ever did in my life during my pregnancy!
  5. I hope the position of your placenta doesn't mean you need a c-section.

I ... will admit that I just laughed.

That fear doesn't fit me. I'm not your dress-up doll.


Chinese Made Easy said...
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Anonymous said...

Your mom sounds like a more emotional, somewhat crazier version of my mom.

My mom has stopped talking to me several times in the past years, for the following reasons (in chronological order):

1. I became friends with one of her friends, and attended a La Leche League conference with the friend in my mother's city. (My mother would not have had any interest in the conference.) My mother no longer speaks to the friend at all, ever since we, I guess, betrayed her by becoming friends.

2. She found my kinky sex blog (which she didn't tell me about until #3; but this occurred a few weeks before I had surgery).

3. I told her where I met my boyfriend (i.e., a bdsm club).

4. I shaved my head and posted pictures of my bald head on Facebook. (Quoth the email she sent me: "Why would you want to do something like that. Nevermind I don't want to know. This is more than I can deal with. I really hope you will get some help. Please don't be friends with any of my friends on Facebook. I don't know what I would say to them if they saw this. I hope no one did. I can't imagine that this type of behaviour will help you at work. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you got fired. Please grow up.")

There have been, in between, multiple smatterings of how I ignore her and obviously don't care because I occasionally don't immediately and effusively respond to emails. In between, we get along smashingly, and I actually really do like and enjoy her.

What I find frustrating is that it's so kind of easy and simple for people on the outside to say "Your mom's a crazy asshole, why do you have anything to do with her?" or "Why do you let it get to you?" But somehow it being your actual mom makes it much, much harder to disentangle yourself on the inside or outside.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I don't get along smashingly with my mother, but I allow her to live in the illusion that we have a lovely close and intimate relationship because I can't bear the dwamas. So, yeah, the crazy.

What I find frustrating is that it's so kind of easy and simple for people on the outside to say "Your mom's a crazy asshole, why do you have anything to do with her?" or "Why do you let it get to you?" But somehow it being your actual mom makes it much, much harder to disentangle yourself on the inside or outside.

Yeah. So much so.

I was actually talking with my shrink today about how I sometimes wish my mother would do something totally atrocious so I felt I had sufficient reason to say "Get the fuck out" and hold to it -- because right now it's all this complicated psychological tangle of messiness and I am so not sure where to draw the lines....

Tajavi said...

Hi, I just wanted to post and say that I can kind of relate. I know what you mean about going through a phase where she makes it clear you, and your choices, are just not acceptable...but as soon as you get involved in something she wants to drink up through you, the seduction begins again.

My mom does that crap all the time. When I'm doing something she's not interested in, she's amusedly contemptuous. When I'm doing something she disagrees with, she needles constantly, trying to "understand" (as though I should agree that her understanding is required!).

But as soon as I get involved with something she wishes to be a part of, she just presumptuously steps inside my guard, as though my entire personality and headspace were nothing more than a campground for her to periodically occupy.

I wish there was such a think as a mental douche...

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, but thanks for posting sounds so similar to how my dad is and it is good to know I am not alone in dealing with such a crazy parent without quite having the will to just cut off contact.