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Breathing Room

May 15, 2013

Two very different types of women have dominated my life.

One faction was the warm, matriarchal housewife type who loved to cook, eat and enjoyed providing nourishment and a loving home for others.

The flip side of that coin was the set who made sure to dole out the icy, but subtle, disapproving glares that let you know you just weren’t cutting it on a number of fronts.

Your hair was a mess, your clothes were too wrinkled to go out in public, your face (devoid of makeup) shouldn’t be viewed by strangers. Were you even wearing clean underwear?

I bounced between these polar opposites while growing up, and I’m happy to report that they had at least one thing in common; they were all mothers.

No, not motherfuckers. Somebody’s mother.

I’d be a millionaire if I had a dime for every strange, passive aggressive story retold around a campfire about how someone’s domineering mother looked disapprovingly at the cannoli they were about to shove into their mouth and blurted out “You’re going to eat that, huh?” Of course, the daughter would retort “Yes, I’m going to eat this freaking cannoli, why?” And, of course, this would be met with a wounded look of surprise and the clever reversal, “Well, I’m just thinking some fruit would be healthier is all.”

[Shoves entire cannoli into mouth all in one shot. Drools the excess onto the floor. Swallows. Drops mic]

The dynamic between mothers and daughters has been an ever-present struggle throughout the ages. While some spend a lifetime preparing to disengage from their mothers, others want to stay close to a woman who, while sometimes their most vicious critic, can also be their most stalwart champion.

It’s a complicated mix.

While growing up, my adolescence was met with mixed signals.

Be your own person, but be mindful of how you act. Take into consideration what others think of you.

Eat healthy, but don’t overeat. Being heavy is a sign of weakness.

Run free in the woods for hours, play sports, sweat all you want, but don’t forget your feminine side. Boys don’t want girls who are too butch.

Make sure you can be of service to others, but don’t be a pushover. Make sure you know the difference.

My mother, is naturally passive aggressive about things like my cooking, cleaning and life skills, but she’s never bothered to hound me too much about my weight. Perhaps it’s because that was something I kept concerned about on my own. But I’ve seen the worry and fear in the eyes of the parents of my kids’ friends when they see their child return from the corner store with a bag of Doritos and two Cokes.

I’ve tried not to become one of those mothers who send all three of their kids into lifelong therapy for parental wrongs so heinous that a Lifetime movie could easily be based on them… but I fear I’m failing. I still criticize, want things for them they don’t want for themselves, and generally have a difficult time with letting go of the control that was only an illusion anyway.

And if all this philosophical rambling and soul searching doesn’t help, I’ve got tickets for eight days in Disney World that might help erase some of the damage!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2013 10:16 am

    I adore my mother, but our relationship is definitely littered with those mixed signals like…

    1. You’re beautiful just as your are, but here’s a membership to WW as your high school graduation present.

    2. You want to be strong but not too strong. Men have a hard time dealing with emotionally strong women.

    3. I want you to think for yourself, as long as you agree with me and believe what I believe.

    There are cracks in our relationship as a result of this. Thankfully, I have a great therapist.

  2. Duckie permalink
    May 15, 2013 11:32 am

    My most glaring example is (comforting from bullies) “It’s okay to be different/ good to be unique.” and (tearfully distraught when I wouldn’t wear a dress) “Why can’t you just be like everybody else?!” Thanks, mom. At least she made it obvious….and as turns out I AM a therapist.

  3. May 16, 2013 6:23 am

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I got the mixed message that if you didn’t eat seconds you were insulting the cook. But don’t you ever get fat, because that’s the worst thing you could possibly be.

  4. nessa1313 permalink
    May 16, 2013 9:04 am

    My mother tells me to lose weight as she hands me candy. She told me I’d never get a man if I didn’t start wearing make-up. Her favorite word is “but” as in, “Your shirt is nice but you should comb your hair.” She told me I could be president at the same time she told me to do the dishes. She once told me “a real woman would never be able to walk by the dust on your TV stand.”

  5. May 25, 2013 10:19 pm

    Quelle surprise, our mothers are a reflection of the mixed messages our society raised them with.

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