One of the challenges of having a Big Girl blog that discusses everything from domestic abuse to self-tanner abuse instead of sticking to a niche within a niche (fashion, fat activism) is it’s almost impossible to put my fingers in my ears and go “lalalala” when a certain percentage of my adoring public (just let me tell myself you’re adoring, okay? Sometimes it’s the only thing other than the bars on the windows keeping me from self-defenestration) is having a rough time, even if it’s not exclusively the domain of the Lane Bryant enthusiast.
Mother’s Day in the United States is upon us –it was yesterday here in Mexico– and we’ve been discussing the complex mother/daughter relationship all week.
I know this has been a particularly hard time for some of my readers.
Maybe I’m more sensitive to it myself this year as a close friend lost her mother recently, but for many –myself included– the second Sunday in May is not always filled with the happiest of feelings.
Some of us have lost our mothers through death, and some of us through methods more subtle but possibly just as painful.
I’ve received some emails –the readers have requested anonymity and I’ll respect their wishes, though I’ll never be able to compete with their eloquence– asking for advice on how to deal with mothers who don’t exactly merit the card-and-corsage treatment.
Obviously I’m not a therapist, although I HAVE seen that dishy Gabriel Byrne play one on TV, so I’m not sure how much wisdom I’ll be able to impart, but hey, it’s either that or talking about how I burned my finger this morning (hint: hot glass looks deceptively like cold glass) so let me give it a go:
Sometimes you get dealt a bum hand. You just do. So you rub some dirt in it (by “dirt” I mean therapy, meditation, medication, shoes or a combination of all four) and walk it off. It’s not fun and it’s not pretty, but there it is.
See, as much as we’d like to believe our appearance would be enough to make previously incapable people rise to the occasion, that’s not necessarily how it works. There’s no qualifying exam to getting knocked up and just because your mom or my mom or whoever’s mom managed to get her Ivanka trumped doesn’t mean she’s going to be a good or even loving mother. That’s not something everyone’s capable of; myself, perhaps, included.
I don’t have kids because I don’t think I’d be that great a mother.
I’m a reasonably decent person according to the people I pay to say that, but you know how some people yearn for years about having a baby? Smelling them, washing them, tucking them in at night? The only thing I’ve felt like that about was a pair of green Dior heels, and they didn’t even come in my size.
So I play Auntie Mame and in the evening when I’ve sent those blessed bundles to their respective homes, I say a thankful prayer to Saint NuvaRing and drift off to a gentle, uninterrupted slumber.
But, you know, a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny hasn’t always been as easy or socially accepted as it is now.
Sometimes women who were never suited to be mothers, who never WANTED to be mothers *poof* became mothers.
Passing a toaster through a light socket doesn’t automatically bestow a woman with magical Donna Reed powers. Some women don’t have the parenting tool in their toolbox and yet they’re still expected to fix that leaky toilet (oh what, like comparing a child to a leaky toilet is the worst analogy I’ve ever made? It’s not even the worst analogy I’ve made in this post.)
And sometimes your mother simply is, to quote the great French Age of Enlightenment thinker François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, “crazier than a sack of ferrets.”*
But fear not my friends, plenty of respectable people have
socks on wire hangers for mothers, challenging maternal situations. The key is to remember there is just as much to learn from a bad example as a good (see also: hot glass v. cold glass): It’s just a lot more painful.
Many of my best qualities –not that there are all that many to choose from– were developed as an equal and opposite reaction to those things I saw as a child and said “That’s not gonna be me” including:
- my feminism
- my general disinclination-to-the-point-of-revulsion to willful neediness/helplessness
- my independence
- trust in my own critical processes (my definition of right is not “anything opined by someone with balls”)
- my refusal to believe beauty hinges on a number
- my understanding that approval can be nice but is rarely necessary
- my unwillingness to spend a lifetime as Professional Victim (and distaste for those who do)
…and most of all my unshakable, unerring knowledge of my own worth that has allowed me to walk away from bad relationships, friendships and situations (or, you know, not get into them in the first place) before they sucked me in, took me down and just generally screwed me up.
So, dear readers who eat cold spaghetti out of the container when the rest of the world is at mediocre prix fixe brunch drinking watery mimosas and eating wedge salads even though it hasn’t been 1972 for some time now, I invite you to write your own list.
Don’t dwell on what they did wrong, focus on what you do right. Write it down, keep it in a safe place and revisit it each year.
I invite you to share your lists here, if it helps, and remember…don’t touch hot glass twice!
*He probably didn’t actually say this