I was not embarrassed by my mother often. Most of the time, her existence didn’t collide with mine at all. But with each rare incident, I remember feeling that her words or actions somehow reflected poorly on me, that she lacked decorum or diplomacy on some level.
Now, the roles have reversed. Now I’m the mother of teenagers, who have recently complained that I lack decorum. And it makes me defensive. I want to say things like, “I? Embarrass you? Why should you be embarrassed? What I’ve said has nothing to do with you and isn’t any of your business… isn’t it your bedtime, by the way?”
Coming full circle is a strange and curious experience. It’s not that I want to negate my children’s honest responses and feelings—I remember having them myself, after all. The mother-daughter relationship is complicated.
But when I look back, I realize that I perceived my mother as a one-dimensional personality, a cardboard cutout—and in some ways I still do. This is the woman who did laundry, made meals, had no history and only came to life when I got home from school. She only existed to serve my existence.
And I suppose that’s the way it should be. You don’t want to have a mother who doesn’t serve your existence: we call that neglect. Therefore, how can a child see her as anything else?
It is an excruciating thing to be a writer and not be allowed to express on paper what’s closest to the surface for fear of irritating someone else. Writers need to write about everything, it’s an outlet. Writing is how I make sense of my feelings, and how I make sense of the world.
It’s doubly excruciating to not be able to write about the experience of not being able to write.
In other words, I might get in big trouble for blogging—er—complaining, about this. (If I go missing, don’t believe the suicide note.)