Once when I was in my twenties, my mother was probing me about my life goals. Which, that’s a mother thing to do so I can’t blame her for it. At one point, though, she was exasperated at me and snapped, “Do you not want to work?” I, being stupid, took her at face value and said, “I would prefer not to.” The disappointment in her face and tone was heavy. She made it very obvious that she thought I was a failure for admitting that.
Story of my life, though. One of the things my last therapist said to me that turned on a lightbulb was after I was lamenting about all the ways I had failed my mother. I was very much aware of my mother’s checklist of things that her daughter should be. Skinny was at the top of that list (but not skinnier than she was because that made her jealous0.
Side Note: After I came home from the hospital, eating was difficult because my father could not understand my diet. I did not eat gluten or dairy. He and my mom would eat something with one or both of those and he would offer me some. I would decline, which should have been the end of it, but half the time my father would question why I didn’t accept it. He would say, “Don’t you want any?” Not in a nasty way, but in a puzzled tone. I would explain I couldn’t eat it, and I could see that he didn’t understand. That was fine. Annoying, but fine. It was when he conflated my hospital experience with my diet that it got frustrating. He thought my doctors had put me on the diet and would ask when I would be off it. He couldn’t understand that I had been eating that way for several years, which, again, was fine in and of itself. It just got old after some time.
Anyway, my mother wanted a skinny, feminine, perfect clone of herself. She wanted a daughter who had a career, yes, but also was a mother of two children. Someone who went to church every Sunday and was heavily involved in the church life, and someone who did not swear.
What my recent health scare had done for me was make me see with brilliant clarity that my mother does not like me. I already knew she didn’t love me as a person (I will concede that she loves me, her ‘daughter’)., but it took me longer to realize that she doesn’t like me. At all. She likes nothing about me, in fact. Not that I do Taiji (she thought it would invite the devil to dance on my spine. Which is surprisingly poetic for her, but a bunch of horseshit) nor that I am a writer. The one short story she read from me elicited the only comment of ‘there’s a lot of swearing in it’ and nothing else. She doesn’t like that I’m fat, single/unmarried, and she most definitely does not like that I don’t have children.
She doesn’t like that I don’t have a regular job (which is fair), and she doesn’t like that I have a cat. She wishes I cared more about performative femininity, even though she has a complicated relationship with it herself. Yes, she wears makeup (has eyeliner tattooed on her lids), but she does not wear skirt/dresses much, and she is much more comfortable in pants. Plus, she plays sports. Or used to, anyway. She exercises every day, too.