I’m almost two years old. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Nearly two years ago, I died twice and came back twice. It’s my re-birthday and is more important to me than my actual birthday.
That’s not saying much, really, because I hated my birthday for most my life. I was a depressed kid–deeply depressed–who was also filled with anxiety. My mother had such rigid ideas of what a girl could and couldn’t be, and I broke every one of them. She constantly told me that I was failing, even if she did not use that specific word. She put me on a diet when I was seven and told me I would have a beautiful face if only I wasn’t so fat. Yes, she said that to me.
I was seven when I realized I was going to die. It both terrified me and drew me to it. I was miserable being alive, and I wanted to die. I was just too chicken to do it myself. For many years in my early twenties, I passively courted death. Quite simply, I didn’t see the point to life.
Was this my mother’s fault? Not entirely. She was a product of her time and culture, too. But, she didn’t have to pass it down, and she didn’t have to be so unrelenting in her gender rigidity. Or rather, she could have tried to recognize that she was–nah. That’s asking too much. My mother has no personal insight. Or rather, she knows some of her flaws, but not others.
She knows she’s anxious, for example. She knows that she’s somewhat compulsive. But she does not know or cannot see that she has such toxic ideas about gender and relationships. She’s a Christian, which is a minority religion in Taiwan. She’s a fundamentalist to boot, which makes it worse. More to the point, none of her beliefs have evolved in the fifty-plus years I’ve known her. She still believes that the worth of a woman is what she does for her man. The man is the be-all, end-all, and anything he wants is of utmost importance.
I’ve mentioned that when my brother got divorced, my mother asked me if I was going over to cook and clean for him because he was ‘so busy’. First of all, he’s not that busy. Second of all, he’s the one who did most of the cooking and cleaning for much of his marriage. Third of all, his sons who are at home are 16 and 18. They can cook and clean themselves.
That reminds me. My father asked if my brother’s ex-wife went over to his house to cook and clean for the kids. I said, “Why would she do that? They’re divorced!” in an admittedly snotty tone. He said they did that in Taiwan, and I barely refrained from saying that it was because Taiwan was a very sexist country.
I refrained first of all because I didn’t know if that was still true. Secondly, it’s not as if America was a shining star in that department, either. Third, I wasn’t even sure that was true given how skewed my father’s opinions were in general. He is a thoroughly sexist person who only views things threw that lens, so I have no idea if what he said was actually true. I just told him that the boys were old enough to take care of themselves and left it at that.
Back to my mom. When I asked why I would do that? She had no real answer. I said I didn’t even do it for myself, so why would I do it for him? My brother, I mean. She had nothing to say to that, either. When I said that our relationship was different than that, that’s what made her snap. She asked in an ugly tone what kind of relationship was that.
I fully admit I should have just said it was none of her business, but she caught me off-guard. I told her that I was his therapist (which, true, but none of her business), and I refused to talk about it any more.
There is no way she would have said that if he was my sister or I was a dude. It’s only because he was a guy and I was female-shaped. We could have been interchangeable with any other male and female-shaped siblings.
It’s dehumnaizing. Realizing over and over that my mother and father don’t view me as an indivual person. They know nothing about me. And the very little they do know, they don’t like. At all. Can I list three things my parents like about me? No. My father likes my cat, but that’s about it. Here are the things they don’t like or know about me: taiji especially weapons, video games, writing, weight, lack of femininity, etc. I don’t think they could even name five things about me that wasn’t generic, well, that person exists.
They have a firm idea of w hat a daughter should be. Period. I realized this embarassingly late in my life–like in my thirties. I thought for decades that there was somethnig wrong with me because I simply did not fit what they expected/wanted/thought I should be.
Now, in my second life, I don’t care. I also know they are not going to change. They haven’t in fifty years, so they are not going to do it now. Finally, I can set aside any desire to please them. Not that I had much of it by the time I hit my forties, but even then, there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “Why can’t my parents see me?”
It took dying twice and coming abkc twice to truly clarify that this is never, ever, ever going to happen. And I’m fine with that. I’m not happy about it. I’m not thinking it’s a good thing. But it isn’t going to change, and I accept that. My parents are going to die the way they have lived–rigid, unhappy, codependent, and alienated.