Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: family dysfunction

Layers upon layers

This post is going to be about family. As I was musing about it, I checked in on Ask A Manager. There was a post with the horrifying headline of, “My father has been applying to jobs pretending to be me”. I thought it meant that he was applying to jobs for himself as his (adult) kid, but it’s even worse. He’s applying to jobs as the child for them because–reasons. It’s in the graphic design field, and his emails are very poorly formatted with different fonts (!) and such. The letter writer found out because they received an offer for an unpaid internship they had not applied to. They live at home with their father, which makes it even worse.

In the comments, so many people gave helpful tips such as the OP changing their email address/phone number, using their middle name, and getting a retail/server job to save up money to move as quickly as possible. I was heartened, actually, at all the practical tips the readers gave. However, there were also people who were, ah, shall we say, less than helpful.

“Show him this column!” “Show him your resume and cover letter side by side with his. Then he will see he’s wrog!” “Sit him down and–” I’m sorry. I’m going tos stop you right there because HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA. The letter writer didn’t need to say that her father was difficult for me to immediately know it. She did not have to say that he always thought he was right and bristled at being told that he wasn’t.

The OP/LW also mentioned that he stopped briefly when her mother was involved, but then picked it up again. Someone in the comments astutely noted that the LW should consider the mother an enabler and part of the problem.

Anyway, the ones who said to just sit your father down and talk to him–let me direct you to another advice columnist–Captain Awkward. She’s said many times that reasons are ofr reasonable people, and the LW’s father has shown himself to be not a reasonable person.

Alison actually handled the question well (as I knew she would). She pointed out that this was egregious behavior on part of the father, that, yes, it could hurt the LW’s chances in the field, and that it was time to put him on an information diet. She even suggested that the LW tell their father that they were switching fields so that if the father did get it in his head to send out resumes and cover letters, it wouldn’t really  matter.

Again, this is not something you’d normally suggest someone do, but this is not a normal man we’re dealing with. THat’s my issue with all the suggestions that are basically ‘talk to him about it’ or ‘show him that he’s wrong’.

There was even one person who said to go NC with the father. When people pointed out that the LW was living with their parent, the person said to not talk to the father. While they live together. As others rightly pointed out, that could get the LW kicked out.

There were also suggestions to do unto him as he was doing unto the LW. In other words, to sign him up for things that he  would not be interested in doing. Give out his name and number like candy and see how he likes it. This is misguided because it’s just giving him more ammunition to treat the LW like a recalcitrant child.

Then there’s the obligatory, “He’s doing it from a place of misguided good intentions.” Nope. He’s doing it becuase he knows better than his ungrateful child, and he’l lshow them. It has nothing to do about good intentions or what is truly best for his child. This is the part that is hard to get through people’s brains–he is not thinking about his actual child. He does not care one whit about them. He only cares about his image of them–or his image as their father.

This is something that I have a hard time getting people to understand–my parents do not love me as a person. They do not love Minna, the sarcastic, impetuous, compassionate, snarky, bisexual, agender, areligious, fat person they brought into this world. The one who has died twice and is still going strong. The one with a cat named Shadow who is my boon companion. The one who has a passion for Taiji weapons and FromSoft games.

So my post was going to start with the one line of, “People don’t believe me when I say my parents don’t love me.” Then I was going to expand on that and explain that it’s the same when I say something like, “I’m fat.” I’m just stating a fact that is not disputable, but other people infuse it with emotion that I wasn’t meaning for it to convey. It’s interesting in the latter because in our society, fat is a negative. To me, it’s a descriptor. I am objectively fat. But the number of people (women) who react in horror and rush to assure me it’s not true is dismaying. I wasn’t saying it as a bad thing, but I can see they took it that way.

It’s the same when I say that one reason I didn’t have children was because I would have been a bad mother. People do not like it when you say that, but it’s true. I know I would have been a terrible mother. I don’t know why I shouldn’t say that. Why should I pretend that it’s not true? More to the point, why would somone else contradict that?

With the Ask A Manager letetr, the ‘reasonable’ responses just didn’t get it. Their premise of the situation was wrong. They were assuming that the father was trying to do what he thought was best for his child.  That’s a reasonable stance to take since most parents did want what’s best for their children. In this case, though, I don’t think it even occurred to this father to frame it in that light. To him, his child needed a job. This was how he was going to help them/make them get one.

He was not going to listen to anything they said because he simply didn’t respect them as a person. He saw them as an extension of himself so of course he could do whatever he saw fit to get them a job.

Am I projecting? Yes. Do I think I’m wrong? No. I bet if this LW updates us, it’ll be some flavor of “I had to go NC/low-contact with my father because he would not stop applying for jobs in my name for me” I would be THRILLED to be proved wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

Sliding into a new year like….

In the last post, I talked about my mother and how she was not going to change. Which means it’s up to me to adjust how I react to her. Before I ended up in the hospital, I had managed to find a faux-equilibrium. I say faux because I still did not want to deal with her and dreaded it, but it didn’t send me into a deep depression the way it did when I was in my twenties. We talked maybe once a month and then I put her out of my mind for the rest of the time. She would send me an email once a month or so when she wanted me to edit something.

Then, they came here and everything was thrown into chaos. I found out how little they actually cared about me–or rather, it was confirmed. I already knew, but it had never been clearer. And it made it nearly impossible for me to go back to being fiercely noncommittal.

Theoretically, nothing had changed. I already knew that my parents didn’t see me as an individual person with thoughts, feelings, hopes, and emotions of my own. I was simply their child and everything that they foisted upon that ideal.

My mother has commented in the past about all the ways I have disappointed her. As much as I don’t care on a conscious level, there is still a part of me that wanted that approval. I was tweeting about it a few months ago (before the Eloning), and a Twitter friend responded that his mother had been dead for years, and he still did things to try to happy. He knows he wouldn’t (even if she were alive, she would not look at him with anything other than utter disdain). If I remember correctly, he had not been talking to her when she died.

The idea of ‘but, faaaaamily’ is so endemic in our society. In most societies, probably. There is a reason for that, naturally. Strong families would be the foundation of a strong society. I actually don’t have a problem with that. There should be ties between people who have the same blood–at least I guess that makes sense.

Honestly, I have seen so much family fuckups, I’m not sure that’s even true. Here’s the thing. Should it be the case? That people with the same blood should be closer, I mean. It’s something people don’t want to talk about much, and in fact, many people would not be happy if you brought it up (that blood is not necessarily thicker than water).

I wonder if we would be happier if we let go of that fiction. I read several advice columns, and there is always the obligatory lip service to how important family is. Unfairly so, I think. Especially over at Slate. I appreciate that Alison Green of Ask A Manager is very pragmatic about family. She doesn’t waste time chastising writers for having familial issues. In fact, she’s often the one to tell them to, well, not cut the cord, but not talk to their parents about work stuff that isn’t their business. She’s very frank about how parents often don’t understand the working world, and sometimes, she strayed into personal life as well. Such as with the letter wrtier who got a job as the personal assistant to her father’s girlfriend, and it went spectacularly horribly. The boss/girlfriend wanted the LW to go to therapy with her (the boss) and the boyfriend/father, which was what caused the LW to write into Ask A Manager. The LW’s mother was downplaying it, and Alison said the LW may need to cut down on info to her mother as well.

Continue Reading

New gooals for a new year

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I have tried them in the past, but I find it too much pressure. It’s because the tendency is to go big and to go hard for a week or so and then fall off. It’s why gyms sell so many memberships in the first few weeks of the year (and probably why they make them yearly.  Or at least did. I’m hoping that’s an outdated mode of operation).

In addition, it’s artifical to set it up to do things differently in a new year. I get it. It makes sense to have a fresh start in a fresh year. And there is something about mentally tearing off that December page that signifies the end of an era. Especially since for me, last year was the first whole bonus year that I had.

The beginning of 2022 was me coming to terms with still being alive. Then, Elden Ring was released at the end of February and that was the next six months sorted. Time flew and before I knew it, it was the end of the year.

2023. It seems so weird to write that. I do have a few goals that I would like to reach in the new year. It may just be a matter of semantics, but I have decided that goals are better than resolutions. The latter are too declarative and like a fait accompli. It feels much more like pressure, which I don’t need. The latter are more like suggestions or rather, something to aim for. Plus, it can be year-long rather than just doing it in discrete moments. Discrete, not discreet, by the way. That was one of my pet peeves when I was using Craigslist personals, by the way (yes, I’m that old). People saying they wanted ‘discrete’ lovers, not ‘discreet’ lovers. Not that I was going to help someone cheat on their partner, but if I were, I certainly was not going to do it for someone who could not discenrn discrete from discreet.

So. What are my goals for 2023? I have three. Well, more than that, but three serious ones. The not-so-serious ones are to get laid and get paid. Well, the former, anyway. I have not had sex in quite some time, and I started thinking about dating before I ended up in the hopsital. Seriously, it was a few months before my medical crisis that I was girding my loins to return to the apps. Obviously, that was put on the backburner after I left the hospital. I had other things I needed to concentrate on.

Now, however, it’s been over a year and I’ve gotten a clean bill of health. I’ve had it for a year. I’ve been back to my old self (or some facsimile of) for nearly a year as well. I have no desire to be with someone because that brings out the worst in me, but I am ready to have sex.

Continue Reading

Saying the unspoken parts out loud

It’s interesting thet things that get left unsaid. When I talk about my medical crisis, for example, I have no problems saying taht I was in a coma for a week, but I don’t like to mention what actually happened. Why? Because it seems…almost like bragging? I’m not sure exactly why. It’s partly because, and I don’t mean this to sound dismissive, but it really hasn’t affected my life in the day-to-day. I don’t have issues because of it except for some very minor ones. Like my periphery is worse and I have a few memory issues. Oh, and my reaction time is much worse as based on how I react to flashing button prompts in games.

None of that is life-thretaning or even something I really need to be concerned about. The fact that I can’t do simple math in my head? So what? I can pull up a calculator at any moment. I don’t remember a word? I can look it up or just keep searching my memory bank until it finally pops up.

It doesn’t hinder me, is what I’m trying to say. So it seems like I shouldn’t bring it up. A month or so after I left the hospital, I was telling K that it was weird to bring it up because it was such a conversation-stopper and seemed to be a ploy for grabbing attention. She said, “Minna, it’s part of your story. You don’t have to bring it up if you don’t want, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t, eeither.”

But I do. I feel like I have to keep it to myself. it’s not something other people have pressured me about, but it’s just something that I feel self-conscious about. In part, it’s beacuse I know how incredibly lucky I am and how it truly is a miracle I’m alive. And I feel like I’m wasting it. In addition, there is just no way to slide that into a conversation casually.

“How about them Vikings?”

“Yeah, they’re doing great, man.”

“How you doing?”

“Great! I’m alive, which is a miracle after surviving walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two ccardiac arrests, and a stroke.”

It feels like the more time that passes, the less I’m able to bring it up. Again, this is completely on me. It’s not like anyone is saying, “SHUT UP, MINNA! NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID MEDICAL HISTORY!” But it just feels weird. There’s someone in the RKG Discord who is in the hospital for unknown reasons, and I want to relate some of my experience, but I have been very careful not to mention my own medical crisis. In part because it’s not about me. But I did ask if he got the pure ox because that was the best. Oxygen for the uninitiated.

Continue Reading

Set phasers to neutral

I’ve been watching a lot of reaction videos to Tim Minchin songs lately. Why? Because! I’ve been into Tim for decades and I thought he was pretty niche. Well, he was. He’s gotten bigger (and, sadly, more conservative not in politics, maybe, but in ideas) over the years.

My favorite to watch is White Wine in the Sun because people do not expect it at all. Tim is hilarious in a dark way, saynig things you don’t say out loud. He’s an atheist and very outspoken about it. So you’d think the song would be bitingly acerbic. You might not even know it’s about Christmas–which it is.

Then, there’s the dawning realization that while it des have a few digs at Christianity, it’s mostly a heartwarming song about his love for his baby daughter. It’s just a really sweet song and one of two Christmas songs that I actually like. It makes me tear up every time I listen to it.

Last year and this year, however, it hits especially hard. See, I think of it as an atheist Christmas carol, but it’s really an ode to family. And family is something I have written endlessly on, about how dysfuctional my family is.

I’ve also mentioned a time or a hundred that it was when I died and came back again–

By the way, I want to get a t-shirt that says, “I rose from the dead twice” on the front and “That makes me better than Jesus” on the back, but I won’t because that would be rude. But it’s funny. I told it to K and she burst out laughing. And she’s spiritual!

Anyway, dying puts things in perspective. It can bring out the best in people like my brother. He was my rock and held it down while I was unconscious. He did it all without a word of complaint. He talked to my medical team every day, and it was on him to make decisions for me because I did not have a partner.

Continue Reading

But faaaaaaaaam–*slap*

Yes, we’re talking about family gaain. It’s the holiday sesaon, which can make or break a family. There are so many expectiatons during this time that rarely get met. I honestly believe that if people just chilled the fuck out and thought, “We’ll hang and have fun no matter what”, so much family drama would be avoided.

But faaaaamily.

And Anut Ethel expects that there be three different kinds of pumpkin pie while Aunt Mabel will chew you out if you dare bring cranberries because that’s her thing. Uncle Bill is just there for the turkey and the Lions game, yo. Whereas the cousins just run around and play hide and seek while they wait for dinner to be served.

That’s not how any of my childhood Thanksgivings went, by the way, because I am a second generation Taiwanese American and we carved out (get it?) our own holiday traditions. I don’t remember what we did for Thanksgiving. I’m sure there was turkey and my mother made this cranberry jello salad with Cool Whip and marshmallows, mandarin oranges, and walnuts. It was really good.

Side note: My ex-SIL held a grudge for years apparently that my mother brought that to our first shared Thanksgiving because to her cranberries means just cranberries with a bit of sugar for the sauce. It’s her favorite part of the dinner and not to have it really ruined Thanksgiving for her.

I asked my brother why she didn’t just get some regular cranberries if it bothered her so much. She had assumed that was what our mother was bringing and didn’t buy any. That makes sense. And I do get that if you have a tradition, it can be hard when that tradition doesn’t happen. So, yeah, I can understand being upset for a day or two, but to hold a grudge for years? That’s my ex-SIL, for you. She can hold a grudge longer than some of my relationships lasted. I have to respect it because I have held a grudge or two in my time. They tend to fade out, though, because, well, I get bored. Also, why do I want to think about someone who I’m over?

Here’s the thing. I am very good at giving the benefit of the doubt until I’m not. When that line is crossed, then I’m done. No more benefit of the doubt given. When I’m done, I’m done.

My last therapist told me sternly that wasn’t a good thing. I retorted, “I know. But it’s who I am.” Her point was that I should set boundaries earlier, and she is right. That way I wouldn’t explode later and go scorched earth.

I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries except with my parents. My eternal bane. When I was in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I was a complete and utter mess. There was a semester in college when I was disassociating on the daily. I had anorexia and bulimia, and my mother only cared that my waist was tinier than hers. She was jealous, you see, because she had been trying to lose five pounds since she came to America and discovered butter pecan ice cream.

Continue Reading

Can’t ignore the family dysfunction

Last night, I was talking to my mom. My father had been in a minor fender bender while in a taxi, which is bad, yes, but he didn’t even need to go to the hospital. Still, I was properly sympathetic because it’s scary to be in any kind of car accident for most people. Me, I ended up comforting the young woman who ran into the driver side of the front of my car, but I’m a weirdo. Plus, I am really fucking good in a crisis because I’m always prepared for something disastrous.

After she talked about that to her heart’s content with me ‘uh-huh’ing and ‘oh, that’s scary’ing, we turned to the topic of how hard the last three years have been in general. She said that the pandemic had been the worst thing. I immediately said, “I died last year. That was pretty bad for me!” Twice, by the way, as I never tire of saying. I died twice.

My mother immediately glossed it over by saying how grateful they were that I had survived (presuming she meant herself and my father), but that did not redeem the statement to me. When I messaged Ian about it later, he responded by asking if they did not realize that it had been a traumatic experience for me?

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. My parents realizing that something may have affected someone who wasn’t them? Ha! Surely, you jest. Even in that statement, it was about her and not really about me. It’s hard to explain the difference, but trust me, she was talking about how it had affected her and not me.

It’s similar to how the second day I was home, my father and I got into an argument about me having someone live with me. He was pushing it, and I was saying I didn’t want it. He raised his voice and yelled, “You don’t know how hard it was for your mother and me!”

Excuse me? I don’t know how hard me dying twice and having walking non-COVID-related pneumonia that triggered two cardiac arrests and an ischemic stroke was on YOU????? When I said, “How hard it was on YOU?”, he started blustering and attacking me for daring to question him.

Continue Reading

The harsh reality of ‘but faaaamily’

I have been thinking a lot about my mother lately because her calls of desperation have come more frequently–almost once a week. Every phone call follows the same pattern. She asks me how I’m doing, then brushes over any response other than ‘fine’. This is not unusual for her. She doesn’t really care how I am; she just knows she has to ask. In the past, if I mentioned I had a cold or something like that, she would have to counter with why she had it worse. It would frustrate me, and then I would quietly seethe for the rest of the conversation.

Now, if I even so much as cough, she jumps on it because of my recent medical crisis. I have to declare that I’m fine, it’s just allergies, or whatever so she won’t go off the rails. She either overreacts to my ailments or underreacts. There is no just right in this case, and I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s a narcissist. She’s learned that she SHOULD care about other people, but she doesn’t know how to do it.

She’s mentioned a couple of times recently that she thinks she might be autistic because she’s an introvert. I told her she wasn’t, at least not for that reason (because autistic does not equal introvert), but the lack of emotions part, maybe.

However, I would diagnose her as a narcissist rather than autistic, which I have done in my own head. It has really helped me deal with her to recognize that she’s just as narcissistic as my father, but in a completely different way. My father is the classic narcissist–he doesn’t care about others and only sees them as useful to him or an extension of himself (family). He has no core, and I would posit that he doesn’t even love himself. That’s part of the reason he’s been so unhappy all his life–he needs constant reassurance that he is great and the second the accolades do not come flowing his way, he’s upset.

He cannot stand being alone. It’s as if he does not exist without others around to affirm him. My parents are currently 83 (my father) and 80 (my mother). My mother has been dancing attendance to my father since they were married 55 years ago. It’s only gotten worse since they’ve aged and my father has gotten

Continue Reading

Free to be me

I’m weird. I have known this since I was a young kid, but back then, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? It wasn’t just a little bit different or in a few ways–it was in nearly every way. I read all the time, which many considered strange. I even read the dictionary (I stopped at ‘I’ because I lost steam) and started calling my bullies ‘unintellectual imbeciles’, which, not cool, but I was pushed to it, and did not do anything because they did not know what I meant (I was seven or eight).

I was fat and awkward, and I knew nothing about American culture. We only watched Scooby-Doo, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat in our family. I don’t even know what other shows existed at the time. We never went to the movies and I didn’t hear my first pop song until I was in the sixth grade. It was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant.

Here’s the thing. My parents, especially my father, did not like living in America. My father was fiercely Taiwanese and came here for his studies. He and my mother met in grad school and fell in love. Or rather, my father wooed my mother and won her over. She was engaged to a man in Taiwan–

Fun fact: She was engaged to him because my grandmother had very outdated notions about dating. She refused to let my mother go on a date if she wasn’t engaged to the man.

My parents had a whirlwind romance. My mother finished her MA and would have had to go back to Taiwan if she didn’t find another way to stay in the country. My father’s American housemother urged them to get married, so they did. Then they moved to Minnesota so my father could pursue his PhD in Economics.

I sometimes think about the sliding door version of life where they didn’t rush to get married. I fully believe that if they had dated for another year, they probably would have broken up. Or maybe not. I mean, they’ve been together for nearly 55 years. So, even though it’s deep dysfunction that binds them (not to mention codependency), they have established a lasting routine.

I used to think that my mother would be happier without my father, but now I don’t think that’s true. Her sense of worth comes from the fact that she’s a martyr (and that she’s superior to my father in almost every way). In other words, she needs him to feel good about herself, even though he’s abusive. If she weren’t with him, she would just find someone else like him.

Once in a while, she’ll let the mask slip and display her utter contempt for him and how little she expects from him. Such as when she said she realized he wasn’t smart. It’s true, but it’s not a nice thing to say about your husband, especially to your child. I will admit that it helped me see him in a different light. Arguably, a more realistic one.

Continue Reading

Triangulation strangulation

My mother called the other night. She wanted to complain about my father again. She knows she shouldn’t, but she can’t help herself. I tried to be sympathetic/empathetic, but we’ve been doing this dance for forty years (ever since she made me her confidante when I was 11). This time, though, instead of dancing around it, she flat-out said that kids should be their parents’ confidantes as part of taking care of them. I was flabbergasted because she had never actually said it out loud before.

She mentioned her clients helping out their parents (taking them to appointments and such) and she slated being a ‘confidante’ fell under that. I’ll counter that in a moment, but just wanted to comment as I did to her that it was women doing this , which was sexist as hell. She got that sour tone in her voice that said she did not like what I said. She did admit she needed a therapist, but then said a million reasons why she couldn’t get one. And why she can’t leave for the one hour a week a woman comes to take care of my father. She says how upset he gets when she leaves, which irritates me every time.

Here’s the thing. Intellectually, I know that abuse warps the mind and enforces a learned helplessness. But at the end of the day, people still have to take some autonomy. And if not, don’t dump about it constantly on their children. My mom is never going to leave my father. I realized that when  I was fairly young, and it only gets stronger the older I get (the feeling that she won’t leave him). Fine. Whatever. It’s her life. But I don’t want to hear about it. At this point, I’m just sick and tired of it after being a forced confidante for nearly a half-century.

Here’s the other thing. It may have been beneficial to her that I’ve been her confidante (which I think is dubious, anyway), but it most emphatically hasn’t been for me. Which my mom knows. She’ll apologize for dumping it all on me, but continue to do so. Once in a while she’ll say she won’t do it again. She said it more than once the last time she was here. I told her angrily to not say that because we both knew it wasn’t true. That actually made me angrier than the initial dumping.

Her trying to justifying making her confidante only underscored her own narcissism. Her comfort and need to vent superseded my comfort and need to not have her vent at me. In addition, and I didn’t realize this until much later, her constant venting about my father made me feel even more negatively towards him than I would have without it.

Continue Reading