From my Loyola days…I wrote this when I was about 20 years old. It’s still funny. Not much has changed in the six years since it was written. Enjoy.
My mother worries about our family. She considers herself the savior of our middle class values, and rightfully so. She makes sure we have the latest in pillowcase design, and the correct color of cushions for the porch décor. My father thinks she spends too much money, but my mother calls it “investing.” She thinks of each clever little ceramic house hanging on the wall as an investment. She also thinks that having a collection of eight different glass vases is investing. She justifies this by saying she is investing in her option to choose, which gives her a sense of freedom until the credit card bill arrives. She claims that she rarely spends money on herself, but rather for the family. My mother believes that we cannot lead a healthy life unless we have a brand new bright red couch in the living room to sit on. To my mother, it is the couch that makes us young twenty somethings, not the fact that I am in college and my brother is working up the ladder in his new career, or the fact that we go out at night with friends, or even the fact that we are young twenty somethings.
When I was younger, my mother would make my father drive around rich neighborhoods and go to their open houses pretending to be in the market for a new luxurious home. Real estate agents would learn our names and show us each room saying, “This room could be for Jenny; the walls are such a pretty pink and everything.” My mother would act as if she was considering the idea, sometimes outwardly enthusiastic, “Jenny, wouldn’t you love to have this view? Oh and we could put your dolls right here on these shelves…” It took a few weeks for me to realize that we were not going to move into a million dollar home anytime soon, but after every house my mother would say, “What did you think? Wouldn’t you like to live in this neighborhood? They have a pool just down the street.”
My mother constructed her idea of success in front of us; each house was a new blueprint of her dreams for our lives. She believed in the philosophy of teasing us with things we couldn’t have so that we would want it more. She also believed that if she were to control the adults we would become she must start molding us early in life. For instance, my mother decided that I needed to lose weight when I was fifteen. She feared that if I didn’t lose weight now, I would never find a nice husband. To encourage my weight loss she developed cute nicknames for me like, “gordita” (translation: little fat one). She thought it necessary to point out all of my thin classmates and how pretty they all were. She would even point out young girls’ bodies at the mall and say, “Wouldn’t you like to have legs like that?” Every week she would tell me of a new diet that she had heard about. When she’d take me shopping she would let me pick anything out and try it on only to refuse to buy it for me saying, “Oh that style must be for skinny girls.” She’d yell at me if she saw me about to eat a slice of cake at cousins’ birthday parties, and to spite her I’d eat it with joy, acting as if each bite was the most delicious bite I had ever had in my life.
It was at this age that I began to rebel. I refused to go shopping for new clothes with her and would instead spend my money on cds. I adopted a boyish style of dress and would plead apathy when she asked for advice on her new hair color. She would often refuse to take me to my aunt’s house unless I changed my outfit. Apparently, she wasn’t into the whole “punk” look. I remember her coming home and seeing my once black hair a bright red. She wouldn’t talk to me for days saying, “How could I have raised such a low class daughter?” She blamed herself for a few moments, and then came to the conclusion that it was my friends’ influence. I set her straight when I said it was all the music’s fault.
I had fun with my mother. I like to think of it as an adaptive trait I picked up; a reaction to my environment. For example, after Columbine I would joke around and say, “That old trench coat in the basement hasn’t been used recently, huh? I love the way it looks on me.” She thought I was crazy at this time, with the music, and the dyed hair and all. I used to make my parents drop me off at the Metro for some punk show just to see my mother’s reaction to the mohawks and tattered jeans. I would tell her, “I think I might cut my hair like that girl,” and point to a girl with bright blue liberty spikes; the one who probably thought her hair could serve as a weapon in the mosh pit. This was my revenge, my rebellion.
At some point after I moved out of the house my mother and I decided that it was time to compromise. I would try to dress decently when I came home, and she would confine her complaints about my life to one thing for the weekend, like my lack of a boyfriend, which has been her favorite for about four months now. She believes that a woman cannot be happy unless she is dating someone, so when I come home, she assumes that I am depressed and lonely. To remedy this she has begun to give my number to men that she thinks are charming. Most recently, she gave my number to a 32-year-old computer technician who she thinks is perfect for me. “He’s handsome, successful, and Mexican. You will like him.”
“Mom, I’m only 20.”
“You’re mature for your age, and besides he’s fun.”
“I know a lot of “fun” 32 year old guys in the city of Chicago that like girls my age. I meet them all the time, really.”
“Well, if you can do better than why are you still single? At your age I had two boyfriends at once. And you, not even one? What’s wrong with you?”
Yes, conversations with my mother are always full of lessons and insightful observations about one’s worthless existence. She masks her nitpickings with things like, “I just want you to be happy,” or “I’ll buy you a new pair of shoes.”
My mother has molded me into the person I am today. My mold is the exact opposite of her mold, but we meet halfway sometimes and laugh at our differences. She makes jokes about me having a boyfriend “someday,” and I make jokes about her old house, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if you guys moved into a huge house with a lovely garden and marble countertops with a huge kitchen?” just as she’s opening the bill from Loyola. We find ways to understand each other, I suppose.