Pardon me while I go on a long rant about my Mommy Issues.
My mother cannot grasp basic concepts like the difference between genres of writing.
She believes that because I am a Writer, I can write anything and everything effortlessly, and it will perfect. She thinks I should be able to whip out brilliant letters for her and Lil Sis to send to FAFSA pleading our poverty so Lil Sis can continue to go to college. She thinks I can write ad copy for the town's school fundraising organization, for their next charity event.
Today, she thinks I can magically write a biography for her to put on her website.
This is a perfect example of the problems with which myself and my siblings have had to deal all our lives. It is a pattern that never wavers. We can sense it coming, and yet we are powerless to stop it, because what Mum does to us is the equivalent of being left stranded on a narrow ledge with a pack of saber toothed tigers behind you and a 2,000 foot drop into hot lava in front of you. There is no possible way to escape. You are going to die a horrible death no matter what choice you make.
So Mum asks me to write her a biography. And we then have the same exact discussion we have had an infinite number of times before.
I write fiction. The only non-fiction I write is this blog, and even then I think my approach is more Gonzo Journalism than anything else. Me writing formal non-fiction? FUNNY. You'd think the grades I received in English class all throughout grade school and high school (mostly C's) would be good enough evidence of my lack of skills with formal writing.
But Mummy dearest doesn't get this. As far as she is concerned, if I am Writer, then I can write absolutely anything perfectly with no effort whatsoever.
Part of this, I think, is that she simply REFUSES to listen to anyone other than the voice in her head. My mother has a neurological disorder (my presumption; she has never been officially diagnosed) that makes her incapable of even trying to see things from someone else's point of view.
So Mum asked me to write her biography. I said could she possibly lay out all the facts she wants in her biography, then I could I try and throw something together, and then give it to a friend (who happens to write that sort of thing for a living) to look at. Because I have no idea how to write a biography, so it would be better if Friend helped. Sounds reasonable, right?
I knew what she would say before she even said it. Because any and all altercations with Mummy dearest follow the EXACT SAME SCRIPT every single effing time, no matter which of us children she's fighting.
Step 1. - The Bait and Catch
As of the present time, this step now only works on Little Sis. Big Sisters #1 and 2, and myself have cottoned on to this tactic and will never take the bait. Ever. But that doesn't matter, because when Mum's prey won't take the bait on the end of the hook, she gives up on fishing and just fills the lake with arsenic.
I'll use Mum and Lil Sis's most common fight as an example of the Bait and Catch. They just had this argument last Friday, as a matter of fact. (They had it again on Sunday, but I was not there to witness that one.) Lil Sis was home from college for the week. She spent most of the week with her boyfriend, some of it at home. She spent all of Friday with Mum in the city.
That's 8 hours. Lil Sis and Mum were together 8 consecutive hours without a screaming match. That is rarer than the ivory-billed woodpecker.
So anyway, Friday night, Lil Sis had planned to go out with a high school friend around 9.00. She had told Mum this several times during the day, one of those times in front of me (you need witnesses when you tell Mum something, or she can and will claim it never happened). Then 9.00 rolls around and Lil Sis announces she's leaving.
Mum - ::sad, rejected, woebegone tone of voice:: "You're not staying in to spend time with your mother??"
(I would just like to point out that this is the reason that I, at 28 years old, still feel guilty leaving the house.)
The correct thing for Lil Sis to do would have been to laugh off Mum's comment as a good joke, and leave the house as fast as possible.
But no. Lil Sis cannot resist. She had to try and fight that with a rational argument.
Lil Sis - "Seriously? I was with you all day!"
This sort of response leads directly to:
Step 2. - The Bleeding Martyr
Mum will now use all of her skills as an Irish Mother to make you feel guilty and worthless enough to commit suicide.
Like for reals. She should have "FINE I'LL DO IT MYSELF" tattooed across her forehead, right above "YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING TO HELP ME," and "I SHOULD JUST GO KILL MYSELF" (Step 4, but we'll get to that...).
My siblings and I will give Mum a legitimate reason for not being able to comply completely and unquestioningly with her request. In turn, she will stop just short of a full Shakespearean monologue.
In response to me telling her I'd like to enlist the help of Friend for her biography, Mum said: "I'LL JUST DO IT. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU CAN'T EVER HELP ME OUT WITH ANYTHING. YOU'RE A WRITER I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT YOU JUST DON'T WANT TO."
(Yes, she actually texts in all capitals when she's pissed off.)
So now we come to the ledge, and must choose between the saber-toothed tigers and the hot lava.
Step 3. - Attempting to Just Give In Because You Think It Will Save You
We all respond the same way to Step 2, even though we know the inevitable result: we immediately agree to do whatever Mum asked us to do in the first place. It could be something physically, spiritually, and scientifically impossible--we will still agree to do it. Mum could have just demanded that you fold space-time to create a black hole so she can teleport to work faster. You will agree to do it.
But that doesn't matter anymore.
In Lil Sis's case last week when Mum asked why wasn't she staying home and Lil Sis pointed out that they had just spent the whole day together, Mum replied with her usual "FINE THEN GO OUT."
So Lil Sis instantly caved and said, "Ugghhhhh fine I'll stay home," and then stormed off to the TV room.
Or in my case, when I said, "Yes yes yes I'll write your biography!"
Mum replied with, "JUST FORGET IT NO DON'T BOTHER."
Mum has now left the territory of General Anger and has ascended straight into Irrational Hysterical Rage.
We cannot win any argument with Mum. It is not possible. She will not listen to any rational arguments. She will not let you get enough words in to form full sentences. She will not listen to reason.
And God help you if she actually figures out that she's in the wrong all by herself.
Big Sis's #1 and #2 and I no longer continue fighting, but Lil Sis and Mum and will repeat Steps 2 and 3 over and over and over and over and over again until one of them explodes:
Step 4. - Mum Threatens to Commit Suicide and Pretends to Run Away
It would be impossible to keep track of the number of times Mum has threatened to commit suicide. Usually she says she's going to hang herself because obviously she's such a bad mother and everything is her fault and blah blah blah.
And oftentimes she punctuates this by declaring "I'M LEAVING AND I'M NOT COMING BACK," and she grabs her purse and storms out of the house and drives off.
When you are eight years old and this happens, leaving you confused and alone in the house, you might believe her. The first time. After that, you just take advantage of having the whole house to yourself so you can play Mortal Kombat at maximum volume, or watch as many inappropriate HBO programs as you like.
Lil Sis has never handled this as well as her older sisters. She dissolves into a terrified, sobbing mess (which was totally fun when she was a toddler and I was the one stuck looking after her for the next 3 hours -_____-).
She can't handle the possibility that Mum might remain angry with her, and potentially hate her forever. By the time Mum returns home, Lil Sis is climbing the walls in anxiety, which can only lead to mental collapse because
Step 5. - Mum Acts Like Nothing Happened and Everything is Fine
Mum will return home cheery and calm, with the demeanor of one just returning from a pleasant outing at the shops.
If she didn't go as far as pretending to run away, this can be even more nerve-wracking: after the Step 3 screaming match ends with either Mum or her children or both leaving the room, Mum will return five minutes later happy and friendly as you please, and offer to make you a cup of tea.
The older sisters and I take advantage of this, but Lil Sis ends up a little frayed around the edges. The extreme chaos of Steps 1 through 4 ending with the total and complete calm of Step 5 act like a power surge on her brain, threatening to short circuit everything for at least the next 12 hours.
Exhausting, frustrating, infuriating, yes. But there's nothing we can do about it.
Step 3(a). - The Wild Card
I'm the only one who's brave enough to do this. It is a brilliant tactic, completely derailing Mum's momentum if I can catch her off guard.
Essentially this is a manic modification of Step 3 (Just Giving In). I shall use the very first Wild Card incident as an example.
Several years ago, Mum asked could I put Lil Sis's new bookcase together.
Initially (2 minutes after the bookcase arrived via UPS) Mum's request was "when you have a chance."
She repeated the request about one hour later, minus the "when you have a chance."
By that evening, the request came my way roughly every 20 minutes.
I was in college full time, and working 2 nannying jobs plus a retail job for a total of like 30 hours a week (on top of school). So you can imagine that my free time was extremely limited. You can also imagine that my patience was stretched pretty thin as well, which led to me doing something you should never ever do.
I snapped at Mumsy.
Snapping at Mumsy is like taking the Warp Zone straight to Step 4.
I accused Mum of nagging me and said I would bloody well put the bookcase together when I had the free time to do so. Mum HATES to be accused of nagging because she believes that she never nags (which is probably hilarious from an outsider's point of view), so of course she flipped with the usual explosion of shouting, saying she only asked me to do one bloody thing and I'm always so unhelpful and I never contribute to the household and she's going to kill herself because she's a bad mother etc etc etc.
So I put on my best Loud Voice (I don't yell; it's just not my style) and said, "YES, I KNOW, I NEVER HELP WHEN YOU NEED ME TO, SO I AM GOING TO PUT THAT BOOKCASE TOGETHER RIGHT NOW." and marched off upstairs to put Lil Sis's bookcase together.
I don't think Mum has ever been so confused in her life.
The current standings in the Mommy Issues Awards:
- Uncanny Ability To Never Piss Mum Off: Big Sis #1
- Consistently Remaining Under Mum's Radar: Big Sis #2
- Uncanny Ability to Warp Zone to Step 4 Without Saying or Doing Anything: Mich
- Zero to Epic Screaming Match in under Fifteen Seconds: Lil Sis
And that, my friends, is why I am never EVER having children.