Blogger's Note: This post took me two weeks to write, much of which was spent...not writing it. If I had a therapist, he/she would say that I have unresolved issues with my parents. I would reply that the two years that I spent as a psychology major clued me in to that, maybe I should pay myself to tell me shit I already know.
My Mom was born and raised in Southeast DC, but also spent some time living in Chillicothe, OH, where her mother's family lives. From what I know, she wasn't very good in school and after graduating at twenty, she tried numerous paths (such as fashion school) and gave up on every one of them. I think maybe she didn't have the confidence to believe that she could be successful - I see some of that in me, too.
I'm not sure of the circumstances of her pregnancy. I've never heard a word about my father, so I always figured it was a one night stand that occurred around her birthday (I was born a day shy of ten months after her 31st birthday). I'm working up the nerve to ask her about him, because I'd like to know if I have any brothers or sisters, and what my father's cultural background is. I've always gotten a lot of "You look like you're from Nigeria/Ghana/Guyana/Africa (the entire continent?)" from other Black people, some from those countries, and have always responded with a deadpan, "I'm from DC". I wouldn't be embarrassed if my father isn't Black American, but I hate it when people assume things about me, especially since when I was young I thought that they were only suggesting that I was from somewhere else because I'm very dark-skinned. The weird thing is, I look so much like my mother (everyone comments on it), except for when you compare the dominent features of our faces: I have a completely different nose, my lips are way fuller, and my eyes are bigger, with an almond shape. I'd really like to see if I got these features from him.
My Mom spent much of her motherhood doing the single parent thing. Low-paying jobs that she hated, sometimes more than one. Occasional boxes of food from churches, several periods of living on unemployment checks. Crappy cockroach-infested apartment in an increasingly bad neighborhood that she traded in when I was fourteen for a nice-looking low-income apartment surrounded by McMansions. I wasn't able to go to the state-of-the-art performing arts high school that I had enrolled in because of the move and her unwillingness to let me ride the Metro bus, and I hated her for it for my entire high school run. I just made myself suffer, though, unwilling to socialize in any sort of normal high school fashion, I was a loner who was so perpetually depressed that I spent months searching for the perfect prom dress to show my classmates how pretty I really was, only to decide two weeks before the night that I wasn't going to go. I understand it now, though. I'm her only child, she's invested all of her time and happiness in me, so she overprotects me. We'd moved into a much safer area, but she was still not going to take the risk of something happening to me during a 15 minute commute to school.
She says that she had to be both parents, but I would actually say that she was more the traditional father (disciplinarian and breadwinner) than the mother. I spent most of my childhood thinking that I was an unloved burden because she rarely hugged, kissed, comforted, or said that she loved me. I get now that it's hard to be vulnerable and loving with your child when there's no one else to fall back on to do the disciplining, but I rarely needed to be disciplined anyway. My blog is titled what it is because I was that kind of little girl, and am still struggling to shirk that label today. But a lot of single mothers, I think, are forced to be "hard" with their children, and I hope that I never know what that's like.
I didn't realize that she had affection for me until I went away to college and she demanded that I call her twice a week. That was when the "I love you's" started, the hugging whenever she sees me in person, the passive aggressive questioning of why I chose to move a thousand miles away from her after graduating. I still have to call her twice a week, at 25 years old, and boy do I get a guilt trip when I get too busy or forget.
I think that because I didn't receive much affection from her when I was growing up, I don't know how to show her affection now. This has translated to me either being overly clingy or now, overly cautious (which reads as distant) in nearly every friendship that I've had with a girl. My interactions with her are usually filled with me being annoyed with her for something stupid that she said that I could have easily ignored, her being patient with me for my bratty tone, me being mad at myself for not being able to raise my low threshold for annoying things, and finally, me wondering if spending time with my Mom would be easier if I were slightly drunk for the whole week. She'd worry that New Orleans has made me an alcoholic, but she may accept that if I'm easier to get along with.
She hates her job, doesn't have any hobbies, no boyfriend, and few friends. I'm all that she has, which leaves me feeling boxed in. Like I've got stop figuring out what I want to do with my life and just get a good paying job, because in 10 years she'll be too old to work and has no savings for retirement, so I need to be ready to take care of her. Like if she ends up having some sort of medical crisis, I'll have to let my life be absorbed back into hers and move back to Maryland and become another person who's buried all of their dreams. Like if I don't open myself up to men that I don't think I want to date, I'll end up alone, investing all of my time into a kid that I never wanted to have without a husband, like her.
Like she thinks that I don't love her because I moved so far a way, and seem even more distant when we talk on the phone. Then I realize that I don't really know how to love her, so why would she think that I do? All of the ways that would show her that I love her involve me not living a life of my own, and I can't do that. I have a great fear of death, and so I decided that if I had to die, I would make sure that my life was as happy as possible, and as nasty as it sounds, the idea of living anywhere near my Mom right now feels like death, like the rest of my life would be pointless.
I'm trying to convince her to go back to school, to move, to enter in to a career, to do anything that gives her something more than me, and relieves some of this pressure. I'm not sure what a daughter is supposed to be, or what we're supposed to do once we're adults, but I think that she thinks that I'm supposed to dedicate my life to her the way she dedicated her life to me. I guess that I think that if I help her find a life of her own from now on until she dies, she won't expect me to give her more than I can.
I didn't mean for this to be nearly as depressing as it is. I like to think that my mother's future will be much brighter than her past now that she's unburdened by me, and I want to help her make that happen.