I have a confession to make, and it’s a sad one. I don’t really like my mother.
My mother was a WASP bride of the 1950s, a 1960s-70s-era housewife who missed out on the sexual revolution. Her idol was not Gloria Steinem, but Jackie Kennedy. And why? Because Jackie Kennedy had money, she was all about appearances and she knew her place as a wife and mother.
I’m pretty sure Jackie Kennedy wasn’t a miserable hag, however, to her children. My mother was. I can’t honestly ever remember her touching me physically, telling me she loved me or even that I looked good at any point in my life. And I had it pretty good — she hounded my older sister relentlessly to lose weight, resulting in lifelong issues with food, and she terrorized my brother because he was not John-John enough for her. In other words, he wasn’t quite as Adonis-like and he didn’t worship his mother. Because she nagged his ass constantly and called him awful names. And yet she could not figure out why her son had issues with her.
When the book about Joan Crawford being a horrible, appearance-obsessed shrew of a mother came out amid much fanfare in the late 1970s, my sister and I read it eagerly and soon started referring to our mother, openly, as Mommie Dearest. We had many, many of our own “No wire hangers!!” moments, involving belts, wooden spoons, etc. Much to our chagrin, my mother was a Joan Crawford fan and was tickled when we began calling her Mommie Dearest, which pissed us the fuck off. The point was to insult the woman; she took it as a compliment on her style sense and her “strong” personality.
In addition to the endless emotional, and at times physical, abuses she subjected us to, she was also an insane conservative who would only vote for the most right-wing candidates regardless of their platform. She was a racist anti-immigration type, and only trusted the so-called Progressive Conservatives to keep the “scum” out of Canada.
She is in her late 70s now, and has mellowed considerably — she’ll even vote for liberal candidates now, but only because she loves David Letterman so if she senses David Letterman is left-leaning, then she should be too. But she’s still a secret racist, once asking me, with disappointment and distaste in her voice, why my son’s best friend is Chinese. And she is still so utterly consumed with status, money and appearances that when I called her sobbing last year after my husband (who was from a pretty wealthy family) walked out on me, the first words out of her mouth were: “But I thought you were set for life!!” And then: “What am I supposed to tell the bridge club? How embarrassing!”
I have always been so envious of girlfriends who have sweet, loving, caring, nurturing mothers. It has always been the most alien thing to me. What must it be like to be able to bawl into your mother’s bosom, at any age, and have her comfort you when your life has gone to shit? I just can’t imagine it. Even my children, in their teens now, have come to understand that their Nanny — who was far, far nicer and more maternal towards them than she ever was to her own children — is a bit of a loon. My son, bless his heart, even screens her calls for me without me having to ask him, because he knows every conversation I have with her ends up making me feel bad about myself. She is a master of passive aggression and negativity; she rarely has a single nice thing to say about anyone, save for her favourite television personalities. She has told me 1,000 times how much she loves Letterman and Jon Stewart, and yet I have never heard her once express love for a single friend or relative in her real life.
I think my antipathy towards my mother — and my adoration of my father, who was her polar opposite — is the reason I often judge women more harshly than men, and that bugs me. I have a built-in instinct not to trust or like women; I suspect too often that they are cold, manipulative or somehow damaged. That’s why it has been so empowering to make so many new female friends over the last few months via Jezebel and with my ButtercupPunch co-bloggers. I still have lifelong, real-life girlfriends, but only about a half-dozen truly close ones. Now I have dozens more and they couldn’t have arrived at a more necessary time of my life.
SinRoo and I have discussed in detail our psycho mothers and the ways they managed to mess with our heads and our self-esteem. We’d love to hear your stories, so tell us all about it in the comments section! Did you have a good Mommy, or a bad Mommy?