the place called home

you fled the place where
you mastered the art of placating
unpredictable manipulators
& shielded siblings from shockwaves
made by emotional warfare.
you cannot miss the place where
you learned that obedience
took priority over your happiness
(independent thought was forbidden)
& you were berated into submission.
you found the place called home
within the people who helped you
discover that despite (years of)
being conditioned to think the contrary,
you deserve love (& support).

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It’s always a relief to reaffirm what you already know.

I had lunch with Raf today. Though we hung out last weekend, we wanted to have either lunch or dinner before my trip. He and Brie were the only ones in attendance at our mother’s birthday dinner last night (which I didn’t attend because of this bullshit).

“Y’know, Mom would never tell you this, but Brie set aside pad Thai for you last night.”

“She did?” My voice cracked.

“Yeah. Brie thought you were coming to dinner, so she wanted to make sure you had a plate.”

I couldn’t help it. My eyes welled up.

“Whoa, sis — didn’t meant to make you get all emotional before going back to work.”

“I just love you two a lot. I wish I could’ve seen Brie this past weekend, but — ”

“I know. Dad was there. I get why you wouldn’t wanna see him after everything he said.”

“I’ll be there while Mom is in Philly, once I get back.”

“Sounds good.”

Our parents are wrong. Brie knows I haven’t left her. She hates being around our parents as much as I do because of their erratic, explosive behavior. When I get back from Asia, Brie and I will have sister bonding time (since Raf usually works on weekends). Our parents won’t prevent me from seeing two of my favorite people.

A family isn’t just flesh & blood.

You can’t claim to be looking out for my best interests when best is defined by what you want for yourself. You can’t say I’m the worst embarrassment and expect me to heed your “advice.” You can’t claim I don’t care about the family when my siblings are the only reason I still show up. You can’t say I only use you for money when I’m self-sufficient.

A family isn’t just flesh & blood.

A family is made of the people who nurture you. Support you emotionally. Recognize that having your own life doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning them.

Parents aren’t supposed to gut you with manipulative lies. Parents aren’t supposed to call you an asshole or a cunt. Parents aren’t supposed to justify calling you those things because it’s out of disappointment and from loving you too much. Parents shouldn’t pray for you to fail, just to get the opportunity to say I told you so. Parents are supposed to apologize when they’ve done you wrong.

I know that I am loved.

I have the greatest family a person could hope to have: my boyfriend, my siblings, my friends, and extended family.

The people who brought me into this world loathe everything that makes me who I am as an adult. I don’t need their approval. I don’t need their money. They’re grasping at straws.

A family isn’t just flesh and blood.

It’s who has your back (and vice versa).

I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

As with most kids, puberty wasn’t particularly easy for me. Angst and self-loathing plagued my middle school existence. In order to combat this, my mother and I talked constantly. She gave me formative talks on how to have self-esteem as a chubby kidthe importance of family, why religion is essential to being a good person, and how sex ruins an unmarried girl. I absorbed every word.

At the time, my mother and I were each other’s sounding boards. She discussed fights with my dad; I psychoanalyzed his motivations. I told her about petty drama at school; she insisted that friends came and went, but family was always there. We watched TV shows and movies together. We were best friends. Like Lorelai and Rory, we consulted each other on every decision. We had inside jokes. I idolized her.

When I met Andrea, I found a kindred spirit in someone my age. During high school, I made more friends of my own. My mother lashed out. She couldn’t understand why I would want to spend time with people who weren’t family. She didn’t comprehend why she wasn’t the only friend I needed.

By the time I got to college, I recognized that I had to escape this unhealthy codependency. It wasn’t fair for her to confide in me as a friend (about her and my dad’s marital woes) one moment and in the next moment, snap into mother mode, trying to dictate my every move. She always claimed she was psychic — that she would know when I was being disobedient. College proved that when I didn’t tell her anything, she had nothing to zone in on. She couldn’t interrogate me so that I’d crack and “confess.”

Though I’m the most stable and happiest I’ve ever been, my mother is always angry at me. She belittles every choice I’ve made without her. I’m the biggest disappointment of her life. These days, I’m like Lorelai (the supposed rebel) and she’s like Emily (the bourgeoisie housewife who insists that her daughter should have the best, which is her life).

We used to be like Lorelai and Rory, but I’m thankful that we haven’t been for years. It’s impossible to be friends (much less best friends) with your mother when she refuses to acknowledge you’ve grown up. It’s unlikely to get better until she realizes that we can have a relationship as adults. One day, I hope she understands that trying to control your daughter’s life isn’t the same as wanting what’s best for her.

Knowing how stubborn my mother is, though, I’m not holding my breath.

“There are starving children in Manila. Finish your food.”

“There are starving children in Manila. Finish your food.”

This refrain was repeated throughout childhood. At an early age, my siblings and I learned that regardless of the amount or type of food that was on your plate, you ate it. No questions asked. Kids who wasted food were rude — repugnant, even. Our friends were judged for being picky eaters.

It’s no surprise that the three of us have had weight issues at different stages of our lives. After years of hearing “clean your plate,” learning moderation was (and still is, at times) difficult. Even now, my mother is a relentless food pusher.

“I’m trying to eat healthier.”

“So? You can have ice cream. Then you can just run later.”

“I would rather just skip dessert.”

“Just listen to me, I know what I’m talking about.”

Except, my mother doesn’t know (about this, or anything she hasn’t actually experienced).

In elementary school, I was the chubby kid on the country club swim team. To say that the kind of girls who lived in that neighborhood were cruel shallow bitches would be an understatement.

“What size do you wear?” Maddie asked as I wrapped a towel around myself after practice.

“Why do you want to know?” I quickly packed up my tote bag.

“So I never let myself go like that.” She followed me to the parking lot.

“I have a slower metabolism than you do.” Don’t let her see you cry.

“Maybe you should lay off the fatty foods, then.” She flipped her hair and sneered.

We were eleven years old. I waited until I bolted out of my mother’s car and into my room before crying and eating a stack of Chips Ahoy cookies. I found solace in food and books. Though my mother insisted I was beautiful as I was, she added that I’d outgrow my chubbiness. I did in middle school, but eating my feelings was a habit that persisted.

Now, I’m unlearning the association that only wasteful assholes don’t clean their plates. I’ll never be a waif, but I’m working on being healthier. I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that.

Children aren’t the “next step” for everyone.

I’ve reached the age where a lot of people I know are getting married and having kids.

Many people believe that the ideal way to live your life is to follow the American dream. Graduate high school. Go to college. Get a job. Get married. Settle in the suburbs. Have kids. Your life path has a trajectory that you can’t change, nor should you want to based on societal norms. I fully support those who actually wants to do this, but I don’t think that everyone should.

Three of my coworkers are married men under 40. Until last week, only one of them was a dad. However, another became a dad to a little baby girl. During his wife’s pregnancy, the dads in the office joked with him about the “joys” of fatherhood.

“You won’t sleep for two years.”

“Baby spit-up will stain all of your favorite shirts.”

“Pray that you don’t drop the baby first, or you’ll hear about it for the rest of your life.”

I’ve seen too many people have kids because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. My friend Angela is my only close friend who’s a mom. (She’s the only one who should be a mom at this point in our lives.) Between everything Ange has told me and Dean’s blog, it’s evident that parenthood is rewarding, yet hard work. Ange is a nurturing person who has always been great with kids. Dean’s blog showcases the highs, lows, and magical moments with her toddler. Ange and Dean make raising their daughters seem easier than it is.

None of my male coworkers have said that they had kids because they wanted to — most of them indicated that they were going along with what their wives wanted. According to them, their wives wanted to have kids once their friends started having kids. I cringe at the thought of babies as accessories — “I want one because my friends have one.”

There are also the parents who hate how “expensive” kids are. There are the parents who complain that they have to go to Little League games and dance recitals. My boss will stay at the office until he knows that his kids are in bed, so he won’t have to play with them.

Why do those people have children? Their kids grow up knowing that their parents resent them. Those parents feel unfulfilled because they consider their children to be shackles. These people should have figured out that their ideal life didn’t include milestones that society determined.

If (when) the day comes that I get to be a mom, I’m going to remember this list — the promises I made to my future daughter. I want to have kids someday. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the childless life. I’m not racing to the “next steps.” Those will come when the time is right — when we’re ready.

Last night, my boyfriend met my mother for the first time.

Last night, my boyfriend met my mother for the first time.

Technically, they met at our UGA graduation three years ago (we both met each other’s families in passing, then). Yesterday afternoon, I received a text from my mother asking if Ceddy and I wanted to have dinner at her house. I replied that we would. After work, we got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half, but finally made it to Alpharetta at a quarter to eight.

Ceddy gave my mother the orchid we got her. She said it was pretty, but admitted she had a tendency to kill plants. After chastising us for being late (though I called her with a traffic update), we had dinner in the kitchen. Brie and her nanny scurried upstairs. Raf was out with his friends. We faced her without buffers.

For the next hour, we endured a lecture on living in sin and the importance of family (even when they treat you like shit). Ceddy fielded a barrage of questions. He took the high road and apologized to her for offending her and my dad, since that was not our intention when we moved in together. When I started to get angry, he squeezed my hand as a reminder to take yoga breaths.

By the end of the hour, we left Alpharetta with three bags of food. My mother is the passive aggressive hostess. Her selective amnesia allowed her to pass judgment while projecting all of her and my dad’s issues onto us.

In the car, I fidgeted anxiously. As always, Ceddy reassured me that it was no big deal. It’s not our job to make haters (like my mother) see that we are good for each other. All we can do is continue to live our life together.