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.

Advertisements

Jogging isn’t a euphemism.

Last Sunday, I went jogging for the first time in over a year. As if Mondays weren’t terrible enough, I was incredibly sore. Though I was moving extremely slowly, I got to work on time.

My coworker Charlie walked into the kitchen as I grabbed my coffee cup from the cabinet. He’s in his sixties but wears a Michael Jordan-style earring and a chain. His kids aren’t much older than me, so he’s more informed about music and technology than most of my coworkers.

“Mornin’, Sam!”

“Good morning, Charlie!”

“How was your weekend?”

“Pretty good.”

I waddled to the coffee machine and shifted uncomfortably as my coffee brewed. Charlie gave me a knowing look.

Mm-hm. Seems like it was.”

“I went jogging!”

Sure ya did.”

“My legs are dead because I haven’t gone jogging in a year!”

“I ain’t hatin’.”

“But –”

“At least someone around here is gettin’ some!”

“Jogging isn’t a euphemism for getting laid!”

“No need to be embarrassed! You’ve gotta enjoy your youth!”

“It’s not that, I –”

“Once ya hit menopause, you’ll rarely wanna go jogging with your man!”

Seven promises to my future daughter

Seven promises to my future daughter (who is currently nonexistent)

1. I promise not to use you as an extension of my vanity.

I will never push you to pursue my interests. When you’re a baby, I will not dress you as a mini me. As you grow older, the way you cut your hair is your decision. I will not constantly insist that it looked better long if it’s short or short if it’s long. If you aren’t super girly like me, I will not harass you to wear more makeup or own more pink clothes.

2. I promise to laud your accomplishments, big and small.

This isn’t limited to grades, standardized test scores, the number of soccer goals scored, or perfectly played piano pieces. Not all achievements are quantifiable. I will be as proud of you when you’ve mastered potty training as when you can make and stick to a budget (which you’ll learn from your dad).

3. I promise to be there for you, if you need nonjudgmental and unbiased advice.

Unless you are in a situation that is exactly the same as one I had experienced, I will never dispense advice based on what I would do. I will remove my worldview lens in order to help you decide what’s best in your circumstances. I will never project the outcome I want onto you as what you want.

4. I promise to respect that your career choices are just that — yours.

I will support those choices so long as you’re happy, healthy, and self-sustaining. If you never want to work a corporate job, that’s your prerogative. I will never think I’ve failed as a parent if you don’t want to work in an office, if you’re innovative and can do what you enjoy for work.

5. I promise to be an example of how to be in a loving, committed relationship.

You will never question whether you’re genetically wired to love and to be loved, for fear that extreme dysfunction is hereditary. You will never wonder if your parents were together for your sake, or because they wanted to be. You will see what a relationship rooted in reciprocated affection, respect, and values looks like.

6. I promise that while I may not be your friend, I will always be your mom.

I will never overstep boundaries and pry for details about your life, only to criticize you later. I will take for granted that in college, you’ll party (and probably have sex, much to your dad’s dismay), but you should talk to your friends about those events. In turn, I will never rely on you to solve my problems; I will always confide in your dad and my friends, so you will never have to worry about those things.

7. Most of all, I promise to love you at every stage of your life.

As a tiny baby, as little girl, and as the young woman you grow up to be. I will never make you feel guilty for leaving the nest (though you are always welcome to visit). I will never psychologically beat you down so that you doubt the strength of your wings. Instead, I will look forward to our dynamic changing as you get older. I will never treat you as your grandmother treated me.

How to be a good girl

Thirteen

The first (and most important) rule in the good girls’ code was simple.

“Don’t have sex.”

Not because of health risks, the possibility of pregnancy, or emotional ineptitude.

“Because good girls wait until marriage.”

“Correct, anak. If you don’t have respect for yourself, a man certainly won’t.”

“What if you’re engaged? You and your future husband love and are committed to each other, so why can’t you do it then?”

“If you’re waited all that time, it’s sayang to have sex then.”

“But if you’re going to be together forever anyway, then how is it a waste?”

“Just listen to me, I know from experience.”

Eighteen

Being your mother’s best friend meant being privy to things a daughter should never have to know. Compartmentalizing had become second nature. While Mom would confide in me constantly, I knew better than to tell her everything.

“Anak, last time I was here, the salespeople kept bothering me.”

“It’s Victoria’s Secret, Mom. I’m pretty sure they get paid on commission.”

“They kept following me around the store, asking to help me find what I was looking for.”

“That’s their job.”

“Why are they so nosy, anyway?”

“Why do you care if they know what you’re buying? What did you need, a new bra?”

“Well, I was looking for crotch-less panties.”

Silently, I cursed scientists for pursuing worthwhile research instead of creating brain bleach.

“They don’t sell those anymore. You’ll have to buy them online at from a different company.”

Twenty-five

Setting boundaries with my mother became increasingly difficult from college onward. She claimed she wanted to know about my life, yet overreacted whenever I was upfront.

“I just wish you could be happy for me.”

“I’m supposed to be happy you lost your virginity to your boyfriend?”

“I didn’t.”

“God! All those years I talked to you, you never heard me.”

“No, Mom. I listened, I just don’t agree with you.”

“It’s because of your friends, isn’t it? They’re all having premarital sex, so you wanted to be like them!”

“I think it’s sad that you think I’m worthless because of the status of my hymen. I’m still me.”

“You always said you would wait until you were married, like I did.”

“Yet you still harass Dad about his ex-girlfriends from thirty years ago.”

“So you’re mocking me and my choices?”

“Maybe it would’ve been good for you to date and sleep with other people.”

“Insolent child.”

“I’m not a child anymore. I haven’t been for a long time.”