Butterfly Cauldron

Monday, September 11, 2006

Do we ever crawl out of our parents' shadow?

Is there an age at which your family's opinions cease to matter to you? I'm wondering, because I'd like to know how long it will be before that thought -- but they'll be so upset/disappointed, this is going to cause problems -- won't pop up everytime I consider taking a path at odds with my families.

Case in point: I really, really, really need a new job. Seriously. So, I'm always looking at job announcements and mailing off applications. Eventually, something will stick. So, last night I'm looking on idealist.org and find an announcement for a Media Relations and Marketing Manager for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute in D.C. This job seems tailormade for me, so instantly I'm like "Oh. Must apply." Next thought? "No, wait. My parents would completely flip out."

It's a ridiculious thought. I'm far too old to be worried about what my parents will think of the job I choose to take. I'm far too old to worry about what they'll think of the relationships I do or do not have. And yet...there it is, popping into my head anyway.

That's part of the reason I want to move away from here. (Well, aside from the fact I'm in fricking Louisiana, it's waaay too hot for my illness and I'm so vastly underpaid I could cry. And have.) I have this idea that physical distance will help me establish emotional distance. I don't want too much emotional distance, because (contrary to apparent assumptions) my family and I are close.

I think there are things in life that we are easily able to resist and things that are much more difficult to resist. Some people have little difficulties going against expectations and others don't. For me, I can disregard pretty many anyone else's opinion of me except my family. And it's not really their opinion -- I just don't want to have to deal with the disappointment, anxiety, their sense of 'how did this happen.' Because they reduce something in my life, my life, to being about them. I don't think they do it on purpose, but that's what happens. What will the neighbors think if they know my daughter is working for a gay organization? What will the people at church think if they find out my daughter writes erotica for a living? What will the people at work think if they see her out drinking? And ultimately, they're not worried about what people will think about me, they're worried about what people will think of them. How did they raise a bisexual daughter? Aren't they good Christians? Didn't they teach her better?

And that makes me angry. Why should they care more about what other people think of them than about what makes their daughter happy? And why do I still have this crazy amount of rage about it?

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posted by Zan at 6:14 PM

13 Comments:

Ohhhhhh.

well, in theory i have a more concrete reason why their opinion matters to me at the moment, but fact of the matter is: nah. it's all up here, i think, at the end of the day (taps head, then breast).

and yes, i have been wondering this myself. when, lord, when? does it happen AFTER i get the dream job that pays enough and makes me happy enough that i shouldn't have to give a fuck what other people think? not automatically, i am already thinking, no.

otoh, perhaps necessary if not sufficient. -shrug-.

but i mean: ever read any of Ruth Reichl's bios? food writer and restaurant critic, she has three out now; nice for food porn and entertaining. anyway her ma was a real pip, in a number of ways. not like Joan Crawford abusive, but...crazy, and crazy-making, and no, it isn't endearingly wacky, it's BAD. early childhood stories are bad enough (manic-depressive and quite likely undiagnoses something more personality related mom decides to throw huge party, leaves utter chaos in her wake, and, worst, serves bad/spoiled food to guests; everyone gets food poisoning; mom decides on the spur of the moment to take young Ruth up to boarding school in French Canada and leave her there, without really giving her any warning, let alone choice in the matter; mom pulls any number of headfucky games to ensure that all attention goes back to her...). but so eventually Reichl becomes a food critic, and no matter how well she does or how happy she seems, mom is always in there with a disdainful, "Food! All you ever think about is food."

no jealousy at all there, of course; no.

and yet it still fucks with dutiful daughter's head. to the point where she starts getting panic attacks for a while.

nyarrrrggghhhhh.

2:33 PM  

and can i just say: hell YES about physical distance helping. i am now 3,000 miles away from the parentals, have been for just about 10 years now, and, even though i wasn't -consciously- making the decision to go to grad school Over There primarily to -make some space,- i suspect i knew that was important all along. it's what made the rest of the mishegos worth it.

and it's a good part of why i decided to not go forward with the application for grad school (yep, again, that, too) back in CA, even northern CA, this year--too soon, too close. alas. 'cause i like northern CA, and wouldn't mind ending up there someday, but...no. not ready to disrupt my life and leave my semblance of independence and, well, a life. alas. we'll see.

but yeah, it makes a difference.

when i was an undergraduate, i was going to a college two hours' driving distance from parentals.

one fine morning i'm just heading out to class, open the door to reveal an irate Mom and Dad on the doorstep. the hell? turns out they have been frantic with worry because my phone was off the hook, apparently. for all of maybe two and a half days, tops. and this is pre-email, so: why, what if there had been an emergency! what if i had been lying there bleeding to death! don't i check my phone! this is a problem! and they called my academic advisor (cringe) and HE didn't know where i was either!

i live in the live-action version of "Portnoy's Complaint," yes. hours of fun.

so, miraculously, since at that point in my life i am pretty much a basket case myself, let's be honest, years' worth of therapy are still nearly a decade in the future, i am sort of calm and bemused instead of shrieking at them, ask if okay, since they're here, would they maybe like to go get breakfast or something.

no, no time. they just wanted to make sure i was O.K.

well, that's, um, sweet, really. um, i guess.

fortunately i don't, you know, have a tousle-haired guest in the background, wondering what the hell is going on and by the way, the batteries on the black vibe are running low.

so they get in the car and drive back. two hours. four altogether.

and see, they CAN'T DO THAT if i'm 3000 MILES away, even if they wanted to.

so, yeah. makes a difference. i would say so.

2:46 PM  

Of course you have rage about it! You should be so much more important to your family than what the neighbors think that it isn't even possible to measure the two with the same instrument. You should be measured in light years and the neighbors in nanometers.

On the other hand, it does take some time to grow beyond being concerned about your family's reaction to things. When my son was about 8 he was late coming home from playing and it took me about half an hour to find him and the whole time I was thinking, "How am I going to explain this to my mother?"

6:02 PM  

You know, I think it would be easier if my parents had been the sort to be overtly abusive. I mean, if they had hit me or demeaned me or dropped me off at a Canadian bording school, that would be easy to deal with. (Well, I'd have totally dug the boarding school...) But the thing is, for the most part they are crazy supportive and try their damnest to understand their strange, alien daughter.

And yet I know they would be 'disappointed' if they knew certain things about me. I feel constantly compared to my brother, which isn't fair to him because he's never intentionally tried to compete with me. But you know, he's the one who did what they expected. He went to a Baptist college, then to seminary, he works as a Youth Minister. He got married young, they have a baby. He's working on setting up a home/camp for disadvantage kids in our area -- which is a great idea and my parents are all over that idea. I would be too, except....it's a religious camp. They're getting land and money donated from area churches and stuff. Which is great, really, because gods know the kids in our area need somewhere they can go and have structure and feel secure. The camp is a great idea. But it's so overtly religious that I can't take part in it, I can't even really participate in the discussions about it.

And it's like, they have this one kid who is doing everything they think he should be doing (and he seems to be doing it because he wants to, not because they expect it of him) and here I am. No kids, no marriage, no boyfriend, I don't go to church (in fact I'm rather insistant upon that point and it makes them insane). I feel like I've failed them, but if I did what they wanted, I'd be miserable and there are things I just cannot do.

6:14 PM  

This post sounds just like me, except for the closeness and the desire to keep it. In my case,it is possible to not care, and I didn't need much distance.

I never thought my mom wouldn't be in my life, but I moved out when I was 27 and everything changed. Once I was free, I didn't want to deal with my family's bullshit. So if I wanted to go to their house (southern PG County, Md.), I went. If I felt bad about it, I didn't go.

I worked myself up very close to anxiety attacks imagining stalking scenarios like belle described. They never happened. My mom never came to my apartment, and I still wonder why. She wouldn't go to my older sister's house because she said there was evil there. So I thought maybe her gypsy powers clued her in to my masturbation.

It took me a good three years, I think, to learn to think for myself and not hear my mom's voice in my head. I had to stay away from her in order to accomplish that.

My mom's opinion was important to me because she presented it as fact and hated lies. It didn't occur to me she could be wrong or that we could disagree without the world imploding. I had to decide and enforce that liking myself and my life and feeling good is more important than my family members themselves, much less their feelings. My mother held the family together. Without her, it's easier to see a time when the rest of us won't know each other. It's entirely possible I don't love them, and I am willing to lose what little contact we have if it means remaining guilt-free and not being affected by emotional blackmail.

Since you can't change your family, are you looking to accept or stop caring that they feel the way they do? Can you love them and relate to them and let the religion/status/reputation slide?

You write erotica? Where can I read it?

D.C. needs you! Go on up there.

6:31 PM  

Oh, I do love my family. That's the thing. As long as we don't talk about religion or politics or sex everything is good. But they're soooo religious, that it always, always, always comes up.

And yes, I do write erotica. For some reason, I thought I'd put a link to my stories up. Hold on...here's one and two

They're both snippets of a much larger piece that I'm working on. They're both het stories, but I'm working on some girl/girl stuff too. I flatter myself that I'm pretty good at this, but you know....

7:13 PM  

Thanks for the links.

I met some lovely Mormon missionaries, and I was particularly drawn to one of them. But I tend to latch on to people, so I didn't try to make sure I'd see her again. Also, I can't stand hearing about God all the time. I don't want to know what His plan for me is. And I feel really mean around people who are full of goodness and light because they see the good in people and I'm calling people jerks.

10:08 PM  

I just read "Solace"; I really like it. It's long enough to tease!

Favorite lines:
He'd called me a heathen – which was true

Did I want to press him for it tonight?

The first one reminds me of Cheap Trick's "Down Boys":
You got a lot of nerve to call me cheap
(even though it's true)

10:44 PM  

Thank you :) I get all warm and fuzzy when people say they like my writing. Makes me all kinda happy. Also, makes me wanna write more ;) Yay!

And I completely understand about not wanting to hear about God all the time. Even as someone who believes, I don't wanna hear it. Of course, my belief is decidely different than most people. See, I can agree with you that people can be serious jerks and yet maintain that they are also fundamentally decent. I just don't need to go around sharing with people all the time. And God's plan? Yeah. I'm thinking only God knows what that is and we're just here to do our best, live our lives and try not to kill anyone along the way :) Religious people do their faiths a disservice by going on and on and on about it....

7:41 AM  

I didn't think you believed in God because your profile refers to paganism.

9:15 PM  

Well, see, it gets a little complicated. I believe in 'god' but not as a person. It's closer to say I believe in a universal, animating source which all life is part of. Meaning I don't believe in an Old Man in the Sky but I do believe in something greater than myself. What that something is? Eh, I'm not really sure. I find pagan stories and myths appealing, because I think they can tell us a lot about ourselves. Particularly, I find Goddess stories useful because so much of our western culture is devoid of images of truely powerful women. But I reject a lot of things associated with 'god' outright. Like, we're not all damned and going to hell. (Because the way I see it, we're all part of the Whole and exactly why would 'god' send part of him/herself to Hell? Makes no sense.) We don't all have to believe the same thing (The Source likes variety!) and all that going on and on and on about 'god's will' or 'the devil it tempting me' is just a way to opt out of taking responsiblity for your own actions.

7:27 AM  

>When my son was about 8 he was late coming home from playing and it took me about half an hour to find him and the whole time I was thinking, "How am I going to explain this to my mother?">

You know what's really ironic? I'm pretty certain that a lot of my mom's more crazy-making behaviors toward me come precisely because she's thinking about what HER parents would be saying about her bad mothering skills (look at the results!), among other things.

she'd swear up and down that that's NOT TRUE AT ALL, of course, neither her worrying about being a "bad mother" or the transferring to/from her own parents (one of whom is no longer living).

shrug.

8:17 AM  

Poor beautiful Lucifer. He's misunderstood. As someone wrote, "We only have half the story."

4:09 PM  

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