June 27th, 2000

Chalkboard

(no subject)

My mother just hit me with her car, twice.

I am feelings so shaky and at the same time really numb and weird. I don't even know if I can write about this, and make much sense. I have been crying hysterically for about an hour. At first I could hardly breathe, and I couldn't speak, no matter how hard I tried. All that would come out was this awful sound. I just kept howling like some dumb, (mute as in speechless), wounded animal. Every time I would take a ragged breath in, all that would come out was a high thin howl, and I couldn't stop. Now I am sitting here writing and eating graham crackers and it seems unreal.

I've been writing and writing and writing and I still can't get the simple facts out without dragging every remembered wound or slight along with them. So I've come back here to take a stab at writing the simple facts for you and then I'll ramble on at length.

I was sitting at my computer trying to be a good responsible ebayer when Mom pulled up in front, honking like the house was on fire. In fact it was so bad, and she honked so many times and so insistently, that I ran to the bathroom window to see what was wrong. When I saw her housekeeper, Rosa running up my path, I thought something must have happened to my elderly father and was scared. My adrenaline rushed up into my chest and I ran to the stairs only to discover that Mom was angry and rushed, as if this is anything new, and that she wanted my son Beau, immediately.

It turned out that Mom had made plans with Beau, who is only just ten and not exactly a super responsible guy, to pick him up sometime today before karate to go see a movie. She had mentioned to me that she wanted to take him to a movie today and I thought that was nice, but we had never settled on a time so I was a bit distracted and fuzzy about the whole thing. I was just going to call and ask about it, when she came honking up my street.

Now the problem with the honking is that it makes me feel like shit. It makes me feel like a slave, like a possession. Like a nothing whose sore, hurting, arthritic-knees should be able to carry me down the stairs, two at a time and at double speed. A person whose bathroom needs, or personal hygiene, whose telephone conversations or even whose presence in the house or not, should never interfere with her desire to receive my attention immediately, and at her unpredictable demand.

But I am accustomed to her doing this, and ignoring my pleas not to. So I told my naked son to hurry as fast as he could and get dressed. Well, anyone who knows Beau knows that he doesn't do things easily. He is a Taurus and just as stubborn and independent as you'd expect someone born under that sign to be. If you tell him to hurry he will stall, and no amount of explanation, punishment or privilege withholding will change it. Imagine my position, stuck between my mother who supports me and whose approval I seek in some unfulfilled girl-like way, and my son who won't do as I say, with the horn blaring away outside. What would you do?

Well, I did the most human thing and felt...anger, oooh anger, yes the basic human emotion that threatens my mother the most, and that I am not allowed to display in her presence, ever. So I contained it as best as I could, and asked Rosa to please go outside and tell my mother that Beau would be there as soon as I could get him out, and to stop the honking! I don't know what she actually said, but since she has betrayed me for my mother's approval before, and Mom actually stepped up the blaring, I can only assume it wasn't helpful to my case.

At this point I was stressed, hurt, and angry and had to go down the stairs to deal with her myself, when all I had wanted was a little time alone in my office, to play catch up with my eBay wins. Having to run down stairs with bone grinding knees, does not help calm a person down when you are angry to begin with. So when I went outside I was ... mad.

I marched down my driveway and crossed in front of her car, came up to her window and said something terrible like, "Mother, how can you honk like this when you know how much I hate it, and have asked you not to" and that's all I managed to get out before she cut me off and started attacking me. We got into a fight with her telling me what an irresponsible, inconsiderate person I am, and threatening to leave Beau behind. I asked her not to take this out on Beau, who was obviously looking forward to the movie, and who had simply forgotten to confirm the time with me. But she just pulled out her meanest word guns and shot me with every one single one of them. She talked right over me, and in a dictatorial tone told me to get away from her car, and to go inside my house and get Beau ready. I told her that Coco was getting his karate outfit for him, and that I wanted to talk to her about the honking.

She can be so cruel and wicked and vicious when she is cornered, believe me. I told her that I would no longer stand her honking like this, when I have been asking her politely for years to please stop. I reminded her that all of my neighbors have asked me over and over again to please make her stop this incessant honking. Not addressing my concern at all she just went on and told me that she had told me to have Beau ready at twelve-thirty and that now at one the movie was starting and she wouldn't be made late by the likes of me. I told her that she had told me no such thing and I asked her why if the movie started at one, was she just arriving at one, expecting everyone to jump through hoops because of her lateness. Had she been here at twelve thirty, we would have had the extra ten minutes we needed, to get Beau ready. I told her that she has a history of lateness, that I get my lateness from her. That she has no right to be so unforgiving and mean, when she is regularly anywhere from an hour to two hours late. I told her all of that, and she heard none of it. She was snide and insulting and in an act of willful childishness, disrespect, and spite, finished by rolling up her window in my face.

I was so floored and hurt. This is my mother rolling up the car window in my face, cutting me off like I don't count, and am totally superfluous to the point at hand. I mean, I should know that this is how she will treat me if I dare to get angry. I should know that I don't really matter to her, and that Beau is what counts. That if I don't deliver him on demand, then to hell with me. She doesn't care if she hurts me. She doesn't care if I feel abandoned or misunderstood, wronged or sad. She just cares about getting what she wants and batting away anything else that gets in her way, and the thing that gets batted away most often is me.

Shocked and hurt and feeling so misunderstood and wronged I decided to go back to my house. So I crossed in front of her car to get there but as I was the hurt and anger welled up inside me to such a point that I turned and yelled, "You are so mean." It's also likely that as I was crossing she decided I wasn't moving fast enough for her and to gave me another honk just for good measure and that is what made me turn and yell but I don't remember but the next thing I knew she had revved up her engine and hit me in the knees. I feel forward onto the hood of her car and looked up at her with so much hurt and anger. Then she laid on her horn as if to say, "So what, now get out of my way." So I stood up and started swearing and crying, I called her a bitch, and I don't know what else. I was in so much shock I remember looking at her for just a moment and then she hit me again and kept going. I thought if I fell backwards she would run me over so I managed to roll away from the grill and to the side. Then I went inside and cried like a wild wounded creature for a very long time.

If it weren't for my ability to calm myself by writing, I don't know what I would do. Thoughts of suicide and self injury flashed through my mind, but these are never real, and only come up when I am in deep invalidated pain. It's sort of like, if I did this, then they'd feel that, and I know that is a totally unrealistic plan, and something I would never inflict on my beloved son.

I never asked her to take Beau to karate and I certainly didn't ask her to take him to the movie. in fact we were planning on seeing it this past weekend. But like some competitive kid she always tries to pick the hot new movie and get me to commit him to going to it with her instead of me. So thinking this would make her happy and beau would have a chance to spend some more time with his grandmother I agreed.

Every summer she hassles me about getting Beau involved in camp or some form of structured activity. Beau who is a wild, rebellious, sometimes nonconformist, just like his mother, just wants to be left alone to enjoy a long, unstructured period of time, where there are no demands, no stress, no rush. The last thing he wants is to have to go to bed early every night, so he can get up early every day to get in another school bus and go somewhere. He does that all year. Not having to do that is what summer is for.

A long time ago when he was in preschool, not having much experience with child raising, I would look to the other mothers to see what the other children were doing to get ideas for Beau. Whenever I would see something great and fun for Beau I would go to my parents, who had agreed to pay for his education and set up a trust fun to do so, and ask them for money. For every single request there would be a hassle. The only thing that mother seemed to want to support was swimming, which was great and he took lessons. But he was interested in French and of course when we asked if he could take this little inexpensive during school class that cost a bit extra she said no and that he doesn't need that. Never mind that the entire class would have cost less than a third of the price of just one pair of her shoes. Now of course she says she thinks he should take French and asks why I never gave him classes, and denies that any of this ever happened. It is enough to make the strongest of people stark raving mad. I could give you a hundred examples of this and it still wouldn't be enough, there are so many I have buried and forgotten.

I tried to tell a psychiatrist this, that I thought I was remarkably resilient given a lifetime of her rigidity, cruel control, and sudden and spontaneous lapses into extreme meanness. Of course he shot me down saying that he didn't think so, that other people can easily cope with this sort of thing, and in just one half session, proclaimed me bipolar and in need of medication. Well, you know what I said to that, see ya. But given my background and a complete lack of real maternal support I am now undermined with the worry that I might just need the medications. Not that I don't support medical intervention and help for chemical imbalances and suffering of any kind. Quite the contrary I'm all for it. I just don't want to be altering myself chemically in order to be able to withstand what is completely untenable, the horribly abusive narcissistic behavior of my mother. Why should I pay the price for her failing to see her own flaws and seek help? Why should I have to walk around numb and zoned out so that I can stand to be around someone whose ego is roaring out of control?

It can't just be that everyone should just buckle under, wear pretty dresses, bras, girdles, pantyhose, conservative makeup and two and one half inch heels, in order to please their mother. I just can't be the person she wants me to be. I am never going to play bridge or drive a Cadillac. I am not going to study economics or learn to play golf, wear a mink coat, and disassociate myself from my elderly friends once they become embarrassing at parties. Our standards, our beliefs, our world-view, politics, sense of right and wrong, and what is decent and indecent, are not completely in synch. She eats meat, I don't. She is a Republican, I'm not. She is cheap and worships money while I am a spendthrift and spend casually. She hates Jews while I love them. She thinks African Americans are a subspecies of human, and I won't even say what I think of that. She thinks homosexuality is repulsive, our government would never lie to us, women should marry for money as long as they sort-of like the man, oral sex is for prostitutes and not to be mentioned ever, in fact sex is repulsive and not to be spoken of, while at the same time she slavers lasciviously over any couple displaying any amount of affection in public, while she searches for a wedding ring on the woman's finger to determine whether or not she should judge her for it. To be with her, to travel with her, to have lunch with her is to listen to all of her opinions and repulsive prejudice.

To have a simple meal out in public is to watch her snap at waitpersons and demand queenly service. The woman who rode hard on me regarding perfect table manners and behavior in public, now makes embarrassingly loud orgiastic sounds while she eats, speaks with a mouth full of food, and always spills some on her blouse. She dominates every conversation or becomes impatient and bored and cuts me off, saying things like, "Hurry up and get to the point". She who is always late complains bitterly of any delay or inconvenience, puffs up and suspiciously eyes the check, forcing people to account for her own errors in calculation, and resents and undercuts anyone deserving of a tip. Is it any wonder I dread having a meal with her and count the minutes until we can leave, despite the fact that my eager mother-love needing heart years for her company.

My bouncy resilient son who watched this whole thing from the windows of his room, and who says he thought my mother would kill me, is running and laughing, and playing keep away with a big bag of tortilla chips. I worry so much about the affect this will have on him and I take some small comfort in the fact that he seems to be able to forgive and forget. But who knows if this is a learned behavior and that as an adult he will be plagued with the same problems; a turning towards food for comfort from suffering, debting, love addiction, abstinence from the things he loves most. God help us I hope not.

My mother actually came back about thirty minutes later, parked down the block and sent her maid in to get Beau so he could go swimming and then to karate. I guess she was trying to undo the mess while maintaining her anger and victim status with me. I knew she would turn this around and make it all my fault. I am the inconsiderate one, I'm the one that made everyone miss the movie. Not her, not wonderful generous lady bountiful, herself. When beau saw Rosa he ran upstairs and hid and refused to go. He had already told me that he does not want to go anywhere with grandma ever. I am always the one who has to repair things between them and persuade him to go when she has misbehaved. But today I would do no such thing. How could I insist that he go with my mother who'd just been so insane as to hit her daughter with her car? So I said no, knowing she would become further angered and blame me more.

I called the police because I wanted to know what my rights were. I wanted to know if I could simply record this event somewhere without actually involving them and sending her to jail. I mean how could I do something like that to my eighty-four year old mother who totally supports me and puts up with my insane charging and the cats and everything else. But I just wanted to know and they said that of the three levels of crime what she had done was a felony and that they would take any report like mine very seriously and that she would certainly be arrested. So of course I did not report her.

This has been happening to me all my life. This abusive behavior on the part of my mother followed by my complete disintegration and subsequent recovery. Then I pick up the pieces and move on. It doesn't matter whether it is a car, or cruel words, the slamming down of a phone on me when I am in mid sentence, or the hands of my father pushing and shoving me up against a wall or slapping my face. They are all tools she employs to maintain control and dominance. The brute reactions of a very frightened bully of a woman. She is and has been in charge, manipulating me behind the scenes, my entire life. She is as harsh and iron fisted as my grandmother before her. She is also as completely and totally self absorbed and egocentric.

It seems to me as if they cut out her heart when they cut out her uterus. I don't remember when she behaved as a female. Or maybe I do and it's too painful to recollect the loss of what little soft warmth there was for me. Because as a young woman in need of her mother's spotty inconsistent maternal affection, the change in her was so sudden and complete. She went from being the mother I used to adore to being this jealous, competitive, abusive, monster of an ice princess.

No one ever explained what happens to women when their hormones go haywire. No one cared. All I knew was that Mom was meaner and scarier and what little there was of her that was loving to me was gone. Then when I naturally turned to my father she became threatened and destroyed the possibility of our closeness with triangle games.

Now she does things for me with money and I am very grateful. Things that other people who struggle and suffer and work so hard would give anything to have. But the price I pay is too high. I think it cost me my marriage, although some would say I'm lucky it did, and perhaps someday I might see it that way as well. All I know is that I am trapped, a puppet, and that I turned over the strings to my hard hearted mother a long time ago in exchange for things. For this house and money, and the hope that one day when she leaves this earth, I will have enough to buy myself a measure of freedom and independence, and do a little good for the people I love. In the meantime I pay and pay and pay, and people are jealous and resentful and take advantage of me. I don't know who to trust and I retreat further into this shell that the world points and shakes it's judgments at.

It's all the same and yet this time it is somehow worse. I mean I am accustomed to it. I know that I am not allowed to be angry. I am not allowed to be right, to best her, to stand up to her or to exceed her in any way. She is the Queen, the pretty princess and I am some kind of magic mirror toy. If I look good, if I behave nicely, if I do what she says then somehow I am reflecting back to her that she is a good person, a good mommy, a social queen who deserves to be worshipped. But if I don't conform, if I want to do something low class and tacky like be an actress, or dye my hair a weird shade of red, or associate with anyone less than her ideal standard of white wealthy and upper class then I am reflecting poorly on her. If I become fat, if I am unproductive according to her definition, if I am not providing her with something to brag about, if I am ever unhappy, upset, or the worst thing that I could ever possibly be, which is angry, then I am a bad mirror and must be shattered.

I called my personal therapist and my family therapist and they were both kind enough to return my calls. My therapist Susan said, "You're probably one of the smartest people I know and the most creative, I'm not saying that you have to say I won't take a dime because you would go under, but we shouldn't work on one single thing other than this. Maybe we can give you a year or something but I have got to get you away from this woman. You cant just give up your life like this, you don't ever have to have this happen to you again, you don't ever, ever, ever, have to be in this place again!" Then when my other kind therapist Michael called I had calmed down a bit because I had been sitting here writing but when he said, "Bless your heart," I started to weep at the kindness in his voice. A kindness, empathy and understanding that I have been longing to have from my own mother and never seem to be able to get.

All along as I have been writing this my fantasy has been that I would print this out and send it to her. That she would read it and react to it with compassion and love. But I know that her reaction would be defensive, that she would compliment me on my writing and put me down for not finding a way to make money with it. That she might weasel out some form of apology but that she would be mostly enraged that I dare to misunderstand her tremendous generosity and goodness, and that she would call me ungrateful and spoiled as she has so done throughout my life.