This takes place roughly two days after this incident. My mom and I are in the car; she is driving, and I am in the passenger seat.
“Did you see your AP Psychology grade?” she asks.
I shake my head.
“You have a 99%,” she says,” I bet you’re at the top of the class.”
“Teachers love students who work hard,” she goes on,” I’m sure it brings your teacher great happiness to have a student who works as hard as you do.”
I nod. Usually, when I’m with my mom, I don’t speak. Not because I’m afraid, though that is the case some times, but because that’s just how it is. She talks. I listen.
“I saw some people on the red carpet,” she says. I assume she is referring to the Hollywood stars.
“They wear black pants with white shirts like you wanted,” she says,” when I saw them, I thought, maybe you do have some fashion sense.”
Today, I lied to my doctor. I was getting my annual physical done for tennis, and she was asking me questions about my personal life and my health so that she could give me her approval to play. My mom was in the room with us, sitting at my side.
She asked pretty standard questions at first. How much sleep do you get? Six or seven hours a night. What’s your favorite subject? English. What’s your least favorite subject? Physics. She laughed, and made a joke about how that’s what keeps the world spinning around.
“Do you have any conflict in the family?”
A small part of me wanted to say “Yes!” and blab about every single time my mom has put me down or called me names or, well, emotionally abused me. Sort of like Frances from Bitter Melon by Cara Chow. But a bigger part of me – or maybe a smaller, yet stronger part of me – resisted. I’m not sure why. Maybe because of being raised with a more collectivist as opposed to individualist mindset. Maybe I was scared of what would happen with my mom less than a foot away from me. Maybe I was simply too weak. Either way, I said no.
I don’t lie to myself though. I know there is conflict in my family, and lots of it. I won’t go into too much personal detail, because this is the internet and I think everyone got a good enough picture from my last post, but its there.
A lot of people like to use a roller coaster as a metaphor for unstable relationships. With my mom, I feel like I’m always at the top of a roller coaster (without the whole feel-good adrenaline thing… I’m not a roller coaster kind of guy). I never know what will happen next. I don’t know whether closing the car door too softly will cause an eruption of insults, or if my B+ in Physics will portend an avalanche of emotional attacks. I don’t know if she’ll indirectly somewhat-praise me like she did in the car today. It is difficult and destructive and dangerous. But it can be sad and bittersweet and even a little bit rewarding, too.
There are always pros and cons in this type of situation. When I was younger, the cons always outweighed the pros. I used to be blinded by everything my mom told me, believing every insult she said to me, even if she didn’t think they were true herself. I thought the world wasn’t a stable and safe place, and I thought that I would be better off… somewhere else. I wasn’t sure why I was alive.
Yet there are positives too. My passion for reading was born as an escape plan from reality, and has developed into a (hopefully!) lifelong love. My work ethic, which was embedded into me by a fear of failure and its punishments, has become internal, along with my drive to succeed. My eyes were opened to not only how bad I have it but how much worse (a lot, lot worse) others have it – and now, I dedicate my life to making a change.
The story of me and my mom does not have an ending. It is a cycle, a cycle that has good moments and bad moments. With my first post, I showed one of the bad ones – and with this post, a good one. My goal was to give as unbiased a perspective I could possibly give, and hopefully I have accomplished that. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on the first “installment” of this really personal and revealing story, I haven’t read all of them yet but your support means the world to me.
I said that my mom and I won’t have an ending, and that our relationship is a cycle. But maybe, one day, I will escape the cycle – and that will be our ending. Who knows? Tomorrow is another day.
*edit: okay, so, in the end, after throwing another screaming fit my mom decided to force me to wear another pair of pants. But, that’s okay, they’re just pants – and I’ll have plenty of opportunities to choose my own clothing in the future. In the big picture, no big deal at all. There is always hope.