Sunday, December 31, 2006

Have I shared my feelings re: children on planes?

At the airport, to my surprise, I was ushered into the much shorter First/Business Class security line, because I've attained Gold Status. I wasn't in any hurry... which is a good thing, because the line wasn't moving any faster, although there was only one family instead of the twenty people in the other line. It's amazing how long it takes to get small children through anything... so there I was, watching a line of twenty people go by, while in front of me this excessively blond family tried to get their kids to sit still or walk still. Blond... annoying... in first class... oh, no! Was I getting a preview of the next generation of the Hilton sisters? Yes, I know, I too was blond when I was a child (see photo of me already having an attitude problem)... but at least my parents had the decency to only have one of me.

And I don't recall crying on planes (my mom said I was a very calm child, doesn't know what happened).

My hostility to children has grown out of control. I realized that again when I couldn't help but laugh, upon reading about the parents who had to argue over whether it was their dog or ferret that chewed off their kid's toes. I know it's not funny, but you have to admit... it's a little funny. But don't worry, I won't let any dogs or ferrets near my own children, or yours should you choose to trust me with them.

On that note, Happy New Year!

Repetition

Perhaps my mom's relies on repetition because she overestimates its effectiveness. For some reason. I certainly don't encourage it-- hearing something more than once doesn't inspire better results from me-- and I certainly don't like to repeat myself.

So, if I'm in the middle of something in another part of the house when it occurs to my mother to call for me, it's really not necessary to keep calling for me as I'm finishing what I'm doing (Lesson I of calling me from another part of the house). My mother has never actually understood that unless something is urgent-- i.e. something's on fire, etc. (I've discussed in the past her and my differing understandings of the concept of urgency)-- I'm going to finish what I'm doing first. Seeing something on TV that she wants to tell me about is not urgent, so I'd finish, say, typing a sentence, etc. Continuing to say or scream "A....!" while I finish typing my sentence is not going to make the sentence go any faster. And, actually, screaming for me to drop what I'm doing because she has a thought she wants to share, leads me to take her less seriously whenever she screams for me for whatever reason (Lesson II). There's no way to differentiate an "A....!" inspired by, "I've been meaning to ask you, did you ever apply to Google?" from one inspired by, "that pot is going to boil over and I'm in the middle of something, could you remove it please," etc. There's a Lesson II: It takes a few seconds to get from one part of the house to another (the house is not very big but still), so, in a variation on Lesson I, once you hear me say, "I'm coming," you can stop with the "A....!"s.

Nonetheless, this morning, when my father started doing laundry around the same time my mother started taking a shower, and I started reading the paper, the following scene ensued:

Mom: A....!!!
A.: I'm coming!
Mom: A....!!!
A.: I said I'm coming
Mom: A....!!!
Mom: A....!!!
Mom: A....!!!
Mom: A....!!!

Or however many she managed to get in there in the ten seconds after "I said I'm coming" but before I actually reached her.

Now, as for my not liking to repeat myself-- don't get me wrong, it's not like I can't be bothered to repeat what I've said if someone didn't hear it. It's more like, upon having established something (for example, "no I have not applied to Google and no I do not plan on applying to Google," or "I have no political rationale for not drinking coffee. I don't like coffee;"), I do not care to revisit that discussion. And I'd established that in my opinion, there is much too much food on the table at every meal and it's unnecessary, and if it's food that can't really be tupperwared, i.e. that should be eaten, I always feel like crap at the end of the meal. It's very Russian to have a lot of appetizers or side dishes around-- fair enough. That's still no excuse for the following conversation:

Mom: Should I also cook the green beans?
A.: Absolutely not, I think there's already a ton of food.
[A few minutes elapse.]
Mom: Oh, I'll put out the eggplant...
A.: There is an insane amount of food on the table.
[A few minutes elapse.]
Mom: Do you think I should put out the seaweed salad?
A.: No! No! I've already told you I don't think you should put anything else out!

I mean, WHY does she keep asking me? Had I not made clear my feelings on the matter of putting out more food? If she wants to set out more food, fine, but please stop asking me. Although I'd really rather she didn't set out more food, because the more food on the table, the more items about which she'll ask why I'm not eating them, and then lecture me on their nutritional value.

I'm actually not very picky about food-- if it's vegetarian/pescatarian, I'll eat it. I can't eat everything at once, though, and there are some things I am quite picky about, like eggs. I take eggs very seriously (fried ones, anyway). I like them over-easy, on toast, and served hot. Over-easy because I prefer very firm whites and completely liquid yolks; on toast or even just bread because something has to catch the yolk when you break it-- otherwise there's egg yolk on your plate and who needs that? My father has different fried egg preferences, has more tolerance for runny egg whites. This is why when we have fried eggs for breakfast, I tend to make my own, he tends to make his own, and whoever has the bigger skillet also makes my mom's, because she's not as particular about her eggs. My dad and I have discussed our respective fried egg preferences and reasons for those preferences, not once. So while it was very sweet of him to start working on frying eggs for me this morning, I'm glad I stopped him in time, since when I came into the kitchen, I saw him frying two pieces of bread with holes in them (he would later fry the eggs into the holes). Which defeats the whole purpose of having the bread there. To catch the yolk. Again, not complaining-- it was very nice of him-- just... shaking my head, since we've had that conversation so many times, perhaps even earlier that week.

I have to take a minute to dwell on my dad's quirks. He's very much a creature of habit, to the point that it's almost impossible to get him to change his ways on anything, just because that's the way he's always done it. Even things that are much, much, easier-- paying bills and filing taxes online; or more practical-- not slicing an entire loaf of fresh bread at once, so less of the uneaten part goes stale or dries out; are done the more difficult, impractical way, because that's the way he's always done things. This frustrates my mother no end. It frustrates me occasionally.

I can't draw the connection in words between my dad's resistance to change, and his try at frying eggs my way, but there's just something there and if you knew him it would make sense.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I get it, I'm not sexy

I've established, this week if not before, that my mom has a thing for repetition. Didn't like the answer to a question? Keep asking until you get the response you wanted; didn't quite convince your interlocutor of your point? Just keep repeating it; didn't get your daughter to apply to Google? Don't let her off the phone until she agrees to do it... and then remind her every time you talk to her.

Well, for years my mom has been telling me that I am not sexy, etc. By 'etc.', I mean variations such as, 'the way you walk is really not sexy.' It should go without saying that I have not responded to this comment by enrolling in modeling school or making any attempt whatsoever to become or walk more 'sexy.'

So this morning, almost from out of nowhere, I hear, "you're very... professional; you're not... sexy."

I say almost because in retrospect I've reconstructed my mother's train of thought-- we'd been talking about Wendy's upcoming wedding, she was probably thinking, why am I not getting married, and then realized it's because I'm apparently lacking in 'sexy.'

Mom: You're very... professional. you're not... sexy. You're intimidating-- you're not approachable...

A.: [Yawn]

Mom: You're somewhat... harsh...

A.: [Yawn]

Mom: ...you always have to be right...

A.: I'll have to disagree with you there. I know people who always have to be right. I do not always have to be right.

Mom: Well, you're somewhat... rough around the edges.


I've heard most of this a million times and it doesn't bother me. I mean, it bothers me more that my mother has taken it upon herself to counsel me on my perceived level of sexiness, than that there may be a problem with said sexiness. But even that doesn't really bother me-- I pick my battles.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Carrots, a feel-good blog

I've often said that my favorite Ali G. interview was the one with James Baker... Ali G. asks Baker how the U.S. gets countries to do what it wants, Baker says 'carrots and sticks' and is asked, 'what if the people in that country don't like carrots?' Baker goes on to explain that he doesn't mean actual carrots... which prompts Ali G. to ask, 'you mean, even if the people are starving? you wouldn't airdrop carrots?'

I reference and paraphrase that interview, because-- occupational hazard-- writing "carrots"in the subject line took my mind from mom blogging to foreign policy. But I do mean real carrots, i.e. the root vegetable, and not the proverbial counterpart to sticks.

Tonight's edition of the mom blog was inspired and made possible by my friend Martha... for which I am grateful, because it's nice to mix it up and include a simply 'odd' blog with all the 'dysfunctional' blogs.

This afternoon I got together with my friends, Wendy and Martha. We ended up getting together at Cabot's, which has amazing staying power-- it hasn't changed since I was in grade school and hasn't been, knock on wood, driven out of business. My mom didn't know I was going there; she was actually under the impression that we were getting together at Wendy's parents' house, since that had been the plan earlier in the week, pre-cold. Anyway, she called while I was at Cabot's, and (see previous blog that I'd e-mailed but not yet posted here) she's trained me to answer the phone even when I'd rather not. She said, "if you're still at Wendy's, could you borrow some carrots?" She was making soup, and only had baby carrots, which don't shred very well. I told her I was not at Wendy's, but would gladly stop at the supermarket on the way home and get her some carrots.

It was a bizarre request-- I'm not sure how she knew that Wendy's parents had an ample supply of carrots. Now that I think about it, it was probably because Wendy's parents grow things and in the past have given me and my parents zucchini from their garden. But it's not exactly gardening weather here.

I transmitted the conversation to my friends, more for its oddity than anything else, but Wendy said her parents had plenty of carrots, and offered them up. I was sort of going back and forth on the whole thing-- wouldn't it be easier and less disruptive to just stop at the store and get some carrots?

We were going to Wendy's anyway, and in the car, I mentioned to Martha and Wendy that I know had a real mom blog. Yes, what started out as an e-mail to one person and then two and then a handful, and so on, now has its own web address.

Revealing this information to Martha led her to insist on driving me to my parents house with carrots, and then driving me back (Wendy's parents had invited us to dinner)-- because it would be great for the mom blog. Mind you, the distance between our parents' houses is probably about a mile... but still.

So there I was, humiliated, as Wendy asked her parents to spare some carrots (ugh, I really can't think that word without considering its geopolitical implications... need to get out more). At that point I think I even said, "you know what, forget it, I'm just going to go to the store," but Wendy's parents did have several bags of carrots and gladly volunteered a few of them. And Martha gladly volunteered to drive me to my parents' house to deliver them. Which I'm sure she would have done anyway... but she was particularly inspired by the mom blog.

So my mom got her carrots, Wendy and her parents got to donate carrots, and Martha got to inspire a blog. Everyone wins!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You're going to bed? Now?

Everyone has different coping mechanisms for processing information they don't like. My mother's is to repeat the question that yielded the information in question, in case she gets a different answer next time.

This is partly a continuation of the down comforter saga. We've aired out the comforter, and my mother is very kind to offer to sew a case around it. As alluded to previously, the room I'm sleeping in is sort of the storage area for bedding and such. On my way to bed, I had to once again jump over things that had been tossed onto the floor (not as much fun to toss them onto the bed when I'm not trying to make said bed) to get there. I successfully navigate the obstacle course and change into my pajamas, and am in the process of crawling into bed, when my mom comes back in. She looks at me incredulously and asks, "you're going to bed?? now?" I just said yes. I didn't say, "yes, I'm going to bed now. It's past 10pm, I feel like crap, and I've already taken nighttime cold medicine so I'm even more tired. Why is it so revolutionary that I'm going to bed??"

She navigates the obstacle course toward the big closet, pulls some more stuff out. I ask her to please close the closet door, as there's cold air coming out. She says something like, "I think it's perfectly warm in here. It's just a question of what you're used to." This is another of my mother's regular themes: in spite of her best efforts, I'm just not acclimated to the cold. Just this morning actually I got a lecture about how I shouldn't be wearing slippers-- I should get my feet used to being cold.

Anyway, my mother ruffles through stuff for a few minutes, is lecturing me about something, and then, looks at me (in bed, in my pajamas, looking miserable) and says, "you're going to bed now??"

After another few minutes, it looks like she's found what she wanted and is leaving the room. I ask her again to please close the closet door. At this, she gets really upset and slams it shut. I look up and say, "what is the problem?" She says, "you've finally gotten to me!" and something like "maybe if you ever did anything yourself, I wouldn't have to be rummaging through here?"

I asked her what exactly she wanted me to do myself. She knows I can't sew. But there I went, searching for logic, before I realized that this was another familiar pattern-- who knows exactly what she's upset about-- maybe she doesn't feel like sewing a cover for the comforter. Fine. I'd offered to just buy one anyway, it seemed a lot easier. When in doubt-- when she feels like being angry at me but can't justify the feeling, she resorts to the "you never help me with anything/I'm the only one who ever does any work around here" lines. It's a classic fallback. I actually should have known it was coming, should have sensed the 'I'm the only one who cleans' mood coming on, because there was a preview right before dinner. I was working between the table and the counter, still had the ginger left to grate so it was separate from everything that was already done. She saw it on the counter and said, haughtily, "did you know that you had left the ginger on the counter?" And when I said, "yes, I'm just about to use it now," she looked crestfallen that she didn't have something to yell at me about and made some snide comment anyway. Back to that evening... she slammed the room door shut too and stormed out. And this morning she seems to have recovered from her anger. For now.

Resort Collections

I'm going to start this morning with a non-mom blog.

In my old age, I find myself on the mailing (e-mail) lists for Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenburg. Don't ask me why or how-- I've never bought anything from either store. Actually I know how but the point is, I don't shop either, because you have to be crazy to spend that much money on clothes or accessories. Anyway, from both of these companies I've recently received invitations to browse their resort collections.

Resort collections... truly epitomize the chasm between 'those people' and me. The first I heard of this concept was when Uli tragically lost Project Runway. But honestly, who are these people? Are any of you 'these people'? When I go on vacation, I pack my ratty clothes. Who invests in a 'resort collection'? I guess it's not all that much different from convoluted clothing lines at REI, but is still boggles my mind.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pop Science

I've about had it with both my parents' lack of understanding of basic biology, and their willingness to broadcast it. It's one thing when my mom makes it her goal to convince me of the infeasibility of evolution, but having to listen to their misconceptions for days at a time is really starting to grate on me.

Forgive the cliche, but I'm not a brain surgeon. Sure, I took AP biology back in the day, but there are certain things (like having heard of Che Guevara) that are, or should be, common knowledge (yes I know I don't know how my car works or how electricity comes into my house, but here's the key difference: I don't go around pretending I do know, and then lecturing people on things I don't understand). My parents didn't really take any biology, ever. I'm not just discovering this now-- the first time it really hit me was when I had to tell my dad that bacteria are distinct from viruses. And that fact was reinforced every time my mother said something like 'sitting on cold cement will make you infertile.'

Perhaps the impetus to blog about this wouldn't be as strong if it were just my mother. After all, I blogged yesterday and neglected to share the following conversation:

Mom: Weren't you getting together with you're friends?
A.: We decided to wait a few days; I don't want to make them sick.
Mom: What you have isn't contagious?
A.: What??
Mom: Your kind of of cold isn't contagious.
A.: How does that work?
Mom: You don't have the flu; what you have is a cold, so it's 'microbial.'
A.: I have a viral infection. Most colds are viral infections.
Mom: No they're not.

There have been other nuggets of that kind of wisdom here and there. I don't even remember most of them. Partly because my viral infection is making me somewhat delirious. And besides, I can't blog every time someone says something like that. I have a life.

But then my dad was asking me when I last took Tylenol. Which is acetaminophen. Of which you really don't want to take too much (although it is my drug of choice for the common cold... which by the way is VIRAL).

A.: I took some at night, and then I just took some at dinnertime.
Dad: Why didn't you take any earlier in the day?
A.: I didn't really feel like I needed it.
Dad: I used to be like you... but since then, I've learned that it's best to take a 'definitive' dose, to really get at what's ailing you...
A.: What are you talking about? Tylenol is not going to get at anything-- it doesn't kill anything. It's not an antibiotic, and this is NOT a bacterial infection...
Dad: I'm just speaking from experience... I had a cold once, and I took a lot of aspirin, and that really helped me get better right away.
A.: Who KNOWS what else was going on that time you had a cold and took aspirin! There's absolutely no benefit to taking the maximum recommended dosage of Tylenol per day.
Dad: It'll fight the cold.
A.: No, it won't.

I don't even want to think about what other medical misconceptions are floating around in this house... I'll just be grateful that no one has yet suggested that I fight the cold by drinking my own urine.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mind over Matter

Apparently, I'm sick because I wanted to be sick... I told myself to come down with this cold. So says my mother.

My dad, who's somewhat disorganized, tried to make me feel better. He brought down what he thought was a tax document that I'd need. Except that it said 2005 in large numbers on it. And it was my Roth IRA tax statement of that year... which has almost twice as much money as my Roth IRA now. Seeing it really made me feel better.

Oh, you may recall that I don't drink coffee. After breakfast, when my mom and I were deciding what to have, she asked me whether I'd prefer coffee, tea or hot chocolate. I said, 'definitely not coffee.' She said, "that's really too bad... you know, coffee fights Alzheimer's, and several other diseases..." On the bright side, that was the only nutritional lecture of the day (there were some other lectures... like how illness is mind over matter and I should tell myself not to be sick).

***

I'm not usually a particularly lazy person, but sometimes I want or even need to be lazy. And I know when I want to be lazy. I only half-planned to spend this week-- which is, after all, my week off-- being lazy. This is one reason that I'm in Boston, and not, say, kayaking on the Amazon. Something told me on Sunday that I needed to rest. But then I listened to my mother and went for a walk. Now I'd better spend the rest of the week resting... but my watery eyes hurt too much to read the whole time, and I'm not one for daytime TV.

My mom apparently disapproves of my TV watching. On Monday, we watched Scrubs. She was shocked that I managed to follow what was going on, and asked me several times whether I watched it every day. Every time, I said, "I don't watch anything every day. I barely have time to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report every day-- sometimes I rejoice when they air reruns." Today we watched Scrubs again. And my mother asked me again whether I watched it every day. And I said, "you asked me that three times yesterday." She denied it, said she hadn't asked me at all.

So now she's making this thing of how I watch too much TV.

Yes, because I'm sick and thereby even more exhausted than I'd normally be after a really exhausting few months, which included a significant flesh wound, a time-consuming car accident, the adoption of a pet, and a lot of personal and business travel. Can I please spend a week sitting on my butt and watching TV without judgment?? Without having to justify my choices??

Not that it's any one's business, but I don't watch too much TV. Or maybe I do. Do exercise videos count as TV?

All I'm saying is, when I'm tired, and especially when I'm sick, I like to watch mind-numbingly, insultingly stupid television (note: I'm not saying that about Scrubs). Would a better person spend this week reading and exercising her intellect? I don't doubt it. And maybe there's a part of me wants to be that better person. But right now, most parts of me just want to rest and consume brain candy.

Peace out.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday afternoon

I'm sitting on the couch, minding my own business, immersed in my crossword, when my mother asks me for the twelfth time whether I want to go for a walk. For the twelfth time I respond, "first of all, I don't care. Pick somewhere and we'll go." But then I decide I don't want to go. I'm burnt out, I've been fighting a cold for a month, and I want to sit on my @$$ on a Sunday afternoon, I'm entitled to do so. At first she agrees, but three questions later, she grabs my crossword out of my hand and orders me to get up and get ready to go. I think, well why not, it looks nice out, and comply, against my better judgment.

We're on our way out, when my mother notices the fruit basket.

Mom: Didn't you see that we have bananas.
A.: I did.
Mom: Bananas have potassium, they have...

It's just now, this morning, occurred to me that I am truly going to have to listen to nutritional lectures ALL WEEK. Take the conversation this morning,

Mom: Do you saute tomatoes when you make omelets?
A.: I don't, generally.
Mom: Well, that vitamin in tomatoes is best absorbed when consumed with fat...


For those of you prone to easy solutions, I don't pander. I'm not going to say 'yes, I do that,' nor will I eat everything she suggests just to get her off my back.

Anyway, we go for our walk, and the cold I've been fighting gains ground. Spare me the lecture, those of you who would argue that cold weather doesn't cause illness. Enough of it does temporarily weaken your immune system and make you more sensitive. But I don't think it was the weather... it was the activity, when my body had been telling me to rest.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that I did not fail to try to pin my condition on my mother, since she was the one who got me to go on the walk. In response, I got a lecture on how fresh air is the best remedy, etc., and then started telling me about how good for you physical activity is (really? I never would have thought). It's like all-or-nothing with my parents-- neither of them seems to understand moderation or appropriate timing. If I say I don't want to go for a walk now, it's interpreted as though I've never been for a walk in my life, nor will ever go, and treated accordingly, with a lecture on the benefits of physical activity.

***

With said cold, I get tired early and decide to go to bed, but first I need to make my bed. I'd mentioned on our walk, as we were navigating around goose droppings, that I'd considered getting a down comforter, which led me to ask myself whether I had issues with down, and decided, with some guidance (from one of the readers of this blog), that I didn't, because goose were mean and one of them attacked me once. I'm not sure how well that works, considering that mink are mean, too, but I'd still never wear their fur... but I still think I could sleep under a down comforter with a semi-clean conscience. My mother mentioned that she had one she wasn't using, and that I could try it out this week, which was wonderful news.

So I started making the bed, my mom comes up to help, and starts searching for the comforter in the depths of the closet. As I'm trying to fit another blanket into a comforter sheet, she keeps tossing things on top of it. Not blindly-- she leaves the closet, turns around, and throws pillows and other stuff on top of the bed. I ask her to stop. Finally, she finds the down comforter, which smells incredibly moldy. I suggest we take it out of the room and hang it up outside, which she goes to do. I go back to making the bed. She comes back in and starts to help me, I ask her to take that thing out of the room or let me do it, because it's making my throat worse. She lectures me on how I have no focus and jump too quickly between activities, and takes the comforter out, with a warning that I'll never get the blanket into its cover on my own. Once she leaves and there are no longer pillows falling on the comforter, I manage to stuff it into its cover in about 30 seconds, and proceed to finish making the bed in a minute.

***

In the morning, she takes piles of clothes and asks me if I want to take them with me. I say no. I've said no to these clothes before, begged her to throw them out or give them away.

Mom: But they're still good.
A.: Then YOU wear them. I have no use for them.
Mom: They were yours.
A." Yes, 15 years ago. I don't see why that means I have to wear them now.

This is particularly ironic because there are things I've wanted to keep-- books, etc.-- that she's just as adamant about throwing out, and I have to argue with her to keep them. Not even to keep them in her house-- just to keep them.

Mom: Do you really need to keep this book?
A.: Yes.
Mom: But why? It doesn't look good.

Anyway... finally she let me get up without having to agree to take the bag of clothes I wore in middle school with me. But I did come downstairs wearing a pair of pants apparently similar to those in the bag--really, just because it was there, and I go to Boston with a limited number of clothes, and save those for days I actually plan to leave the house. So I have to hear about it.

Mom: How are those pants different from those you've rejected?
A.: I wouldn't wear these outside the house.
Mom: But they're so comfortable- more comfortable than jeans.
A.: I still wouldn't wear them outside the house.

And so on for a few more rounds.

It's not the clothes. It's not the food. It's the persistence... why not suggest something and then just DROP it??? Why is that so difficult? You're not going to convince another person, another adult, to eat something she doesn't feel like eating or wear something she won't wear, by arguing with her about it. Just let it GO.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The week begins

I've been home for almost an hour, without incident. There is, of course, the usual mealtime behavior, although even that has been mild-- limited to the following kind of thing:

Mom: Would you like some [enter food name here]?
A.: No, thank you?
Mom: Really, it's healthy... [launch lecture on health properties of said food].
A.: Right, but I'm enjoying all the other food that's here. Maybe later I'll have some of that.

This sounds harmless... and it would be... if it didn't happen EVERY TIME I opt not to sample any food that's on the table.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I wonder how mom feels about my haircut

Well, I heard about the hair again first thing Saturday morning. And asked her to please drop the issue, as I didn't want to hear about the hair all weekend. She tried to claim that that was the first, maybe second mention of the hair, and maybe even added the usual, "you shouldn't be so sensitive." Maybe she didn't-- various repeated criticisms of my appearance tend to run together.

I headed downstairs to do yoga before everyone was ready for breakfast. Although I always feel better once I'm doing or have done yoga, it's often hard to motivate to do it, especially since you're not supposed to eat for a few hours beforehand and I often get hungry-- and start thinking about food when I'm supposed to be concentrating on my breath. So I have to just do it because if I start doing other things, I lose my motivation.

I'd brought home my yoga tape, because it's poor quality and about to be eaten by my VCR any day now, and my mom offered to burn it to a DVD for me. Also, with a tape, we could both do yoga-- she'd said she'd wanted to the last time I did yoga at home.

So I said I'd wait for her, but told her not to dilly dally (frequent readers will recall that my mother is a chronic dilly-dallyer). She has so much technology going on that it takes about 15 minutes to find all the right remote controls and arrange for the display to feed from the VCR. At various points in the process, mom gets distracted and starts watering her plants and doing other things. I make no secret of my wish to get on with the yoga so we can move on with our lives. Finally, about 45 minutes after I first said "I'm going to do some quick yoga," we're about to start (45 minutes is also, ironically, the duration of the program)-- we're sitting down, about to start breathing and everything-- and she starts complaining about a thin stripe of display information along the top of the screen. I plead for her to just sit down and let it go-- and she gets up again to try to fix it. I say, "okay, forget it. Just drop it. I'm starting now, with or without the tape."

She throws down the remote and says, "even yoga won't help you!"
"Yoga is all about concentration, and you're breaking mine!"
"Exactly, yoga is all about concentration! Learn to concentrate!"

And storms off. Which is just as well, because this morning she opted to do yoga along with the tape as she burned it. I opted to do it alongside. And she narrated throughout the entire tape... "this I can do, because my issues are in the knees, not the back.... this I used to be able to do... this I remember." I almost said, "if you could LISTEN to what she's saying instead of narrating what you can and can't do, you'd have an easier time with the poses," but it wasn't worth it.

Later that morning we headed out for a walk. We'd eaten an absolutely huge breakfast and I'd just brushed my teeth. My mother insisted that I try some juice-soy milk concoction that she had, and I said no. She said, "just try it." I said I didn't want to. She repeated that I should just try it. And so it went. And so it goes with EVERYTHING-- clothes that obviously don't fit me, clothes that fit me that I don't like, etc.-- she latches on and saps your will to resist.

***

That evening, we're flipping channels. We end up flipping between three movies that are playing: Finding Nemo (curiosity... I'd seen it, they hadn't), Lord of the Rings (family favorite) and Zoolander (my preference at the time). Now, part of the reason I was nudging us away from LOTR was that my mom just LOVES to narrate how every part of the movie is different from what happened in the book, which makes for a less than enjoyable viewing experience. Luckily, I wasn't trying to enjoy Finding Nemo, because I had to listen to a barrage of logistical questions ranging from "how come all the sea creatures speak the same language, and why is that language English?" to "why would the torpedo cause that kind of explosion," as well as ethical issues such as "now children are going to think that parent fish actually care about their offspring, and that fish as a whole cooperate with each other." When the movie ended, she asked whether the dad and the annoying forgetful fish got married. I told her that that was left to the imagination. She said the storyline was left unresolved unless they specified the relationship between the two.

The other films must have been in commercials when the credits rolled, because were watching them, prompting my mother to ask, "who's she?"

A.: "Who's who?"
Mom: "She?"
A.: "??"
Mom: "The she in the song."

The song was "Beyond the Sea"-- just the song that played while the credits rolled. I really didn't have an answer for that.

The best part of the whole thing was, in my flipping, I'd stopped on the Discovery Channel, which was showing a gorilla, with some sort of narration about that gorilla's life. My mother, hearing the narration, said, "what, the gorilla's talking, too??"

See, this is a whole other issue, of my mother not-- ever, really-- taking the time to assess the situation before either freaking out or asking someone else. Case in point: there was some small, plastic tube-like thing with a label that she tried to give me this morning to take with me.

"Isn't that your bee-sting kit? Why do you leave these things lying around the house"
"I don't even know what that is. It's not mine."
"Yes it is."

I then read the label. It was some sort of funnel for pouring motor oil.

***

I thought I'd maybe get through a whole weekend without a major screaming fight (the one over yoga was medium-grade). The big ones usually end in my father getting involved, only to be yelled at to stay out of it and be called an idiot who doesn't understand anything. In the interest of avoiding such a fight, I'd let my mother rant on about politics (and how right glenn beck is about everything, etc.), but she said something (I'll spare you the details) that I couldn't resist responding too-- it was just my civic obligation. I wasn't interested in getting into a discussion of the issue-- as much as it bothers me that my mother thinks the way she does, I'm not going to change her mind... I do wish I didn't have to hear about it all the time, and I've asked her to spare my the political verbal barrage, especially at mealtime. So it was ironic that at one point, she said, "you know what, this conversation is over! I'm not going to talk to you about this anymore!" I should have just let it go then, but I had to open my big mouth and say, "thank you! that's what I've been asking you to do all weekend!" After all, if I wanted to listen to people ignorantly discuss issues that they don't understand, I may as well go to work. I believe I said as much. Anyway, that just encouraged her to keep going.

For some reason, my pleas to escape her indoctrination campaign fall on deaf ears. Did I tell you (I know I've told some of you, but have I documented to all of you...) about the time she called me to ask me why I'd sent her something by e-mail? I'd sent her a review of restaurants in a city that she was about to visit (I got a similar response when I sent her, a year or so ago, an Economist City Guide that profiled galleries in Buenos Aires, as she was headed there). If you're not interested, delete the e-mail and move on with your life. Instead, she calls me full of hostility to make me justify why I sent her that e-mail.

I said, "I thought you might be interested in restaurants in Jerusalem."
"You KNOW I don't like to eat at restaurants."
"Fine. Delete the e-mail. I'm not trying to get you to eat at restaurants. I don't understand why we're having this conversation. I've asked you myriad times not to send me all the crap you forward on."
"Fine! I won't send you anything at all!"
"Please don't."

But she still DOES.

Anyway, as I'd probably mentioned before, as much as my mother's backwards political ideas bother me (and this is almost objectively backwards, to the extent such a thing is possible), it bothers me as much that I'm constantly subject to her expressing them, and even move that when I can't take it anymore and decide to argue back, she's impossible to talk to because she argues like O'Reilly, i.e. she simplifies and extremizes your argument to try to delegitimize it. (Easy case in point-- as part of her campaign to prove to me that evolution is impossible, and in response to my response of, "could we just drop this, I'm not going to agree with you and I don't want to talk about it," she'll say, "so you think we've come straight from being amebas?" I just refuse to stoop to that level of discourse.
***

That's all for now, and hopefully, for the weekend. Since I'll be home for a week, starting next week, I'll put these on an actual blog so as not to overwhelm your mailboxes. Happy Sunday!

A.

P.S. Over lunch, she mentioned that she didn't like my haircut.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's been an hour

we get back from the airport, get out of the car.

"Did you cut your hair?" my mom asks, inquisitively.

"I did."

"It looked better long."

It's taken me a month to get used to and accept this haircut.


About twenty minutes later, over tea:

"I just think there's too much hair in your face."

"I don't want to talk about it."

About twenty minutes after that, I catch her looking at me with a confused expression. I pre-empt her comment:
"Could you please lay off my haircut?"

"I just think this look doesn't work for you."

"I don't want to hear about it."

This has worked so far. I'll let you know how many times it comes up throughout the weekend.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

DO NOT DISTURB Airlines

I'm looking for a venture capitalist to fund my dream: STFU airlines. No yapping, whining, or crying children; no mindlessly bantering adults; just peace and quiet.

While we're at it, we'll ban strong perfume.

And people who take hours to get their luggage stowed.

Any takers?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Master of veiled insults

Mom calls, tells me about her weekend, tossing in some hidden insults:
"we went to this book reading, and I'd say you would have liked it but since you know nothing about Russian history, I doubt it... [more on how interesting the evening was...]... have you heard of Stalin?" to which I say, "nope, never heard of him until now," but she doesn't miss a beat and continues to discuss the book reading.

Herbal remedies

As some of you may have noticed, my mom is really into herbal remedies, so when she heard about the second installment of the arm saga—in which I got a hive-like reaction around the wound that looked infected—she offered one up. Actually, she was not thrilled that I was on antibiotics again—and while I acknowledge that it wasn't ideal, it was a necessary precaution.

[Comment: There was another saga-- apparently I didn't have a doctor, as I'd fired the one I'd had but then the one on my insurance card, recommended by a friend, had awful office staff, which is apparently very, very common. When I called to make an appointment, her office staff asked me about my insurance and then told me they weren't taking new patients. I found out too late that her office staff is just rude and she'd done that to someone else, too (who walked into the office and sat there until she was seen).

I eventually did get to a doctor, who wasn't convinced that my arm was infected (she said it was just as likely to be irritation from being wrapped up all the time, and/or allergic reaction to the topical antibiotic) but gave me antibiotics just in case.

Anyway, my mom returns from Israel and leaves me some bitchy phone message about how I could have called her (in Israel?!?) I didn't actually pick up the phone because I was driving, but it was one of those messages I've learned to dread (this becomes important—she has TRAINED me to pick up the phone, even when I don't want to, because otherwise I have to listen to the "I just don't understand why you can't pick up the phone!" message. In its extremes, it takes the form of "It's 9pm on a Saturday night—where could you possibly be that you're not picking up your phone?").

Here's why I picked up the phone on Wednesday night, even though I was just about to go to bed, was REALLY looking forward to going to bed. The worst-case scenario is this: she leaves me a message after I've gone to bed. I get it in the morning but opt not to call her, because a) it's really early in the morning and b) I'm in a hurry to get out of the house/get to work. I don't call her during the day because I'm pretty busy (I can't have my cell phone inside the building, I don't have time to walk out to my car, and I certainly don't want to engage in a protracted conversation—and with my mother, it's always protracted, because "this is a bad time" means nothing to her. In her language, "this is a bad time" sounds like "well, just go ahead and tell me what you were going to tell me." So, by the time I have a chance to return her past-my-bedtime call, it's the afternoon of the following day, and my mother lacks the ability to use logic to calm herself down, to think, hmmm, I left the first message after she'd gone to bed; she either didn't see it in the morning or didn't get a chance to call me back; she'll call this afternoon," and I get this snide message about how I'm so irresponsible about returning her calls.

Actually, once soon after I moved to DC, she called me pretty late at night; a friend was visiting, we were watching a movie. I didn't answer the phone. By the time I'd remembered that the phone had rung, and got the message, it was 3AM. I chose not to return the call then. So what happens? I get a frantic uninvited wake-up call at 7AM the next morning, with both parents screeching at me about how I hadn't returned their call. It's like they just can't do the math. Why is it so hard to think, "she probably has not been awake between now and the time we left the message"??

That and my mother's idea of urgent ranges from, "there's a show on the Travel Channel you have to see" (I've told her several times that I don't GET the Travel Channel), to "there's this guy I want to set you up with; I've never met him, but I know you'll be perfect for each other because he's a vegan and he rides his bike to work." Remember that one? It was preceded by a message on my then-work voicemail that said "call me as soon as you get this!" in a very urgent tone.

So, back to Wednesday night, just around my bedtime. I answer the phone, although I'm exhausted and just want to crawl into bed, thinking (against my better judgment) that I could say, "I'm going to bed" and do so. But mom, disturbed that I was on antibiotics, told me to call a friend of hers (ours) that lives around here to pick up this herbal remedy from her.

I said, "I'm fine, it's getting much better. Besides, I'm already ON antibiotics, I have to keep taking them."

"I just called Natalie, she has [said herbal remedy] for you. Call her right now and arrange to meet with her to pick it up."

"I'm going to bed, I'll call her tomorrow"

"Well I just talked to her and she's expecting your call right now!"

"Why did you tell her I would call? You know I get up early and try to get to bed early. Why do YOU even call me at 10pm? I AM NOT CALLING HER RIGHT NOW."

"Yes you are!"

"You can call her and tell her I've already gone to bed"

But she wore me down and I ended up calling, but it made me really angry that she would volunteer me to call, but also volunteer me to pick up this stuff. Natalie lives in McLean, which is half an hour each way on a good day (and DC area traffic is never a good day), and I have NO time. I mean, I do but I don't. Luckily Natalie offered to send it to me (and to my mom).

You have no idea how much I would have resented my mother if, on Saturday morning, which was beautiful, I'd have had to drive over there instead of going on a bike ride-- my first since the accident.

Mom kept saying, "it'll be five minutes," then "two minutes," then "one minute," and I kept saying, "no it won't, I'll have to make small talk, ask her about her grandson, etc." so afterward I called my mom back and said it was 12 minutes and thank you very much, it'll be another night I'll be getting less than 7 hours of sleep.

I mean, yes it was only 12 minutes but I think it speaks to the greater issue of her being oblivious to and very generous of MY time. She doesn't even think twice about it, as if I have nothing going on. It reminds me of the time, when I was in grad school, and it was finals, and she asked me to mail her a video (of a movie) and I said, "I'm really busy, I can't get to the post office, why don't you go to a video store??" and she said she didn't have time to go to a video store. She's retired. I had finals. And yet she argued with me about this. I could say, "yeah… you're really busy, you buy stuff, assemble it, and write complaint letters about it," but that would be unfair. I could also say, "of course, I'll let you go crash what's left of my IRA." Except that's not fair—she really does have some things to do. And while fairness doesn't factor into her repertoire, I won't stoop to her level.

It's not that I don't ask her for favors, but I never say, "drop everything and do this NOW." I say, "could you, at your convenience, do this for me?" When I was younger, my mother would go through the mail, or newspapers, and throw them into a messy pile on the floor, and then have me stop what I was doing to pick them up and put them in the recycle bin. It's the mentality. If I were typing this up at her house right now, she'd think nothing of calling me into another room because it occurs to her to say something to me, and she'd have to say it that minute. She wouldn't walk over to where I was—she'd interrupt what I was doing and call me in, because she has no respect for the fact that I have something else going on.

Except this is worse than if I were just sitting e-mailing in another room in her house, because things are very frantic now. Yes, I do fun things too, but I need those fun things and I'm not going to drive for an hour when I could be, say, reading, for something she thinks I need.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Have you applied to Google yet?

We'd had a mostly pleasant conversation for the better part of half an hour-- they told me about their trip, which was great; about their fridge drama (yes I'm domesticated-- I identified, having just survived some washing machine and vacuum cleaner drama); etc. There were a few typical mom things, as well as some typically unnecessary one, the former being of the "you're back on antibiotics?? no, no, you must stick to natural remedies!" variety, and the latter being, well, unnecessary. For example, she was talking about a museum in Israel she went to and said, "you know, you really should learn about the Holocaust. It's really not something one can afford to be ignorant about." To which I responded that she needn't worry, I had heard of it once or twice before she brought it up. To which she angrily, and oddly, responded, "yes well I've heard of it too!" It's like she's so caught up in a childish game of "am not/are too!" that she doesn't really what she's actually saying.

So we're saying our goodbyes, and... any guesses as to what come next? Anyone?


"Have you sent your resume to Google yet?"
"Goodbye."
"Pick up a copy of Fortune 500. Better yet look it up online."
"Goodbye, mom."
"You should just try..."
"Goodbye."
"No! Listen to me!"
"I've heard enough, thank you."
"No, you will listen to me!"
"Goodbye, mom."
"Fine! Don't call again!"
[Dad laughs.]

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mom's birthday weekend

I think I'll start backwards, to set the mood. But first, a bit of background:

Saturday was my mother's birthday, for which I've come to Boston. Part of the impetus to make it up here was the presence of Nina, a very close friend (and daughter of very close family friends-- this makes us partners in "my family is crazy"ness), who lives in Prague but has been in town for the last few weeks. Nina helped make some parts of the evening (in which about 15 close family friends come to dinner) tolerable, until she left to go to a concert (to which she bought last-minute tickets minutes before she heard that I actually would be in town). Knowing she would leave early, she also arrived early, and we had a few moments to sit and chat. We were like two anthropologists:

"isn't that crazy, how one minute you're having a completely normal conversation, and then all of the sudden, she starts screaming?"

…and so on. It's really comforting to know that I'm not alone.



Anyway, on to the good stuff. As everyone's leaving, I make a move to walk people to the door, but Nina's mother ambushes and corners me, saying,

"Now, say what you will, but there's only one way to make your arm better."

I know EXACTLY where this is going. I brace myself. I can handle it, actually... but I feel rude ignoring everyone else, who is leaving, to listen to a speech about how I should apply urine to my wound.

You may be surprised, but I know what she's going to say before she even says it. When Nina was little and would hang out in her house with her friends, her mother would approach the group and tell them about how urine makes your skin soft and is an integral part of any skin care routine.

By the way, I tried to be incognito but the ^$^@*#% gauze kept slipping.

Anyway, I nodded politely and extracted myself. In case you're wondering, I'm going to stick with soap, water and topical antibiotic.

***

That really was the highlight of the evening. There were a few other incidents worth mentioning, at least for the Mom stories aficionados:


-Earlier, thankfully before anyone else got there, she had a classic Mom moment: ask me a question that I've answered at least five times before, on a topic I clearly do not want to talk about. Clearly. She asked me if I was even looking for other work. I handled it well. Then, she decided to ask me again at dinner. Someone else asked a follow-up question, to which the answer was "I was very close to getting another job, but it fell through in the paperwork stage." I actually wanted my mother to say, "why didn't you tell me about it?" so I could say, "I TRIED BUT YOU INTERRUPTED ME TO ASK WHETHER I'D APPLIED TO GOOGLE!" but instead, she asked another classic Mom-type question-- one in which she requests a level of detail she can't possibly appreciate and is completely irrelevant to her. This can take the form of, in response to my saying I went to a party somewhere, asking where geographically the party was (she doesn't know the DC area). She'll interrupt stories and jokes to ask for unnecessary detail all the time. Nonetheless, she chooses to ask, "what part of the paperwork fell through?" Okay, first of all, I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, and I seriously doubt anyone else wants to hear about it. Second, she knows the government is full of paperwork; she's always complaining about it. I can hardly keep it straight-- does she really think she'll benefit from learning what form kept me from a job?


-The why-on-earth-do-you-live-in-DC conversation (memorable because it's joined the why-do-you-wear-sunblock and why-don't-you-drink-coffee conversations in the ranks of things we've discussed ad nauseum, yet they just keep coming up.

Mom: I don't understand how you can live somewhere where there's no water. Not even a river.

A.: Um, DC is on a river.

Mom: That doesn't count. You don't have lakes you can swim in during the summer.

A.: No, no I don't. We've discussed this. I, too, would prefer to have lakes to swim in. But I don't. I don't really understand why we have to keep having this conversation.

Mom: Well, I think you'd be happier somewhere with lakes.

A.: I'm happier somewhere where I'm employable.-My mother's probably always been this way, but it's either gotten worse or I'm more sensitive to it. She couldn't sit down and eat--she was constantly a) asking people if they had enough food, b) telling them that if any one dish was finished, there was more of it, and c) noticing non-existent absences of food. She would interrupt conversations, jokes, etc. to make a comment about food. I quietly (as in, such that no one else heard, told her that everything was okay, that everyone had plenty of food. I don't think I even said, "everyone heard you the first five times you said there was more of everything." Nonetheless, she screams at me in front of everyone, telling me that I'm behaving badly and creating an uncomfortable situation. And since I'm not that big a person, I say, "actually, you're the one who just created an uncomfortable situation," but they're all close friends so it all rolls over.


-In one ear, out the other (as we're cleaning up):

Mom: Do you remember Leah?
A.: Yes, I do.
Mom: We met her last time we were in St. Petersburg.
A.: I remember her.
Mom: She had the daughter who...
A.: I SAID I REMEMBER HER.
Mom: Well, she had problems with her kidney, and she treated it by eating a lot of lingonberry.
A., mentally: At least she didn't say urine.


I believe that's all for now. Let's see if I can get through tomorrow without needing to do another blog. Peace out.


***
I spoke too soon (re: tomorrow).

Mom: I just love Bill O'Reilly. I don't see why you don't appreciate him. He really is fair and balanced. Have you even watched him enough to judge?

A.: I've watched him enough that I know I can't stand him, and that I know he's not fair and balanced.

Mom: Let's watch him tonight.

A.: No.

Mom: Why do you think you know everything? Why do you know better than Bill O'Reilly?

A.: I don't recall saying or thinking that I know everything; I know many things better than Bill O'Reilly because it's my job to know better than he does.

Mom: It's his job, too.

A.: No, it's his job to talk about things he doesn't really understand; to spin them; and to oversimplify them to the extreme. And to mis-frame any debate he engages in to further his agenda.

Mom: You have an agenda, too.

A.: I really don't. My job is to get to the bottom of an issue without politicizing it. [Some of you will recall my regular insistence that there is no clear left-right divide in foreign policy issues].

Mom: In other words, you know better than Bill O'Reilly.

A.: Yes, I believe I do.

Mom: Well, why don't you get a job on TV?

A.: [Sigh]. I don't really have an answer for that.

[Several more iterations of "you just haven't watched him enough-- why don't we watch him" and accusations that I think I know everything].

***

Earlier in the morning. I'm in the middle of yoga. My mother comes in and starts talking to me about the importance of breathing and concentration in yoga. Then she continues to talk to me. Then she turns on the TV. I ask her if she could wait until I've finished yoga until she turns on the TV. She mutes it, and continues talking to me. At, "I wonder why Nina is overweight," I lose my capacity to ignore her.

A.: You do? I don't. Look at her father.

Mom: Oh, no-- totally different situation. She has a different shape.

A.: No she doesn't. Same shape, same genetic makeup. Except she's healthy and active. [Nina works with and rides horses]. She's not even fat-- she's big boned and slightly overweight on top of that.

Dad: Well, it must bother her to be so fat.

A.: Maybe it doesn't. Maybe she's learned to live with it. I don't even understand why we're having this conversation. Why are we discussing Nina's weight, when no one's thought to comment on what a jerk [Nina's brother] Paul is.

[Paul is a piece of work. Which is really none of my business, but when it's time for Nina-bashing, I can't help but wonder why she gets all the scrutiny, while he can do know wrong. Anyway, he shows up yesterday, picks up a serving dish from the table, and starts eating directly from it, finishing it. He actually leaves as more people show up, because there's no room for him. Close friend or not, his behavior was appalling. And yet, the conversation was about Nina's weight.]

Dad: I don't think he's always like that.

A.: That's not the point. Please acknowledge that Nina's weight is for some reason more worthy of notice than his abhorrent behavior.

Dad: I just don't think she's happy looking like that.

A.: I think she looks just fine.

Mom: I don't think the way she dresses helps.

A.: I think she looked cute. And I still don't understand why this is more of an issue than her brother's being a complete ass.

***
This was just a few minutes ago. We had set out to go for a walk. I nudged my parents along, saying that if we were going, we had to go soon because I have plans at 3pm with another friend. My mother has a heightened sense of urgency when it concerns her or when she feels like rushing everyone else for no reason, but has absolutely no respect for anyone else's schedule.

We finally leave the house, at 1:40pm. First my mother stops, in the middle of the street, to assess the progress on a house that's being remodeled. I ask her to move along. Two blocks later, she stops, in the middle of the street, outside a yard sale.

A.: Mom!!!!

Mom: What is your problem?

A.: We are on our way somewhere-- can we please just go?

Mom: I am sick and tired of your tone of voice and of your not minding your own business!

A.: How is this yard sale none of my business? Did you ask either of us if we wanted to stop?

Mom: I've had it with you.

With that, she stops the car, in the middle of the street, tells my dad to drive it home, and goes to the yard sale. Dad refuses, mutters something about how she's the one who left it in the middle of the street, so it's her responsibility, and we walk home. She follows with the car shortly thereafter and gives me a speech about how obnoxious I am and how she doesn't want to talk to me.

Mom: Why does everyone have to be a prisoner to your schedule? We can go on a walk without you-- that way we could go farther away, and you can go on our walk separately.

A.: That is fine. I never said we all had to go on the same walk. It's just that we'd planned to, and I'd thought it would be nice, back when I didn't realize it would take two hours to get everyone to leave the house. [Which was my mistake, unjustifiably. It always takes hours for my family to leave the house. First, two people are ready, and the third doesn't realize he or she is being waited for; then my mother gets into something while she's waiting, and we're waiting for her; then she decides to change her shoes. Then, on the way out, she notices that her plants need watering. Finally, we're ready to leave the house, but it's a slow walk to the driveway. As the above events illustrate, even once we're in the car, there's no guarantee we're on a direct path to our destination.]

So, my parents have gone on their walk. Hopefully, by the time we come back from our respective walks, everyone will want to talk to each other again.

Do I dare hope that the rest of the day will proceed without further blog-worthy material?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Asking again will not change the answer

These are getting more frequent, aren't they?

Anyway, the theme of this blog is a recurring one with my mother. Here are the pearls of wisdom that surround it:

• When I do not know the answer to a question, asking that question repeatedly is not going to give me, or you, the answer to the question.
o This means that asking me the same question seconds, minutes, hours or even days later-- any period of time in which you KNOW I couldn't have learned the answer to the question-- is not going to give you the answer.
o Following your initial question with the same question phrased differently, is not going to give you the answer to the question to which I don't know the answer.
o If I do answer your question, but you don't like the answer, asking again is not going to change the answer.

Now, some context. Those of you who already know how crazy the last week has been for me, please skip this paragraph. I'll make it short for everyone else:
Sunday afternoon- washing machine breaks in the spin cycle, full of water and a bunch of my clothes. They're much to heavy for me to lift to take to a laundromat, and because of my wrist I can't wring them to make them lighter. That evening I have dinner with my friend Heather, and at some point I mention that I hate taking a whole day off for getting my stitches out and had I known how easy it would be I'd probably have opted to do it myself. She mentions that she's taken out stitches before and that she could do it, but I'd already made the appointment for the following morning.
First thing Monday morning, I call the people the landlord likes to service the washer, and they can't find proof that we bought it from them, so they refuse to fix it. I drop my car off for inspection on my way to my doctor's appointment, which I'd made the morning after my accident, when I'd called to inform my doctor that I'd been to the ER and to ask whether he would take the stitches out. His office assured me he would and that they'd let him know. So imagine my surprise when my doctor refuses to remove the stitches because he doesn't want the liability. Furthermore, he didn't know to look out for the report from the ER, so he didn't process any paperwork, so if I get stuck with the $1,591 ER bill, it's not his fault. He really wants to make that clear. He writes me a referral to the ER, and once my car is inspected, I make my way over there. A few hours and $50 later I get the stitches out, and the doctor and PA think my doctor is on crack. They'd never heard anything like that. Anyway, I get home from the ER, my roommate gets home from work, he calls anyone who will fix our washer, someone eventually comes, and by midnight my laundry is done (I couldn't leave it there- it'd been marinating for over 24 hours).
Over the next few days, I'm making lots of phone calls, trying to get an assurance from my insurance that I won't get stuck with the bill (they also thought my doctor was on crack-- they said they didn't see why I would get stuck with the bill), getting a fax number to which I could sent a formal complaint about my doctor, writing said formal complaint, and changing doctors. Oh and let's not omit hounding my doctor, whose office wouldn't answer the phone or return my calls, because the allergist's office, to which I'm going for testing today, said he hadn't returned a request for referral that they'd faxed almost a month ago (he did get it to them yesterday-- filling someone's voicemail is an effective technique).

***
Okay you can start reading again. So, that's been my week. And yesterday afternoon, my mother calls. As usual, she doesn't bother to ask about what's going on in my life (similar to the time I'd had an allergic reaction to a yellowjacket sting and was half-passed-out on benadryl, when she called and lectured me about how I wasn't being interactive enough) and just starts lecturing. Of course she does the requisite lecture about how I haven't called (could someone explain this to me-- she HAS my number. If she wants to talk to me, she can call me. It's not like I never call; I call when I have time). She goes as far as to describe my behavior-- this is going to be lost in translation-- as piggish. I tell her I've had a crazy week. She doesn't ask about it; instead, she starts questioning me about my vacation plans. But if I'm such a pig, why does she want to go on vacation with me?

Mom: Can you go on vacation with us in October?

A.: No, we've discussed this-- I'm going on vacation on Saturday for a week... I can't take another vacation so soon. And I'm not comfortable planning any vacations far in advance right now.

Mom: Where are you going?

A.: San Francisco.

Mom: [Sneers] Oh, yeah. Well, when can you go on vacation?

A.: I'm not comfortable planning any vacations far in advance right now.

Mom: You don't want to go on vacation with us in October?

A.: [Well, no, but that's beside the point.] I can't go on vacation in October.

Mom: Well, when will you want to go on vacation again?

A.: Mom, I don't know!

Mom: Well, think about it.

A.: This is a bad time and you're cutting out. I'll call you later.

Mom: Can you go on vacation in November?

A.: Mom!

Mom: Well, can you?

A.: You're cutting out... I'll call you later.

Mom: Think about when you'll want to go on vacation.

Friday, September 8, 2006

One-handed Mom-blog

Since my mother is a big fan of Jim Kramer's and I caught a bit of his show tonight-- in which he slammed the stock through which my mother has decimated my retirement account-- I thought I would call her to let her know.

While I was talking to her I realized I should probably tell her about my arm. I had consciously chosen not to up to today so as not to worry her... Vanessa actually asked me today what my mom had to say about all this and I had to admit I hadn't told her. No need to cause unnecessary panic. But now that it's under control, I opted to tell her.

A.: I cut my forearm. It's fine now.

Mom: What? How?

A.: I slipped on something and reached my arm out to catch myself, but instead my arm went through the window that's on the back door.

Dad: What happened then?

A.: I called 911, they came to get me, and sewed up my arm. Now it's fine.

[I decided to skip the part about the flap and the thirteen stitches-- they just don't need to know.]

Mom: We have the most beautiful marinated mushrooms... all kinds, and I have several marinades going, with different amounts of garlic...

[Normally, for effect, I would transcribe most of the monologue that ensued, but typing with one arm isn't conducive to that kind of detail and it's not the kind of art I'm willing to suffer for.]

[Five minutes later:] Some of the mushrooms are twins... What else did I want to tell you? Did you know that the Potomac is so polluted that it has bisexual, er... hermaphrodytic fish?

A.: I didn't know that.

Dad: What happened to your arm?

A.: I cut it, it's been stitched, I'm fine.

Mom: What did Kramer say about Crystallex stock?

[And so on].

Friday, September 1, 2006

Good night, mom

Background: My mom had left me a message while I was out having dinner with friends. She was concerned about the weather. I called her back on my walk from the metro.

A.: It's not a big deal-- it's raining and it's windy, but nothing to worry about.

Mom: You're outside?

A.: I'll be inside in less than ten minutes.

Mom: You know, Google is hiring hundreds of people a week now.

A.: GOOD NIGHT, MOM

Mom: It just seems like such a great work environment...

A.: GOOD NIGHT, MOM

Mom: You could bring your dog to work...

A.: I'm hanging up now.

Mom: Just apply. All you have to do is apply.

A.: GOOD NIGHT!

Mom: Good night? It's not even 9pm.

A.: Being nagged about google saps my will to stay awake.

Mom: Okay, good night.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I'm shocked!

It's of the "micromanage every aspect of A.'s life" category.

Mom: Do you have any vacation time saved up? Are you coming to visit soon?

What A. does not say: Vacation time isn't the problem; I'm not coming to visit you because you've taken to insulting me much too often, and I'm not going to go out of my way to put myself through that.

A.: I do have vacation time.

Mom: Where would you go on vacation?

A.: Well, I'm going to San Francisco the last week of September...

Mom: San Francisco??? San Francisco?!! Why on earth would you want to go to San Francisco? You've been there; what are you going to do there? Why are you going to San Francisco?

[I have been there-- I went almost six years ago and absolutely loved it. Of course, that time, I allowed my mother to manipulate me into buying her a ticket too, on account of my trip coinciding with her birthday and how dare I not be around for that. We flew in together; she went to her friend's house; I went to my friend's house; and we reconnected and returned to Boston together at the end of the trip.]

A.: There's a lot to do in San Francisco, and two of my closest friends live there. I'm really looking forward to seeing them. [And honestly, to going to a city that I've explored before, so that I don't feel the need to constantly do touristy things-- but I couldn't say that, because my mother cut me off.]

Mom: Well, that's just shocking. Shocking! I am SHOCKED.

A.: Well, you can be shocked.

Mom: I am shocked.

A.: Okay, then.

Mom: Now, did you get all the stuff I forwarded you yesterday? You have to stay informed about what's going on in the Middle East.

A.: I have access to the internet, mom.


I could go on, but I think we've had enough.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

These phone calls can be quite draining

Mom called last night to talk at me and then comment on how I
wasn't saying much. She had called me last Monday evening to ask what I was doing, and I said staying in and resting, and she said something like 'you should be out dancing.' Then last night she asked what I did on the 4th (the day after last Monday), and when I said I went to a friend's house for a bbq, she said something like, 'why go to friends' houses on weeknights?" Then she starting going on about a daughter of friends of hers who is making six figures and how when she started looking for other work, they raised her salary by another $20k. "That, my dear," Tatyana said, "is how one needs to operate." She then asked if I'd applied to Google. And then started lecturing me about how if I'm bored, it really is time to budge, especially because I have such a long commute (see, this hasn't occured to me-- the hour-long, each way commute doesn't allow enough time for reflection
on the length of one's commute). Then she asked if I'd gone swimming recently and I said no. She said, "exactly. There's nothing to do over where you live." Then she said, with some sarcasm, "talking to you has been very 'informative,' commenting on my short answers. I didn't tell her about the hornet sting that had swollen my foot to three times its natural size or the benadryl I’d just taken… wasn’t up for an ‘herbal remedies’ lecture in addition to the ones she was already giving me.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Dear Sir or Madam, Please do *not* consider this application for a position at Google.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please do *not* consider this application for a position at Google; I am submitting it for the sole purpose of getting my mother off my back. You see, ever since my mother read an article on the internet about Google's incredible work environment, particularly the part about allowing pets at work, she constantly insists that I apply. I respect Google's innovation; positive work environment; and pet-friendly policies. However, I am quite happy in my chosen field of international relations analysis, which I did not see alongside programming, accounting, and law, on the list of positions for which you were hiring. Since my mother now believes that Google is the *only* place to work, writing to you is the only way to move on with my life. I apologize for wasting your time, thank you for your patience, and wish you the best in your recruiting efforts.

A.

P.S. I do not, at this time, have any pets.


***
Allow me to set the stage for that letter by exploring a few of my mother's personality traits.

#1. Mom lacks whatever part of the brain contextualizes experiences--the one that says, "sure, this worked for someone, but every situation is different, and that's not to say that everyone should drop what they're doing to do said thing." This goes back to when I was in high school, when Mom heard that a friend of a friend of a friend's son took a class called "career planning" and found it helpful. Naturally, she concluded that everyone, especially her daughter, should take career planning. Never mind that he was at a different high school; never mind that he's a different person. He found career planning helpful, so A. must take career planning.

A. rolls her eyes but takes the necessary precaution of humoring her mother by at least running the idea by her guidance counselor, who says, "absolutely not! That class is for people not going to college and your class schedule is already overloaded."

A. reports back to her mother, who has a fit. For at least months I have to hear about how if I'd only just taken career planning… Actually, I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if she reminded me of my decision not to take that class all through college, too.

Which leads us to personality characteristic #2: Mom does not suggest, she insists; furthermore, she clobbers. For example, when she shops for clothes, she kindly picks up things for me, too. More often than not, I like them, but sometimes I don't. Again, I take the necessary precaution of at least trying on the ones I think I won't like, and if I refuse because I can absolutely tell right away that I would never wear something, I hear "no, try it on" enough times that the effort to try it on is less than the effort to resist. And when I try things on that I absolutely know I will not wear, she insists that I take them with me anyway. The conversation goes something like this:

Mom: Well, just take it with you anyway.
A.: I don't *want* to. I don't have a lot of space and I don't want to take things I know I won't wear.
Mom: That style is very trendy right now.
A.: I don't care. I don't dress according to trends, and this is a case in point: no matter how trendy cropped pants are right now, short people will always look bad in them, and I don't wear them.
Mom: Well, just take them with you.
A.: No.
Mom: You never know.
A.: I do know- I don't like the way these look on me and I'm not wearing them.
Mom: Well, take them with you anyway.

Trait #3 is my mother's penchant for sweeping generalizations.

Unfortunately, my parents' neighbors have recently installed an air conditioner whose noise level is significantly grating on my parents' quality of life. My mother is retired, and on days she's home she alternates between the computer and the back yard. She'll, say, do some day trading and crash my IRA account, and then go outside and read or garden. Before, she would read or garden with the birds in the background, whereas now all she hears is the air conditioner.

My mother talked to the neighbors about it, and they agreed to use it less frequently, but it's still annoying, so she went to Newton City Hall to inquire about the City's noise ordinance. The employees there told her they knew nothing about that and she'd have to ask the police; she drove to the police station, where the employees looked at her like she was insane. She returned home, furious, and googled "noise ordinance" and the name of the town, quickly finding it.

I appreciate her frustration at the noise situation. I appreciate her aggravation at the City Hall employees, as does anyone who's ever had a parking ticket or other obligation to deal with them. My appreciation does not extend to her logic, which goes something like, "I've just come from City Hall. I know how stupid government employees are. You need to get out of the government and into the private sector."

Which sort of but not really takes us to personality trait? #4: Mom doesn't understand what I do. She does not fundamentally realize that foreign policy, international relations, public policy, are field. For example, over the holidays some close family friends were over for dinner. They asked me for my professional opinion (actually said, "in your professional opinion…") about, for lack of better term, a global situation, but the second I opened my mouth, my mother started answering the question. Sure, part of that is because she's opinionated and she likes to be the center of attention, but largely, she fails to grasp that I actually *have* a professional opinion.

When the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit, my mother was fretting about which aid agencies to support. I gave her a rundown of recommended relief agencies. Being the Fox News watcher that she is, she had told me that she wouldn't give money to the UN, so I was surprised when she said "what about Unicef?" I informed her that that was the UN's Children's Fund, but she insisted that they weren't UN-affiliated and asked me what made me think I was such an expert on humanitarian aid. Umm, the fact that I kind of am an expert on humanitarian aid makes me think I'm an expert on humanitarian aid. I mean, she went to my graduation; one of the ceremonies she sat through was the awarding of a Certificate in Human Rights and Humanitarian Emergencies.

There are other examples, but the gist is, when I do comment, usually in response to a comment she makes, on a global situation or issue, she's incredulous at the level of detail and substance of the comment and asks me where I get off speaking so authoritatively about it. She just doesn't get that I am a professional, in a field.

Which is a shame, because in what is a huge step in my personal growth, I'm love my field. In grad school, I often wondered whether my two years and $50k were going to anything I couldn't just get from reading the paper, and now I absolutely realize that they were. I'm not saying that non-professionals shouldn't be interested or informed; I'm not saying that they shouldn't have opinions. I'm saying that I've realized from listening to those opinions that I do have a heightened sense of understanding of international systems that allows me to—who knew—*analyze* issues intelligently and contextually. Yes, I've been unhappy at my job and that unhappiness has at times made me wonder, "why didn't I become a professional dog walker?" But when I go to conferences, or hit on parts of my job that are as they should be, or read Foreign Policy magazine, I realize that I really love this field, I understand it well, and that I've made the right career choice. Which for me is, like I said, huge. And it would be nice if my mother could join me in celebrating that development, but to expect as much would be to live in a fantasy world.

I could go on and on with traits, really, and just traits relevant to the story, but I'll stop after one more: Mom's lack of sense of urgency; rather, Mom's lack of respect for *other people's* urgency. When she has a sudden attack of "we're in a hurry! Everyone hustle!" she expects everyone to be as impatient as she is for no apparent reason. I kid you not. We were in Portugal, having a peaceful dinner at an outdoor cafĂ©, when she all of a sudden decided that we were in a hurry to get back for a summary of the day's market activity on CNN and started pressing us to eat faster. The pressing was accompanied by other childish behavior. Contrast that with a matter of my saying, "this is a very bad time to talk, I have to go right now, I'll call you back." In those cases, I hear, "well, let me just tell you this… we were going for a walk earlier today and we saw this rabbit!" or "when will you call me back?" or "why is it a bad time?" Not even "it's a bad time because my throat is very sore and I'm very tired, could we continue the rabbit conversation tomorrow" will register. I'll remind you that this is the woman who, years ago when I was in Wales, came home to the following message on her answering machine: "I have a feeling you were planning on calling me tonight, but I'm not feeling well so I'm going to go to bed early—I think I have a chance of fighting this cold if I just get a good night's sleep—so please don't call when you get home; we'll talk tomorrow." She responded by calling me at midnight my time to tell me she got the message.

***
But now, back to the present. About a month ago, I was on the phone with my parents:

Mom: I just read this article about Google—it's such a great place to work. You won't believe this—you can bring your pets to work. Go on their website- apply for a job at Google.
A.: Okay.

I go on their website (necessary precaution), and find that one doesn't just 'apply to Google;' one has to actually pick a profession and then apply within that category. And since I'm not an accountant, or lawyer, or any of the twenty or so professions listed on the site, my application to Google ended there. Or so I thought.

One week later:

Mom: So, did you apply to Google?
A.: I went on their website, but you can only submit your resume to specific positions- there's no way to submit it generally.
Mom: Yes there is.
A.: Well, I didn't see it.
Mom: Well, go back and apply to Google.
A.: Mom, they hire certain categories of people, and *foreign policy analyst* was NOT one of them.
Mom: You shouldn't close yourself off to any possibilities.
A.: I've long ago closed myself off to the possibility of being a lawyer or accountant.
Mom: Just apply. Just send them a letter telling them about yourself.
A.: I don't really have time or energy to write cover letters for jobs I don't want.
Mom: I'm not saying you have to take the job. I'm just saying you need to apply. It sounds like it's a great working environment. You could bring your pets to work!
A.: I understand your opinion. You want me to apply. I understand what you want me to do. Can we move on now?
Mom: Will you apply?
A.: No. I'm going to bed. Goodnight.

Not quite one more week later

Mom: Where are you? [the requisite question]
A.: Walking home from the gym. I had a dentist appt so I didn't go into
work.
Mom: How's your job search going?
A.: Very well, actually… I have two possibilities that look promising…
Mom: Did you apply to Google?
A.: No, I did not apply to Google. But let me tell you about these other
two…
Mom: Why didn't you apply to Google?
A.: Because I don't want to work at Google.
Mom: I'm not saying you have to take the job. Just apply. Just send them a letter telling them about yourself.
A.: We've had this conversation.
Mom: But you could bring your pets to work!
A.: I don't want to work at Google.
Mom: Listen to me—I know what a huge difference a positive work environment makes.
A.: So do I.
Mom: You're unhappy at work.
A.: I am applying, with some knock-on-wood progress, to jobs IN MY FIELD.
Mom: Google has jobs in your field. You never know. You shouldn't close yourself off to any possibilities.
A.: I'm closing myself off to the possibility of wasting my time applying to a job that I don't want and that I would be extremely unlikely to get.
Mom: Just send them a letter telling them about yourself. Humor me.
A.: I do not have time to write a cover letter for a job I do not want. You can write the cover letter.
Mom: You know very well I can't write.
A.: This conversation is over. Can we please talk about something else?
Mom: Just *write* them.
A.: Do you understand that YOU want me to work for Google, but I do NOT want to work for Google?
Mom: I'm not saying you have to take the job. I'm just asking to you humor me and write them a letter.
A.: No.
Mom: You have to get out of the government, because, having just been to City Hall, I know that everyone who works for the government is an idiot.

This conversation goes on for about twenty minutes before I'm able to break it off and insist that the conversation is over. I am so angry that I call my dad at work.

A.: What is *wrong* with her? Why can't she just suggest things and leave it for the suggestee to then make her own decision?
Dad: Google again?
A. You guessed it. Why? Why can't she leave it for me to decide?
Dad: That's what I told her.

***
In case you're wondering, I have not applied to Google.

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