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?"
"Pick up a copy of Fortune 500. Better yet look it up online."
"Goodbye, mom."
"You should just try..."
"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.]