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...
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?