A letter to...
My extra-clingy, overprotective mother
Occasionally, I let my mind torture me. I wonder what it must be like to have any level of autonomy, any sense of agency. You have never let me know a world that did not revolve around you, although you will deny this and say you willingly sacrificed your life so it would revolve around me, for that is what a real mother does, and that you are the only real, proper mother in the world.
There are problems you refuse to see. I cannot leave the room for five minutes without you calling for me. You see it as a token of your love – if I love you, I will rush back to you. I joke that I should wear a cat’s bell around my neck. When I go to work, instead of using the time for yourself, you sit clock-watching until I depart my deadend job and then call me, talking until I walk in our door. You would prefer it if I could work from home so I would never be out of your sight.
I know that, by the age of three, you were an insecure, emotionally desperate child with a skewed sense of the world, petrified of life before it had begun. “If you truly love me, you will …” “I adore you, so you will …” This was the spine of your thinking.
You despise the world, and have tried to keep me out of it, a pure lotus in the mud of a perverted humanity. To you, there is not another human, other than your parents, who is not immoral, selfish and deceitful. You fear the world will lead me away from you and your impossible standards of behaviour. You blame the world for all the pitfalls and poverty we have encountered in life. The world is all wrong.
You never dealt well with me having friends – ones I could spend an afternoon with, instead of you. I still recall your hysterical accusation that I wanted my friends more than you. I let them drift away; it seemed the right thing to do. Now, I do not socialise. Anyway, I cannot comprehend this modern society; everyone has moved on without me, so I avoid it. Fortuitously, I never cared about finding a partner. No one could have tolerated your continuous presence – you would have insisted on living with us, eating with us, watching TV with us, holidaying with us …
TYou fear the world will lead me away from you and your impossible standards of behaviour
he fault is not entirely yours. We come from an insular, restrictive family that encouraged dependency and refused privacy, dignity and anything more than mild self-expression. There is only the family, no need to be self-sufficient and no need for outsiders. Each generation sacrificed self-rule on the altar of filial duty (and then we wonder why in most generations one member considers – or even attempts – disappearing … but mother-guilt rules with an iron fist). When I quip that our clan would be more comfortable in the 19th century, I get blank stares. It never occurred to me to question the principles and values balanced precariously on my head. That was my normal – a normal that has left me woefully unprepared for the 21st century.
By seven, I had stopped laughing. You blamed my illness at the time, but that was when I began to give in to you. I wanted peace, so I self-sacrificed. You have succeeded in creating the person you required. Now in my 50s, I am too fearful and incapable of breaking away from the only reality I have ever known.