February 19, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on February 18, 2018

An occasional and frankly unpleasant side effect of having E. here is being reminded of all the failures in my own relationship with my mother. E’s “shortcomings” I re-live as my shortcomings as a daughter. My (current) “shortcomings” as a mother to E. I perceive and re-live as my mother’s shortcomings as a mother (except, now it’s me). In other words, I’m the bad guy in each scenario. And I put “shortcomings” in scare-quotes when referring to the present because, whatever is going on, it’s not actually a coming short or anything tragic (unlike my own history with my mother), but it “gets” me that way.

Yesterday over dinner we got on to politics – and all three of us had voted for Clinton in 2016 – with E. continuing to defend Clinton (and Obama), while I was on a tear (sort of) of explaining how much I blame them for giving us Trump. (I.e., I hate the Democrats because they also still haven’t owned this mess.) E. repeated a couple of typical New York Times talking points (defenses) of the Democrats, and I began to demolish them, at which point she practically shrieked, “Why are you attacking me?” I was taken aback, and replied I wasn’t attacking her, but that position, which is one that’s given the Democrats a free pass so far. “But you were looking at me!” she insisted.

I was dumbfounded. Of course I was looking at her – we were talking, and I was replying to something she had just said. It was frankly one of the worst and also weirdest interactions I’ve ever had with her, and really stunned me. Is this victimhood? Is it femaleness? Is it oversensitivity? Am I just a bitch? Am I my father? Is she my mother?

Once, decades ago, I “plotted” with W. to get my mother to be more “real,” more open about her motivations and feelings. We were having dinner together in Vancouver, my father was away somewhere, and the plan was for W. to support my questions to her. Well, she became in effect hysterical, broke down over our “attack” – really, they were just questions about some life choices she had made, how things had developed for her, never a single accusation – blubbered and couldn’t swallow her food, let the food drop from her mouth back on to the plate… My god, it was horrendous. And over as soon as I (or we) “desisted,” stopped asking her anything. Was her fit ever real? E.’s reaction yesterday, to my forcefully stated position on politics, seemed to me like my mother’s reaction to being asked about her life and about what she wanted to get out of it. She – my mother – shut herself and me down, simply by losing it. Emotions are dangerous, she said in effect. Look at how you’re forcing me to cut myself to ribbons. …Ouch. Anyone who gets that from mother thinks twice about re-engaging.

Another very unpleasant thought I had yesterday, or this morning, but kind of in the wake of this and of my noticing that I’m noticing, far too critically, E.’s “faults,” is this: her love [bf] might love her more than I do. Is that possible? Could he do that? It would speak to the distance in time and space between her and us (here, in B.), which has opened up and grown in the years since she’s been with [bf]. What is this quality of love, anyway, that I feel that my slight quibbles about her habits could diminish it, or make his seem the more enduring? More durable? Again, it returns me to my personal history: my love for W., reciprocated, I suppose seemed more real and durable than what I got from my own mother. What kind of daughter says that? Feels that? On the other hand, it must be natural – otherwise, we’d all never marry, move out, move on, eventually reproduce. We’d die out as a species. But in each generation, that drama has new players and a slightly new script.

In other news: yesterday, W. and I went to another meeting for the “Local Vision” group. Too much kumbaya, bro.

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