Guest Posts, parents

A Manual For Girls Who Struggle With Their Moms

April 14, 2019

By Amy Turner

    1. Do not be afraid. You will encounter therapists and gay men* who will nurture you in ways she never could . They will see you without judgement. This is because despite being big hits on Bravo, they have been forced to collectively shirk judgement /and or this is their job. Both work.(*Apologies for basic stereotype but when your best guy friend finds Sandra Bernhard more intriguing than Sandra Bullock, you’ll collapse, finally understood.)   

  1.  Later you will understand mother’s fear. It is that you will lead a sad lonely life of creative lady resistance. That you will dance to the beat of your own drummer until you are so off and frenzied you require “specialty” shoes (code for orthopedic velcro) and THEN WHO WILL WANT YOU?  Rest assured, nothing will be further from the truth.
  2. When she suggests new lipstick, grad school, or wearing different colors, thank her for thinking of you. I once came home to my apartment to find my mother had hired a ‘color specialist’ (what up, Debbie!) who had set up a giant light bulb rimmed vanity mirror in my living room. Debbie put fabric on my chest and explained what worked and what didn’t, the ‘rules of the seasons.’ She then gave me a plastic booklet with colors I was allowed to wear and instructed me to carry it with me AT ALL TIMES. What Debbie didn’t understand was, I could not deal with more rules. When my mother bought the entire makeup collection Debbie was selling, I realized how much my mom appreciates A standard to measure right and wrong.  Suddenly I understood, this process brought her calm.  And though I am technically, “an autumn” and should be ‘living in rust and coppers’ (dressing like a pipe?) I could not.  I prefer shades a friend only refers to as  *eye roll*  ‘vagina colors.’ They make me feel the most calm. The color expert was a lesson in understanding how two women find comfort. One in rules, one in muted watermelon. So thank your mom for offering her comfort to you. But don’t dress like hardware to make anyone happy.
  3. In the immortal words of ICE-T’s twitter, “I’ve been YOUR age, you’ve never been mine…PAY ATTENTION.” Because she is a generation older than you, she is living her choices in a way you haven’t yet. So do pay attention. But pro tip: her resentments aren’t your fault. This is the thing about choices. Depending on the day, account balance, or hair luster, your choices can seem like brilliant webs of serendipity instituted by the divine.  Or, penalizing shitshows that sucked your life dry of dreams and collagen. They’re both. Your mother feels both.  We all feel both.  One moment she’s fine, the next she’s a monster troll in  clam diggers  tantrumming about mortgages, medical issues, and offspring she can’t relate to. You will never know the depth of her pain. As she will never know the depth of yours (Bumble dates and Miccellar water- is it cleanser or water? I WILL NEVER KNOW.)  She is in her choices. Detach and don’t try and change her. Especially if she is angry. Tell yourself you will NEVER freak out like this. Then promptly call a mini van driver the c word for not using a turn signal. .  You were one of her choices (or whoopsie-esque but a miracle regardless!). Your mom’s womb WAS A BIOLOGICAL UBER TAKING YOU FROM MYSTERY TO HUMANITY and living with ebb and flow renders us all imperfect. Silently thank the lifeforce that makes it possible for her to send her soup back to be reheated four times.  What a commitment to scalding!
  4. Your body will never be right for her. You will be too fat or too thin or too shrimpy or too stocky (insert absolutely anything). Her Body Image Legacy might be deficient. Perhaps she was scared senseless by a culture that prescribed her fen-fen (if you are young, THIS IS SPEED THAT GAVE YOU INSOMINA AND HEART VALVE PROBLEMS AND YOU PAID FOR IT. HAPPILY). Maybe she loved Twiggy, Kate Moss, Nancy Reagan or whatever delicate icon signified status.  Regardless, the more a mom comments on a girl’s body, the weirder she will get about it. So you, Daughter, must get a one way ticket to Good Enough Island. You cannot be helpless. You cannot surrender to self doubt. You have to name yourself Good Enough regardless of her assessment. This may require copious reading, meetings, purchasing of cute maxi dresses. But get there.  Your mom can come too, but she’s gotta work her shit out. (Can’t call cake ‘naughty’ on the island, ma.)  Individuate, it’s how you turn woman. That and the first time you buy yourself a stupidfancy candle/marzipan shaped liked tiny fruit/whatever novelty brings you pleasure and is totally unnecessary for daily survival.
  5. You can overcome many awkward conversations by saying “that’s interesting.”  This is an acceptable and integral phrase. “You wanna see pictures of my blood clots?”  You, “that’s interesting.” OF COURSE YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF BLOOD CLOTS! DISGUST IS AN EVOLUTIONARY FUNCTION THAT KEEPS US SAFE OTHEWISE WE WOULD EAT HAIR!  The key here is neither ignoring or getting hooked.  You’re neutral as Gwyneth Paltrow’s laundry.  (For the love of God, who do you think wants to see those pictures? You are allowed to scream this inside.) What’s really happening here is, you have to be the one to change.  If you usually respond with defense or drama, neutrality is your move. This will sweep the mother leg.
  6. Don’t take her personally. Wanna know something crazy? She treats the bank teller with same way she treats you. Because it’s how she is. You are not special. You just happen to be her kid so you are in close contact with said vibes. She’s not in the basement machinating specific ways to torture you (though unsolicited line dancing might feel that way).  It’s how she walks the earth. This seems impossible to accept, but once you do…look out! There’s a lotta freedom when you look at her with unconditional love.  The way you look at a kid.  Also, when you focus on something bigger than your self , which is the relationship. Because whether you’re fourteen or forty, unconditional love is not something earned, but something you want to be.  Hell, she’s just a baby with a sedan. And photos of her blood clots!
  7. She is never disappointed in you. She is disappointed in her attachment to the future version of  you she never could have predicted. It may not be articulated this way. When you feel criticized, remember what is really going on. That’s the feeling you’re But maybe (and this is yoda level mother- daughter stuff) instead of feeling hurt and defensive, relax into your truth. Which is that you have been surrounded by loving networks of humans your whole life.  You’ve been doing what you can with what you’ve got. It doesn’t look the way she imagined.  But there’s a beautiful band of weirdos/co-workers/lovers who’ve adored you, and laughed with you, maybe even cooked you a chicken, all because you recognized each other as the sensitive tornados you are. When you feel less than, you have forgotten the fullness of all this. Try and remember it. Your mom may or may not understand its value. But she is not supposed to. A life lived fully has nooks and crannies that look unfamiliar to anyone but the heart at the center of it.
  8. You will forget all of this when one of you has low blood sugar or she suggests you get a bob. Love her anyway. You’ll always be somebody’s baby, but part of growing up is learning that not everything in life gets fixed. Still she must have done something right. Cause you’re out there, living and loving, approving of yourself and colors. Because she was never supposed to understand you, just love you. Which in her very unique, truly unshakable way, she does.


amy turnerAmy Turner is a writer producer on the CW’s In the Dark. She has written for NBC, CBS, Freeform, Huffington Post, and Bustle. Her mom is adorable.

Jen’s book ON BEING HUMAN is available for pre-order here.

emily retreat

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