Monday, August 21, 2006

Subliminal pressure

I had a feeling this weekend that I needed to call home. On Sunday afternoon, the folks called to check on me and my brother.

Conversations with Dad are always fine. My dad is pretty mellow and happy. He just wants to make sure we're doing well.

Then, Mom got on the phone. First, she asked me about my brother. She wanted my opinion on my brother's choice of apartments. Was it a good deal? Was the apartment in good condition? What about the neighborhood?

The honest but wrong answer was, "I don't know, it sounds fine."

"What do you mean? Have you seen the apartment."

"No, he didn't ask me to."

"[frustrated] Why didn't you check on it? How is he supposed to know if it's good? Why didn't you go look?"

"Mom, he's a big boy. He needs to take care of these things himself. If he needed help, he could ask me. The rent he's paying sounds about right for a one bedroom apartment."

[blah, blah blah, blah... ]

So for the past couple of months, most of my conversations with Mom have been about my brother's wedding and her search for the perfect dress to wear. There are the brief complaints about her mean boss and her plan to retire next year. Basically, the focus has been off me. Thank God.

For the first time in awhile, she updated me about other friends' kids. The main news was about EV.

Background information:
  • EV is five years younger than me.
  • We've known each other since we were kids.
  • EV attended a prestigious undergrad and an Ivy League law school.
  • EV married Teeth last spring. They met at an alumni event.
  • Teeth is an MD-PhD student
  • Teeth's father is a well-regarded physician and chief of a medical department at a big hospital

    "So EV's husband's parents are considering buying a house for them. They live in, I think it's High-something?"

    "Do they live in Hill?"

    "Yes, that's the city. His parents will buy them a house there if he comes to the area for residency." (This is a wealthy suburb where homes usually start in the $1.x million range.)

    "That's nice."

    "Isn't EV so lucky that she married into a rich family?"

    "Yes, that's great they would have a house. Are they moving there for sure?"

    "I don't know, but the area has some good places for him to work. He could work anywhere. I think he wants to go to Boston. EV will follow him wherever he wants to go. I think he prefers doing research."

    "Sure, Boston would be a good place for that."

    "And Auntie D told me, EV hasn't announced it so I don't think she wants people to know so don't say anything, she's expecting."

    "Okay." (Calculating in my head how long it's been since the wedding...)

    "EV is so lucky. She is smart and has a good husband from a well-to-do family."

    Yeah, you should have heard all the raving when EV first got engaged... . Mom then told me about another friend's daughter and how the couple is moving back to the SF Bay Area after living for awhile in Connecticut and Manhattan. They are thinking about buying a house, but her mother is weary of them doing that since they seem to change jobs every couple of years. The area they are looking at has home that start in the low $2 million range.

    I want to be happy for EV because she's a great person. But when it's presented to me like this, it's hard to swallow. I debated saying what was really going on in my head but bit my tongue. I wanted to ask Mom why she was telling me these things. Maybe she was just enjoying gossiping and spreading the news about the local kids. I doubt she has any clue how upsetting it was for me to hear her say these things. My mood went from relaxed to distraught in a matter of minutes. Does she realize that it makes me feel like I'm a loser hearing that these girls are rich and happily married? Is she embarrassed about her 35-year-old daughter who's still single and hasn't had a boyfriend in more than two years? Is this her way of "inspiring" me?

    The frustration and sadness welled up inside me. I'm never going to live up to the world she envisions. I don't expect to be rich (as nice as that would be). There's never any direct comparisons made, but how can I not think that she expects something more of me. The pressure is overwhelming. Nothing is ever good enough. This is why it's no fun to talk to my mother. Am I being too sensitive? Did I read too much into her remarks?

    Poor Tim had come over to watch "Munich" with me just as I passed the phone over to my brother. I told Tim what my mother said and the tears just started coming out. I lost it. I didn't mean to do that in front of him. He sat there and responded, "your mother's an idiot."

    I continued to explain why what she said made me so upset. Tim's analysis was that my mother and I have different priorities and that's why we don't get along. His impression is that she values money and status. I know it's not nice to be so harsh towards a parent, but I couldn't defend her at that moment.

    It's desperate times such as these that drive me to think I should just say "yes" to any guy who asks me and pretend to be a sweet, quiet girl so they'll marry me and I can get it all over with. Then again, why bother when Mom will never be happy? This is just another reason to hate dating. Unlike most people, I am very uncomfortable introducing anyone male to my mother. I can't stand the barrage of questions and behind my back comments that will be made. I've entertained the idea of getting married without telling them. I'd hate to leave my dear dad out of it. I just don't see the point in the added stress of letting my mother know anything about my life.

    Anna May Won't said...

    wow, your parents sound so much like mine! my dad is super easy going and is happy if my bro and i are happy. our mom is hyper critical and pushy.

    you're right that no one will be good enough. my bro is dating a perfectly nice girl now, really sweet and smart and considerate, and the only thing our mother can focus on is that she thinks the girl looks older than my brother and isn't pretty enough.

    my brother and i have both realized we will never get our mother's approval about our significant others, and so we just have to let that go.

    it does seem like your mom is rubbing your face in your singlehood and that may be her way of trying to "inspire" you, as you say. when i was younger, my mother would try to "inspire" me to slim down by constantly comparing me to a childhood friend who was naturally skinny. needless to say, her attempt at inspiration only made me feel terrible about myself and resentment towards this childhood friend.

    jayfish said...

    "Does she realize that it makes me feel like I'm a loser hearing that these girls are rich and happily married?"

    unless you know them very well, you shouldn't assume they're happy. the grass is always greener when mothers paint the picture.

    would it be out of line to only talk to your dad and even tell him that your mom is giving you ulcers? :)

    Pandax said...

    Jay, that's a nice thought, but it really won't change anything. My dad has seen me upset over my mother's rants. I know once or twice he's tried to say something about it. A Chinese mother's rationale and opinions are not up for debate or change - it just is. The burden really is on me as the daughter to grow thicker skin.