Thursday, 25 December 2008
My Mother, My Self?
I'm reading a book at the moment called, "When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends" by Victoria Secunda and it is a shocker. Although it focusses mainly on mother-daughter relationships, there is absolutely no reason why 'she' cannot be substituted for 'he'. Although mother-son relationships are different, if the mother fits into any of the categories listed by the author, the same screw-ups can apply the whole world over regardless of race, creed or gender.
It has been an eye-opener for me. Although I remember a lot of events in my childhood which have affected me, I would be inclined to say that those events occurring in my adulthood have left me feeling most bereft, unloveable, useless and groundless. Many of these I have firmly believed have been solely my fault: that I have driven my mother to such frustration that she has lashed out and I have paid my penance. Reading similar stories in black and white suddenly angers me that it was not necessarily my fault and I had every right to want to be ME.
From leaving home, aged 21, my every move was monitored and criticised. My first taste of freedom was in a dingy room in a shared house in Headingley, West Yorkshire. I was studying at the Metropolitan University in Leeds, and taking a BSc in Speech and Language Therapy. This was not my first choice, I must explain. I wanted to study Occupational Therapy; but this was just 'glorified nursing' according to my mother, and suddenly, placements were lined up at speech therapy clinics by 'nice Mrs Cleaver' the Senior SLT for Halton Borough, who was a neighbour. And so I started a course in SLT.
My grades (attaining either first class or 2:1s in the first year) needed to be surpassed each time; I wasn't feeding myself well enough (I lived on vegetarian pastas for some time which I made myself, from scratch); I didn't do my laundry enough; I wasted electricity, gas, water; my housemates were useless and idle; my friends were either 'lovely girls' and 'adore their mothers' or wastes of space...nothing was ever good enough or right.
When my long-standing boyfriend, Mike, and I split up after 5 1/2 years, I was in the dog-house with her. She called him every week to see how he was and reported back to me how heart-broken I had made both him and her. She hated my new boyfriend (who went on to become my first husband and now 'The Ex') and refused to say anything pleasant about him, preferring to compare everything about him to Mike.
I married Anal despite what she said. She had nothing to do with my wedding plans which embittered me: I'd had dreams of going shopping for a dress with her; choosing the bridesmaid's outfit; picking out menus, flowers, favours - all sorts of things. Nothing from her. The most she contributed one day was to tell me about a pink lacey nylon wedding dress she had seen on Albert's Stall in Widnes Market for £25.00 and that would be perfect for me. By this stage, I had saved up enough money to purchase a raw silk, hand-made dress from one of my clients (I was a Personal Tax Senior at the time) and was gutted that she could belittle my wedding so much as to suggest such cheapness. Her later comment, when I informed her that I was actually marrying out of the parish church where Anal and I lived rather than return to her region, was that of supercilious scoffing. She advised me that I may as well get married over the Blacksmith's Anvil in the village and have a fish 'n' chip supper, to save on money.
After our marriage, and as I asserted myself as a wife, woman, housekeeper, worker etc., the bitterness and criticism became more and more apparent. An invitation, during the summer, to spend a week in our cottage and use it as a B & B, to come and go as they please, turned into an exercise in taking over my every authority in the house. When I firmly asked her, after four days of this, to STOP; that it was MY house and I was more than capable of handling things, she lost the plot, screeched to my father that they were leaving and I didn't hear from her for over four months.
The only reason she spoke to me at Christmas was because Anal wrote to her, explained that our first baby was due in four weeks and would she want anything to do with it? She returned her response, dripping with vitriol, emotional blackmail, hatred and venom, but said that it was her duty as a grandparent to get to know the child. We arranged for a peace-keeping mission on Christmas Day 1994. We drove over 100 miles to get there for lunch. My grandmother, who was still alive then, was attending the meal, too. My brother had cleared off from the house at the crack of dawn to spend the day with his girlfriend.
So, around the table sat Nanna, Anal, my father, my mother and me, heavily pregnant, dispepsic, nauseous and very, very nervous. Even as I had walked into the house, the first words spat at me were, not, Happy Christmas, but 'There are three bin bags of your stuff there. Get rid of them.' At present-giving time, I received nothing, but the gifts I passed to my parents were dismissed. I bought my mother diabetic chocolate and a Wedgewood biscuit barrel.
'Huh. Chocolate'...thrown onto the bookcase...
The corner ripped from the paper on the biscuit barrel; a quick peek at the pattern, no words, and taken into the kitchen.
A classics album for my father...
'Don't like this type of stuff. You can have it back...'
The night I went into labour: February 2nd 1994. I sat on the toilet downstairs, heaving with contractions, excited, scared and full of wonderment. Anal was equally as excited. Who should we tell? Who is going to be the first to hear about Sam's birth? (I was 100% convinced I was having a boy, and his name was Sam...later to be changed to Rosemary April!). Anal suggested ringing my mother. He told her I was in labour and passed the phone to me.
'Do you want me to call you when the baby is born?' I asked.
'Not if it is in the early hours, no. Your father has to get up for work in the morning, to wake him would be selfish. Leave it until a sensible hour.'
I can still remember the sock in the guts as I heard those words. My own mother didn't want to know about her first grandchild.
And so as it stood, the first person to hear of Rosemary was my best friend, Rebecca, at 3.20am, and then, Anal went through his family, shouting his news with joy.
My parents were informed at 11am on 3 February. Mother's first words were, I thought you were having a boy? How would I know? Gender scans were not permissible in the 90s. You ensured the baby was healthy and that was it. Any indications of a penis were not vocalised at all...
'Well, your Dad will be pleased, anyway. He hates boys...'
So I had, at least done one thing right in having a girl...
We moved to Bath when Rosemary was just shy of three months old. I had a fair number of friends in Yorkshire, whom I knew I would miss greatly, but I kept in touch with them by telephone as often as possible. We were moving down to Anal's old stomping ground; to the friends with whom he had visited prostitutes in Bangkok; brothels in Paris; threesomes in a bed with two blondes; 'F*ck 'em and Chuck 'em' girls...his best man had given the speech of a lifetime at our wedding...the video recollection is a real 'Before and After'...as it starts, I am happy, glorious, gay and radiant...at the end, my brow is furrowed, worn; my face is pale and I return from heaving my guts up in the toilet with vomit smeared down my silk wedding dress...It was during that speech that I learned about the whores. Such taste. Thank you, G...
I dreaded that move, but determined to throw myself into everything, which is my leveller whenever a move is anticipated. We found a beautiful 1930s semi-detached, shifted our furniture in and attempted to start anew. We were living in a very small town. I discovered, from my forays into baby groups and health centres, that few people made friends as all their relatives were on their door step. I was an outsider and they weren't interested.
In desperation, I placed an ad into a local paper, asking to meet like-minded people with young children for days out, coffees, chats, walks in the park etc. I got three responses, by letter. The first was utterly bonkers - a chap who thought my words were euphemisms for rampant sex. The second was a young lad who worked at a second hand car sales garage, never married, no children but who wanted to try 'Out of Body Experiences' with me; and the third was a girl with two children, a third on the way, all to different fathers, who wanted to train as a midwife.
We met up in the park. She bore tattoos all over her knuckles; she swore at her children, and she laid a blanket out on the grass, smeared with excrement. Rosemary crawled right through it...I tried my damnedest to talk to her, but she was monosyllabic and when the time came to take Rosemary home for her evening meal, the relief poured from me...When Anal got home from work, having had a 'few sherberts' in Bath with his chums, I was beside myself with perceived failure.
I felt virginal, frigid and childish next to those tales which were regaled amongst the lads and I have to admit, much to my shame now, that I set out to surpass any paid whore. And I know that I undermined myself in some ways: allowed myself a lot of subjugation, humiliation, pain and disrespect.
All along, I used to inform my mother that my married life was marvellous: every aspect of it; particularly between the sheets...she would rejoinder that sex was disgusting, that she had never enjoyed a moment of it and that all it brought was humiliation to the woman. I goaded her, gleefully, with how much fun I had. But I did lie, profusely, because there was never one iota of love in our 'love-making'...to be perfectly frank, I cannot remember one single episode during our sessions where Anal actually kissed me...maybe he did, but it must have been so rarely that it has been long-forgotten.
I can also recall, vividly, two years ago, telling my mother exactly how many men I had slept with. She thought it was three. I was thrilled to spit at her: Nope! Many More Than That...
Why did I feel that this form of cheapening myself was one-upmanship? She lied to me and told me that she had never had sex before marriage, and when I did, after the initial understanding and warnings, I was later told that God would not want me as I was sullied goods: that no other man would ever want me as they demanded virgins on their wedding nights. To be a virgin, to me, was something elusive, ethereal, God-like and sacrosanct - and I had blown it at the age of 15. So, I was dirty...and therefore, I decided to go hell for leather having one-night stands, screwing around whenever I felt like it. At the time, I didn't once feel cheap or dirty: I always felt as though I was getting what I wanted as I enjoyed sex...most of the time it was utter rubbish, admittedly, but so often, I slept with somebody in order to stick two fingers up at my ex and most of all, my mother.
My attitude has changed out of all recognition now. My parents frown and condemn my union with Ian. It makes me balk that rather than get to know this lovely man who shares mine and my daughters' lives, they would rather cock their snooks and befriend the man who beat me, belittled me, drove me towards insanity, cheated on me, and walked out on me. They are sick and, returning to that book, becoming more aware has riven me with the desire for revenge - something I never really considered before.
On Christmas Day, after they had called the girls at the ex's house, Rosemary and Bethan told me how they had said how 'touched' they were to receive a card from them. Ha! The ex had forced them to write one because they had treated him to a pub meal a couple of weekends ago...that blog was in process and then left...maybe I need to finish it so I can tell you how I felt when I saw that bitch for the first time in 18 months, purely by accident?
I do want revenge at the moment. I want to regain 38 years of wasted, angst and guilt-ridden feelings. I want to reclaim my life as I feel as though so much time has been lost. I can only keep on reading, assimilating, accepting and one day, come to terms with it all.
When I recognise things like this, it makes me cold; I lack the desire to eat at all - not even to binge; I withdraw into myself and I introspect. I also become moody, aggressive and bad-tempered. And Ian has borne the brunt of this on many an occasion. I attempt to talk about my feelings, but sometimes, it is hard to vocalise them - I find it far easier to write them out.
I ate well on Christmas Day - I forced myself to be 'normal' and we started off with a home-made spiced mackerel paté on toast with Buck's Fizz. At lunchtime, with us clearing off to collect the girls from their father's house, and having gone for a lovely walk to blow the cobwebs off, we snacked. Our evening meal contained salmon fillets, marinated in sherry, spices, lemon & lime, soy and balsamic together with steamed vegetables. I refused to weigh myself the next day. Nor did I overdo the laxatives.
I got on the scales this morning and found that I had lost 4lbs. Ian says I look thinner than normal. I am full of cold and heading towards a chest infection by the sound of my wheezing. Food is the last thing on my mind; bingeing is even further away. The violence required to throw up a cal-fest is not something I have the energy for, so I would rather nibble peacefully, or go without.
I still want to be a size 8 by the end of January. I no longer wish to entertain size 6s...