Contest #28 shortlist ⭐️

You Don't Have to Love Family

Submitted into Contest #28 in response to: Write about someone (or something) you loved that you shouldn’t have.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction

You put on this shade of nail polish on your toenails for the first time, and once it dries, you recognize it from seeing it on your mother’s nails. For a second, it feels like the polish remover is screaming at you from across the room.  

You like to sew. You’re pretty good at it, it makes you feel good that you do this well. Every time you repair a piece of clothing, you remember she was the one who taught you how. And you wonder if you should just throw the needle away and rip the piece of clothing off so it can’t be fixed anymore. 

Your father makes a joke about the way you drive and compares you to your mother. He's not serious, you both know you’re a better driver than she is. You turn away so he won’t see you cry, but you sob so hard you can’t hide it. You’re not sure why you’re crying, but you can’t stop until you’re home. The windshield is blurry with your tears and you think to yourself that it may not be the worst thing in the world if you were to have an accident and could never drive again. 

You and your mother love the same books. You want to borrow hers because you like to read and they’re good, it should be that simple, shouldn’t it? So you borrow them, and every time you do, you hate that this is something you can share.

Almost everyone has told you at least one that you look alike. Same eyes, same smile, same hair color, same voice. You've been told so many times that you look like her that you wonder if it's some sort of cosmic joke.

Someone compliments your shirt. "Thanks, it used to be my mom’s and she gave it to me.’’ That’s it. Just a sentence. It’s the truth, so why does it bother you? Why do the words feel like they’re forming a wall in your throat? Why can’t you stand that this person now thinks you’re a normal girl whose mother gives her clothes?

Your father is your best friend. He's the only person on the planet to love you unconditionally. But you know that he can't help but see her in you. Every time you argue or fight with him, he shuts off and assumes you're being irrational because that's what he learned from her. He never says sorry. Sometimes you wonder if he would be able to say it if you didn't have your mother's eyes.

You wake up. You’re tired. You’re cold. It feels like a good morning for coffee. You make it, it’s warm, it smells good, it’s comforting. You pour some milk in it and you stare at it for a while as it slowly gets lighter. You want to add sugar, but you don’t like sugar in your coffee. Neither does she. You fight the urge because you’ll enjoy it more this way. But you hate that you like your coffee exactly the way she does. 

She invites you over. Makes food she knows you’ll love. Buys you something, a piece of clothing, a snack you like, a blanket because you’re always cold. She makes sure your room is the right temperature and she decorated it with colors you like. She says she wants you to feel at home just like you do in your house, at your dad’s. At the end of the night, you lay on your bed, remembering why you don’t owe her anything, trying to stop yourself from feeling guilty, convincing yourself that it’s okay that you don’t want to forgive her. When you’re about to fall asleep, you wonder if she’ll show up in your dreams that night. You never know if you’ll love or hate her once you’re asleep.

You watch a lot of movies and TV shows. Sometimes the characters of the mothers are gentle, sweet, caring. You just want to scream at the screen that she's probably being fake. But sometimes the mothers are jerks. Entitled, narcissistic, egotistical. You know these mothers. You like when they show up on your screen and you get to hate them. You want to yell at them everything you choose not to yell at your own. 

It used to be a given for you that you would have children of your own someday. Now you don't really want them anymore. You can't stand the thought of ever making your child feel the same way she made you.

You’re so happy, easy-going, full of life now when you’re around her. You have to be. It’s a choice you made. It’s your way to survive. The only way you’ll maybe, someday, be able to get back the parts of you that would have existed if it weren’t for her. If you’re not happy, you’ll fight with her, it’s inevitable. And you don’t want to fight anymore. You want to be angry at her, you want to resent her, you don’t want to forgive her, but you can’t fight with her. It took too much out of you and it never amounted to anything. She’s irrational and doesn't believe she can be wrong, and will tell you anything she can think of to hurt you. And it’s not worth it to fight with her. So you choose to be happy. And you wait until you’re not with her anymore to remember why you shouldn’t be. 

She’s everywhere. She’s in the clothes she gave you and the peppermint tea she bought that you love and the clothes that you wash perfectly because that’s how she showed you and the dog you’ve always wanted that she says she wanted too and it was your father who didn’t. She’s in the boots, and the winter coat she bought you, and the books you borrow from her, and the plants that you take care of so well because you don’t want her to be better than you at keeping them alive, and the city she pretended to fall in love with because you fell in love with it, and the country she pretended she wanted to visit because your father wanted to visit it and because she doesn’t have enough essence to have her own dreams. She’s in your fights with your dad, and the color yellow, and the antidepressants you take every morning, and the family pictures, and the song she loved when you play the piano, and the hairbrushes she wanted you to wash more often, and the bracelet from your great-aunt she kept for you, and the hypersomnia you can’t get rid off because she sucked all the energy out of you until your battery was so low you were surviving instead of living. 

Most of the time you feel like nothing matters anymore. Not the money she chose to put towards your education, the hundreds of times she went to see you play soccer, the help she gave you with your homework when you were little, the school activities she volunteered to accompany the class on, the many things she bought you, the hours she spent reading to you because you loved it, the times she took you shopping. And you hate that all of this makes her look like a mother you should be able to forgive. Because you can’t, and you don’t want to, and it’s hard, and she doesn’t deserve it, and she doesn’t even care that you do as long as you pretend and everyone else believes you have. 

Egotistical. Selfish. Narcissistic. Egocentric. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. Self-involved. Are there more synonyms? None of them seem strong enough on their own. Perhaps you should invent a word for the complete lack of interest a mother should never feel towards her own child’s feelings.

Your sisters tell stories during lunch and she manages to bring the conversation back to her every single time. She says she doesn’t care about your pain because hers is too strong. She tells everybody about your personal life because she has to talk about it and it’s simply unhealthy that you don’t and your problems affect her just as much as they affect you. Someone talks about the bad day they’ve had and she immediately makes sure everyone knows hers was worse or at least as bad. You tell her about something that makes you happy and she tells you about the many things in her life that make her happy. It becomes a game for you. Everything you tell her, you say trying to guess how she will manage to talk about herself next. Distracting yourself like this is the only way you can tolerate it. You get so good at this game, you’re almost always right. Because of this, you realize selfish people are extremely predictable. You realize you’re playing the saddest game ever, but you’re satisfied that you always win.

You still hear her. She’s inside you, whispering the things that you don’t want to forget because they fuel the anger you still want to feel. Maybe forgetting them is the next step towards moving on, but you can’t. You should try to lose some weight, and have you gained weight, and have you lost weight, and your thighs look a little bigger, and how can you take your father’s side, and I know you love your father more than me, and it’s your fault your sisters won’t ask you how you’re doing, and I don’t have enough money to do this on my own, and I spent so much money on you, and it’s probably your fault you fought with your friend, and how come you didn’t move in with me like you should have, and everything I told you I was allowed to say because I was hurt and I was too hurt to care about your feelings, and okay fine then I’ll kill myself if you don’t stay the night, and no don’t call the ambulance, and your father turned you against me, didn’t he, and your father owed me money, and your father is narcissistic, and I didn’t deserve this, and you should have moved in with me like a normal child, and have you lost weight, and you’re like your father and you don’t have feelings, and you’re heartless, and how can you not care about how I feel? And her voice in your head just will not stop and every time you think about it you wonder how your own mother could tell you she would kill herself because of you and never say sorry for it. 

You look at what you just wrote and part of you wants to laugh. You know if any of this ever came up, she wouldn't say sorry. She would deny saying any of it and then remind you of all the horrible things you've said.

From all of this, you realize that you don't know anymore if you love your mother or not. But you know that you used to. You used to look up to her. You wish you could talk to your 10-year-old self and warn her. You wish you could tell her that no, you don't have to love family. It's not that simple.

She ruined you, didn’t she? You’re terrified of feeling now, terrified of being you, terrified of being your dad, terrified of being her. Terrified of letting people in because of course they’ll hurt you, you’re not worth their love. You’re everything that’s wrong with your mother mixed with everything that’s wrong with your father, they’ve taught you that much. So how can you just be when everything about you is at least a little bit wrong? How can you deal with your feelings when your mother taught you it hurts everyone when you don’t learn to control them but your father taught you it’s unhealthy to hide them?

Why were you born with a mother who only loves you when she can flaunt you or flaunt how good of a mother she is? 

Would it have been different if you had been different?

February 08, 2020 03:38

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