A Mother’s Opinions, Censored

The other night, as I got passed around my family’s Passover seder via phone reciever, a family friend with whom I rarely speak brought up the blog.

“You know, I think your mother doesn’t always know whether to be proud of you or embarrassed!” he chuckled.

(For the record, I’m pretty sure she leans toward pride: last night she sat, like a champ, through a reading in which I use the word “fuck” as a verb and repeatedly mentioned masturbation–she claimed no discomfort.)

Later, slightly rankled, I relayed the comment in an email to a friend. “I don’t care what she thinks,” I wrote. And then, immediately: “That’s a lie. Of course I care.”

The fact is that I a care a great deal what my mother thinks–probably more than I’d like to, and do, admit. Not only when it comes to my writing, but also, of course, my relationships.

One one level I simply trust her judgment and want her approval in that Pavlovian mother-daughter sort of way that cannot be helped. And on another, I just don’t want to deal with the unpleasant reality of spending my life with a man she doesn’t care for.

Someone I know who recently left a long relationship only realized how much her mother disliked the man she’d been dating, for several years, when she broke up with him.

“How come no one told me?” she pleaded. But even as she did, she knew that–had her mother said anything earlier–she wouldn’t have wanted to hear it.

Often, we want our mothers to be “yes” (wo)men–to provide that singular, unconditional and automatic support that few others in our lives ever will.

I am horrified when my mother expresses anything besides enthusiastic excitement about a new relationship–or piece of writing, for that matter.

As I’ve told her, I’d rather she say nothing than say anything skeptical. But then again, when she says nothing, I’m also horrified–since it’s fairly clear what lies behind her silence.

Do I want her to lie? She has asked me this question. And I hate to admit it, but I must say that the answer might be: kinda.

I’d like to think that if I were on the verge of committing to a man who my mother truly believed would not make a good partner–for reasons having to do with my well-being–I would want her to speak up. She probably knows me better than I do, and she certainly knows more about the world and about relationships–having had one with great success for coming on thirty years. (Note to brothers: we must remember this anniversary!).

But until then, while I’m still trial-ing and error-ing and trying to figure out what it is I’m looking for in a relationship, all I want is her unflinching, enthusiastic support. Anything short of that is likely to send me into a state of righteous hostility.

I can’t promise that a similar thing won’t happen if and when she says something to me later on, when it really matters. Only then–as I will hopefully remember–it will be worth it.

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