Newsflash: contrary to what one sometimes thinks when single, being in a relationship does not make all one’s problems go away.
Having to move bedrooms? Way easier. Dealing with car problems? Definitely improved. Frequent, fragile mood swings and persistent insecurity about one’s body and talent? Thriving as ever.
One thing, though, that it turns out is a bit easier for me, when I’m attached, is my relationship with my mother.
Now, my mom and I, overall, have a pretty solid relationship. I’d say it’s above average, easily. We talk several times a week. We both have fairly easygoing temperaments. We each think the other is, objectively (yeah, right), pretty darn interesting and lovely and smart.
I tend to focus on the ways in which my mother and I alike: you know, on those tics and mannerisms of hers that, because I recognize them in myself, find consistently, irrationally, repulsive: the way we say “hmmm” when other people talk, even when we aren’t listening; the face we make when we look in the mirror. Etc.
But in truth, we are quite different people. As you may have noticed if you are reading this blog, I’m pretty comfortable being open about most things, excessively intimate details of my personal life included. My mother? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong: both my parents are extremely friendly and warm. (In fact, they might be more open with strangers than people they’re close to, but I’ll stop there–I think I’ve psychoanalyzed my family enough for one day.)
Anyhow, it’s not that my mother doesn’t like talking to people generally, or even me. But, (and perhaps me being her daughter has something to do with this), when I’m single, she doesn’t inquire about my love life as much as I, often, want her to. Even when much of it is already being broadcast to her, along with the entire internet.
It’s an awkward boundary, that we struggle to navigate: how much I want to tell versus how much she wants to hear. But now that I’m in a relationship, things feel much easier.
When I found out this website would publish my essay, I called my mom immediately. Not to tell her the news, but to ask for her help–they’d requested “a bunch” of photos.
The conversation went something like this:”Hey! Remember I once kinda mentioned I was writing an essay about you reading my blog? It’s getting published. I need a lot of photos of us together. Can you send them? Great, thanks, love you, bye!”
A few days later, after she’d dutifully sent along a handful, I called and asked her to send more–just in case.
“Well,” she replied, “It’s hard for me to know what’s appropriate, since I haven’t read the essay.”
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
I hesitated, having dumbly failed to ancitipate this scenario. I stalled: I told her that she could read it–that I’d send it in a few days, once I’d edited the draft. “I’m not going to change it, though!”
“Of course,” she said. “I would never ask you to.”
And so, a few days later, I did. And then I waited, anxiously, for her response.
“It’s very honest, mostly accurate, and incredibly sad,” she eventually responded. (By “eventually” I mean a couple of hours after I sent it to her–for the record, time slows down incredibly when you’re waiting for your mother to respond to an essay in which you’ve written about her inadvertently accusing you of ‘sleeping around’.)
As D put it, a pretty ideal response: sensitive, generous, honest. But of course, it made me cry. I love my mother. I respect her immensely. The last thing I want is to make her sad.
Which, essentially, I wrote back to her in an email. And I said this, too: “I feel like this essay captures an aspect of our relationship, and a particular moment. It doesn’t even really resonate to me right now.”
It’s true–and when we talked later that night, she agreed. I wrote the essay when I was single. And now that I’m not, the whole “how much to share” question is not nearly as relevant. Telling her about my life means telling her about D because he is part of it. There isn’t much suspense or intrigue.
Which, for the most part, is another good thing about being in a relationship. It doesn’t solve everything, but after something like six years being (mostly) single, I won’t complain.