I handed my mom a printed copy of my blog post Killing Time. “Here,” I say. “Read this.”
“What is it?”
“Something I wrote for my blog.”
“My blog. Remember? We agreed I’d print the parts you’re allowed to read so you wouldn’t have to see the stuff you don’t like?”
“Oh! That thing where they gave you the writer of the week award?” she says, referring to the time I was Freshly Pressed. “You’re still doing that?”
“Yup, still doing it,” I tell her.
She takes the pages from me. “I don’t understand why you have to write such scum.”
SSSSSLAP! * sting * Ow!
I’ve discussed in previous posts my mother’s discomfort with some of what I write on my blog. Or, more accurately, with the idea of it because she hasn’t ever actually seen my blog. Any of the posts she’s read have been ones that I’ve edited in consideration of her delicate sensibilities, and emailed or printed for her. She’s from a different generation when some of the language I use wasn’t slung around as casually as it is today. Also, I’ll always be her little girl, so while she’s accepting and wonderful about me being a lesbian, there are certain details of my private life she’d rather not know. I wouldn’t want to read anything she wrote exploring the details of her sexual escapades either, because ewwww! So I’ve tried to be understanding and accept that when it comes to my blog, she’s too focused on the details to appreciate the big picture.
What I’ve tried to explain to her, and what she cannot seem to grasp, is that while there may be a generational differences in opinions about acceptable language, I choose words because they make sense, or have the effect I want, in the context of what I’m saying.
For example, a friend and I were leaving a concert once and wanted to get to a certain restaurant for a bite to eat before it closed. Since neither of us was wearing a watch, I asked a fellow concert-goer if he knew what time it was. He replied that it was “ten-fucking-thirty.” I remember that night because it was the first time I saw The Go Gos, and we saw Bette Midler in the audience, and we had better seats than her and she waved to us when we yelled “We love you Bette!” But I also remember that random fucking. Ten-fucking-thirty. Fucking is meant to convey something – anger, frustration, disappointment. But this fucking was empty, hollow; it was a pointless fucking.
Now, let’s say that you’re out enjoying a night with friends. The conversation is flowing, you’ve had a couple of drinks and you glance at your watch – it’s 10:00pm. There’s a lot of laughter, maybe some dancing, you have a few more drinks and a couple of hours pass … or so you think! You look at your watch. It’s three-fucking-thirty! This fucking conveys shock and surprise. It is not a random, pointless fucking; it’s a deliberate and meaningful fucking. Which is interesting, because most fuckings associated with drinking and 3:30am are, in fact, random and pointless.
I don’t want this to be an open invitation to bash on my mom. She’s got something of a reputation for saying one thing when she means another, and I’ve been entertaining my Facebook friends for years by posting snippets of our conversations.
My Mom: I’m not homophobic. I’m not afraid to go outside, sometime my arthritis just gets so bad …
Me: Agoraphobic Ma. You’re not agoraphobic.
My Mom: Oh. Well what did I say?
Me: * face palm *
My Mom: Did you see the two Asian women win that jackpot last night?
Me: Two Asian women … you’re gonna have to be more specific.
My Mom: They were wearing skinny jeans.
Me: Well that narrows it down …
My Mom: I don’t think they were Korean or Japanese. They may have been Brazilian.
I know that mixing up your phobias or forgetting that Brazil is not an island in the Pacific isn’t the same as asking why I write scum. But if I’m going to tell you something she said that hurt my feelings, I also need to let you know she’s funny and endearing and that we spend a lot of time making each other laugh. I could stretch this post out to a couple of thousand words detailing all the ways she’s been there for me and supported me and loved me, even when I wasn’t very lovable. And she was always my greatest champion when it came to my writing; which, I know, is why this hit me so hard.
As a lover of all things ironic, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that she’s put off by the words I carefully choose for effect; yet she didn’t consider how the words she used so carelessly might affect me. She did follow it up by saying, “You’re such a good writer, why do you have to use those words?” And I guess I could ask her the same thing – you’re such a good mom, why did you have to use those words?
When I joined my ex’s family albeit for 7 years, I was shocked at how they talked to each other. My upbringing was not easy and mom would not win any mother of the year contests, but I have always been the person who tries to not hurt anyone’s feelings with my words. They were flinging put downs and hurtful things around like it was no big deal. I was in shock. I asked them if they ever thought that maybe some of the things they say to each other hurt the other person’s feelings, no they had not. So, I guess it was a sign that they thought I was family when they started doing it to me and I got mad. Told them that I did not appreciate the things that they said and I would not tolerate it. They looked at me like I had two heads.. One of the reasons that person is now my ex.. Words have power. Sometimes more so than actions. Words stay with you for a long time, sometimes forever. I know it is not meant in an evil- potting-to-take-over-the-world way, but it still hurts. Love your blog!
The funny thing is, my family is somewhat similar to yours. One of the things I love about my dad is that I never heard him use derogatory terms about women. I think it did a lot for my self-esteem growing up and made my brothers better men. And neither he nor my mom ever swore and we weren’t name-callers. My mom does, however, tend not to always choose her words wisely. She doesn’t mean to hurt, she just doesn’t think.
Ability to clearly communicate often skips a generation. Sometimes the mothers of even the most talented lesbian blogistas cannot express support and appreciation, and conceal it with unintended criticism.
Perhaps we both need a copy of the Gobbledygook-to-English dictionary. In a conversation with my wife today, she told me that some people had become ill by eating, not “cronuts and clam fries”, but Cro-donuts (eaten by Cro-Magnons?) and clam French fries. 🙄
And I know it was unintended … She just has the worst way of saying she wants the best for me.
I love this post. I think sometimes parents just don’t understand the affect their words have on us. My dad constantly gives me insults on my blog because it isn’t perfect. And that really bothers me because I want him to be proud of what I write. But, he says these things in hopes to motivate me to be better, he just doesnt get how much his words really do hurt.
Sounds like they both need to learn the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism …
Yeah, family isn’t always the most sensible audience. I guess that’s what comes from spending so many years together. We become used to being forgiven when we walk all over people. It’s terrible, really. My family lays out small bombs for each other. I think we have some serious egoistical, self-understanding and self-realization problems.
That being said I find it interesting how it will be the – seemingly – small things that really get to us. Perhaps because, with bigger things, we’re more aware of trying not to hurt each other, but with little things we don’t always think about it.
This made me laugh so much! I feel like there is a huge generational split where I work and I often find I’m getting told off for using words or phrases that I find completely normal but other people at work find pointless or offensive. It’s become a bit of a running joke now actually!
It’s funny, being from a generation that’s looser with language, it probably would have rolled right off my back if she’d asked why I have to write “that shit.” Because to me “that shit” just means that stuff, that nonsense or what she feels are those pointless fucks. Maybe I should teach her to swear so we can communicate better!
I think she may just have a faulty filter …