Today I said Fuck You to my mom.
I feel like I have to preface this story by saying, It’s terrible, I know. There’s no excuse for it. For those of you who think I should be struck by lightning for doing it, I can’t say I disagree with you. All I can say is, you know what happens, so read at your own risk.
I also want to say this actually happened exactly one week ago. It wasn’t until today that I found the courage to share it.
I called my mom on my way back from a long commute. It had been a long day at work.
An introduction to me: I am a bad daughter. I hold no illusions about it. I was the kid in college who ignored her parents’ calls. I’m an only child who has no plans to take over the family business. Instead I live in DC while my parents are in Michigan and I rarely visit.
I love my parents, don’t get me wrong. It’s just never been that easy. I watch my roommate Skype her parents every weekend, without fail, and hold light-hearted conversations about everything that happened that week and I occasionally chime in with an, “I love you too!” I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy.
My parents are getting older and I am too. I know we both want something better but we don’t really know how.
I’ve been trying. So I call my mom.
I start by describing my day. I tell her I think I probably need to pull together a proposal to convince my boss we need more people on our team.
To which my mom says, “Do you think you’re a very convincing person?”
This is where I kick myself, but not really, because I’m driving on a highway.
I’m a little stumped as to how to answer this question, but I try. I laugh and say I think I’m pretty convincing, I coerced my roommate into making a Youtube video with me just last week.
She says, “No, but at work. Do you think you’re a very convincing person?”
Now my joking mood is gone. I’m tired and I’m hungry and I’m almost home and this just isn’t the kind of question I want to try and contemplate at eight pm after a long day at work.
I make a half-hearted attempt to explain how convincing I am at work, to both of our dissatisfaction, before I say, “I don’t know how to answer this question. It’s kind of annoying… Can we just move on?”
We all know at this point that we don’t move on. The conversation most definitely does not move on.
I try to explain WHY it’s annoying. I fail. I finally say, “It’s just the tone, the tone is annoying! It feels very critical!”
Index finger. Trigger. Pull. Boom.
My mom’s fired up now. (If you’ve ever wondered where I get that inner scary from, wonder no more.) She says something to the tune of, “Critical? Critical! This is NICE. You don’t even KNOW critical. When I am CRITICAL, and people DON’T SURVIVE!”
(Here it comes.) My patience deserts me. “FUCK YOU!” I say. The MILLIsecond I hear the words on their way out of my mouth I am already regretting it.
She hangs up and doesn’t pick up any of the 15 times I call her back that night. And she hasn’t picked up since.
Now I return to the preface of this story. I have absolutely no excuse for my behavior. It’s unacceptable. I have never said those words to my parents in my life nor should I ever find the occasion in the future. I own my mistake as my own. I know it’s bad. Very bad.
It also triggered a lot of reflection for me.
Why is it so hard?
Why, when I talk to my mother, does it seem like my patience is nowhere to be found?
Why the fuck did I have to say Fuck You!?!?!?
It comes down to values.
I’m speaking for 99.99% of Asians out there when I say that I wasn’t brought up on compliments. Instead I was brought up on healthy doses of well-intended criticism.
Sometimes I’m reminded of the fact.
- When people give me a compliment and my first reaction is (a) suspicion and (b) extreme discomfort.
- When I witnessed my friend with his family. Not saying he’s not very impressive, of course, but, it was like he was the roll and their SOLE JOBS ON EARTH were to butter it.
- When I talked with one of my best Asian-American friends and she described graduating from law school. She knew exactly what I meant. Her and her fiancé went to dinner with both of their families to celebrate their graduation. She had graduated Magna Cum Laude and her fiancé Cum Laude. His parents and relatives were taking turns at the table, lauding his achievements and how proud they were of him. Her parents looked at the graduation program and said, Why didn’t you win any of these other awards?
I don’t bring this up to say bad things about it. If anything I think my upbringing has made me stronger. I am proud of how laser-focused I am on always improving, and how my sense of my own value comes from me instead of coming from others.
But if any of us has a Kryptonite on this world, it’s our mothers.
When I talk to my mom it’s like I’m transported to some alternate universe where my eight-year-old self is trapped in this twenty-eight-year-old’s body.
I can’t tell if her words are actually unreasonable or not. They could be perfectly innocuous, and I can see myself making the case that they are. And I certainly know they come from a good place.
That doesn’t stop me from automatically placing the anvil that is twenty eight years of “never good enough” onto a sentence composed of eight little words.
I forgot to measure my rope of patience before I placed my call. If I had, I would have known it wasn’t the time. I was tired and hungry and had been driving through the night.
I was honest to God scared to tell my dad. A small part of me that ran away with my imagination imagined a world where I told my dad and he broke up with me too and neither of my parents spoke to me for the rest of our lives.
I feel guilty. I mean I don’t know about you but Asians just don’t swear at their parents. Not good Asians at least. It’s just not allowed.
I feel annoyed. I slipped up. I said a word. Should it really be that big a deal? I guess that’s a silly question for a culture where they tell you stories about children cutting out their own thigh meat or rolling naked on a frozen lake to fish and feed their starving family.
I feel sad. I know my mom must have cried. A lot. After this happened. I know she is probably thinking about how I am as a daughter and how she is as a mom and where it all went wrong. I wonder if she thinks about how I’m feeling.
I feel mad. I’m past this point but I can’t believe my mom still won’t pick up the phone or at least message me back. Can’t she see I’m trying, even if I’m crappy at it? Why do I always have to be the one to make things right?
I feel confused that I feel all these things when I feel like I shouldn’t.
I feel sorry.
I wish it weren’t so hard.
I won’t give up.