Thursday, August 15, 2013

I'm Turning Into My Mother, I Really Think So

I try to keep it light in the summer.  When I say that, I realize that my last post was about the decline of American feminism.   But really, that couldn’t be helped.   I'd read a survey about it on the Huffington Post.   And I’m a sucker for surveys.  They’re so provocative. So easy to read.  And at the same time, so delightfully absent of any real, explanatory facts or details.   Perfect fodder, really, for a blog.

Well it must be my lucky month.  Because a few days ago, I came across another survey that I had never seen before.   This one (which was actually taken a few months ago, when I was busy tracking the decline of American feminism) was commissioned by a company called Dotty Bingo.  It asked the following question:
            At what age do women turn into their mothers?   

I love that question!  Of course I do!  I’m a living, breathing human with a soul, aren't I?   Also, I am a woman.  And when it comes right down to it, there are two things that every woman loves to obsess about.   Their age.  And their mothers.  So what if this was a dumb survey, created by a company named Dotty Bingo, for the sole purpose of tracking women's bingo playing?   Bingo is a game for old women.  Women who become their mothers are old women.  Transitive Property.  Boom.  

And yes.  In case you were wondering.  It’s 31.  

That is when women turn into their mothers.  Why 31?  Because that’s the age by which women have apparently had their first children.  That’s the age by which they’ve become mothers themselves.  Coincidentally, that is also the exact age of the Duchess of Cambridge.   I'm not calling her an old woman.  But I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that she could probably kick William’s ass at bingo. 

For some people, this mother survey is old news.  I get it.  You digested the Bingo survey when it first came out,  you read that article about it on Slate, and now you're over it.  Well, I’m sorry if I'm being redundant but really -- how do you think I feel?   I apparently turned into my mother more than 13 years ago.  And nobody even bothered to tell me.
Well, OK, a few people tried to tell me.  Like a few of my mom's friends and acquaintances.  On a few different occasions in the past few years, different people have declared – right in front of me, almost as if I wasn't standing right there – that my mom and I look “just like sisters.”    And that was so great.  Because that is a great compliment.   For one of us. 
To be fair, my mom and I do look a lot alike.  Sometimes, I think our physical similarities may even throw people off.   Like when I’m at the grocery store, and a perfect stranger looks at me like I'm a ghost.   I'm never surprised by this because frankly -- now that I'm old enough to play bingo -- I do look sort of dead without my makeup on.  But also, I figure, they probably just know my mother.  So they’re confused.  All these years, they've been hanging out with my mom, and she never told them she had a sister.  Or as some people might call me -- in an effort to be a tiny bit polite -- a daughter.  

Recently, though -- and even before Dotty Bingo started calling out the mother numbers --  I've started to notice some behavioral similarities too.   I'm not talking about the spontaneous weeding that my mom does -- in the middle of a conversation, and sometimes on other people’s property.   I'm not talking about her relative inflexibility regarding grammar rules, either.  Because -- and I think she would agree with this statement -- mom and me are just different that way.  

I'm definitely not talking about the way she sends cards -- and sometimes also a gift, or a thematic cookie -- to every member of her family on every single national, religious, official and unofficial holiday.  I don't do that.  I’m way too self-absorbed to send cards on minor holidays.   But my sister isn't.   Which is good.  Because someone has to turn into my mother in all the ways I'm not.  And for the foreseeable future, anyway, my kids still have a decent chance of getting chocolate and cards from someone in the family on Valentine's Day.

But I have noticed a few things.  Here, for the record, are 5 ways I think I'm definitely turning into my mother.  I wonder if anyone else can relate to any of these.  But remember  --no tokens on the board until your number is called.  


            1.  I Put Butter In Pretty Much Everything.

You may wonder why I don’t just introduce myself to the strangers who stare at me in the grocery store.  The answer is that I’m too busy racing around the grocery store, snatching up all the butter. And really, the butter hoarding should’ve been my first clue.  (Or maybe my second.   Because for decades now, I’ve been enjoying sandwiches simply as a conduit for mayonnaise.)

But more recently, I’ve started making a lot more recipes with butter.  This wouldn’t be a big deal, or even notable.  Except that most of those recipes don’t actually call for butter.   Like.  At all. 
            White rice with tofu?   Toss in some butter.   
             Hamburgers?   Let's fry that sirloin in some butter.   
             Fresh tomato and roasted red pepper sandwich?   Does that toasted sourdough need butter?
I know good cooks always use a lot of butter.  In fact, people say that every meal you order at a restaurant probably contains one full stick of butter.  Not to mention, a whole bunch of salt.   Of course they do.  That’s why you wake up the next day with puffy eyes, indigestion, and a much better idea of what you will look like in a few more years, when you turn into your mother. 

But in retrospect, I have to give my mom props on this.  She’s a great cook.   Butter is just one part of that.  But more importantly, she stuck by butter all those years, when the rest of the country was switching over to margarine.   And that was about loyalty.  And probably, being Slavic.  And now, redemption has come to us all.  Because all these years later, it turns out that butter was probably the healthier choice all along. 

Also it definitely makes you slimmer.   Scientific fact.  Look it up.
            2. I Tsk at Your TV Shows. 

Perhaps you have never thought to express your disapproval of another person's television watching habits by clicking your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  If not, you should really try it.   Because in our family, that's what makes you a mom.   To be perfectly honest, it used to bug the shit out of me when my mother did it.  But now -- somehow, as if by bingo magic -- I do it myself.  Mostly to my kids.  But sometimes also to my husband.
It sounds irritating but frankly, there's an art to the TV Tsk.  It has to be loud enough so the kids know I don’t like something they’re watching.   At the same time, the tsk has to be quiet enough so that it won’t disturb the program.   Because if they can’t hear the program that they’re supposed to feel terrible about, they can’t go ahead and feel terrible about it.  Obviously, I don’t want them to stop watching the program.  If I wanted that, I’d just get up and turn it off.   Rather, I want to badger them -- passive aggressively -- into disliking it themselves
When we were kids, a lot of TV shows got the Tsk. Of course they did.  It was the 80's.  Three's Company was the most elevating thing on the boob tube.   But no program got it more in our house than The Simpsons.   And that is because -- while some gals were down in the church basement, watching their moms play bingo --  my mom was hanging with the nuns.  And nuns, of all people, would not tolerate boys telling their mothers to "chill out."   That is totally rude and unacceptable, Bart Simpson.   John Ritter was simply trying to scam his landlord by pretending to be a homosexual.

You, young man, are a cartoon.

            3.   I'm Almost Wearing A Fanny Pack.

 Recently, I purchased a small satchel for use on vacation.  I couldn't help but notice that -- in certain key respects, and apart from the shoulder strap -- it looks a lot like my mom's fanny pack.  I haven’t worn an actual fanny pack since the 1980s. That is when everyone stopped cooking with butter, everyone starting moving in with their fake gay male roommates, and everyone under 31 stopped wearing fanny packs.  But now that I’ve got my shoulder satchel, and it looks just like a sideways fanny pack, I find myself thinking: Why not just upgrade to the fanny pack? 
Fanny packs are practical for traveling.  They hold stuff securely around your waist.  They can’t be easily snatched by a foreign mugger, unless he can rapidly unfasten the giant plastic harness clip that is partially enveloped by your stomach pouch.  At the same time, the fanny pack pouch can be opened easily with your own hands.  Any time you get the urge to stop, and buy a new beret from a street vendor. 
For my coming trip, my mom actually offered to lend me her fanny pack.   I turned it down.   I wasn’t  quite ready.  But deep in my heart, I know that the writing is on the wall.  Soon enough --  and certainly by the time I drop my kids off at college -- I'll be rockin' that fanny. 

And as soon as I sign up for that campus tour, I will proudly click on my fanny pack belt, and fill that pouch with the following practical items: a small campus map, a hotel key, and a tube of lipstick.  (The tube of lipstick, by the way -- totally got that from my mother.)  

            4.   I Teach My Kids Moral Lessons, Through the Medium of Song.

The other day, my kids were complaining about the cool weather.  I was a little annoyed.   But instead of absorbing their negative energy, I just decided to turn it into a teaching moment.  So I started singing Desperado, by the Eagles.   

 It May Be Raining, But There’s a Rainbow Above You.  You've gotta stop complaining about the weather, before it's too late.  

The fact that those were not the real lyrics -- and that the song isn’t actually about the weather -- made no difference.  The kids didn’t know that.  And once I started singing a classic rock song, against the backdrop of moral righteousness -- they stopped talking to me entirely and found something else to do. 

For my mom, the message was actually important.   Whether it was Slow Down, You Move Too Fast, or  So Far Away... we always understood the larger point.   Sometimes, she sang to turn the mood around -- we got a lot of songs like Yes, Sir!  That’s My Baby! performed with some basic soft shoe choreography, and a ladle full of melted butter.   Other times, I think she just felt like singing.  Someone would mention the Mona Lisa, and she'd launch into You’re The Top.  For no apparent reason.  

Back then, I rolled my eyes a lot.  But it was sweet.  And now that I'm turning into her, I must admit, she knew a lot of lyrics.  An astounding number, actually.   And it's a little unclear to me how I'll be able to follow in her footsteps.  Because I don't know that much Frank Sinatra.   And I grew up listening to bands like The Smiths and Nirvana.   And Smells Like a Teen Spirit seems like a weak foundation from which to launch a message of moral uplift.  Right?

            5.   No Boys On the Second Floor!

Not long ago, my older daughter had a friend over. They decided to play up in her room.  The friend was a boy.  After several minutes, I went upstairs to find out what all the silence was about.  I found the kids standing there, looking out the window, talking.  Of course they were.  They’re nine.  But the whole experience did get me thinking:  How many years do I have until boys are banned from the second floor?  

When I was growing up, house rules mandated that if a friend came over – and that friend was a member of the opposite sex – they were not allowed on the second floor.  AKA, the bedrooms.    This was true even if your male friend was truly just your friend, was the baby brother of a neighbor, or was -- already in the 6th grade -- obviously gay.  

Personally, I thought this was an unnecessary and outlandish rule.  One day, it went from being outlandish to being downright comical.  That was the day, late in high school, when my mom walked into my bedroom and somehow mistook my brother for a strange male companion.  She introduced herself in a tone of obvious disapproval, to throw him off his game.  In retrospect, my mom thinks she suffered some kind of temporary dementia that day, or a minor stroke.  That is obviously not comical.  But the look on my brother’s face – when his mother stood right in front of him, and mistook him for a rakish male suitor – was a laugh to last a lifetime. 
Anyway, now that I’ve turned into my mother, my only question is this:  Why stop at the second floor?  I mean, we have a large TV room.  We have a finished basement.  All of these places, like the second floor, have doors that close.   I can't ban boys from the whole house.   So I guess I shall have to follow the kids around and introduce myself repeatedly -- in a menacing tone of voice -- to all of their guests.   Or maybe just invite them all to play board games with me.   



Anonymous said...

Nice post ...

1. Yes, everything's better with butter!

2-4. You've lost me. Fanny packs, the Eagles, tsking at bad TV? Me and my mom are more like: really bad purses, constantly humming church hymns to remind us all that GOD IS ALL AROUND US, and giving them free rein to rot their brains in front of the boob tube.

5. This has been a concern for me ever since I walked into Nat's preschool class at the Y and found my 3 y.o. kissing a 4 y.o. behind a book shelf. It was awfully traumatic and I hope to never repeat this sort of discovery. But I grew up in a flat so I have zero experience with second floor rules.

Megan said...

Whoops, didn't mean to be anonymous. But even if I had, it would have been an Anonymous Fail, thanks to my Nat story.

Failing at the internet ... just like my mom!

Erin Elizabeth Clune said...

Megan -- too funny! Church hymns! I hope that preschool story didn't involve my kids! Lol.

Jordan said...

I don't see why your alternative childhood listening habits should keep you from delivering moral lessons through song. "If there's something you'd like to try, if there's something you'd like to try, ask me, I'll probably say no, are you freaking kidding me??"

Erin Elizabeth Clune said...

I don't know that song. It's perfect!

Christine White said...

My mom is petite, blond, blue eyed and wears glasses - and when I was an infant, was constantly questioned about whose baby she was pushing around in the stroller. My mom is passive, I am aggressive in nature, my mom is afraid of most things, I simply mask the same fear and bully forward anyway. Anyone who knows both my mother and me would tell you we are nothing alike, oil and water, frick and frack.

And yet, I find the ghost of my mother coming out of my mouth and haunting my decision making, way more often than I would like to admit. We share a few things that I am willing to admit - then I will deny any relation to her from that point forward:

(1) We both pre-set the holiday dinner table days in advance, in order to gauge whether the chargers and napkin rings will compete visually with the center piece, creatively compiled with whatever container and filler will contribute to the holiday theme without hampering line of sight of guests.

(2) We both overthink preparations for a trip or vacation, scouring web sites, printing directions, reviews, and coupons, organizing bags meant for (a) carrying onto the plane, (b) hiking or day trips (c) quick junkets to a farmers market or fair and (d) toting necessities to the beach or water front. Yes, we pack luggage in our luggage and they are filled with reams of printer paper.

(3) Finally - we both seem to be fixated on the etiquette of the thank you note. Back in the day, a growing sense of dread would form about half way through my birthday party or Christmas day, as I realized I would be stuck at the kitchen table, hand writing thoughtful and personal thank you cards to all my friends and relatives. I make my son do this today - and let me tell you, the frustration I feel as a parent corralling a 9 yr old boy to perform this feat is only lightened by my own compulsive satisfaction that it will be done sometime next week, after many tears.

I often wonder, at what age will my son become me?

Erin Elizabeth Clune said...

Christine. Can I hire you (or your mom) to plan a vacation for me? We are the opposite. It's disastrous!

JSE said...

MmeHuppert said...

Ok, the first time I recognized that I inherited my Mom's body in toto from the neck down was around age 15. Since then, I have made almost zero life choices that would allow me to emulate her social behavior. I am MUCH more a Daddy-knock-off behaviorally. But, since my Mom died three months ago, my sibs and I have been inventorying which parts of her legaccy (behavioral) we all got our piece of. My sister, the eldest, lives six blocks from where we grew up, raised kids, specialized in early childhood development, all like Mom. My brother has all of my Mom's addictions (booze, cigs,) and all of her amazing charisma and social intelligence. I guess I got her music and... I cook. I cook all of her recipes. I cook for people to feel loved and experience genuine bonhomie. And I have a really low-self-esteem problem and lousy taste in romantic partners as a result... just like her.

I know all her jokes, can throw a mean party and feel very responsible when standing in line for a bathroom at, say, Mt. Rushmore or a ski lodge that every other woman in that line is having a good time. Like my Mom, I will do impromptu stand up to make sure that everyone is happy while waiting to pee or change their kid. I wish I were more like her in more ways than I can name here. But, I must also add, Erin, that like your Mom, my Mom never left the butter party, eschewed margarine. However, she didn't blink when I asked to go on the pill at 15 nor did she disallow boys anywhere. I dubt at this late stage I will ever have a chance to be anything more significant to a child than a good adult friend... but I think, on reflection from all the memorials spoken at Mom's funeral, that may be the greatest emulation of her at all. One of my fondest memories of HS is of she and you, perched on stools in our kitchen having a cigarette and a rather deep discussion of feminism. So, I suppose that's my least comic and most fond form of mimicry. Befriending all al the young folk with whom I work and teach.

Just for the record, my Mom scolded me for wearing a fanny pack, "That is a horrible way to wear a purse. Do they think ANY woman needs emphasis down there at ANY age?" Bingo.

Erin Elizabeth Clune said...

Many great memories Amy! I'm raising a glass to her once again! And that story makes me want to wait in line with you to pee. Maybe we could recruit you for swim meets! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

one of my happiest mom-memories: spending an entire Sat. when I was about 15 recovering a beat-up armless living room chair. We had salvaged a piece of zebra striped fabric from the sleep sofa warehouse where my grandfather worked. We stapled it to the chair. It looked grand. The was my mother's whimsical, creative, funny side. Sometimes that pops out of me, too. Ida Cardone

debra burke said...

Awesome....i am always fascinated by mother daughter relationships....didn't have that....

Great post.

Erin Elizabeth Clune said...

Thanks Ida, great memory. And thanks to you, Debra, for reading. I'm glad if people get a few laughs at least. :)

Anonymous said...

Fanny pack,something to do with lady parts?