Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Completely Inappropriate

This is one of those posts that's probably not going to make it to Facebook.  Which means Joan and maybe two other people will ever see it. (Thank you. Both of you.)  But hey, if you can't have a few stealth blog posts that might offend a bunch of people, what's the point in having a blog?  Actually, what is the point in having a blog?  I haven't figured that out yet and I've been doing it since 2008.  That's a long time to do something for which you don't know the point.  But I do know this; I feel better when I do it. So onward.

I called my mom the other night around ten.  This was a mistake, because if I call my mom around ten I'm probably going to call Rhett or Marcia or Kristen or Kevin around 10:15 to vent about whatever my mother just said (because Joan was asleep), which pretty much guarantees I won't get into bed until 11 and won't get to sleep until 11:30, when my brain winds down, if indeed it ever does.  That said, however, I called my mom the other night around ten.  She said, "I'm glad you called," which is kind of nice to hear, and "Did your aunt send you a Christmas present?" Which is, uh, not.

I have eight aunts.  Four of them are still living and all the same, I knew immediately which one she meant. The one who lives with her, of course. (Insert joke about my father and his two wives here. On second thought, forget the joke.) "Yes," I said, because she had.  A pretty nice one, too. "Well, did you send her a thank you note?"  Another thing I'm not accustomed to hearing, though I heard it when I was, oh, eight or ten.

"Christmas was two days ago, Mom," I said.  "Well, you shouldn't wait.  You should write it the same day you open the present," she said.  "Mom, there's no mail on Christmas," I pointed out.  "Well, there's mail the next day.  You're already a day late." (Yes. She said that. She said that.) "I have the stationery right here on the table," I said, which I was making true as we spoke. "Good, then it won't take you long," my mom said.  "Mom--" I began, and she said, "Yes, I know, I'm still telling my children to mind their manners.  You need to send the note. Immediately."  

So I said I would, and we went off to something else, and 10:15 came and I was already on the phone to Rhett, winding down from that conversation. By 11:45 I was in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering what the fuck.  And the next morning I did send the note, because I said I would and once I've said I'll do something, I have a hard time letting myself off the hook.  Here it is three days later and I'm still wondering what in hell just happened. I mean, the last time I checked, I was I think about 45 years old.

Why is this bothering me, you might ask.  Everybody's mother has her overbearing moments.  Well, for one thing, there are people who write thank you notes and there are people who don't, and I'm firmly in the former category.  Just ask Joan.  I do a great imitation of my mother when I need her to sign one. People who know me know this.  Second, it was the way she said it.  Not just the being-overbearing part but the lowering-her-voice-and-muttering-into-the-phone-like-she's-trying-to-get-around-a-kidnapper part.  That says, to my discerning ear, that said aunt is right there in the room and she's trying not to be overheard.  Which leads to an inevitable conclusion that I don't like, and that's this: There is no privacy when talking to my mom anymore.  Or my parents in general for that matter.  Anything I tell Person 1 will be immediately known by Persons 2 and 3, regardless of the content.  Which makes it damned hard to find out what someone wants for Christmas.

The other thing that's bothering me is that she was so overbearing.  My mother is not a very touchy feely person, and I'd describe her as "clingy" and "hovering" right after I described her as "stupid" (which she most definitely isn't).  I mean, she's nice, but a helicopter parent she is not.  Unless whatever's going on is somehow affecting her directly.  So what I suspect here, and I'm probably right, is that Aunt was leaning on Mom about the thank-you note issue and Mom, rather than telling Aunt to either mind her own business or ask me about it her damnself, decided that she had to make everything Fine again.  Remember, the Scandinavian household is eternally under siege by the tyrannical army of Fine.  If everything isn't completely Fine, it's the end of the world.  Trust me, I had to tell her I was gay.  Cue the catapults and the battering rams.

In case I haven't mentioned this part in a while, Aunt has something on the Aspergers/autism spectrum. Never officially diagnosed, just kind of obvious if you ever look at a symptom list. One of them is that she'll get fixated on something and won't let it go. Can't let it go, I think now (having listened to her complain about someone smoking on an airplane, back when that was allowed, for eight hours between Atlanta and London).  So if something happened to cause her to think that I didn't get the present, or didn't get it on time, or--whatever, she might have been obsessing for days about when she was going to receive a thank-you note. And just because Mom lives with her doesn't mean she's figured this out, or knows how to handle it even if she has figured it out.

This is not Aunt's fault.  She never asked to be Aspergers/autistic.  She does things sometimes that are completely socially inappropriate, and she doesn't pick up social cues that the rest of us use.  Ferexample, when a topic of conversation comes up that makes someone uncomfortable, other persons in the conversation will usually drop hints that it's time to change the subject, ie, "How interesting.  Fred, so good to see you, how is that merger thing going at your office?" Don't do this with my aunt.  She won't get it and she'll go straight on with whatever the topic was.  If you want her to drop a subject, you have to tell her.  "Aunt. Stop it." Or "Aunt. Drop that subject, please."  Which, if you're me and you grew up in a Scandinavian household in which virtually nothing was ever openly discussed (see Tyranny of Fine, above) seems amazingly rude.  Especially when directed at an older person.

So here are my unpalatable options when something like this happens.  I can just let it happen and tell myself in a Buddhist-y kind of way that I don't have to respond to something just because I don't like it.  I can call Mom back and say, "Um, I'm 45 years old, don't you think that was a little inappropriate?" and see what happens.  I can say to Aunt, "Aunt. Stop it." Which, if you think about it for half a second, really isn't rude. I mean, you communicate with people using the language they understand, right?  And if I, who know she has this Asperger's thing and that certain things just don't compute, find her difficult to deal with sometimes, imagine how total strangers must feel.

(Luckily, she is a pretty good mimic of normal behavior, when she wants to be.  A trick I wish I had picked up somewhere down the line.)

That's a lot of baggage for one stupid thank-you note, but hey, that is just the way I roll.  And whose interactions with their grown parents/aunts aren't layered with decades-old coats of meaning? Anyway, that's my domestic drama for the week.  What's yours? And did you write your thank-you notes yet?


Todd Lohenry said...

Make it 3 people then. I follow your blog in Feedly and frequently read your posts... :-D

Jen said...

I have another fan! I have another fan!

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