Thursday, September 28, 2006

Let's just get the complaining over in one big cathartic lump

Top five irritating things about my mother

She talks loudly and constantly all day long, giving a running commentary on everything she does. And this isn't just talking to herself: she requires those around her to pay attention and respond from time to time, otherwise she gets upset that no one listens to her.

She has a habit of asking a question, then halfway through the first sentence of your answer she says something completely unrelated that cuts you off, and then moves onto a different topic. When she doesn't do this, she interrupts the first few words of your reply with "Eh?" and you have to start again. Sample conversation:
"What did you do at university this morning?"
"Well, I went to a --"
"Do you know, I haven't been able to find my glasses since I put them down after breakfast and I think they might be in the bathroom."
"Actually --"
"Actually I saw them --"
"Never mind, I'm just going to dash off to the letterbox to see if your mail has arrived."

She refers to all Asian people as "Chinese" unless they are carrying a camera, in which case they are "Japanese". When I suggested a couple of days ago that the "nice Chinese man in the grocer's" might not have been Chinese, but maybe from one of the other 30-something countries in Asia, she replied that she thought he probably was Chinese, because "They work in places like that". Then for the rest of the evening every time she mentioned him (which was a lot, because she had to keep retelling the story about how he tried to sell her more cake than she wanted to buy), she called him, "the Chinese man, no wait, we aren't allowed to call him Chinese, are we? Because he is actually from a town three kilometres out of the south-western province of Korea -- oh, is that North Korea or South Korea? Maybe we should check with StyleyGeek since she knows all about Asians." Then giggle giggle to show she was only teasing. (I don't take teasing very well, which is probably a character flaw, but if I show I'm upset she then teases me about not having a sense of humour.)

Despite her very tight budget, in honour of which I have made an effort to take her mainly to the free tourist attractions, she makes a beeline straight for the gift shop at each place and spends wildly on tacky souvenirs. Case in point: yesterday we had just an hour at the botanic gardens before we had to head off to meet Geekman, but she spent half of that time in the gift shop and came out with three cards, a fluffy toy kangaroo, five fridge magnets, several books, some exorbitantly priced handcream and a notepad with a picture of a labrador on the front (because it reminds her of her neighbour's dog). Then she complains about how expensive it is to go on holiday and wonders where all her money has gone.

She points people out on the street and comments in a loud stage-whisper about their weight, how badly they are dressed, their ethnicity, or speculates about their sexuality. If we suggest that the person in question might have heard her, she says that they ought to know they are making a spectacle of themselves and if they didn't want comments they wouldn't eat so much, dress that way (or, presumably, be so aggressively Foreign).

Top five good qualities my mother has

She makes friends easily and continually. She is happy to go up to complete strangers and start asking about their lives and telling them about hers. Although maybe 60% of people approached like this run off in terror, the other 40% turn out to be lonely and glad of the attention. She makes a lot of bored salespeople, people at bus-stops and random old ladies feel good about themselves this way.

She is not afraid to stand up for herself when necessary. She always gets a good deal in shops or her money back. She doesn't let herself or her family be taken advantage of. Con-artists, scammers and corrupt officials, beware!

She bounces back from adversity quickly and easily. This year she has been through hell (including deaths and near-deaths in the family, Dad leaving her for another woman, and going from a good income with a big house and nice cars to living on welfare in a one-bedroom apartment), but she is not only surviving, but looking towards the future and planning how great the rest of her life will be.

She is creative. She can paint and draw, makes nice jewelry and writes beautiful poetry.

Despite the things I've complained about above and in other posts on this blog, I still look forward to her visits.


Anonymous said...

Hey, you got my sympathy. Dr R's parents are visiting at the moment and his mother shares several characteristics with you. The commentary in the street, the tacky souvineers, the complaints about money etc. I have run out of patience and am hiding at work. I have been called fat, a money waster, possessing a bad hair cut, and all things associated with not being good enough for her precious son. Sigh.
Because it is the mother-in-not-quite-law I don't feel obliged to list the good qualities. I'll feel guilty about that later.

StyleyGeek said...

My sympathy. You have made me count my blessings again, though. One thing my mother would never do is deliberately insult me or Geekman. She often makes teasing drive-by comments that have the same effect, but I think it's because she is oblivious to how they might be interpreted rather than because she wants to hurt anyone.

Calling someone in your family fat, a money waster, etc is just inexcusable. (Although I guess technically I just called my mother a money waster in this post. Oh dear. Is it better or worse that I didn't say it to her face?)

Anonymous said...

I think venting in a blog is OK, saying it to someones face is different.

Sigh, I guess we're just ungrateful kids! I've been trying to resist temptation to vent on the blog because Dr R reads it and I don't want him more annoyed than he currently is. They've been here nearly two weeks and not once asked him how is work is. Incredible.

Good luck with the rest of the visit.

StyleyGeek said...

They've been here nearly two weeks and not once asked him how is work is.

That's pretty bad.

There was this total meltdown with regard to Geekman's job on Monday and we were both completely devastated by the situation, but the mothers were just like, "Oh well, these things happen." Then the next day it all got turned around and All Was Right With The Universe Again, so we were both equal parts rejoicing with relief and emotionally train-wrecked by all the adrenaline, and the mothers just said, "That's nice, dear."

Now, as they left today (yes! they just left!), my mother commented that she had "never seen Geekman so relaxed and happy as he has been this week, except for the little bit of stress on Monday, so it was good that he was feeling more relaxed around her nowadays". I wanted to shake her and say that on Monday he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the rest of the week he has been high with relief and DID SHE NOT NOTICE???

(We DID actually explain the whole situation to her at the time and although Geekman is fairly reserved when it comes to expressing his feelings, it was pretty obvious how devastated he was on Monday, but I guess she wasn't really paying attention.)

Maybe mothers don't realise how important people's work can be to them if they are from a generation and social/cultural climate where women really only worked as a hobby. If their career has never been central to their lives maybe they don't understand what it's like for someone when it is...