The DC Dilemma: Resolved?
October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far, but I would definitely go so far as to say I’ve made some progress towards a resolution. I had a bit of a reality check, you could call it, when I went to the beach with my mother and grandmother. overall, the trip was enjoyable, but on the last day in the last hours before we headed to the airport to go our separate ways, all the emotional baggage got laid out on the table in a wealth of tears, anger, and frustration. it was horrible, at least from my end. it was exactly what I didn’t want the trip to turn into, but family has a way of making things complicated.
I realized that there’s just too much between us that probably will never be resolved. my mother and I don’t see eye-to-eye on a number of important things, and I think those issues will always be between us. I made it my business to the best I could for my parents. I waited to have sex (probably should have waited longer in retrospect, but I did at least wait longer than my peers), I never tried drugs (which my father doesn’t seem to care about, saying that I “shouldn’t knock it till I’ve tried it”), I started working as soon as I was legally allowed (although I did babysit before then), and I did try to do well in school, even if I’m a somewhat lazy student. I tried my best to be a good kid for them by staying out of trouble and trying to secure a future for myself where I wouldn’t be dependent on them. But what they saw was something else. they saw me not helping me on the houses they built and they said they would be thrilled for me to move home and just live off them for another few years. they saw my commitment to my independence as some kind of rebellion or rejection of them, saw it as me wanting to get as far away from them as possible as fast as possible.
even when I finally fell in love and dated someone seriously for the first time (don’t get me wrong, I dated [a bunch of losers] in high school and college, but I was never *serious* about anyone), they saw my coming home to see him as a slap in the face because I didn’t come home to see them. I thought they would be happy for me, especially considering how painfully lonely I was throughout high school, but they saw him as a distraction, pulling my attention away from school and away from them. while they embraced him in person, they were never particularly encouraging or cheerful about me and alec being together. they didn’t like how much effort I put in and how little he put in in return. and when I moved to DC they had few encouraging words about alec and I moving in together. like it’s so much of me to ask for a little bit of hope, just as it’s so much to ask for a pat on the back every now and then.
my mother thinks that I moved to DC to get away from them, which is something that never crossed my mind (although I can say that after I moved out of their home, I never intended to move back in). it felt like a slap in the face to me, since I was moving to a place where I thought I would be happy, where I thought I would be able to find a job and make some kind of a life for myself. it had nothing to do with my parents at all, besides me thinking they would be happy for me to go since they always encouraged me to travel and get out of my comfort zone. I thought it was what they expected of me, for me to fly the next or flee the coup or whatever the phrase is. how wrong was I.
these things I don’t think we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on and we’ll always have a tension between us. even if I moved back to alabama, I think they would still feel resentful that I didn’t see them as much as they would like, that I wasn’t visiting enough to satisfy them. I think now I’m much more hesitant to move back because I don’t want to keep dealing with these issues. I’m so sick and tired of having to defend my decisions, and I’m tired of constantly feeling like I’m not doing what they wanted me to do.
but there are more problems than that, perhaps even more serious problems. I rarely buy into a social hierarchy. in fact, I would argue that I was raised not to. I wasn’t raised to say “yes, sir. no, ma’am.” and I wasn’t raised to respect someone just because they were older or because they held a certain position. my dad taught me to always be skeptical, always be questioning, and to never just take someone’s word (ironically, he never understood why I wouldn’t do what he told me to do when he told me to do it, because I never bought “because I said to” as a valid reason). and dad raised me, although perhaps he intended to keep it within our nuclear family, not to be afraid to ask questions or make a comment in any situation.
the rest of the world doesn’t seem to function like this, and I’m learning it slowly as I go, but I still carefully pick and choose when I’m going to pretend to buy into said social hierarchy and when I’m not. but my parents have changed, it seems, in the past few years, or perhaps it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do” and I just didn’t notice until recently. now they’re all about social hierarchies and they’re painfully cautious about these invisible social boundaries that I think are stupid to respect. now they’re all about not upsetting people, not “putting their noses where they don’t belong”, not interfering with anyone else’s lives. since when, right? who are these people? but in talking with my grandmother and in seeing the change my parents have undergone since they moved up to her land, I know the source. my grandmother has a very clear structure in her head on how people should function within their many complex relationships. this thinking, unfortunately for me, has spread to my parents so now there’s this hierarchy of who can say what to whom about what. example, I am not allowed to voice my opinion because I don’t live “on the mountain” (this is what the family compound is called, but really it applies to everyone who frequents the mountain, which naturally excludes me since I have lived in another state since I left for college). my grandmother tried to convince me that people shouldn’t comment on “family matters” and that family should deal with family. of course, I’m clearly family, but my opinion is only valid to a point because I don’t live on the mountain. it’s interesting to me, more as a social experiment than me being happy about watching my parents bow to this somewhat archaic view of social interaction, because of how restrictive it all is. in my household, you can say what you want, voice whatever thought you have, and people would be generally receptive to it (even if it was after a screaming match, we would come back together and talk it out). my parents didn’t raise me to not say things to people, to not comment when I had an observation or a question.
but now that’s all changed. now I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself because I wouldn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or upset someone. they’re also really big on playing the “you don’t know enough because you don’t live amidst the action” card, which I have never in my life believed. there are select circumstances, very rare in the case of human beings, where a situation simply cannot be understood by those who were not present. but human beings have been around a while and honestly, I don’t think we’re unique. if people would stop being offended every time someone offered something contrary, then we’d all make a lot of progress in our communication! my dad certainly never cut me a break like that. if he wanted to ask a question, he asked it and he’d push until he got an answer so he could more clearly understand whatever situation he thought I was in. but now, things have changed. and I simply can’t live in a place and around people where I can’t voice my thoughts and opinions and ask questions without people freaking out and saying it’s none of my business or that I “have no right to comment.” fuck that. I have no interest in filtering myself, and if someone doesn’t like the questions I’m asking, then they probably don’t like the situation they’ve made for themselves and maybe they should think about that instead of being a drama queen about it. yeah? I know you agree.
now earlier in this entry, I did say I was tired of feeling like I have to constantly defend my choices, and that’s true. but it’s not because I don’t think the people who critique my choices don’t have a right to — you’re a human being, I’m a human being, we have the power to communicate and I have no problem with us choosing to use that power — it’s just that I’m tired of going in circles. I may not be explaining myself clearly enough, which means I may not be wholly understanding of my own situation. in that case, I need time to myself to work through my situation to figure things out. I think that’s a perfectly acceptable response to questions or comments, but so often people refuse to admit they haven’t thought everything through or they don’t want to admit the real reasons why they do things. just be honest! and then move on, instead of getting upset and thinking everything is a personal attack. I’m just tired of answering questions I’ve answered a million times. if you don’t like my answer, sorry. if my answer doesn’t put you at the center of my world, sorry. I’m learning the hard lesson that being alone is sometimes much easier than trying to maintain relationships with people, especially with these additions of crazy hierarchies of exclusion and privilege are added in. it left such a bad taste in my mouth, it honestly makes me not want to go home for christmas. but that would just seem mean, now, wouldn’t it.