This is the next to last guest post from Sarah, something I can very much relate to as it took me a long time to forgive my mom for pulling my hair really hard when she used to French braid it. I always thought she was doing it to be mean, and now that I have children, I know for sure she was. Physical abuse? Illegal. Pulling a tiny bit harder than is necessary when braiding your child’s hair? Letting off some steam so that you don’t do anything illegal.
Now, off to deal with another electrician, another bid on the boiler, and trying to find some really important paperwork that I thought I had put inside a box labeled REALLY IMPORTANT PAPERWORK but apparently got moved to a box with no label at all. Guess what I found inside the box marked REALLY IMPORTANT PAPERWORK? Polly pockets and an inflatable SpongeBob beach ball. Please shoot me.
My wise and sainted mother probably envisioned having a daughter would be more about braiding my hair and buying me dolls at Christmas, and less about catching me making out with my high school boyfriend on the front porch long after she thought I’d gone to bed, or receiving a late night phone call from the Bixby County Police Department just letting her know where I was. Just a friendly call, ma’am!
To atone for what a total and complete dick I was growing up, I thought I’d highlight some of the most memorable battle of wills my mother and I have had over the years.
1981: The Only Time My Mother Ever Spanked Me
I was four years old, and we spent a weekend at the lake with some family friends. All I’d been told about this trip beforehand was the swimming and fishing and going on a boat. The only boat frame of references I had came from “Row Row Row Your Boat” and the houseboat Lowly Worm lived on in my Richard Scarry book, which left me ill-prepared for Mr. K’s speedboat, which was very loud and went up on its side and then dragged my father behind it (on a pair of skis, but still). I spent the entire ride screaming in terror, and then when we pulled into the dock, my screaming turned to unbridled preschool rage, and I stood up and yelled at everyone onboard. I told Mr. K just what I thought of him and his boat. I believe my exact words were, “I hate your boat, and I HATE YOU!” This was a nice man who helped me with my Snoopy fishing pole and whose wife brought me chocolate coins and a sticker book when I was home with the chicken pox, but he had crossed the line with his crazy vertical death boat. My mother hauled me out of that boat, onto the dock, and into a changing room in a matter of seconds, and I remember while she spanked me, even though I was still yelling and crying, some very sober, calm part of my brain thought, “Oh yeah, I totally had this coming. This is what I needed.”
Winner: My mother
1987: Why don’t you tell that dirty joke to Gladys Matson?
When I was in the fifth grade, I was a guest at Ellen Matson’s slumber party. Ellen and all of her other guests were mere fourth graders, so I took it upon myself to show them just how worldly I was by telling them the worst dirty joke I knew. It was also the only dirty joke I knew. It wasn’t even a very funny dirty joke, but its crowning achievement was that it used every bad word there was in one long sentence, spoken by a small child to a visiting minister. When my mother picked me up from the party the next morning, I succumbed to this weird elementary school hairshirt phase I went through and confessed. I tattled on myself. What? I know. I am so glad I outgrew this phase before high school. Anyway, my mother’s awful and brilliant punishment was forcing me to CALL ELLEN’S MOTHER and TELL HER THE JOKE. I have never been so crippled with shame in my entire life. And Gladys Matson was very matter of fact and polite about it, sitting on the other end, patiently waiting for me to stop sobbing and get to the terrible punchline, to which she pleasantly said, “Well, thank you for calling, Sarah!”
Years later, at Ellen’s wedding, I asked Gladys if she remembered this incident, and she laughed, turned to her husband and said, “Remember Sarah’s joke?” and he said, “Oh yeah, with the minister!”
Winner: My mother
1989: Wherein The Bathroom Door Gets Broken
This was when things started getting ugly. I was clutched close to the prickly bosom of adolescence, and my number one priority became to let everyone in my house know how much I hated them. I’m not exactly sure what started this particular argument. Most of the time, I ended up in trouble for smarting off during a lecture that was originally for a minor infraction. This is sort of like you making an irritating sound and someone saying, “I would rather you not do that,” and then you shoot them in face and end up in jail. It took me approximately eight years to learn that no matter how good my comeback was, it was in my best interest to keep it to myself. Anyway, this fight ended with me locking myself in the bathroom immediately after having told my mother I hated her. She kept telling me to unlock the door, and, since I was a wretched little shit, I waited until the moment she forced it open with her shoulder to do so. Because of this, the bathroom door not only never locked again, but also hasn’t closed properly since. I am convinced that my parents refuse to replace the doorknob just to remind me of what a holy terror I was. Every time I go home and have to push the vanity stool against the door to keep it shut, I am chagrined.
Loser: Everyone who needs to use the upstairs bathroom, but especially me
1992: No you are not having dredlocks
Fifteen may have been my most charming year, and not just because it was the year I wrote the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” on our foyer wall. I got grounded for a week when, after my mother said there was no way in hell I was having dreadlocks, I decided to just stop brushing my hair. It was like Gandhi with the march to the sea and the salt and all that, you can just imagine. She ignored me until it was time to go to church on Sunday morning, and then our matted week culminated in an ugly pre-church fight wherein I first yelled the F-word. My little brother cried. My mother cried. I ended up brushing my hair.
Winner: My mother (thank god)
1995: The Violent Femmes bring ALL of their equipment on the bus
I came home for Christmas break after my first semester at college, and when I went to take a shower one day, I played a mix tape someone had made me, featuring “Waitin’ For the Bus,” by the Violent Femmes. This song begins with Gordon Gano yelling, “…the Violent Femmes, they bring ALL of their equipment on the bus. And you can’t f*** with the Violent Femmes, YOU CANNOT F*** WITH THIS BAND!” My mother came barging into the bathroom while I was in the shower (because I couldn’t lock the bathroom door) and started yelling at me for “bringing this kind of trash into her house” what with my “eleven year old brother’s room RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS WALL!” This is a lot funnier if you imagine my mother yelling these things in the same voice as Gordon Gano. Then she took my tape. She TOOK my TAPE. She gave it back later, but dude! I am an ADULT! I am EIGHTEEN! Now can I please have some money for my campus card!
Winner: My mother, but only temporarily: when I went home several Christmases ago, and my brother drove me around to do some shopping, this was the CD in his car.
1999: I regret to inform you that I will not be wearing pantyhose underneath my college graduation dress
Hoo boy. Here is where I should tell you that my mother was raised by a proper Dallas lady who was raised by another proper Dallas lady who did not go shopping at Neiman Marcus without her heels and white gloves. My mother herself is a beautiful woman who is immaculately groomed at all times, so you can imagine how she must feel about having a daughter who regularly gets salad dressing on her nightgown and irons her clothing with the Norton Anthology of English literature. So, I mentioned casually over the phone that I’d found a dress for my college graduation ceremony, which is stupid anyway, since it’s a dress that goes under a robe. This was the conversation:
Mom: Oh, good. Did you find shoes too?
Me: Yeah, they’re open-toed heels.
Mom: And did you get pantyhose?
Me: Uh… they’re open-toed heels. No.
Mom: What? What do you mean no?
Me: They’re hot and they’re itchy and no one is going to see them, and I’m wearing open-toed heels. It’s May!
Mom: Well, you wear sandaltoe hose, then.
Me: I am not wearing pantyhose, Mom.
[Rapid sucking in of breath]
Then the yelling began.
Winner: Me! But no photos exist from this day that show my feet.
Tomorrow: Why would you write about all of our personal arguments on dooce? I realize you’re trying to be funny but I’m not happy with the world knowing these details. Also that’s not how the pantyhose discussion went, I never forced you to wear pantyhose, and I definitely never yelled. You are always the one who starts yelling. Is that mayonnaise in your hair?
Winner: I’m sorry, Mom.