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We got Christmas plane tickets yesterday. Less than a grand, which is a lot less than we'd been fearing. But not much less than a grand, so still involves juggling money around and me being so stressed I not only make Andrew sort it out, I don't even want him to give me options or ask me questions unless it's absolutely necessary. It was a vague relief that it wasn't any more expensive than it needs to be.

I still haven't heard back one way or another about the job I interviewed for last Thursday. I told myself I'd email them today to ask but then didn't because just the thought of doing so made my also in prickly and my stomach clench. My anxiety is still on a hair trigger right now. They can tell me later why I didn't get the job, if they want, but I don't expect to get much useful feedback from these kinds of things so I won't mind if they don't.

Todsy I idly tweeted that I follow so many linguists that I'm starting to be jealous I'm not one. Andrew took this and ran with it, researching what kind of student loans/grants I could get and whether local universities have linguistics courses on clearing. He's even set me up a UCAS account, bless him. It's always bugged me that I never finished my degree, and that I was doing the wrong degree, and at the wrong time. But none of that has ever made me feel like I can do anything about it before, so I don't know what's feeling so different now. A little part of me is really loving the possibility, though.
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In the interests of fairness: the second pair of curtains my parents bought for us, for our bedroom, are good and an improvement over the heavy, ugly ones we had before.
  • They're blackout curtains, which I promised Andrew I'd get because he says he doesn't sleep well in the summer when it gets light too early.
  • The color my mom still insists is berry is not pink like I feared, but a nice dark red I don't actually hate the sight of; colors aren't too important to me but still this is something I can hardly say about anything in my house.
  • These curtains don't billow so dramatically, which not only makes me less likely to be in a horror movie (to be fair they should probably be more filmy and pale for that to be a concern anyway) but also means all the stuff on my bedside table has a much better chance of staying there rather than getting knocked off whenever the breeze came from the right direction.
Today we didn't have to get on a bus or go to the Arndale, which is a win because it's the first time that's happened since they got here. Especially a win since I'm not using my white cane with them, a decision I still think is less aggro than their reactions to it (and their reactions to other people's reactions to me, if you see what I mean) but which is making all the crowds and shopping much more difficult for me than I'm used to. And I already find it pretty damn difficult.

More drama with Andrew's family today. More card games with them, too. I love them but I'm so exhausted. Perhaps it's no surprise that I think I've got a migraine now (hooray for blackout curtains! I don't like them normally -- natural light helps me wake up -- but they're useful when I've got a migraine!). Until half an hour ago I hadn't had any food since breakfast, which was only scrambled eggs on toast.

Eating and sleeping to other people's schedules is always so bad for me. The night before last, I only got three hours' sleep, was awake from one o'clock in the morning, and still had to get through a whole day of shopping and socializing and playing the role of a more cheerful, patient and polite version of myself.

And I'm missing Eurovision for this! Right now! I'm trying to console myself with the thought that I'd be missing it anyway due to my migraine...but somehow I think if my parents weren't visiting and preventing me from seeing it, I might not have the migraine.
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Spent a nice evening with Andrew's two sisters, him, and my parents. We got takeaway pizza (yay leftovers for tomorrow morning!), a couple bottles of wine and played Apples to Apples to Apples -- a new game to my parents but one they took to really well, my dad eventually tying Andrew for the win -- and generally had a great time and reminded me why family can be good and cozy and fun and sweet, everything that family visits can be.

Apples to Apples is a game that rewards knowing who you're playing it with, and it was sweet to watch how often my mom picked the card my dad had chosen.
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You discover you've both independently noticed, been unreasonably annoyed by, and articulated your annoyance at your mom persistently misgendering your dog.
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When I came back from Minnesota at Christmas, I was suddenly very aware that there were a lot of things I'd been meaning to do around the house that I had been ignoring, which I now felt I had a deadline for because I knew my parents were visiting late spring/early summer.

They get here on Wednesday. I've done precisely none of those things: didn't even get a quote for the front garden getting sorted out, didn't do much about the downstairs redecorating I want, didn't plant anything outside (though to be fair there was snow outside a week ago...), didn't do the million little DIY jobs or hang pictures or anything. Hell I haven't even been able to get rid of the broken computer or vacuum cleaner (though those are more recent problems as they only broke in the last month or so!).

Slightly more importantly, I haven't sorted out a better bed for my parents to sleep in: our spare room is tiny so the bed in there is tiny (not quite a normal double-bed size), and it's pretty unfair to ask old people (especially one very tall and one with a lot of health problems) to sleep on for ten days.

I'm so disappointed in myself, even angry with myself. Andrew can tell me all he wants (and he's had to; I've had more than one little meltdown about this, most spectacularly two weeks ago in the middle of the night when I couldn't stop thinking about all this stuff and then I couldn't stop crying...) that I've been busy and ill and had to do all the things he's not been doing because he's been ill...but it doesn't make me feel any less angry or upset or stressed. I can tell myself, and others can tell me, that it shouldn't matter what state my house is in, that it should just be nice to have my parents here and that's what matters...but they've never been here with so few plans before, so little to do but comment on my house.

Which I've always felt self-conscious about around them because I know they don't like the very concept of terraced houses and would never live this way. And while I know they had apartments and ilttle places to live when they were first married, too, that was a hell of a long time ago, and anyway by the time they were my age they had two kids and lived in the house they do now, which is big and sprawling and very nice (though my mom did take a long time to get rid of the seventies-colored avacado-and-brown everything in that house, so maybe she will understand about why the terrible wallpaper is still here!).

We have no plans partly because they were landed with a huge medical bill for my mom's latest terrifying health crisis a couple of months ago, yay America the greatest country in the world. So now they don't really have a lot to spend here, and the trip back to Scotland we were talking about isn't gonna happen. I'd love to pay for such things myself but of course with me already freaking out about all the home improvements we can't afford that's clearly not possible!

And they've already talked about how they want to "help out around the house." My dad's still talking about the hedge which was overgrown when they were last here but has been gone for a long time since (though trying to tear out its horrible roots is why our front garden is a pit of gravel and mud now (I don't understand the appeal of gravel in a garden!). My mom wanted the measurements for my front window so she could buy me curtains. In Minnesota! And bring them here! So not only would they stupidly take up space and weight in her suitcase (which is always crammed), she didn't show any indication of asking me what color or kind I wanted, so I probably wouldn't want them any more than the ones I have there now. And they're a bit difficult anyway because the curtain rod is a bit broken...so my dad's OCD attempts to get the two curtains to close Right In The Middle led to a bunch of the curtain hooks popping off...because another problem with this curtain rail is you can't put proper rings on it, only shitty little plastic hooks that never stay on and keep breaking, and...

...this is the kind of thing that's going on in my brain all the time. I feel so much of it is out of my control. So many of my problems are nothing I can do anything about in the few days remaining before they get here, I feel lack in skills and money and time and transport -- having a car would really help! And I just want to curl up in a ball and ignore the whole thing.

But that's what I've been doing all along; that's the problem.
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This was my mom's greeting when I wandered into the kitchen this morning a little after eight.

Clearly proving she's forgotten whatever she might have known about transatlantic flights: my time of awakening is nothing to do with politeness, it's to do with a circadian rhythm that I've fucked up and that now wants to fuck me up.

No, Mom, I didn't have to get up at eight. I had to get up at 4:30am and not be able to sleep any more after that.

Christmas Eve celebrations always run late in my family, so a mere 20 hours later I am allowed to go to bed again.
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I always forget that, after a couple of days here, I'm just hungry all the goddam time.

There's no protein here, except in the meat I have to eat which makes me sick, but there's hardly even any vegetables. The only one I've had since I've gotten here is corn on the cob.
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My mom made instant coffee in the cafetiere.
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I feel a bit like a new parent home with a baby: every day is so different from any previous. I find it really hard to believe we haven't even been here a week yet.

Yesterday was the day I put the microwave on top of the fridge to reclaim a bit more of the extremely limited counter space in the kitchen (that the fridge and the microwave are not even in the kitchen should give you some idea of the limitations). And the one where I first hung clothes outside to dry (do not buy clothespins from a pound shop; they are too flimsy to be any good for anything), and thus naturally where I had to run outside in the drizzle collecting them again before they got too wet. It's the one where the internet was connected, finally (though the phone still doesn't work). It's the one where Andrew first saw a mouse, and got the stereo working after saying for months he was definitely going to measure up and order a belt to replace the broken one on the turntable.

It was a day not like any other day, and no other day will be like it. Just like Tuesday, and Monday, and Sunday, and Saturday. And this is why they all seem like they've lasted about a year.

I have been working so bloody hard. Not just to pack, and unpack, which has been so much work for me that I have to remind myself that I still need to think about cooking and laundry and doing the dishes and all this normal stuff, too. I have hardly spared a thought for work in a week, which is really bad. I was hoping that'd improve today now that I've got the internet back, but it turns out the new CRM my boss is making us use because he's heard of it (after having asking me to look around and find what's good and then deciding he didn't like it because it was "weird" and open-source and he hadn't heard of it and it didn't automatically do everything he wanted it to, even though he had only the vaguest idea of what he wanted to do) won't even let me log in, so that'll be a fun conversation with my not-as-techie-as-he-thinks-he-is boss tomorrow.

I really want a holiday. I really really want a holiday. And I don't see how I'll get anything longer than a weekend away here and there -- and I've already had a couple of those this year and now might have to wait until BiCon in August.

Now that we're at the new house, too, my parents' visit is looming over me. I can't help but worry what they'll think about everything. Or say. I'm trying to decide if what they'll say will be worse, because it will negatively impact me right away, or if what they'll think is worse because the ramifications of their silent judgment might not come out for years -- like when my mom told me she hated to think of me drying trousers on radiators, years after she'd have last seen that.

When Andrew's family turned up with furniture for us on Sunday, the very first thing his dad said when he walked into the house was "You'll have to replace the carpet!" He kept at it, "You have to get new carpet, Holly," as matter-of-factly as if he was saying "You have to breathe oxygen to stay alive." It really irritated me. I hadn't noticed anything wrong with the carpet, not compared to the squillion things that do need sorting out -- damp, roof, mice, radiators, curtains, shelves, furniture... -- and what the hell kind of way is that to greet someone's new bloody house? Not least because, having owned the house all of a week, it's hardly set up to our liking (as the wallpapper in our bedroom will attest!) and it's not as if we're perfectly happy with everything. I actually had to ask Andrew and James later that day, after everyone else left, whether I was going mad or just being too blind or something and there was really something awful wrong with the carpet. They said it was a bit dingy, but no, there was nothing really wrong with it.

I'm sure I was overreacting because of the immense mental, emotional and physical stress I'd been under (and I ended up with a migraine that day, too, which never helps) but I can still remember how enraged I was at this harping on about the damn carpets. And I'm really worried at this happening one million times while my parents are here. Because at least this house fits the basic idea of what houses are like, for his parents -- it's a perfectly okay mid-terrace two-bedroom house -- but to my parents it will be tiny, and too close to the other houses, and weird, and...a house that I know they'd never put up with. And I worry they'll feel sorry for me because of that, but conversely that they won't be able to keep from pointing out how weird it is and how they couldn't live like this. The fridge is next to the kitchen rather than in the kitchen! There are hardly any plug sockets! The backyard is so tiny! And right next to other people's! And these are just the ones I can anticipate... The ones I can't, like the carpet or like drying clothes on radiators, are always the worst.

It reminded me of something my friend Jon told me the other day, about when he bought his first house and his mother came around and started trying to nitpick things, and he said, "mum, look, I value your opinion but when you're here you're in my home and I will do things my own way." At the time I nodded along politely, but already on our first day here I found myself really feeling it. Lying side by side in our new bed that first night, Andrew and I were chatting about new-house things, and he said I should tell his dad that we're replacing the carpet with laminate which is more expensive so it'll take us a while to get it. I wrinkled up my face and told Andrew I didn't really want to do that -- I wasn't sure it was true, for one thing and for another, I thought this is none of your damn business, do I tell you how to fix up your house? should suffice (albeit in politer words, like "We've got a lot of things to think about sorting out in the new house," something vague that can be repeated, unchanged, until he finally stops talking because that's my only real goal here, to make this stop). I know he means well; I know he thinks that since we've never had a house before we don't know anything, and in many ways that could not be more true. But also: this is not helping, and it can fuck off.

I've been a bit surprised at how adamant my reaction has been, actually. I'm still not feeling happy or excited about this new-house lark, but I am feeling something about it: maybe protective of it, and starting to identify with it, to the extent that unhelpful criticism like that gets my hackles up. And I think buying a house marks a change in parent/adult-child relationships, too; anything that puts us on a more equal footing with them makes their unsolicited advice and opinions, however well-meaning, chafe a little bit more. It must be weird for the parents, to have this person that you started out doing everything for, to ensure their health, survival and comfort, one day turn around and snap at you for your innocent comment about the carpet (or the girlfriend, job, car, choice of college, friends, drinking habits, etc.). It must be weird to go from dictating a small person's life to remembering there are limits to your power and influence eventually.

And of course my parents and I have always been so crap at that parent/adult-child dynamic anyway, that no wonder I'm kinda dreading their visit.

Though if Andrew's dad has anything to say about it, they won't be seeing much of our house anyway! He rang me yesterday and asked what I thought of his new plan, which was no longer to rent a narrowboat in Middlewich (where they live) but to go to Llangollen and rent a narrowboat there for the day. I love Llangollen (which, I kept telling him though it didn't stop him dadsplaining to me at all, I have been to, a couple of times, including on a narrowboat all the way from Middlewich!) but I was aware that he was talking about doing this on the Monday, having already monopolized the weekend my parents first get here, and for some reason he wants to take us/them to the Welsh Mountain Zoo too, and there's this mad London idea of my parents' to fit in somewhere...

I really think Andrew's parents should just take my parents on vacation and leave me out of it, but of course as they'll say a million times they're here to see me. But they're only here for a week, and it sounds like Andrew's dad's trying to fill it with Cheshire and Wales, neither of which I have any problem with, but I simultaneously don't want them to feel cheated out of their time in London...and don't want to spend any more time in London than absolutely necessary, because being a tourist in London seems nothing but miserable and expensive. Their visits here just get more difficult for me and Andrew -- we still speak of Cornwall like it's an evil curse word -- and I'm sure this won't be any exception. Apart from his dad taking over the whole week with his moronic plans, I'm also quite committed to going to London on the Monday because Andrew couldn't get the Monday off, and I see no reason to subject him to the misery of the sightseeing buses and the London Eye -- he hates London at least as much as I do, and if he's there I'll end up having to create more than usual of a buffer between him and the autistic-unfriendly world, as well as having to field a million questions from my parents (past examples including "does that pub you've never been to sell food?" and "why didn't we go to Whitehall and Trafalgar Square when we were in London?" when they have pictures that could only have been taken in those places).

In looking back at what I wrote about my parents' previous visits, I just realized that the one about the naked cyclists (which is a story all my friends seem to love; I'm amazed how many still remember it) contains possibly the most Garrison-Keillor like thing I have ever written:
My dad, as usual, was much quieter. "That's something you won't see in Minnesota," he commented mildly. I didn't want to argue; it'd mean admitting to knowing about things that go on in Minneapolis that they just wouldn't like me to know about.
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My dad keeps watching this show about people looking for Bigfoot. It's hilariously awful, just my kind of thing.

And it's not like he just happened upon it while he was channel surfing. He's been telling me stuff like "They were up in northern Minnesota once, somewhere near Ely I think" and "That one's from South Dakota, she's the skeptic."

I guess I can see where I get my fondness for stuff like this!
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In the car on Sunday my parents were, of course, talking about other people. This time, someone I'd gone to school with, a friend of my brother's.

"He lives in the Cities now," my mom said. "He'll never move back around here, because he's..."

I thought I knew what she'd say next and cringed pre-emptively.

After a big pause, she finished "...a gay."

Well, I hadn't been expecting the indefinite article.

"You don't have to live in the Cities to be gay," my dad said, bless him. This was the day after he told me that he'd thought ever since gay marriage was first allowed in Massachusetts that if people were happy, who was he to tell them they can't get married, and he even made fun of the Catholic church's position on gay marriage despite being a practicing Catholic, so I felt secret joy at my secret ally speaking out here).

My mom agreed that you don't have to live in the Cities if you're gay but seemed to imply that you should know it's the place for you.

They carried on in this fashion for a while, my mom marveling that he'd turned out gay, saying she never would've guessed (which surprised me because he fits so many of the stereotypes of gay men that I'd anticipated this revelation; actually I'm glad that people even so stereotypically gay are not clocked by my mom, and thus are not necessarily targets of her homophobia). My dad agreed. "He played football and everything, went to prom..."

"You don't have to be gay to play football!" I said, worrying that my ally had faltered so soon. But he readily agreed with that too. I tried pointing out that my prom date had been gay (though admittedly my parents and I had not known it at the time -- though I had known it was a platonic 'date', even if my mom refused to believe this).

It seemed my dad's point was about how amazing it was that a gay person could do such normal things. Which sounds awful but actually it's improvement for them, because it reinforces the truth that gay people do normal stuff and interact with life as we know it.

I'm always reminded of that Eddie Izzard sketch where he talks about some people harassing him for wearing a dress see him buying crisps and go "what, you eat crisps?"

It might be a baby step, but it's a step to acknowledge that you can't consign the gays to their own proms, their own football, their own crisps. You can't even expect them all to be from the fleshpots of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Boot camp

Aug. 16th, 2013 08:20 am
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After marveling for a while at how weird it is, I ended up able to articulate a list of things I am doing in preparation for seeing my family.

"I have to shave my legs, I am starting to eat a bit of meat to get myself used to it again..."

[livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve laughed and said "It's like boot camp."

It seems an apt analogy. Fuck up my body, my usual choices, for a greater good.
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It's traditional for people my parents know to send Christmas cards, often with a picture of the family -- this year, my parents sent one I'd taken of them in Cornwall, for example -- and so Mom was showing off the new babies and suchlike of this year.

She got to one, though, that she introduced oddly: "And there's one I really don't like." She explained she had this old friend who, she found out a few years ago, "was gay." Her friend never a picture with her "significant other" in it before, but she did this year.

"I had a real hard time with that," my mom said, which is strong, emotional language for her. "I used to stay at her house and everything...I don't think she was that way then, though."

In the brief glance I had at the picture, it didn't even look like the two women were touching. They were standing, as if defiant against small-town Hallmark-Channel Midwestern culture.

It made me really sad. It stung a little, but mostly it made me sad. While I'm intellectually aware of my mom's homophobia, I've carefully avoided the subject she reacted badly to the news that a high-school friend of mine was gay, and that her best friend's brother was gay. I guess I was hoping the intervening decade might have mellowed her a bit, or revealed that I'd exaggerated it (after all, a decade ago I still thought I was straight, and I thought I might have been only retroactively making a mountain of personal offense out of that molehill).

And yet her essential unwillingness to make a fuss means she hasn't cut ties with this friend or anything; she does exchange cards with her and didn't throw this one away or anything. "Significant other" is pretty respectful language for her friend's partner, and while it sounded a little stilted because it isn't a phrase my mom usually uses, it wasn't too scornful or anything.

Still, I'm aware that any hope I may hold is probably delusional: I keep thinking of the momentary emotion that swelled up in me that made me want to ask "Why should it have bothered you to stay in her house?" or "Of course you don't think she was 'that way' back then or you'd have had to think you had a gay friend!"

I do wonder if she thinks she has a gay friend, now.
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Being around my family is tough sometimes.

My mom's...cousin's wife, I think? We'll go with that...was at the visitation and the funeral, and both days she wore a red shirt and skirt.

My family's problems with this seem to be manifold. First, apparently there is some kind of taboo against wearing red at a funeral, something I don't think I was aware of until they all started bitching about this woman (but also, my aunt told her children, who were asking if everyone was wearing black, that any color was okay as long as it wasn't red, so it was expected that not everyone knew this, but I suppose my mom and aunts expected "better" of their own generation).

And, of course, she was daring to be Living While Fat. I don't know this person well; the bit of the family I have much to do with doesn't like her much, perhaps with reason, but it's hard to tell because they associate her fatness with weakness and failure to properly hide herself in shame and the kinds of clothes they think more appropriate. "I suppose that's the only thing she has that'll wrap round her." "She wouldn't be so...so bad if she wore darker colors." "She's just sloppy." "It's such a shame, she used to be kinda pretty when they first got married, she was thin then."

It just went on and on, sporadically over a period of days, making me increasingly uncomfortable. All the old familiar litanies of how one should act out an endless tacit apology for existence, which I'd forgotten about despite having been raised with them, reared their ugly heads. I learned my body shame and self-loathing from my mom, and she might have gotten it from her mom; they all seem to use the same kind of language about it anyway. No wonder I used to think this was just how it had to be, this was just what everybody thought.

At least now I know better; now I am shocked by hearing it. Now I know I don't have to think this way; now a fat lady in bright red clothes doesn't require any moral judgments from me.

Speaking of moral judgments... I forgot I come from a family of big fans of the death penalty1 Oh what fun! Even faced with a fairly blatant case of someone with some kind of mental-health needs, my mom repeatedly showered scorn on the possibility that the shooter of all those people in the Aurora movie theater could "get off" with only life in prison by pleading insanity. It's kind of weird to think someone who's dishing up the stew and warm bread across the table from you believes that justice will not, cannot, be done unless someone dies. When the TV news talked about the guy's booby-trapped apartment, she said, "See, he's not insane. He couldn't have done all that, could he?"

I briefly considered attempting to explain that mental illness doesn't mean inability to conceive or follow through with any plans at all (it's a good thing we didn't have mashed potatoes that night or I'd have been trying to make mine into a Devil's Tower shape, which wouldn't mean anything to her but would have made me feel a bit better) and then realized that to even try would be...well, crazy.

Still, as much as this kind of stuff bugs me, it's some consolation that it does bug me; that there is such an obvious difference between how I was brought up and how I am now. Wwhich of course I think is all to the good (but I would say that, wouldn't I?); yet even when I am wrong and they're right, or even when I'm no more right than them, I can't say I have unthinkingly accepted what the people around me try to instill in me, and I hope that will always be so.

On a good note, as we were driving home from the funeral, my dad said out of nowhere, "Is Brady gay?" There was a long silence as my mom was busy looking at something and I didn't know the answer to the question (I wasn't even sure if it was Brady or his brother I'd been talking to that day) and then he said "Nothin' wrong with it." (And as I told Facebook a couple of days later, he took my surprise at seeing a bar called The Gay 90s (first gay bar I ever went to) on Sunday in his stride, and didn't even say anything to my I-hope-it-was-casual-sounding-enough assertion that gay bars are mostly just like other bars.)
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My mom greeted me at the airport with "Oh Holly you know I don't like that!" and the kind of one-armed shoulder-squeeze that might be construed as a hug but which I knew meant she wanted to throttle me.

Fifteen hours after I'd left my house in Manchester, sleep-deprived, in huge amounts of pain from my sinus infection, having repeatedly believed I wasn't going to make it, wrung out by the anxiety and the total breakdown that I'm sure made me That Crazy Woman for the gate staff at Schipol's E19, I couldn't even figure out what it was she didn't like; I looked down at my clothes -- an old, faded dress, stained with something from my airplane dinner -- in confusion until I remembered: it was my hair.

All week I've been telling people the story of how I came back for my grandma's funeral when I was in college, in the middle of finals; a friend had a shouting match with one of her professors to rearrange hers so she could drive me. We got here in the middle of the night, a four-hour drive on slow, boring roads. And my mom greeted me with a wordless scream, because I dared to have bright red spiky hair. (When all my grandma's old-lady friends told me the next day how my grandma would have loved it, and other such approving "oh you crazy kids" type stuff, I could feel my mom seething besides me, the only one who thought it was such a bad thing.)

I tried telling her it could've been a lot worse -- I washed it until the green faded out, it's just bleached now. I also briefly thought about telling her "hey, at least I shaved my legs!" but wasn't quite tired and miserable enough for that to seem like a good idea.
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Apart from all the big stuff I'm dealing with, there's also tons of weird little things I'm trying to remember to do.

Like shaving my legs.

Grumpily doing so in the shower this morning I reflected on how unfair it is that I have never done this for a bloke -- all the men who've expressed any kind of opinion to me seem to think it's a bit silly at best -- but I do it for my mother! (And one other women, who seemed to hate everything to do with men, including hairy legs...and short hair and... to be fair, no wonder we didn't work out.)
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You 5/29 07:37 I think I've finally managed to teach my parents how to make coffee in a french press.
It's only taken three days :)
K 5/29 07:38 Lightning speed!
With appropriate inducements
You 5/29 07:43 :)
My mom managed to find a way to do it so wrong that Andrew and I are still baffled (not having seen it done, only having her explanation).
K 5/29 07:43 O.o
You 5/29 07:44 Normally she makes coffee so weak it's the color of tea and that time she managed to make it what even she admitted was too weak
K 5/29 07:44 Hee
You 5/29 07:46 So that's my day
Only four more left here. I can make it...
K 5/29 07:47 Poor you that this is about endurance
You 5/29 07:49 I know
I'm asking myself all the time if I'm just being dramatic, or wallowing in mopeyness like a pig in mud
I'm trying hard to enjoy the good bits
But nothing's really helped much
K 5/29 07:50 No it sounds to me like you're not bring treated with much respect in far too many ways in your life
You 5/29 07:52 They mean well. I'm sure in many ways that no one will love me as thoroughly, as long as I live, as my parents do
But they can do that only because the version of me that lives in their heads isn't much like me
K 5/29 07:53 Being loved well as an impostor sucks
You 5/29 07:59 I don't know what I can do about that either. We're different kinds of people. And one of the differences is, I really believe that it's possible for people to be different. To care about or eat or like or do really, truly different things
My parents think all people are basically like them, and if they're not they should be
It's not their fault; they've been raised and surrounded all their lives by people who do talk and eat and think and act like them
K 5/29 08:00 Sigh
You 5/29 08:06 Still it makes me appreciate all the more the people I've found who love me even though they know what I'm like

You 5/29 08:41 I have actually learned a lot of good things from this vacation. I should write them down
K 5/29 08:42 Yes
You 5/29 08:44 Like, that my limits really are what I think they are, and it isn't just laziness or poor character that means I usually can do what seems to me like "so little"
And that not listening when my body or brain is sending me clear signals that it's had enough is an incredibly bad idea
K 5/29 08:44 I'm sorry your limits are what they are, but glad you got that validated
You 5/29 08:45 Yeah, me too. It's kind of depressing to realize they are real limits
You 5/29 08:45 But then it's better than being lazy and lacking in character :)
K 5/29 08:45 Real doesn't necessarily mean permanent
You 5/29 08:46 Yes.
I don't think they are.
K 5/29 08:47 ((hug))
You 5/29 08:47 They'd be more likely to be if I had to keep pushing on like this all the time, though. Like walking on a broken leg can do more lasting damage than the break
K 5/29 08:48 Yes
You 5/29 08:49 So I'm grateful the rest of the time I can stop when I need to
K 5/29 08:50 I wish it wasn't your parents making you feel this way
You 5/29 08:51 So many of my best beloved friends have been treated so much worse by their parents. Hearing their stories always makes me think I had it unbelievably easy
K 5/29 08:55 Being in a situation where you're bring put into the worst of disregarded and powerless childhood is something I have rather too much fellow feeling for...that it's not physical abuse or drunken rage does not comfort me.
You 5/29 08:59 I understand. And I don't mean to diminish the misery that it is.
I'm not thinking clearly lately...I'm not myself

You 5/29 09:02 The lesson that visitors to my house who don't eat what I eat will be given all help and encouragement in getting and eating food they like is also one for my list
You 5/29 09:03 I think I do this fine anyway but I will make a point of it now that I know what it feels like to skulk around, have my "weird" breakfast before anyone's up to see it, make my own dinner and eat in the kitchen alone while everyone else has eaten together....
K 5/29 09:04 Oh dear flipping cats, Holly
K 5/29 09:05 I'm sorry you've been made to feel that way
You 5/29 09:06 I don't think it's malice that meant my mom turned off the oven after making their pork chops when all I could have was frozen pizza and she didn't even tell me when it'd be ready so I couldn't hope to coordinate meals
I don't think she meant not to tell me I hadn't turned the oven on properly as I thought I had -- she'd used it and I hadn't thought -- so I actually had to wait until long after everyone else had eaten to have my own food
You 5/29 09:07 I think it's just incompetence. But that doesn't make me feel much better

You 5/29 15:53 Take me away from all this!
K 5/29 15:56 I'll meet you at LAX
hollymath: (me)
My mom managed to shave one of my sideburns A-FUCKING-GAIN before I could grab the clippers out of her hand.

"Okay, you do the sides," she said, giving me a little shoulder-squeeze that was meant to be a hug but felt like a symbolic reminder of how trapped I am here.

I didn't "do" the other side. I can only hope this will aggravate her more than leaving my hair the way I like it bothers her.

It does really hurt; my jaw hurts now. I thought I imagined that but I mentioned it last time too, I now see.
hollymath: (Default)
It's Memorial Day on Monday, so the other night Mom and Dad and I went out to put flowers on the graves of some of my dad's family. My mom's done this for years, even when my dad's mom was still alive, when she got to old and sick to look after them. My grandma's parents are there, a few of her brothers, one of her sisters, her son who died early, before I was born. I always kind of liked this, in a quiet respectful kind of way. Her parents were long gone before I was born, her brothers mostly though I have the vaguest memories of one and must confess I mostly remember the dog of the other (he died when I was about eight months old, to be fair, and his wife lived another couple of years and had the dog, Panda, at my grandparents' sometimes). But my grandma's sister and her husband, who never had children of their own, were like a third set of grandparents to my brother and I as we were growing up; they lived nearby and would look after us and we always liked to see them. Joe died when I was seven or eight; my parents didn't want to take us to the funeral but Catherine insisted on us being there. I remember seeing my mom cry, the first and until quite recently one of very few times I had seen such a thing; it terrified me. I didn't really understand funerals, but I wasn't scared.

Anyway, so all that I like in a way, appreciation of the past and family and that.

But of course that's not all, then there's my brother on the other side of the path through the graveyard, not far at all from his grandparents and grand-uncles and -aunts and great-grandparents. His grave is not one of the sensible formal ones for old people who died in their turn, but much more elaborate.

At least pulling the weeds and sorting out the artificial flowers gives my parents something to do. My family's lack of ability to talk hurts me in situations like the last thing I wrote about, but it's all I want here. I personally have no desire, none, to see my brother's grave or headstone. I don't care if dandelions grow there. I am uncomfortable with the mawkish sentiments expressed on the plaques people leave. His interests are canonized into personality traits, with a small clutch of golf balls there, as if they're eggs that are supposed to hatch into hope or healing.

Man. I wasn't going to talk about this much. It doesn't make me sad or upset but it does make my headache worse.

Especially this time when I was walking past the place next to Chris's grave, where my parents will end up some day, and I wondered if I will get flowers on the graves of the Gudenbergs and Collinses and Matthieses when they can no longer do it. I doubt I will spray Round-Up on my brother's grave like my mom does, nor change the wreath of artificial flowers eight or ten times a year.

Man, there's nothing like a cemetery to make you feel like you're letting people down. but also, that you're disconnected from them, so it doesn't matter. Right?

hollymath: (me)
Well, that's my parents off back to America then. They'll be halfway to Amsterdam now, and thence to Minneapolis.

After dragging them through the self-service check-in to keep them from the daunting queues, I almost had to shout to get them to the baggage drop-off point. Dad had gotten in the wrong line, again, the one that would take years, and Mom was worried because Dad had moved at all.

They told me they'd done their first ever self-check-in at Minneapolis this time, but it doesn't seem to have made any impression on them at all.

"Here!" I pointed to my own feet. "Come here." Mom looked at me, then nervously at my dad, who was happily meandering along in his queue for people who hadn't checked in yet, until he noticed her looking at him. "There's a huge sign!" I added, pointing to it, hoping it'd seem familiar to them after I'd been harping at them to look for something that said baggage drop-off. This sign was big and red and said "Self check-in: baggage drop-off."

Uncharitable thoughts I may have had on the train home, on the subject of needing a blind person to find the sign telling you where to go, shall remain unmentioned.

And then we good-byed and hugged and I said "Call me when you get there!" sounding just like a mom myself.

This is the story of my week in miniature: half frustration, half tenderness, 100% sincere, and all of it probably familiar to a lot of you (un)lucky enough to have family members you interact with on some kind of regular basis.

Parenting your parents. )

I've always said the two most important things necessary for polyamory to work are honesty and communication. But this is hardly specific to poly; this week has reinforced how much I've been spoiled by relationships -- friends, in-laws, all kinds -- where people say what they think... and living with someone with Asperger's-like symptoms, I sometimes forget there are other kinds of people that don't say whatever comes into their head. This has its downsides, no doubt, and one of them is cognitive dissonance, and that's the last thing you need when your parents are with you almost 24/7 for more than a week.

Because there's already plenty of it to go around.

Though my mom denied it when I alluded to this today, I really think they were lost staying somewhere with no TV. Dad had to start re-readinng the book he brought with him (and yes I know we live in a house that's lousy with books; there are libraries that are bound to have fewer than we do, but if he won't even pick my keys up in plain sight to unlock the door do you think he's going to borrow one of our books?). Lots of long silences, not exactly awkward, but not pleasant either. (I'm used to this; my family would regularly go to restaurants and have nothing to say until there was some muttered or whispered comment on something they'd happened to overhear from a nearby table: the most borig, and arguably unintentional, eavesdropping ever.)

And it's not just that they like different things -- though they do -- they also like things differently. After this week, I am convinced my parents experience new places through the medium of souvenir shops. Places haven't been visited until you have a t-shirt from there. Mom told us her best friend was complaining about not having gotten a shirt even though Mom's been here twice.

It's easy to get smug about this sort of thing, to think of Andrew's and my preference for museums over consumerism as somehow superior... though it doesn't take a lot to feel superior when you're surrounded by cashmere tartan shortbread in the shape of Scottish terriers. But then the flexibility and non-judgemental circuits I've had to kick into overdrive to get through this week (when I left my parents at the airport this morning I really wasn't sure what to do next) always kick in when I start thinking like that, and I wonder if strolling sagely through an exhibit in a museum is really any more authentic an experience than the Red Hot Chili Pipers whose music we heard in all the shops on the Royal Mile.

I am struck, visiting something like the Scottish War Memorial (one of the few highlights of Edinburgh Castle for me; I remembered how impressed I was with it last time and either it's even better now or I'm even worse, because I got properly choked up a few times, reading the dedications that so simply and powerfully acknowledged the effort and contributions of so many people) or the Merseyside Maritime Museum (there was a ship full of children being evacuated to North America during World War II (a pretty terrifying prospect in itself!) that was attacked by U-boats or something; there's a brilliant quote from a teacher whose job it was to look after the childre, who to soothe them apparently said "Oh, it's only a torpedo") by how little my life seems to have to do with any of this.

War and peril on the sea must be as far removed from me in one direction as the mansion at Tatton Park or a fridge magnet with the tartan of a clan I've ever heard of are in other directions. And so if I'd rather do the former and my parents the latter, well, who's to say mine's better?

Tourism brings money in; museums toddle along with government grants and people who buy scratch cards. Of course money is not the only sign of success, but if few enough people go to museums even when they're free, while they're happy to pay for green Nessie hats with tartan spikes down the back, skirts and scarves made of the special "Diana" tartan, and of course Red Hot Chili Pipers CDs... well, clearly someone knows something I don't.

And I'm happy to leave it that way. After a week of this, not only do I feel like I've forgotten who I am (it's interesting how much of your identity you can seem to lose just by not being able to make meaningful decisions: where you're going, what when and where you'll eat, what you do for fun (or "fun"), when you wake up and go to bed, even sometimes when you can brush your teeth, because your dad has inexplicably shut the bathrooom door while you can hear he's just in there taking his contacts out and it's not like he's going to do that naked or something... anyway, something to remember when you're looking after other people; I know how tempting it can be to just whiz through some things to make everyone's day a little easier, but if you let the kid choose her outfit herself or read out the whole menu loudly enough that your blind and deaf grandma can hear it all before ordering her usual anyway, you may well be doing that person a great service), I also feel like I've forgotten what kind of things people do.

I'm rather looking forward to going to the bank and making myself a sandwich or something for lunch, just because these mundane activities now have added value for me merely by virtue of not being anything to do with me, or anybody else, being on holiday.

Or vacation. See, I told you, I'm still thinking in both languages. I can't wait until my brain settles down again.


hollymath: (Default)

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