I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother

About a month ago I wrote an essay and submitted it.  Last weekend, I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother.

I was very excited because I had never done anything like it before.  To be honest, the audition was a kick and I’m happy I did it.  Unfortunately, I got the email that said, “we did not choose your piece for this year’s show.”  I think I was more upset that my fellow bloggers weren’t picked.

Since I didn’t pass the audition, I thought, “Why waste a perfectly good essay?  I’ll blog it.”

Here it is:

I’m Not Listening to My Mother

I was never going to have children.  I had made up my mind quite young.  When I became engaged at 21 to the man of my dreams, he was on board with the “no kids” decision. 

Why wouldn’t I want to have children?  Fear.  I was terrified that I would do to a child of mine what was done to me by my mother.  The easy solution to stop the cycle of abuse was to forego motherhood all together.
My mother was a cold, bitter and vicious woman and I have no idea why.  I have pictures of her holding me as a baby and smiling, but I have no memories of her ever holding me or even smiling at me.  As an only child, I thought it had to be my fault.
My mother rarely spanked me.  Her weapon of choice was words.  She didn’t use the usual swear words that women sometimes use to brutalize their daughters.  She could nail my heart to the back of my chest with a chosen phrase that she pulled from a place that just might be hell.  One time during an argument, she said, “You’re a dirty daughter.”  Reading that phrase out loud resurrects her voice and all the hatred she had for me.
As the years went by, it got much worse.  I was not allowed to bathe, wash my hair or wear clean clothes.  I’m not talking for days or weeks.  I’m talking about years.  My high school gym teacher pulled me aside and told me as gently as she could that I had “body odor.”  I went home and told my mother and asked her if I could buy deodorant.  The answer was, “no.”  To say I was bullied and made fun of at school is only the surface of what I went through mentally and physically.
I started to rebel, which is laughable.  Rebelling for me was sneaking down in the basement to wash the front of my hair so it at least looked clean even though it smelled like “rotten tomatoes.”  I tried to wash myself when I could.  I would beg to take a bath twice a week.  Her take on my desire to be clean was that I must want to be “with men!”  Her gleeful validation of that was when she read notes stuffed in my purse from my girlfriend which told of my girlfriend making out with a guy while she was drunk.  My mother was so happy that I was a whore she told the note-finding story at a family gathering.  The details, of course, were changed from my friend making out with a guy while drunk, to me having sex with a guy while drunk.
I was fourteen years old and had no idea what “whore” meant.  A friend of mine had to explain it to me.
Not long after that, my mother and I were screaming at each other about something, when she brought up this incident.  She was dramatically carrying on that she couldn’t sleep at night because of “what I had done.”  I had had enough.  I remember lowering my voice and saying very calmly, “I don’t care that you can’t sleep at night.  I can.”
The man of my dreams was not and I began dating again.  The story of my husband and I meeting is for another time.  When we started talking about marriage, I explained to my cradle-Catholic, Italian man from a large family, that I was not going to have children and why.  He listened carefully.  His interesting response was, “Perhaps that guy did not have the qualities of a good father and you instinctively knew that.”   Me?  Know something instinctively about parenting?
I not only married that cradle-Catholic, Italian man from a large family, I converted to the Catholic faith and we have three children.  The first two were boys, so my fear of treating them the way I was treated merely hovered in the distance.  Then I got pregnant with number three and by my 9th week of pregnancy I had a test that revealed the baby was a girl.  Fear showed up looking and sounding exactly like my mother.
Our sons are 31 and 30 years old and our daughter is 24.  I have a good relationship with all our children.  I relied on my Catholic faith in that journey.  Fear may have showed up looking and sounding like my mother, but fear was not welcome in our home.  I stood up to it and said, “I’m not listening to my mother.”

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