Note: This is another entry from a now-defunct blog wherein folks would submit silly questions to a fake psychologist and I would use them as a launching pad to destinations unknown…
I am heading to Dallas in two days and will be staying with my mother for five weeks. Should I humor her and go to church or sleep in and be true to my heathen self?
And Dr. Brian responds:
What an extraordinary name. I’m assuming that this is not an appellation that you selected for yourself, as some rebellious young people are prone to do upon discovering that they have a boring personality and need to mix things up a bit. After all, no person of sound mind would willingly name themselves after something she might encounter at one of those high-end culinary stores where they make serving-ware that no one really needs.
Therefore, this name had to have come from one or both of your parents. I’m presuming it was just one in this case, as I can’t imagine two different people being in agreement that naming their child “Bowletta” would be a smashing idea. And regardless of who came up with this hideous moniker, I hope they came to their senses and stopped the madness after brandishing you in the way they did, and that your younger siblings were spared. However, if you do indeed have a sister named Tureena or perhaps a brother named Gravy Boyd, please have them contact me immediately. Severe therapy is in order, assuming that they have not already been institutionalized.
But let’s bring this back to you. As is typically the case, children are usually given names by their mothers. The fathers, assuming that they can be identified in a lineup and held at least minimally responsible for the upbringing of the squalling new life form, generally are not much interested in what to call the wailing creature that belches and poos.
Instead, the fathers are much more invested in things like motor oil, grass clippings, and viewing national sporting events where people are engaged in athletic maneuvers that the father could never hope to exhibit. But this does not stop him from loudly proclaiming, often with the encouragement of alcohol, exactly what those players should be doing, and when they should do it. (These fathers also have a mystifying hatred of men dressed in black and white stripes, but that’s a whole other neurosis.)
And this is the basic setup for the remainder of the child-rearing cycle. The mother, who has already suffered enough, with the ugly maternity outfits and the awkward discomfort of strangers gathering between her wish-boned legs for impromptu consultations, must continue bearing the burden of keeping you alive. One would think that, post-delivery, the man would step up to the plate and take charge, allowing the exhausted woman a lengthy downtime wherein she can re-introduce herself to her toes as well as contemplate the fact that her girlish figure has gone the way of her virginity.
Sadly, this is rarely the case. The father, in his near-sightedness and testosterone-fueled outlook on life, assumes that his 7 minutes of heavy breathing during conception has somehow paid in full his contribution to the raising of the child. After that point, any questions, concerns or complaints should be directed to the mother, since she was the one in charge of the processing plant wherein the urchin was assembled.
Anyway, the mother, along with all the other formidable duties surrounding offspring, is typically the one who assigns your unit name. As such, the given name of any child is a direct reflection of the mother’s state of mind and well-being up to the point of delivery. If she is mentally healthy and had a relatively bearable experience during product development, she will christen the child with something lovely like Emily or Preston.
Therefore, sad and unfortunate Bowletta, I’m afraid your mother did not full-heartedly enjoy her internment as a vessel for continuing the human race. Apparently there was some extensive and growing resentment concerning the beast within. Perhaps you kicked a bit too much during amniotic playtime, or you snapped off a rib when you had that itch on your back that you couldn’t reach. Maybe you kept arranging for Chinese food to be delivered and she grew tired of having to answer the door while her favorite soap was playing on TV, back in the wretched time before one could pause live television.
In any case, some frustrating factor or another caused enough aggravation that your mother chose to punish you with an outlandish name, one that normally would be reserved for characters on Saturday morning cartoons or nasty pole-dancers at low-rent strip clubs where the appetizers are questionably prepared. This is how we end up with first-name entries on birth certificates like “Bowletta” and “Gruntlina” and “You Ripped Me Apart”.
What’s this? Ah, my assistant Lanae has just handed me an update for your budding file. It seems, Bowletta, that you were adopted by your parents, clutched from a potentially different fate and raised by parents who were not directly responsible for the blood flowing in your veins. Well, then. That introduces an exciting new mix of possible mental ailments, so please review the attached brochure to see if we provide other therapies you might find appealing. We do, indeed, offer a bulk discount.
However, the underlying issue is still the same. Whether your name was chosen by your adoptive parents, or you arrived on their doorstep with a predetermined designation, it’s clear that someone, at some point, was not happy about something that could feasibly be blamed on you. Thusly, you were christened in a slanderous manner, and you bear the scars of such an episode to this very day, wincing every time you sign the credit card slip when Chinese is delivered to your door.
So, having rambled on about all that, hopefully providing you with some psychological insight into why you have felt a bit out of place most of your life, let’s return to your initial query. I always find it best to carefully evaluate each turn of phrase that you commit to paper so that we can get to the true root of your many and varied issues.
“I am heading to Dallas in two days”
WHY are you heading to Dallas? The fact that you are heading here means that you are not here at the moment. You live elsewhere. That’s a beautiful thing. You have escaped the overheated land of your disappointment-rich upbringing. You have left behind the people who knew you as Little Bowlie, the girl with emotionally-distant parents that cried a lot and never seemed satisfied with her choice of snow cone at the state fair.
I strongly heed you to reconsider your unhealthy decision to return to the scene of the crime. Is there really any benefit in doing so? Do you really want to grab a stick and whack the beehive once more? Surely you learned something from the first fifty times you did that. Then again, I wouldn’t have a thriving practice if people gleaned any knowledge from their repeated mistakes.
“and will be staying with my mother for five weeks.”
Are you out of your shame-ridden mind? Five WEEKS? There is absolutely no reason for this. Even the mentally-stable Emilys of the world wouldn’t dream of returning home for that length of time after finally leaping from the worrisome nest. This is madness. I strongly urge you to find or fabricate a scheduling conflict of some kind, thereby reducing your availability and vulnerability. Dip a toe into the pool, as it were. Don’t do a cannonball.
If you’d like, I can sign some legal papers forcing you to attend one of our intensive, on-site, minimal-restraint seminars here at Bonnywood Manor. There are many lovely options to choose from. Might I suggest “Cold Mommies and Cold Food” or “Daddy Makes Me Want to Do Ugly Things with My Finger Paints” or “Somewhere over the Painbow”. All of these programs have very high success rates.
“Should I humor her”
You cannot humor her. She finds nothing amusing in any way. If Lanae’s speedy research on the Internet is sound, this woman has not laughed since 1954. It seems there was a notorious barbecue at the Smithfield’s wherein the aperitifs were a bit too strong, coupled with somebody making a critical error with the ingredients for the Planter’s Punch. There’s a footnote that your mother had all photos from the party destroyed because she was captured in a festive mood and possibly flirting with someone named Buck.
“and go to church”
Do not enter a church at this time. I cannot stress this strongly enough. There is far too much drama surrounding your maternal relationship as it is. Why would you want to invite further turmoil by prancing into a house of worship filled with righteous prigs who will take one whiff of you and immediately sound the gong signaling an Emergency Prayer Circle for the Unwashed Among Us?
Do not give your mother fodder for further humiliation. The church is her territory. She owns this hallowed ground, peopled with an overwhelming number of disciples who adhere to the like-minded principles that a properly-raised child must constantly cower and tremble and have a fear of their own Play-Doh. This is not the village that Hillary had in mind when she published her thoughts on raising a child.
That whole mess is just too much work. Take her to the park instead. Sit on a bench, and admire the trees and the calming reflection pool. If she starts to ratchet up into her craziness, you can always race down one of the nearby jogging paths, claiming to have noticed a mugging in progress. She will not be able to keep up with you, because she’s old, and you will have a few moments to regulate your breathing and refrain from slandering her gilded reputation. Mommy will never change, so avoidance of issues is sometimes the best recourse.
“or sleep in and be true to my heathen self?”
Yes, let’s do that.
Heathen or not, there’s only so much time in the day. Why waste valuable minutes rehashing long-standing grievances that will never be resolved? Your mother is your mother, and you are you, no matter how sordid and twisted things may be. Sometimes you can bake brownies together, where there’s a least a minimum of warmth and everyone can pretend that each of you doesn’t know the exact two words you can utter to send the other one into an apoplectic frenzy.
Other times, you’re just not going to win. Suck it up, wait for the tenseness to pass, and perhaps things will eventually smooth out and you can reach a point where everyone can at least be civil. There’s even an outside chance that you might have a delightful time, where everybody manages to be decent, an exquisite wine is uncorked, and the delicious meal that all helped to prepare is peppered with amusing stories, the nice kind, where people chuckle and smile instead of seethe and accuse.
However, because reality has a history of intruding on all familial gatherings and, enhanced by the fact that you graciously pre-paid for your future counseling sessions, I have instructed Lanae to activate the First-Response Unpleasant Mother Protocols (FRUMP). Take this medic-alert necklace with you, and wear it at all times.
If you encounter a motherly situation where you can’t handle it anymore, just press the designer panic button. Immediately, a black-ops helicopter will be dispatched from the nearest rescue center and race to your current location. When you hear the approaching buzz of the chopper, simply lift your arms in the air, grasp the descending ladder, and the team will whisk you away into the night. You will not have to leave the recuperation facility until you feel fit enough to do so. We offer a bulk discount on that arrangement as well.
Originally published in “Idiot Fondue” on 02/01/10. Revised and updated with extra flair for this post.
Story behind the photo: Scotch the Cat, confused by the emptiness of the magic food bowl…
Categories: Idiot Fondue