Friday, February 24, 2006

growing up

Once again I have been reminded of a strange phenomenon which could, quite possibly, apply only to myself. But I'm not sure.

It's about being "adult." My late mother was an adult, the whole time I knew her. My father was, too, as were all of the grown-up relatives. They looked like adults and behaved like adults and thought like adults. They were responsible and serious and old.

Now, in certain ways, I am adult. I have the right age, for example. If age is the sole criterion, then I qualify, in spades.

When my best friend from college "partied up a storm" with me a few years ago, we revelled in the fact that we seemed so much more youthful than most of our agemates. She informed me in no uncertain terms that it was because we didn't have kids. We both swore up and down that we'd NEVER have 'em.

She stuck to her oath; I am now a single parent of a 2nd grader. According to my friend's theory, I ought to be a mature adult now, probably extra mature because I'm a single parent, right?

Well, wrong. I did the math and figured out how old I was when my mother was the age I am now. I remember my perception of her then. She was an adult, bigtime. She knew how to think and behave. If she had any immature leanings, she kept them well repressed. She was serious, she was sensible, she was disciplined, she was regular. She was never out of control. She was adult.

Let's start with appearance. I look disheveled. She looked prim and proper, even on days off. Her hair was neatly cut in a matronly style which was professionally fussed with once a week at the beauty parlor.

A female adult is expected to maintain a certain level of household order. My mother did, but she cheated. She had her own mother cleaning that house on a daily basis. I have the opposite: I have a male child and a Chihuahua wreaking havoc on a daily basis. The house is a constant wreck.

My mother, the adult, prepared dinner, served at 5pm sharp every day. It was a sensible meal, damnit, even if it was often nausea-inspiring. It featured meat, two vegetables, and desert if you earned it. You can guess at Betty's cooking habits. I'll whip up the amaranth if the child starts clamoring for food. If he won't eat it, he's welcome to forage. I like to sit by the window, reading, eating dry cereal out of the box. My mother's probably rolling.

But yesterday I noticed my thoughts (something I rarely do). My mind resembled that of an adolescent who is just starting to figure out how to fit into society. I was thinking, "Boy, she doesn't like me. She probably thinks I'm a loser, not worthy of her attention. I wonder what they said about me after I left the room? I wonder why she doesn't like me? Did I do a bad thing by leaving early, without a reasonable explanation? Will they shun me now? Where do I really fit in? Anywhere?"

My mother got over all that when she was in high school, or middle school, even. By the time she was my age, she was self-assured, knowing her place, accepting it, and playing her role obediently.

When I examine my mind, it truthfully doesn't seem different from when I was a teen. I am just as unsure now of where I fit in socially. Speculating, I can only guess that it's a result of living a fairly isolated life, devoid of family, away from home turf, relying on whichever friends will tolerate me at the time.


garnet david said...

So much is revelaed through your words here. Truth, fear, confusion, wisdom, honesty. But the overall sentiment is a burning desire for wholeness and understanding.

I'm sure your mother had neuroses and doubts. She shielded them with habits and rituals. Humans need those structures to build confidence. The horizontal patterns of life are important.

But I wonder if your mother delved as deeply into so much as you do. Sinking down into life is vertical living.

If you could see the depth you offer, without needing someone elses acknowledgement, then you will belong where ever you are.

Priyamvada_K said...

Your post made me think. You see, I too live far from my family (aside from my kid of course). There is many a time I've ached for guidance, to look the way my mom/dad did to me when I was a kid. Sel-assured adults who knew what they were doing.

Me? Ha, many a time I grapple with stuff I can't understand easily. Have wondered if I'm a misfit, whether the savviness of managing relationships escaped me and that's why I'm suddenly single.

Last year, on a particularly tired day I wondered how it would be to go "home". To have that place I call "home" nearby, where I can visit and put my feet up.

Felt once again torn at choosing to live 10,000 miles from home. Felt guilty. Wondered what'll happen, where my "home" will be if my parents weren't around. Got depressed wondering if I was doing the right thing, living so far away.

Then out of the blue came the answer "Create your own home".

That was it. The inner voice said "create in your corner of the world - a place you can call yours, and make it into a haven for those that frequent it".

I don't know what to call it - the subconscious speaking, guidance from a higher power.....but that helped me. Now I'm trying to "create" my own space.

In a way that's becoming 'adult' for me. Until then, no matter how old I was, I was a 'kid' at heart and home was far away. Adult is when you make conscious choices and are ok with them.

I've wondered too where I belong. We - you, I and women like us, belong to our own space. The world is our home, kindred spirits are our relatives. As for those that judge us, or don't want to mingle with us - its their problem. We are free spirits, and the world is ours.


Shankari said...

Free spirit! Loose canon! Wild haired! (Sloppy, too)Immature! I've had these labels flung at me so often that it dries up like so much water off my duckie back!

In fact, the other day my Big sister labelled me 'a practical one'- that sure was a strange new label for me, but hell, I conform to myself by not conforming to any or all of those labels!

Heres to never growing up! Heres to being redundant mums and meaningful people! ;)

Sideways Chica said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sideways Chica said...

Dear Betty...I like to think that I am much the same person I was when I was a teenager. Circumstances and experience have of course altered me a bit, and I like to think added to the equation. But for the most part, I think that I am basically the same person that I was back then. I take comfort in what other people see as my flaws, because they are mine alone, and speak to diversity and individuality - as each week I take solace in your posts that speak to your individuality.

Having doubts means that we are open-minded. We don't close doors, we open them no matter what...and look inside and analyze the contents. I trust when your mother was living that she admired your spirit...even cultivated it so that you could be who you are...not what society expected, or even demanded.

I say good for you chica, and I believe that your mother is saying the same to you each and every day. Just remember to stop and listen, and you will hear her. I know I hear my father ( who died when I was 15) on a daily basis, saying "just because you are a girl..."

In closing I just want to say that having doubts shows strength, not weakness. It is those who never doubt that are not willing to open those doors...and are truly afraid. You are not afraid, you are brave and courageous.

Ciao for now...

P.S. I messed up on my original fast, to hurried, and didn't recheck. This is one of my flaws.

Krisco said...

I like your site; so inspiring and honest.

I think there is something about adults - they were just more adult-like when we were the kids. I feel the same way a lot.

Betty said...

Thank you, Garnet for pointing out what I wondered but didn't say.

Betty said...

Priya, thank you for the story in which you were given a message about "home". Your outlook is inspiring.

Betty said...

Shankari, I like the concept of conforming to yourself. Thank you for that.

Betty said...

Thank you, Teri, for presenting the possibility that doubt actually can indicate strength and open-mindedness. It makes perfect sense.

Betty said...

Krisco- nice to meet you, and thank you for the welcome compliment.

Blage said...

Lately I have been thinking on this very topic a great deal. One big question for me is think of someone who looks and perhaps seems very adult ex. Dick Cheney and then really look at some of their actions "shooting someone on a hunting trip, while drinking, waiting a long time to report it" Maybe many people are just children in adult's clothing and masks..anyway I am quite youthful looking and acting as well. But would never hunt while drinking.

Kelley Bell said...

We all go through this, and deep down most of us never get beyond it.

Sarcasim is the cloak of protection for some, an emotional wall is built by others. Liars and cheats often find their path from this pain.

As for me, I just decided one day, that I had suffered enough. I flicked the little voice of self doubt off my shoulder, did my best imitation of Fonzi, and never looked back.

Priyamvada_K said...

You've inspired my latest blog. Have a look.


Betty said...

I'm with you, Blage. I can't imagine drinking while operating firearms.

Betty said...

Kelley, I like the idea of flicking off that self doubt. I'll have to give it a whirl.

Betty said...

Priya, I'm on my way to your blog. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Often have i too looked back into my past and seen my mother- my friends' mothers and have been amazed at how different they were -
They seemed so grown up and so mature- so 'motherly' and when I look at myself , I find myself much 'different'- I almost used the word 'lacking'- but i desist- I dont feel my age at all- and i dont think I behave the way mothers used to in those bygone days- but i guess its fine- one is just oneself- and not another...and we'll find peace in that- if not today then another day...
I found the honesty and earnestness in u'r posts touching...

Ardra said...

oops- the anon comment was me! had not realised that i had not logged in.

krome.obsession said...

Age and maturity is always a funny topic for me. On a test I took recently it came out as me being in my mid thirties, this didn't surprise me as many people think I'm about that age. That is until they see me in person. I'm 24, and while I sometimes look a few years older (depending on what I wear and my make-up), there's no way I look in my thirties. My partner, who is actually in his thirties, has even said that if he'd seen me out in a social setting that he would have never spoken to me because I look young and he wouldn't have expected me to be as mature as I am.
The funny thing is that I still love everything that I did when I was 16, which is what I loved when I was 11. Of course, I was a strange youth. Dedicated to my chosen sport, constantly studying (even if it was only for personal enjoyment), and completely obsessed with cars. I doubt these things will ever change, because this is part of what makes me who I am.

ME Strauss said...

Oh Betty,
What a beautiful presence you DO have. You are yourself--something our mothers never were allowed to be. I bet if they could have they might have thought of eating dry cereal out of a box, but their childhood, their upbringing didn't allow them that kind of freedom.

Everyone has already told you that we all worry about such things. Garnet's right you offer so much depth and life-earned understanding . . . those who might talk about you when you leave the room don't have a clue what they've just seen.

Betty said...

Ardra, thank you. Yeah, the adult behavior I'm remembering is from bygone times...maybe that's the catch.

Betty said...

You said something which made a lot of sense. Maybe not everyone knows him/herself well at age 16, but you must have, and I, too, to some extent, because the same things are relevant now. Thank you.

Betty said...

Liz, you said something important which I had forgotten- our mothers were not allowed to be themselves. So instead of lamenting, I'm now rejoicing!

Anonymous said...