I’ve now been separated from the outside world for a month. I started quarantining a week before most stores in Victoria–including my now-former workplace–closed for the pandemic.
In that time, I’ve come to realize that for the past few years, I’ve been a dialed-back version of myself. I’ve trained myself to not do anything too far off from social norms as to not further alienate myself. My deafness already makes people uncomfortable, so I can’t afford to be weird on top of that! But, after a month without outside exposure, I feel the eccentricity creeping back into me.
I spent the first twelve years of my life developing my personality, with limited exposure to different personalities. I was a mainstream student at a public elementary school located the next town over. Not far, but when you’re a kid, it means your social life is restricted to school hours.
Although I had two siblings, my sister was ten years older and left home at sixteen, while my brother, seven years older, stuck around up until I was eleven or twelve. “You pretty much grew up as an only child,” Mom would say, believing that it automatically made me spoiled. While I don’t agree with her theory, it did mean that the two people I had the most exposure to, by far, were my parents.
I did not have a good relationship with my mom. She was old-fashioned in her way of thinking: masculine and feminine roles are to be respected. Marriage should come before children (she got pregnant with my sister at 17, but managed to marry before giving birth), and women should definitely have children even if they cannot stand teenagers, which is a guaranteed outcome of having children. She firmly believed that teenagers were always up to no good.
The upside to this was that she’d be justified in unleashing her pent-up rage at her children once they were teenagers, and she had a lot of rage.
She’d set up traps to test my siblings, such as leave change on the kitchen counter to see whether a few loonies would disappear.
My siblings failed this test, but I never fell for it. Mom once found a torn-up note in my brother’s wastebasket, taped it back together, and then got mad at him for what it said.
In retrospect, this must’ve been why my brother rarely left his bedroom. He steered clear of Mom whenever she was on the warpath, which was often.
So, when my brother moved out, Mom was left with me, the least rebellious of her three kids. On top of not being a thief, I never did drugs, drank, or smoked. I wasn’t boy-crazy. I brought home good grades. I never swore at her or Dad. (You bet I was rude though, hoho!)
She got quite creative in the things she’d get agitated over, such as food packaging that had been opened the wrong way. I was much tidier than my siblings and friends but far below Mom’s standards of tidiness. My so-called messes were commonly used to rationalize her outbursts. She was rarely physically abusive, but there were incidents where she’d shoved me or threw things at me.
Mom was never officially diagnosed as having a mental illness, but she was likely bipolar (as I am) and OCD.
This post was inspired by a few photos I came across of her preparation of Christmas dinner in 2009:
Even on the self-referential jar of salsa, she needed to be consistent:
To her credit, she had a good sense of humour about it and did not get upset when Dad poked fun at her organizational technique:
Dad was completely different from Mom. It’s hard to believe they managed to stay married from 1973 until she passed in 2012.
The public’s response to the pandemic is another thing that has brought back memories of my mother. There are now signs everywhere, just as they were at home growing up.
Above the toilet paper dispenser: “Please change the toilet paper roll”. On the light switches, “turn the light off when leaving room”. “Close door.” “Wash hands.” “Squeegee the shower door after showering.”
No stone left unturned.
Our septic system was reason enough for her to use the colour ink when she printed out a full-page that she had designed, warning us to not flush down anything other than non-biodegradable waste. This sign incorporated WordArt and an entirely unrelated photo of Dad and me in the hot tub, smiling at the camera. To protect the integrity of her message, she slipped the sign into a sheet protector before taping it onto the bathroom wall.
Christmas gifts for Mom were things like candles and scented lotions, while I could delight Dad with a velvet painting of a gold scorpion surrounded by roses and barbwire.
He found it hilarious and hung it behind the door in his bedroom (my parents slept in separate rooms because Dad was a loud snorer).
That’s all I’m willing to divulge today about my family. Basically, I’m the product of two conflicting personalities, making me a temperamental weirdo. For Yann, this means I can be difficult to live with, but never boring!
I wonder where my parents would fall on the Alignment Chart. I’m Chaotic Neutral.
What about you?