Dear Roberta,
You have spent an entire afternoon with your mother and she said the following:

  • Look at that hair on your chin (thanks for reminding me of my hormonal imbalances
  • Look at your big eyes (thanks for reminding me that I have hyperthyroidism and my big eyes are the first sign)
  • Don’t you think you’re eating too much? (thanks for reminding me that, before my diet, I was a few pounds heavier)

So it’s normal that you’re stressed right now, you feel like a turd with legs. Even though anyone can see that your boyfriend is in love with you, your mom has never missed an opportunity to remind you of your asshole ex-husband and everything that he put you through. Therefore, this afternoon, you had to make a superhuman effort not to break the eggshells you have come to walk on. So I’ll allow you that pout that came over your face for a second. OK fine, I’ll even allow that racing heartbeat that is coming back as we speak. Shouldn’t you let her know? Ah, deluded!

The thing is, the moms of our (i.e. those of us born in, say, 1974) generation are all the same. Think about your friends’ moms. You know that they brag about their daughters in front of everyone else, but get their daughters in person and it’s a replay of Mother Dearest.

I’m writing to let you know it’s normal. As you figured out, you and your friends grew up just fine. You never did drugs, were always on time, kind and polite, with brilliant careers and impressive educations to boot.

I’m also writing to let you know that I understand that you put up with a lot of bullshit. You experienced indescribable suffering, lack of self-acceptance, fear, and a constant need to be perfect. And you weren’t afraid of failing, you were afraid of succeeding. How could you have ever dealt with the outcome of your success?

You have been your own worst critic. You always gave yourself 2/10 when in reality, you deserved a 6. Actually, an 8. You tried to hide, hoping to become invisible, because your body was different from what was considered the ideal. You managed it alright. And it was never enough. It only took one criticism – and there were always plenty – to make you turn back into a little girl, when you hid your tears in dance class because your teacher didn’t like you as much as the other girls.

It only took taking home a man that was important to you to feel all the weight and guilt of the disaster that was your marriage with your ex-husband to take over and suffocate you. It only took your mom saying “I have cramps” for YOU to feel responsible for her illness.

Maybe no one told you, so here I am, telling you: it’s not your fault, relax.

You can’t change the way she is, it’s not within your power. Relax. You will never hear a compliment from your mother, so relax, don’t expect one. Because you know it’s not going to happen. Every so often, you delude yourself into believing things will be different, that you’ll see her radiant, cheerful, smiling and happy, but you once again realize she’ll always have that negative aura around her. Because this is how she is. But you’re not.

Roberta, I need to apologize for the times when you didn’t quite get there. And this letter from me to you, me to me, might change very little. But I need to apologize for the times that you didn’t feel like you were enough. Pretty enough, intelligent enough, thin enough, special enough. Because maybe I’m just noticing now that on your own, with your own strength, you have done a great job. And this should be enough.

Love,
Roberta