My mother and I have an uncomfortably close relationship. I can tell her just about everything. We’ve had conversations ranging from the profane to the absurd, and she never once batted an eyelash.
My mother is my best friend. Don’t get me wrong. She will always be my mother first and foremost, but we have that Steel Magnolias mother/daughter type of bond. I have no doubt she would give her right kidney for me.
There are a couple of things, however, that we will never see eye-to-eye on. My taste in men is one of them. Another item that my mom strongly disagrees with is my choice to cover a big percentage of my body with tattoos. She comes from an era when the only people to have tattoos were whores and sailors. She thinks that my appearance will keep me from living the kind of life I dream of and prohibit me from advancing in my career as a writer.
Two years ago, I was visiting my family for Easter. I had recently gotten “Alis volat propriis” (meaning “she can fly with her own wings” in Latin) tattooed on the inside of my wrist. I had been careful to cover it with my sleeves, but my mother has eyes like a hawk when it comes to her children doing things she disapproves of, and she saw it. The screaming and crying started shortly thereafter. She refused to take my phone calls for days, having my poor father answer every time my name popped up on the caller ID. My mother had dumped me.
It took awhile for the reconciliation to happen, but it eventually did. I was her daughter, after all.
I ended up getting more tattoos ( a chest piece here, a half sleeve there) and learned how to hide them with high-collared t-shirts and cardigans. I’d wear quarter-length sleeves to the beach in the middle of summer and sit in puddles of my own sweat at the dinner table, praying to God that it would all be over soon so I could run to my car, strip down, and blast the AC.
It wasn’t until last night, however, that my mother finally admitted to me that she had known all along. This time, we talked at length about our differing opinions and there were no fits of rage or sudden hang-ups. She had finally agreed to disagree.
I think we finally become adults when we learn to separate our lives from the lives our parents wanted for us. I have spent most of my young adult life trying to live up to the expectations my mother had for me. I earned my BA in English literature, got a swanky apartment, a couple of freelance writing gigs, and eventually a full-time editorial position at the Inquirer. It was a great life but it wasn’t entirely my life. It was a life that I knew would make my mom proud.
We all eventually need to learn what our own personal sets of values are and that it is okay if they deviate from the values of our parents. I think that this is one of the hardest lessons I have learned thus far, that my road ran parallel to my mother’s for awhile, but eventually, I would have to forge my own path.