I rarely call you “mom” when I am referring to you, and even though you don’t even know it, it’s my way of secretly punishing you.
I am 31-years old, and the memories of you are carved into my mind like a river. The river was smooth and relatively normal until I was 7, and after that became a twisty, unpredictable, rocky current.
Remember when I was 7 and I got really sick? Of course you do, the doctors thought I was going to die. I sometimes wonder if you distanced yourself from me because you were preparing yourself for the worst, but then I realized that was a bullshit excuse I made up in my head to make myself feel better.
Those crazy fucking steroids. The “miracle” pill they called it. Saved my life, but turned me into a monster. Gone was your blonde haired, brown-eyed, tan, tiny little daughter. She morphed into a child that looked like a freak. If you thought it was hard to look at me with all that excess weight, the moon face, and overall blimp look I took on, you have NO idea how hard it was for me.
The looks, the stares, the sympathy nods from people who had seen me only a month before who were flabbergasted at what I had turned into. Do you remember that time at the library? We ran into our neighbor, and he said “My God, what happened to her?” Even at seven I knew that was some shit you didn’t say to a kid. The car ride home was filled with awkward silence. I think you said “I can’t believe he would say that.” But it wasn’t what you said that I remember, it was what you didn’t say. Mother how your body language spoke and still speaks volumes. You were EMBARRASSED of me.
Not only did that medicine make me fat, it made me CRAZY. You would like to think maybe my memory doesn’t go back that far, sometimes I wish it didn’t. When you put a 7-year old on 75mg of Prednisone, it really fucks her world up. Remember those terrifying panic attacks? The first one was in the grade school auditorium. I thought I was dying. Do you know how scary it is to be so little and to know that you are so sick you might die? Then you start having panic attacks that make you feel like you ARE dying? It’s fucking terrible.
Remember the psychosis, the obsessive compulsive disorder, the mood swings, the constant hunger? I thought you were trying to poison me, I thought that aliens were going to abduct me. If I didn’t flip the light switch “just” the right amount of times, something terrible would happen to you or dad. I would get out of bed, sometimes 10 times a night to unzip my footy pajamas, the red ones. I would peel them off and search them for bugs. I knew, just knew there were bugs on my skin or crawling in my jammies. I never did find those bugs, and I never told you about all those scary thoughts because I knew I sounded crazy.
Do you remember when you started obsessing over my looks? I am sure you worried about me, and maybe that is where your controlling nature took over. You couldn’t control the disease but you thought you could control what I looked like. Mother that prednisone was stronger than ANY diet you could ever put me on.
Remember when I was eight the doctors started trying to taper the Prednisone? You had a “friend” come over and put me on a “diet.” I knew you were disgusted with me. I was disgusted with myself. Unfortunately you missed that I needed you to love me for who I was, more than you needed me to lose weight. I was 8-years old and was overly aware that in our family excess weight (medically induced or not) was absolutely NOT acceptable.
You watched me like a hawk. The doctors said to watch the salt intake for water retention. God forbid I got any fatter!! You bought every salt free food the grocery store sold. Everything that passed my lips you had to approve. You would give me a “look” that meant NO if I went for a “treat” at a family function. Now that I am older I know that our extended family noticed your obsession too. I wish I would have realized they knew then. I felt so alone.
The rest of my childhood was a lot of that…when I was fourteen you became even more obsessive about my weight. A freak looking 7-year old was one thing, a thinned out but still slightly overweight 12-year old was another, but to have a teenager who didn’t fit your mold. Now that was something that needed FIXING. NOW.
You constantly talked about my weight.
“Nicole you are really putting it on, you need to watch it.”
“How much weight have you gained?”
“Are you seriously going to eat another helping of that?”
“That will never fit you, you are getting a gut.”
As I got older you got meaner. You must have thought I needed harsher treatment. When I was fifteen every single night after dinner I would go upstairs, run a bath (to attempt to hide the noise) and throw up everything I had just consumed in front of you. It felt so fucking good. Out with the food came the anxiety. I know you fucking heard me. You had to. You never said a word.
I quickly figured out it was easier to not eat. I went from a 5 6″ 140lb healthy teenager to a 108lb anorexic. You know whats even crazier mother? That you never said one fucking thing to me as you saw me wasting away. It wasn’t until dad (who always adored his little girl, bloated and puffy and all) intervened.
I take that back. One time. One time. I was walking out of the house in a sports bra and shorts to complete my daily laps around the neighborhood and you said “I don’t think you should lose anymore weight.” Really mother? Have I finally hit the right proportions for you? Because I am FUCKING miserable. I crave your attention so badly. I am a good kid, I get good grades, I don’t get in trouble. You haven’t seen me eat in three months and NOW I meet your approval. I will never EVER forget how satisfied I felt when you said that.
Dad took me to his friend who was a psychologist. I was fucking pissed. I really had nothing to say to this man. You ruined every ounce of self esteem I had. You made me feel like I was the most hideous, disgusting human being that existed. That I didn’t deserve anything, including love if I wasn’t “beautiful” in your eyes. I used to blame myself. Told myself I was overreacting. Finally I realized mother, I was a child. It wasn’t my fault.
Do you remember when you tried to pay me to lose weight? $7 per pound. Seven was and is my favorite number. You almost fucking ruined that. You reassured me that “I could use the money to buy cute new clothes.” Who fucking does that. Never good enough, never worth enough. All I wanted was for you to love me unconditionally. Through thick and thin. Literally.
I remember coming down in a new outfit and making the mistake of asking “does this look okay?” I knew what you would say but fuck maybe this time would be different. God, I wanted you to tell me I looked great, that I was beautiful. Your response was a blasé “you know you are really getting a gut.” Crushed.
Remember my first year of college when I got depressed and gained a bunch of weight? Oh I am sure you do, you probably tucked any photos of me looking like that deep in the pockets of the photo album. I missed my boyfriend so much. He was in boot camp. When I was home for a visit you said “you know, ___ will be coming home soon, you should really use that as some motivation to lose some weight.” Mother I probably went and sat in my room with the door locked and stuffing my face with a box of crackers while crying.
One time you were going on and on about my weight. You screamed “Jesus Christ Nicole you CAN’T lose weight?? You used to be anorexic and you are telling me you can’t CONTROL YOURSELF??!!!” Those words felt like a thousand wasp stings at once.
There was one memory that stood out the most, I think because I was actually happy with my life when you did what you did. I had a boyfriend who loved me so much. He thought I was beautiful. He knew about you and how you acted.
I saw it immediately when I woke up. There was a note taped to my mirror. A brief smile crossed my face. When I was younger you would sometimes leave us notes on the mirror. “Have a good day, Love you” in that perfect handwriting of yours. You could be nice. That was probably during a time when I was ‘beautiful” in your eyes.
As I unfolded the paper that had been so delicately taped to the mirror, my face fell. It was typed. Typed meant serious. You had typed me notes about my weight before. But you had never ever said anything this cruel.
I am so upset with you I couldn’t even sleep, I am up at 3 a.m. writing this. You were doing so well with losing weight. What happened? You are gaining it back. I have a question for you? How do you expect to ever get a husband let alone keep one if you keep gaining weight at the rate you are? Think about it, if you gain 10 pounds every year, in 10 years you are going to be over 150 pounds overweight. You are headed in that direction! Do you think _______ husband is even attracted to her? She is so big and that is going to be you if you don’t watch yourself.
The tears fell. They fell hard. I went to my parents room and woke my dad to show him the letter. His face was crushed like mine. He looked at me and said “you know Nicole, your mom is the way she is, I think you are going to have to learn that you can’t change her and accept this is how she is.” Crushed. Dad never backed you on the shit you said to me, but he didn’t stand up for me much either. Ironic, dad wanted me to accept you for who you were, but you couldn’t even accept your own daughter. Pathetic.
After that letter I finally fucking realized I was so done with this shit. I waited for you to walk in the door after work. I fucking snapped. I never cursed at you.
“What the fucking FUCK is wrong with you?”
That definitely threw you off guard. You tried to stutter something (you weren’t used to me standing up to you), but I wouldn’t even let you talk.
“Do you think this is the 19 fucking 50’s? Do you think that women are supposed to be cookie cutter wives, and our purpose for existence is to look good for our men?”
“Where in the fuck did you learn to act like this? Dad has never treated you like this, and I sure as hell know that Grammie never treated you like this!!”
“You are fucking nuts, and there is something fucking wrong with you! Who treats their daughter like this?”
“Do you think guys only fucking marry women because of their looks?”
When I finally said everything I had ever wanted to say to you I realized exactly how much anger I had toward you and how much I hated you then.
Your response mother? You cried.
You cried out “I am a terrible mom, I don’t know why I did that.” It was almost like you were begging me to feel sorry for you. You pulled the most passive aggressive bullshit and tried to get me to feel sorry for YOU.
When I got pregnant it wasn’t planned. I knew you were disappointed. You kept bringing up that I should REALLY consider an abortion. I fucking wanted to hit you every time you brought it up. I was 24-years old and responsible for my own actions. I had a college degree from a stellar private school, my own house, and a fucking job. In reality you were embarrassed that your daughter was knocked up and hadn’t done things the “right” way. You were pissed that you didn’t have control. Mother your mind fuck game ended when I got pregnant. You became the LEAST of my concerns. Fuck you for trying to pressure me into having an abortion. I loved that baby from the minute I knew I was pregnant.
I will never forget when I was crowned homecoming queen. I scanned the crowd for you and dad, and dad was already walking towards me with the biggest smile on his face. This wasn’t about me being the “prettiest.” I was chosen because I was liked by my classmates, I was kind, people looked up to me, and THAT was what was important. You didn’t say one word to me that day. Dad was so proud of his little girl, who had grown into a kind and beautiful soul inside AND out. You…who knew what the fuck you thought. But you certainly weren’t happy.
These rivers run deep, and there are miles and miles of distance to cover, but I don’t think the waters are as rough as they used to be. I think and hope that my sense of self has calmed those waters mother.
I am a good mother, unconditional, and incredibly proud of my son. I hope he grows up to be like me. Kind, loving, considerate, and empathetic. Mother my son will always know that people are not their shells. He will know that we are all SO much more than that.