This post is related, albeit very indirectly, to another post I wrote about having wanderlust. One of my points about having wanderlust was that when you live in the same small community all of your life, people have a LOT of preconceived notions about who you are. If you’re not careful, this can lead to a full-blown identity crisis.
As a mom, this is always in danger of happening anyway. Our kids define us, but at the same time, they sort of suck the you out of you–it’s a vicious circle, isn’t it? I think all moms fall victim to that “I’m so-and-so’s mom” thing. This is partly our own fault, because we allow it to happen–even encourage it at times. (Unless the kid is doing something bad–then they must belong to someone else.)
I don’t know if I’m hormonal (likely), if my nerves are shot (also likely), or if I’m just losing my mind (most likely), but it seems like this person that used to be me has completely vanished. I don’t even know her anymore. I tried to think of the last time someone actually said my first name out loud, and I’m coming up with nothing here, people. Hopefully my memory is just bad (it is) but I don’t think that’s all it is. Consider the following:
- I seldom (never) go to the doctor, but there are a lot of people in this house, so it always seems like somebody is going to the doctor or dentist all the time, and I’m the coordinator. In other words, I constantly start telephone conversations like this: “Hi, this is Evelyn’s mom,” or “Hi, this is Matt’s wife,” or “Hi, this is Mindy’s sister….” you get the idea. (I had some dental work done several months ago, and I think the main reason I liked all of them so much is they all called me by my first name.)
- I have officially reached the age where I am “Mrs. Last Name.” This bothers me more than anyone could ever, ever understand. I can correct people and they will keep doing it anyway. It’s not that I mind having the name or anything, but I have always connected that Mrs. Last Name thing with old people. Now it’s me.
- Everyone around knows The Grandfather. He’s a Baptist minister, so when I say everyone, I literally mean it. Remember when I said that some of this is partly our own fault? I’m guilty here–if someone doesn’t know me, I say, “I’m The Grandfather’s granddaughter.” They immediately know who I am. I have more about this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
- My sister is almost as well-known as The Grandfather. When we are out, we run into people who know her, and I don’t have a clue who they are. Here comes the kicker. These kind but ultimately upsetting people say, “Are you Mindy’s mom?” Now, what goes through my mind is, “Screw you, asshole, I’m three years older than her! WTF?” What I actually say and do is grin really big and say, “No, I’m her sister.” Then she giggles the rest of the day. I guess at least it’s making her happy. Sigh.
- People are constantly telling my mom, “You can’t be old enough to have a daughter that old!” While this is a compliment to my mother (who really doesn’t look old to enough to be my mom) it certainly isn’t a compliment towards me.
What happened here? My whole life is wrapped up in other people.
Now, before anyone feels compelled to give me a lecture about how fortunate I am to be surrounded by my family and loved ones, and how wonderful it is that they depend on me as much as they do, do me a favor and shut up. Save your breath. I know I’m fortunate. I have the best friends now that I have ever had, and I met them because of my kids. I always felt sort of pointless, but when my kids were born, that went away. I believe my job in life is to be a caretaker, and I’m okay with that. It suits me.
What I don’t understand is how I went in so completely. People assume a lot about me because of who I’m related to. Here’s that thing with The Grandfather I was talking about: A couple of years ago, before I gave up on a lost cause and started homeschooling my son, I was attending our local school board meetings and trying to do things to improve our local schools. I was all set to give my first of a few impassioned speeches, and my turn was up. Just as I was about to stand, the board president (against whom I have nothing personal, but who always reminds me vaguely of Patrick Star) said “Aren’t you The Grandfather’s granddaughter?” The eyes of the other members lit up as well. Now, when my sister was in school, The Grandfather was a terror at all board meetings, demanding handicap accessibility and a million other things. He would make a point to get quoted in the paper. Now, The Grandfather is a good man, but very, um, frank (yeah, that’ll have to do) and he just says whatever he thinks. So immediately all of the people there who knew him sort of braced themselves, and I felt I had a reputation earned for me before they had ever even met me. I don’t mind too much, because I think, in all honesty, I’ve quite lived up to that reputation, but still……
Isn’t it ironic? We spend our youth trying to “find ourselves” and then we spend our adulthood trying to recover who we were when we were young. Blah. I don’t want to be a teenager again–no thanks. I have no desire to live just for myself, because I think that is a selfish, unhealthy way to live. What I want is to have someone form an opinion about me that has something to do with who I actually am.
I’ll let you know just as soon as I figure that out. In the meantime: Hi, my name is Janice.