E. F. Flynn seeks to know the mother who could idolize queer rockstars but not love her own queer child.
In my young adulthood, I hate my mom with the fervor of a hormonal teen.
Our interactions are minimal. When a huge self-help book of mine falls off my dresser and onto the floor with a thud, and she pipes: “What was that?” I snap, “Nothing,” as in, nothing that concerns her. (I wonder what parents think has happened when they hear a thud like that — if something broke, or if I needed help, I’d call out.)
My mom likes to compliment me when she thinks I look pretty. By pretty, I mean feminine, more like the child she wishes she had. I’ve let my hair grow past my ears, and when I wear earrings she says, “Ohh,” like she’s impressed, in a backhanded way.
I correspond with my father only. I tell Dad when I’m leaving the house, when I need help with the dryer settings, when I have good news about my acting career. I tell Mom “nothing.”
I’ve accepted this as our new normal, even though it makes my stomach hurt. I still write in my journal: I am thankful for my parents who love me. I am thankful for my dad’s selflessness and his good attitude and how hard he works. For Mom, I grasp at straws. I am thankful my mom loves us in such a way that she buys random crap waiting to check out at Home Goods.
Yesterday, I wanted to cry about how sorry I am that I hate her, which is weird because I wasn’t PMS-ing. I walked home from the bus in the cold (I don’t want to bother Dad to come pick me up). I went to my parents’ room to tell Dad I had a good audition (“I won’t be crying tonight — I made the casting directors laugh, and they remembered me from last time, and I feel like they’re going to call me back”).
I passed Mom on my way to the kitchen. I heard her before I saw her, which is usually what happens (she has a bad knee and groans up the stairs every time she comes home. When dinner is ready, she complains as she hobbles to the dining room). She was splayed on the armchair in the living room, talking needlessly loud on the cordless phone. She was in a bath towel, with the cordless up against her ear, and her iPhone, which she was tapping repeatedly, in her hands.
“Did you see Bohemian Rhapsody? It was really good.” She went on and on about her Queen knowledge. She was telling whichever cousin she’s talking to about when she saw Queen at Madison Square Garden in 1980.
I crossed Mom wordlessly. I stood in front of the open fridge, mixing red wine and Coca-Cola (calimocho — they drink it in Spain, and that’s why I deem it acceptable and not sad), but I was picturing little Lori in Madison Square Garden.
In her early teens, Mom had a silly haircut (kind of like mine) and a pretty smile despite braces. I pictured Lori with her faceless friend, her fangirl-ness bursting out of her, in a roaring crowd, watching Freddie Mercury. I wish I could time travel, and I wish I could know that girl.
I was quiet with the cork so Mom didn’t interrupt her loud conversation to yell, even louder: What are you drinking! even though I’m 25 years old and entitled to some wine if I want some.
I want to meet little Lori who writes dirty fanfiction about her favorite rockstars, who dresses as Fonzie for Halloween. Lori stormed the stage at a Bay City Rollers concert; Lori threw her bra at Bon Jovi.
Instead, I have this woman who loves Property Brothers and Facebook, and (still, somehow) queer icon Freddie Mercury, but somehow doesn’t like her queer child. (I could tell Mom that Freddie Mercury was bisexual, and we could talk about Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, but we don’t because I love them for their queerness, and Mom doesn’t love them for that.)
“It was one of the best nights of my life,” Mom says.
I wonder if, on her deathbed, Mom will see this Queen concert when her life flashes before her eyes. I wonder what she’ll see of me.
The day after I was born, “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran was playing in her hospital room, and I bet she thought she’d love me unconditionally. She didn’t picture a daughter who would rather be a son, whom she’ll nag about shaving and wearing a bra, whom she will tell flat-out that marrying their girlfriend is not allowed. She won’t care that this girlfriend makes them happier than all the boys before combined. She won’t know that she’ll resent them for picking out a name that suits them better, for squeezing out from underneath the name that belonged to her mother.
I loved my parents when I was a teenager. I told my mom more than the average 16-, 17-, 18-year-old. Her high school boyfriend’s son broke my heart, and I told her I had thought I’d lose my virginity to him. When I showed Mom the burns (self-inflicted) on my arm, she threw the hairclip and the matches out the window. I took Mom’s word as gospel on everything — then I went away to college and learned better.
I poured Coke over my wine, but I wanted to go to Mom and tell her to hang up the phone, and sit in her lap. I wanted us both to cry and say we love each other and that we’re never going to fight again. I’ll never snap at you again if you stop asking stupid questions and stop complaining every time you speak. Say you love my hairy armpits, and my self-expression, and that I am happier than I’ve ever been, sans shitty boyfriends, and without self-harm, and without the crushing weight of socially acceptable womanhood. Say you love that I am on my way to stardom and that you love so much that I am going to break boundaries as a genderqueer actor on television.
But, it will never work like that. I walked away with my calimocho, from her loud voice and her overweight body, and the scar on her stomach from the doctor ripping me out, barely hidden. The Christmas tree is up, but bare. I’m going to avoid decorating this year, and I hate that, too.
“I won’t be around forever, you know,” my mom tries to guilt me. “I hated my mother, too, and now she’s dead.”
I won’t have my mom forever, but I know I don’t want her now.