One of these stories is true

ONE

I was a co-conspirator in mocking my mother.  My father would make fun of how she spoke, especially her folksy use of sayings, her feminine speech patterns, and her use of hand gestures to illustrate her words.  My father was an academic.  My father was better.

There was no power in being a woman in the house in which I grew up.  My father drifted freely in and out of the house, often gone all day even on weekends when he didn’t work.  My mother was home almost all of the time that she wasn’t at her outside job.  And she worked constantly while at home.

My mother dressed up my room in pink, and me, too.  Although I rebelled against the pink clothes and dresses, tossing them aside permanently for jeans and shirts when I was in third grade, my room still had pink curtains until I went to college.  They were cut specifically for the girly shutters over the windows, and without them there would be too much light for me to sleep.  So I left them be.

When my older brother swore, he got scolded.  But my mother would wash out my mouth with soap.

When my younger brother would perversely grope me as I walked by him in the kitchen, my complaints were only met with my mother saying, “Just move away from him.  Then it won’t happen.”  So I took matters into my own hands, and hit him hard each time.  I was sent to my room.

So I found power in allying with my father in his mockery of my mother.  I would join his game.  And he would encourage it.  Together we would sit at the table while she attempted to engage in simple conversation, and we would mock her, interrupting her to repeat with exaggerated feminine intonations what she had said or flail our hands in the air to grossly mimic her gestures.  It would not take much time to silence her.

By high school, I had made a decision.  I would never be my mother.  I would never be the woman who was groped.  Pink, never again.  I wanted the power to move about freely, I wanted the public sphere to be mine.  I would not be a woman.

Four years later, I began taking testosterone.  My very perceptions of the world began to change.  There was a new sexual urgency that had a power of its own that I had never experienced.  The facial hair began to camouflage my femininity.  I was being reborn.  I was surprisingly adept at learning masculine language and mannerisms.  I simply mimicked my brothers and my father.

The day of my top surgery was the most liberating.  I had had my mother’s breasts.  But those were hers, not mine.  After the surgery, when I looked down, I knew that I was finally free of my mother.  I was becoming me.

TWO

I was a co-conspirator in mocking my mother.  My father would make fun of how she spoke, especially her folksy use of sayings, her feminine speech patterns, and her use of hand gestures to illustrate her words.  My father was an academic.  My father was better.

There was no power in being a woman in the house in which I grew up.  My father drifted freely in and out of the house, often gone all day even on weekends when he didn’t work.  My mother was home almost all of the time that she wasn’t at her outside job.  And she worked constantly while at home.

My mother dressed up my room in pink, and me, too.  Although I rebelled against the pink clothes and dresses, tossing them aside permanently for jeans and shirts when I was in third grade, my room still had pink curtains until I went to college.  They were cut specifically for the girly shutters over the windows, and without them there would be too much light for me to sleep.  So I left them be.

When my older brother swore, he got scolded.  But my mother would wash out my mouth with soap.

When my younger brother would perversely grope me as I walked by him in the kitchen, my complaints were only met with my mother saying, “Just move away from him.  Then it won’t happen.”  So I took matters into my own hands, and hit him hard each time.  I was sent to my room.

So I found power in allying with my father in his mockery of my mother.  I would join his game.  And he would encourage it.  Together we would sit at the table while she attempted to engage in simple conversation, and we would mock her, interrupting her to repeat with exaggerated feminine intonations what she had said or flail our hands in the air to grossly mimic her gestures.  It would not take much time to silence her.

Honestly, I never came to love my mother.  For two decades after I left home, I grappled with the complexity of my life and the ways in which my connections to her had caused such injury.  But I also came to richer, more meaningful understandings of the dynamics in my family and the greater power structures that fed it.

When I was in my thirties and my mother was in her sixties, I took her out for lunch.  I apologized for the times that I collaborated with my father in mocking who she was.  I had not come to the conversation with any expectations, and I certainly did not expect to be forgiven.  I just wanted her to know that I acknowledged the wrongness of what I had done.

My mother said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

But her face revealed that she did.  I looked at her and wondered, “Why would she deny this?”  And then I understood.  We were two women, each negotiating and surviving the spaces of our different lives in different ways.  At this point in her life, this was not the time for this discussion. It would not be a catharsis, nor a revelation.  She would choose when, if ever, this would be discussed.

So we intently read the menu and ordered our lunch, and talked about other things.

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