thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: anger

anger management

I realized this afternoon that part of the reason I’m so testy with my mother is because the majority of my psychic energy is being expended on “staying positive.” I don’t have much left over for anything else.

I had assumed that, by working myself to the bone for six years in L.A., I would reap some benefits on the job market. One of my motivations for sticking it through there was the burnished resume that would result. Yet so far, I’ve lost out on the few jobs I’ve gotten interviews for (incidentally, the interviewers have all been married mothers– I hope this doesn’t mean anything).

My former roommate, on the other hand, barely lifted a finger in his L.A. job, but through happenstance (and my help), is now sitting pretty in another job in which he won’t have to lift a finger.

I have blocked most of this out of my mind, and I remain thankful for the additional time off to pursue my other goals. I figure it is still early days, and there is such a thing as karma, and that everything works out for the best in the end.

But make no mistake, it has required a large amount of emotional fortitude for me to make this turnaround, and I’m still in a fragile place.

the bad daughter

My mother is a woman who has unfortunate tendencies toward insensitivity, uninformed ideas, contradictory advice, and hysteria. Since she is nearing eighty and unlikely to change, I’ve tried really hard not to lose my temper with her and to spend some quality time with her.

If the job market was friendlier here or I had some support from a partner, this would be easier to accomplish. Since neither of those things are true, I’ve come to dread talking with her on the phone. I’m trying to remain calm and positive in the face of adversity; unfortunately she is no help in that regard.

I feel guilty about it, but I cannot be a good daughter when things are not going well, and she makes them worse.

fear and loathing

“I loathe women,” she cried in a mild temper. “What on earth can you say to them, except talk ‘lady-lady’? I’ve enthused over a dozen babies that I’ve only wanted to choke. And every one of those girls is either incipiently jealous and suspicious of her husband if he’s charming or beginning to be bored with him if he isn’t.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

the simmering

I’ve been cleaning house today and thinking of all the work I put into this place. I spent a lot of money and effort getting the former tenant out; painted the walls and cabinets and had numerous repairs done; moved furniture cross-country, had other furniture moved from my mom’s place, and spent hours buying yet more furniture and getting it delivered; hung all the pictures; dealt with a pest infestation; got the mail box keys straightened out and extra keys made; found specialty light bulbs for the fixtures; bought curtains and new blinds; purchased and installed the AC filter; had knobs installed on the cabinets; stocked the kitchen with dishes and cleaning utensils; got a TV, cable, and DVD player installed; and purchased all new cleaning supplies.

At the time, I was fine with doing all the work, as my roommate had a full-time job and was also having back problems (another sign of internet addiction). His contribution? He got the internet hooked up. He called the company where I found my bed and had them deliver one for him (he had been living in an apartment with nothing but an air mattress for the preceding year). He wanted darker curtains, so I suggested he find some or have some made; instead, he hung a sheet over the window. Then he settled onto his back, surfing the net and belching.

To be fair, he didn’t have friends over or otherwise cause a lot of noise, and he wasn’t particular about anything with the condo, so I tried to count my blessings.

Yet when he took my job misfortune as a lucky sign that perhaps I’d have to move on and he could buy this place for himself, I finally saw the light. I raised the rent to market rate (he was paying way below market, with no lease or deposit) and insisted he at least do one chore each week– clean the small shared bathroom. I had to remind him to do it, and he would pout.

As soon as his new promotion was secured (at my former organization again, ugh), he decided to buy a place of his own in this same building. He gloated about his new job and the good favor he had curried with administration, and every time he heard I might be applying for a position, he decided maybe he should apply for that particular promotion himself. Then, of course, my last reminder to clean the bathroom set him off into a volcanic rage of insults, which finally brought me to coming clean about my own disgust and resentment.

I sent him an email and gave him a letter stating that he has thirty days to move on; we are currently ignoring each other. It’s a shame that he’ll be living in this same building and yet we won’t be able to rely on each other, but every time I think of breaking the ice, I realize I am still angry. I block him out 99% of the time, but when I think of him, I don’t feel I have the ability to “make nice.”

penalty zones

One of the the most characteristic and ubiquitous features of the world as experienced by oppressed people is the double bind– situations in which options are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty, censure, or deprivation. For example, it is often a requirement upon oppressed people that we smile and be cheerful. If we comply, we signal our docility and our acquiescence in our situation. We need not, then, be taken note of. We acquiesce in being made invisible, in our occupying no space. We participate in our own erasure. On the other hand, anything but the sunniest countenance exposes us to being perceived as mean, bitter, angry, or dangerous. This means, at the least, that we may be found “difficult” or unpleasant to work with, which is enough to cost one one’s livelihood; at worst, being seen as mean, bitter, angry, or dangerous has been known to result in rape, arrest, beating, and murder. One can only choose to risk one’s preferred form and rate of annihilation.

[…]

Women are caught like this, too, by networks of forces and barriers that expose one to penalty, loss, or contempt whether one works outside the home or not, is on welfare or not, bears children or not, raises children or not, marries or not, is heterosexual, lesbian, both, or neither.

[…]

The experience of oppressed people is that the living of one’s life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize movement in any direction.

–Marilyn Frye, “Oppression,” Women in Culture: A Women’s Studies Anthology,” pp. 46-47

strides

Despite everything going on here and the fact that my allergies and hormones are turning me into a giant misery ball this week, I do not wake up thinking “I hate my life,” as I did for the better part of the last two decades.

Despite the blowout with my roommate, I have not remained as angry as I would have in the past. I let myself feel the anger and hollowness for a few days, and then I let it pass.

I have not turned on myself with self-destructive thoughts.

I have quelled some of my initial impulses to run back to L.A. in the face of everything going on (wrong?) here, making the rational decision to wait things out a bit longer and enjoy this time off. Life is long.

At the same time, I’ve made peace with the possibility that I may eventually have to leave. I don’t think I will, but all I can do is give things my best shot. If nothing pans out, I can only interpret that as a sign that this is no longer the place for me.

other dreams

I wish, in this answer, that she’d given some space to the possibilities of a childfree life:

http://therumpus.net/2010/09/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-51/

Oh, the dream. The god damned man + baby dream. Written by the High Commission on Heterosexual Love and Sexual Reproduction and practiced by couples across the land, the dream’s a bitch if you’re a maternally-inclined straight female and not living it by the age of 37.1; a situation of a spermicidally toxic flavor. Of course you want to bring out your six-shooter every time you see another bloated mom hoisting up another squinty-eyed spawn on Facebook. You want the dream too! The man. The baby. The whole god-damned shebang.

But, M, you didn’t get it. Not yet. Not quite ever, perhaps. That doesn’t mean all is lost. This is not “how your story ends.” It’s simply where it takes a turn you didn’t expect.

great expectations

I have three or four friends here who are quite lovely. They check up on me periodically, and we spend time together every few weeks. We can be honest and open with each other and are able to be sounding boards for each other when necessary. I have two or three friends like that in Los Angeles as well.

We don’t have anything like a “best” friendship however. Most of them have children and/or partners, and their prime intimacy needs are fulfilled. We don’t call each other on a regular basis. We aren’t currently struggling through the same things, and our interests don’t entirely converge. I’m forthcoming with them but not like I would be with a truly intimate friend or partner.

The irony is, my friendships with them have stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so, whereas my close friendships have all gone down in flames. The lowered expectations and lower levels of intimacy have preserved the relationships.

I’ve been banging my head against the wall for so long now about the loneliness and lack of true intimacy in my life, and last night it occurred to me that perhaps I need to completely lower my expectations on that score. I already find solace in reading and writing, and I may need to accept that that is as good as it gets. Certainly this blog has been a huge help to me when I no longer had any friends left with whom to discuss these issues.

This morning I came across this piece on the Gateway Women forum:

http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/

His research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions.

“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”

In his early research Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?

It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.

“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”

whipping posts

In addition to this recent falling-out with the roommate, I had a falling-out with one of my few NoMo friends this year that reminded me of a falling-out with another NoMo friend years ago.

In all three cases (and, I admit, in smaller types of instances), I was more or less accused of never being happy and being a broken record in terms of my complaints, specifically around dating and jobs and friendships.

So I got the message. I’m just too much for a lot of people. I started putting those thoughts and feelings in this blog instead and doing my grief work here. My other interests don’t feature here unless they relate to the theme of this blog, but I can assure you I do have them!

If anything, that is what irks me about those accusations. With all three friends, it was implied that I’m not doing anything to help myself. Yet whenever I mentioned my passions or the proactive steps I’ve been taking, none of them picked up the thread. They showed no interest in discussing the authors or podcasts I love. Unless it was something I suggested because it related directly to them, they didn’t pick up the books I recommended. They didn’t ask any questions about the shows I produced. They weren’t interested in seeing my pictures from my travels or asking questions about them. They asked zero questions about my dance classes. They showed no interest in hearing about my foreign language class. They asked no questions about my continual reevaluations and changes in direction in the face of setbacks.

I mentioned these things, but conversations never resulted. One of these friends actually suggested I take up yoga due to “never being happy,” apparently not having registered the fact that I already do yoga every day.

I have a few friends who did pick up those threads, and although I do discuss jobs and relationships with them, we talk about all those other topics as well.

These three friends were, however, happy to use me as a sounding board for their own relationship and job issues, and I always obliged even when I wasn’t particularly interested. Only when our problems coincided did they want to hear mine. Yet the thing that seems to have eventually infuriated all three– and seems to have remained a burr in their heels to the point they didn’t take notice of instances when I’d moved on– is the apparent nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of my voice discussing the difficulties inherent in the dating, social, and job markets of today.

I get it. My role is the eternal giving tree. When their job or relationship problems were momentarily resolved, mine should have been too. I’m uninteresting as a loser in the romance and job markets and an inconvenient reminder of potential loneliness and economic hardship.

And out of those fears, I become a whipping post.

monsterhood

I’ve never been interested in dating a man with children; I’ve written on here before that I don’t think we’d be able to relate to each other.

That belief has hugely limited my pool of available partners, of course, but after reading Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin, I think I dodged a bullet. According to Martin, not only do stepmothers have it much tougher than stepfathers, but childless stepmothers tend to have it the toughest of all. I can’t imagine coping with all the tension that seems endemic to the role.

Although Martin eventually found her footing with her husband and stepkids, the reviews of the book on Goodreads confirm that stepmotherhood is no walk in the park.