The now cult classic “Mommie Dearest” got awful reviews when it first came out. The biggest critique being that Faye Dunaway overacted the part of manic-depressive, alcoholic, narcissistic Hollywood superstar — and mother, Joan Crawford. In an infamous review, Roger Ebert said: “I can’t imagine who would want to subject themselves to this movie.” He gave it one star. Those reviewers, I’m positive, did not have manic-depressive, alcoholic, narcissistic mothers. For me, and others I know with complicated relationships with the maternal figure in their life, the movie is a cathartic release and a reminder that we’re not alone. While the movie is highly dramatic, to comical levels, honestly, so were our childhoods.
It’s Mother’s Day Eve as I’m writing this, and while I’m prone to high anxiety, it’s usually worse around holidays. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the internet, as I do every year at around this time, talking about how this person’s mother is their biggest supporter, feminist inspiration, a source of strength, but most of all, their best friend. Unfortunately, my mother is not my best friend. As much as I yearned to, I could never relate to the Spice Girl’s song “Momma”. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with the Gilmore Girls, but there was never an episode where Lorelai hit Rory with their landline telephone, and then Rory had to clean up Lorelai’s vomit. Maybe that’s why I liked the show so much.
As an adult, I’m constantly in a state of processing my relationship, not only with my mother but with her entire side of the family. My mother comes from an even worse mother, and being very aware of that is where a lot of the complication and guilt comes from. I feel like my mother never really had a chance. Her mother fucked her up, big time. While my mother is Mother Gothel, her mother is both The Evil Queen and Maleficent in dragon form. As much as I understand this sad fact, it doesn’t create a blanket excuse for her actions — though she probably wishes it would.
Trying to detach yourself from toxic family members is probably one of the hardest things a human can go through. They were there in your formative years, creating your ideas of self-worth, how you handle emotions, and a lot of your habits. Not only do you see that family member in you every day, but you have to see other people, with seemingly stable familial relationships, and you wonder what the hell that’s like. It’s impossible not to be jealous, which I’ve learned is okay, as long as you’re not resentful. It’s not your friend’s fault their mom baked them cookies rather than telling them they’d get fat if they ate them.
So, happy Mother’s Day to all the kids out there who have had to go through this process. Who are still having to go through this process. Who have to remind themselves daily that the opinion of the person they came from doesn’t actually matter, and that their worth doesn’t come from familial validation. You’re strong, no matter what you’ve been told. These are some things I wish my mother would finally realize as well.