Most divorced parents fight for the exclusive rights to the love of their children. Bribes, presents, lenient curfews, et cetera. My parents split up right about six weeks after I was born, and my mom did her fair share of fighting for my affection. My dad was never around to fight back – he ran off for Florida, never to be seen or heard from again. That really should have ended the argument, right? My mom wins, 1 – 0.
My mom spent most of her time explaining to me that my dad never loved me. He was a bad guy. An alcoholic. Emotionally abusive. He lied about every single thing he ever told her. He claimed to have no friends or family. She basically married a drifter. I get it, mom. He sucks. Of course he sucks, he abandoned his wife and child. I get it. Really.
My mom, terrible at making friends and even worse at dating, really only had one person to love her – me. Rather than actually being a good parent, she decided it would be just as effective to convince me to hate my dad. She burned a lot of calories making sure I was thoroughly aware of how wretched he was. Eventually I really empathized with my dad. I wanted to run away from home, too.
As I grew more and more distant from my mom, she tried harder and harder to eliminate anything in my life that I loved more than her. As I got older I realized she wasn't actually interested in me – not even a little. She figured hey, what the hell, this kid is supposed to like me, right? Anything that I liked more than her was a threat, and as time wore on that became a longer and longer list. Pets – I had a cat named Leon once, who I loved very much. I went on a vacation to (I know, believe me, I wasn't thrilled about it either) Ohio. Nine days later I came home to no cat.
“Leon. My cat.”
“I'm pretty sure you don't own a cat.”
I had a Hyannis Mets baseball cap that was specially ordered to fit my gigantic head. I barely had a week to wear it before she took it from my room, ran it through the washing machine and shrunk it. I know I sound paranoid, but it was a pattern. Anything that brought me any kind of happiness was gone. Broken action figures, dented baseball bats, a video game that mysteriously got returned to the store. The sad part was that she really thought she had me Gaslit.
The destruction of my stuff was bad, but it really paled in comparison to her absolute disdain for anybody I dated. She doesn't love you. Why are you with her? You should date Alicia. You shouldn't be dating a Jewish girl. She lives so far away. You know she's using you. (For what?)
Every moment I was in a relationship, my mom would try to break it up. She still is, for that matter. That doesn't really surprise me – if there's a more concrete example of somebody or something I love more than my mom, it's my wife. I mean, first of all, I love my wife even a little. Some at all. Very much, actually. That puts her ahead of my mom from the very start. I moved away from home to be with my wife. When I'm sick, my wife takes care of me. She (occasionally) cooks and (occasionally) cleans. (Probably about as often as I do – not often.) Those maternal duties – the doting, the caring, the aw honey-ing – my wife does all that now. My mom never really did. She was replaced as the most important woman in my life, or would have been if she ever was to begin with. My mom is obsolete. She fought with the entire universe for my affection. It shouldn't have been a close match, but she lost.
Josh Grimmer lives in Hollywood with his wife and cat. He kinda sorta runs this blog, and has another one at http://mousebed.blogspot.com. Twitter him up at http://twitter.com/JoshGrimmer