When my mother told me the Huffington Post had asked her to blog for them she said she didn't know what she'd write about. I suggested a few ideas. She could blog about cooking or financial advice or her new status as an empty nester. Maybe she could write about relaunching her acting career after a 15-year hiatus, or about trying to find a publisher for her newest literary venture. She listened politely to my suggestions, but it seemed she had another plan already brewing.
"I know!" she began, in a hopeful, enthusiastic tone... "You could write it with me." (What?)
"We could blog about mother and daughter relationships!" (No!)
I watched as her idea gained momentum. Her eyes lit up the way they might if she were suggesting an impromptu trip to Disneyland. "At first, we would take turns... but then, then... you could gradually take over! And nobody would notice that I wasn't writing it anymore, because you are such a beautiful writer!"
I didn't think it would work that way. "Mom," I said, "They asked you to do it, not me."
My mother leaned across the table and flung out her arms, "But, honey, you ARE me!" Then she smiled, satisfied that the matter was resolved.
I smiled politely, but was a chilling announcement. While I have nothing against my mother, I certainly am not her.
I suppose it's perfectly natural for my mother to see me as an extension of herself, since for most of 1984 I literally was. However, since my birth I have steadily grown more distant, more autonomous, and more unlike her.
Some of my friends will still lie in bed with their mothers and cuddle. I wouldn't be able to do that. I feel uncomfortable when my mother is in my bedroom. Neither do I want her to "cover my face with thousands of kisses." It does not mean I don't love her. I just prefer sharing dinner in a restaurant to sharing a blanket on the sofa.
As a friendly but distant daughter, I find it uncomfortably intimate to know that my mother feels I am her. Her constant, invisible presence seems somehow like an invasion of privacy. Because, of course, she is constantly, invisibly present.
And, of course, in a way, she is right. I am her. I am 50 per cent of her. Right now 50 per cent of my mother is sitting in New York in the middle of a heat wave typing this entry out with a backwards wristwatch and a mosquito bite on her forehead. Fifty per cent of my mother knows everything about me.
I don't need to tell her I am my own person, because she tells me herself -- proudly, all the time -- "You are your own person. I raised you to be your own person."
I don't know if she sees the paradox.
Did I agree to write this blog to humor her? Or because I am her? After all, she made me.