This is a long one. I’m trying to work through a lot of complicated shit. I apologize in advance for this. But I’m still going to do it. Be forewarned.
My brother got married a couple weeks ago.
My mom cried walking with him up the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony.
That’s not an abnormal occurrence…a mother crying at a child’s life milestone…a mother crying at her child’s wedding. I’m 1000% sure I’ll cry if/when The Boy ever decides to get married. J might cry too. It’s a big deal. It’s an emotional day. Mothers are supposed to be emotional at their children’s milestones…at their children’s weddings. And it’s not even odd, even in rigid toxic masculinity terms, for fathers to cry at their children’s milestones either.
But seeing MY mother cry at my brother’s wedding ceremony was a big deal.
My mom isn’t a crier. She’s not an emotional, nor a particularly affectionate woman. She’s never been a hugger. She’s never been a ‘deep, heart-to-heart talk, sharing wisdom and experiences’ mom. She didn’t sing us lullabies. She worked a lot.
I had all the ‘stuff’ I needed as a kid (although we weren’t rich, and I often heard my parents fretting and arguing over money issues). But there was never a lot of love or affection or emotion expressed among my family members. In fact, on the occasions when I did express those things, I was immediately (and sometimes pretty harshly) shut down. Not only ‘Don’t cry,’ but, ‘Stop leaning on me…I don’t need your weight on me,’ ‘Don’t call me…I’m working,’ and ‘What NOW?!’
I bought into my own hyper-sensitivity for a long time. ‘It’s all in your head, Jen,’ I’d tell myself. ‘Your mom is just tired and stressed. She loves you, really. She doesn’t mean the things she says. Just because she isn’t showing you the love you want and need doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any for you…’
I made a lot of excuses for her.
But then my mom cried at my brother’s wedding.
And everyone noticed.
And my loud, comically insensitive extended family rushed to point it out to me and laugh about it after the ceremony ended.
First Cousin 1: Wow, Jen. Your mom LOST IT in church. She didn’t shed a tear at your wedding! Hahahahahaha!
First Cousin 2: Yeah, she didn’t cry at all at yours! Hahaha!
First Cousin 3: It’s obvious <my brother> is her favorite! Hahahahahahaha!
First Cousin 4: Yeah. I wonder why she didn’t cry at all at yours. (wink) <My brother> must be the good kid.
First Cousin 1: Yep. No tears at Jen’s wedding! She couldn’t wait to get rid of you. Hahaha!
I couldn’t convince myself it’s just social anxiety talking anymore. Third party observers who clearly don’t have social anxiety issues saw the same things I’ve seen my whole life (and called attention to it…and thought it was funny).
My mom extends help to my brother before he asks for it. My mom worries that my brother’s life is going well and if he has everything he needs and if he’s happy. My mom feels big, important things for my brother…so much that a woman who hasn’t even cried at most FUNERALS I’ve attended with her…who didn’t cry at my high school or college or kindergarten graduations…who didn’t cry when The Boy, her only grandchild, was born…who didn’t cry when I had to have emergency surgery to save my life before The Boy was born…and yes…who didn’t cry when I got engaged or married to J…openly sobbed in front of most of the people we know and give a damn about at all, plus my brother’s in-laws, whom she barely knows. She showed my brother…and everybody else…all those big feelings. He makes her have big, important feelings. That everyone could easily see.
And I don’t make her feel anything at all.
My mom doesn’t have a big, important, emotional attachment to me.
It’s weird to see that so blatantly displayed and have so many other people confirm all the social fear and anxiety I’ve had my whole life. That really hurt and it still does. I’m having a hard time moving on from it, even after talking to my mom who claimed she loves me very much. Just apparently not in a way she wants to show me or anyone else. She can show it when it comes to my brother though. So she’s not incapable of showing emotion. She just doesn’t have enough for me, in quality or quantity, to show.
Then at the reception, she cried again…even harder than in church at the ceremony…during the mother/son dance. She blamed the song choice for this one.
My mom’s always liked James Taylor (even though she doesn’t really know the words to any of his songs). She’s never really been ‘into’ music. No song before this one…actually including this one on any previous playing in her earshot…has ever made her cry.
This is the song my brother chose:
It IS a very sweet song and he chose it because my mom likes James Taylor. He was surprised she cried too. But she did.
She cried so hard and with such sincerity that relatives who were there called her a week later to check to make sure she was alright.
See…my mom isn’t a crier. People know this. That overt emotional demonstration was really moving for a lot of people. It was very touching and meaningful, seeing the clear expression of grand love my mom has for my brother. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.
I didn’t cry. There were too many people around I didn’t trust to cry in front of (including my mom), and I’m not sure if the deep hurt I felt was of the crying variety anyway. It might be more angry than sad. It’s been two weeks now and I still can’t really accurately define it. I just know it hurts.
A couple of my aunts asked me at the reception how I could possibly manage to hold myself together, watching my mother cry like that. They heavily implied ‘heartless and cold’ (not the first time this has been implied or outright said to or about me).
Aunt 1: How are you not just losing it, Jen?
Aunt 2: I can’t stand watching your mom cry. <sniff>
They asked, and I was hurting pretty badly and unable to let it out, so I answered them. Honestly. Which no one in my family has ever liked me doing. I told them it’s not a surprise to me that Mom loves <my brother> more than me. That’s been reinforced to me for a long time.
Then the excuses began…
Aunt 1: Oh, Jen. You know that’s not true. Your mom loves you so much. <Does she?…She never shows it…she shows she loves my brother…>
I pointed out that she didn’t cry like that at my wedding. <or any other life milestone I can remember having>
Aunt 2: Well…he’s her baby.
Aunt 1: Yes. Baby boys are different.
Right. I forgot. I don’t matter because I’m the oldest. I was the practice kid, I guess. Or I don’t matter because I’m a girl. Girls are throwaways. When I got married, she celebrated (although not in any kind of joyful way that I could really see) because I’m J’s problem now.
One of them even said this godawful couplet…
“Your daughter’s your daughter all your life, but your son’s only your son til he takes a wife.”
That’s supposed to make it alright that my mom didn’t cry at my wedding, see…because I wasn’t a ‘loss.’ I’m still ‘hers.’ My brother isn’t anymore. He took a wife. My mom is supposed to take ME for granted. I’m her daughter. That’s how it goes.
But my brother’s wife? Her mom cried at her wedding.
Most of my girlfriends’ mothers cried at their weddings, and when their grandchildren were born. Most of my girlfriends have mothers who feel things for them and show it. Some of my girlfriends are mothers with adult children (of varying genders) and they cry over weddings and grandchildren.
And that whole ‘he’s the baby’ and ‘baby boys are different’ nonsense? The internalized misogyny and sexism notwithstanding (that would be an entire other post), it’s still a load of crap.
D was an only child. He’s a boy. He was the ONLY BOY. And his mom still treated him with similar emotional indifference as (actually worse than) my mom treats me. So when his mom died, and it just hadn’t ever gotten any better…after I talked to my mom, who once again invalidated my feelings (How could you possibly think I love your brother more than I love you, Jen? I don’t know, Mom…maybe thirty years of repeated patterns and evidence?)…I realized that it’s highly unlikely to ever get any better for me, either.
It’s been a rough ride for the past couple of weeks, emotionally. It’s made me doubt a lot of love in my life, because it’s easy to doubt all kinds of love from every possible source when you’ve had explicit confirmation that the uneasiness you’ve felt in a relationship you’re supposed to feel love inside…the relationship that’s supposed to show you love FIRST and MOST…is real and justified.
I’ve been examining my own actions a lot.
Am I showing J…The Boy…my friends…everyone important in my life…enough love and affection and emotion?
Am I doing enough to make sure they don’t doubt the love I feel for them?
Am I doing something for other people who should be equal to or maybe even *less than* J or The Boy more love and affection and emotion than I’m showing THEM so that it feels to them like I’m prioritizing someone else over them? Like I don’t love them as much as I love some other person?
I’m doing a lot of doubting myself and doubting the love I want to receive and I think I’m receiving from the people in my life that I care for the most. And none of that is particularly good.
I never want the people I love to doubt that I love them.
Because it’s an awful feeling…that kind of doubt.