My mom has a singular, uncanny ability. If I’m at home watching a movie and that movie happens to have a sex scene, she’ll manage to find a way to walk in at the climactic moment (pun intended).
It doesn’t matter if it’s Forrest Gump or if it’s Sex and the City, as soon as the couple on screen starts to get steamy, I hear those steps, slowly but surely, and in pops my mom during the fleshiest moment of the movie.
I still haven’t figured out yet how to react in those situations. It’s not like I’m sitting there watching porn. There really shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of. But for anyone who’s had to sit there watching a sex scene with your mom, you know that it might as well be porn. It’s a soul-churning experience, either way.
Look, if I’m watching HBO, it’s not a problem. I switch the channel as soon as she pops into the door. But it’s a little trickier when you’ve got a DVD on isn’t it? If you stop, or fast forward, or God forbid, accidentally hit the pause button, you’ve got guilt written all over you.
So I’ve tried the nonchalant sort of, hey, I’m watching this…this is perfectly natural. We’re both adults here, let’s just be mature about this…sort of act. Doesn’t work.
And here’s why. My mom’s other favorite activity (besides walking in on sex scenes) is to make the most unnerving, clench-your-buttocks, teeth shattering comments you’ll ever hear. Just awful, scarred memories from childhood.
It doesn’t matter if we’re in the privacy of our own home or if we’re in a movie theater, my mom is the one who says the one thing that everyone wishes a mom wouldn’t say.
I’ll give you an example. The movie Titanic came out in 1997 and it was pretty much a must see for everyone. I was 13 years old, never seen a set of boobs in my life, and there goes Kate Winslet getting all naked on the big screen. Do you know how traumatizing it is for a young man to see that for the first time in his life only to have his mom lean over and say:
“They shouldn’t show you this bad thing. Close your eye. Your pee-pee get big.”
I’m sure she’d be pleased to know that that comment broke my pee-pee for the next 6 years of my adolescence.
But that’s my point. She’ll never stop mothering. If she thinks something’s got to be said, she’ll say it.
She absolutely knows that what she says is just plain nasty and I believe in my gut that she doesn’t want to be the one to say it. But she takes her responsibility as a mother so seriously, that it’s a burden she’ll never pass up.
Let me tell you, mothering is a shifting sort of deal. The soul of it stays the same, but children get older, they form their own opinions, and you know what? They get scarier.
At some point, mother’s realize that, out of nowhere, they’re dealing with adults. Their children disagree, they get upset, they want their own space. It’s a frightening time for moms because it’s not in their nature to withdraw. Mom’s put the ‘mother’ in ‘smother’.
I believe that these shifting times are the hardest on moms. They don’t know what they’re allowed to say without impinging on the sovereignty of their child’s newfound independence. They won’t admit it, but I believe that somewhere deep inside, they become scared of their own kids.
What makes my mom special is that despite this sometimes paralyzing fear, she’ll always say what she believes is right. She’ll never, for one second, stop mothering.
If I’m watching a scene of Billy Bob Thorton and Halle Berry sexing it up in Monster’s Ball, with a room full of my grown-ass friends, she’ll pop her head in like she always does and remind us that movie sex is not real…we really ought to wait ’til we’re married.
That’s who she is and she’ll gladly wear the ‘old-fashioned’ sign like an albatross around her neck.
I’ll leave you with this one last piece.
When I was moving my life from LA to NY, I packed everything. When you move your life, it’s easy to forget things, so I was scrupulous in my preparation. While I was packing, I get a call from my mom saying that she was shopping for some stuff I might need.
When she got home, I was expecting her to have bought stuff that I didn’t need, that I had already packed, or that I was planning to buy in New York. In other words, I anticipated her over-prepared, anxious state of mind.
Instead, what she had in her bag was a single stick of chapstick.
A $25 chapstick.
Anticipating that my mind would be focused on packing the big, essential items, she looked instead for the small things I’d most likely forget. She explained:
“In New York, winter get real dry and your lips hurt.”
This was in June.
I told her that it was ridiculous to buy $25 chapstick and that if my lips got chapped, I would simply duck into the closest drug store and buy a $1 chapstick.
I made her return it.
Come a cold, blistery day in January, and sure enough, I’m stuck walking to work without a drug store in sight.
As I’m walking alone, my lips, chapped from the freezing dry wind, splits wide open when I smile at thought…
Mothering is a shifting sort of deal,
But the soul of it remains the same.