Cutting a Wide Swathe Through Sentimentality

canstockphoto2478108Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I am a mother. In honor of such an illustrious day, I’ve decided to throw a mother of a hissy fit. It’s an unburdening for myself and I fear, a bit on the negative side. Generally, I strive for balance, for equity, for fairness. But it’s hard work to maintain some semblance of maturity and circumspection in the face of fatigue. So I’m loosening the controls and letting some of this out. Welcome to some things that have been bugging me lately.

I don’t like hugs as a form of greeting. There. I said it. I hug and snuggle with my daughter. I hug my husband daily. I am physically affectionate with my immediate family. I have relatives and friends who laugh and say “I know you don’t like hugs, but hahaha” before engulfing me in corporeal suffocation. Okay. Now, not only do I not like hugs, but I also don’t like you, jackass. I’m a direct person. If I say I don’t like something, trust me – I’m being sincere.

I’ve been asked why I have such an aversion to this form of affection. They suspect I have been abused. I have not – at least not in any way that makes me jump at human touch. My sense of smell is intense. Perfumes, deodorants, hairspray, facial makeup, fabric softener – these things bother me. Walking around the rest of the day with Eau de Alcohol on me serves as a constant irritant. I also don’t need to know your cup size. I do not need your breasts smashed up against me. I’m not a mammographer – I’m sure you can see your own doctor.

I don’t like the cult of motherhood. Save your holiday, I expect to get treated kindly and with respect year round. And I am, so let’s not mess up my day with false sentimentality. I could have spent yesterday gardening and lounging around in yoga pants, but instead I had to get dressed up to go to an overpriced restaurant to dine while surrounded by complete strangers. It’s not like I would have cooked anything at home anyway. My family knows their way around peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and they’ve yet to pass out without me feeding them regularly. I’ve tested this repeatedly.

My family would have preferred low-key as well, but they caved into the pressure to make the day special. My dear family, if you want to make my day special, pick up your dirty dishes, don’t ask me 50 times where things are and hey, when I ask you for a pressure washer, I mean it. That fence isn’t cleaning itself and I have some deck staining to do.

I’m sick of extremists.  Of any ilk. If you cannot see the world in gray scale or rainbows or differences, if everything has to be black and white, then you are a simpleton. Continue commenting on CNN articles and calling into talk radio shows, Facebooking your tired, trite opinions. If you have to tag your opposition with cutesy labels, it is likely you are just repeating shit you’ve heard elsewhere. No one is mistaking your parroting for critical thinking.

And finally, would somebody stop those e card creators with the Victorian silhouettes and that poorly drawn yelling character? Holy shit, I’ve already seen them in one form or another – you are not discovering anything new. If you have nothing to say, then feel free to stop forwarding me crap and just sit there quietly.

In case you think I’m a cold, heartless harpy, it’s quite possible. Normally, I believe I’m generous, respectful, hardworking and thoughtful. Some days, though, I’d just like to tap out. I’ve had a month that has smashed me flat. I’m tired. I’m scattered in my thinking. I feel like I could nap endlessly and eat my body weight in Cherry Garcia.

I haven’t been writing. I’m barely blogging – both things that give me genuine pleasure. I’ve been dealing with sick cats, funerals, volunteer work, paid work, some personal low points and a sense that I’m barely keeping my head above water. Things that I shrug off are now getting shrieked off. Hugs make me want to back fist faces and holidays make me want to pretend I’m really, really sick and can somebody just get me more ice cream?

I am no longer burning the candle at both ends. I’m just stuck in a puddle of cooled wax, wickless and dull. A friend mentioned that a recurring theme of my blog was balance and she’s right. I’m either regaining, losing, searching for or maintaining some degree of balance – like most people, I imagine. Now that I’ve gotten this irritable post out of my system, I’m going to gather my senses, take a hot shower and get on with life.

58 Comments on “Cutting a Wide Swathe Through Sentimentality

  1. I hear you on many points and a vent can be a good thing let’s face it.

    From right at the start though I’ve been wanting to chime in – some hugs I don’t mind but I do not like the obligatory kiss on the cheek. I just don’t want to kiss every relative and friend that comes through the door – am I standoffish? I don’t care..I just don’t like it.

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    • It’s interesting that apart from sexual harassment, these are not boundaries that are generally crossed by men. I’m not sure if some women are so unaccustomed to having boundaries of their own that they willingly cross another woman’s. Even one who says “I do not like hugs” (it’s unambiguous).

      I also wonder if it is my upbringing by British women or if it’s a Western need for “space”. Still, all those smells…

      I hope to get back to a sense of calm soon. Frazzled writing is not often competent writing!

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  2. Did you have to mention Cherry Garcia? Could you not just have said ice cream? Now I want a tub of it. :). (Sigh)

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  3. Can I both bow down, and salute you at the same time for all these things. Well I’m kinda huggy, and I don’t get the e-card thingy since I’ve never seen one, but the whole cult of motherhood thing, and extremists I sure can get on board with. Fabulous rant!

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    • I’m pretty sure if I told you I didn’t like hugs, you’d respect that fact. I’d be interested, from your traveling perspective, to know if “personal space” is a Western concept.

      Thanks for the kind words about the rant. There’s so much negativity out there, that when I add to the noise, I feel slightly ashamed. I’ll try not to make it a habit!

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      • Oh I’d only need to be told once.
        Re personal space – I’m not sure I’m any kind of expert but I would think it’s a western thing. There’s certainly none on the Delhi metro lol. But then I think of how crowded Japan is and I think personal space there is highly respected.
        I agree about the negativity. I try not to add to it, and try not to dwell in it, but a good vent now and then never hurt anyone. It’s better than stuffing!

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        • I was definitely thinking about India and China, since personal space would seem a luxury, especially in urban areas. Interesting about Japan, though. The subject bears some more research and reading, I think!

          I’ve definitely lost my skills to stuff down or repress feelings, but in most cases, I do try to process things a bit before spewing out into the world. I find there’s always a lesson, if I just give it some time.

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  4. Because my family of testosterone never quite got into the “make the day special” theme (other than perhaps my husband making dinner — yesterday at least one of my sons remembered before then to wish me a happy mothers day :-)) I have made it a tradition to take myself (alone!) sometime on or near Mother’s Day to my favorite little family-owned garden center, picking up a good cup of coffee on the way, and spending as much time as I like wandering the aisles and choosing my annual flowers for pots and baskets. The boys are happy they don’t have to endure the trip, I am happy I don’t have to endure it with them, and we didn’t have to eat mediocre, mass-produced brunch food with a bunch of strangers! I hear ya. Hang in there — my candle always feels snuffed at both ends this time of year as track meets crescendo toward sections, end-of-year music concerts fill evenings, and the day-to-day grind just starts to become abrasive. Still looking for that 25th hour in the day . . .

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    • That sounds like the perfect idea for Mother’s Day! I feel like I’ve done it in the past, but yesterday went a little wonky. This time of year does seem jam-packed with activity and I think I get slightly resentful, since I’d rather chuck it all and go play in the dirt!

      And can I just say, as one Minnesotan to another….jumping from the 40s straight up to 90 (here tomorrow) is nuts. The transition from complaining about the long winter to complaining about the heat will be a very short one!

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  5. I don’t like holidays or celebrations or fuss but always feel so “Bah humbug” about it and then guilty – because what if it means a lot to somebody else… Yesterday for mother’s day I got a text message from my husband and one from each of my kids. I guess they know me very well! Then I spent a perfectly lovely day on my own doing whatever I felt like doing. I can relate to everything you are saying. “I like you just fine, but please stand way over there.” HAHA Great post.

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    • I know! I wanted to say “Thank you, my wonderful family. Can you go away now, please?” I always feel guilty, especially when I think of people who are without their children or parents this year after so many recent tragedies. But it’s human nature and I am, if nothing else, completely human!

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  6. With ya pretty much every step of the way. Don’t like hugs, am very sensitive to scents, don’t like obligatory (made up) holidays.

    A (gentle) straight arm to the shoulder, along with “I don’t do hugging,” is quite effective. Prevent the engagement rather than suffering it. On another blog we had a discussion of work boundaries, and a general consensus seemed to be that if you rigorously enforce your boundaries, people will come to respect them. The downside is they may not “like” you as much. The question one has to ask oneself is which is least worst: having your boundaries along with the fallout or suffering the invasion.

    And those black and white extremists? That’s a whole new level of “don’t like.”

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    • I’m always taken off guard when people brazenly cross boundaries when I’ve been clear. I’ve learned to back slowly out of a room when people are arriving or leaving (typical mauling time). I’ve even fake sneezed or coughed when people have gone in for the grab. Now, though, I try to be blunt. Although at times, I’m meanly tempted to wait until they get in my space to say loudly “What’s that smell?”

      In terms of extremists, I’m so tired of this mentality that compromise or congenial disagreement is a weakness. It takes hard work and diligence to comprehend multiple viewpoints and there are some astonishingly lazy mouthpieces out there that are getting a lot of air time. I feel like I’m shaking my fist at the wind, though.

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  7. This was a very good list of rant-worthy things. I am with you on the hugs. Ew. I’m also a person who is sensitive to smell. All that perfume in my face just makes me think of organic chemistry lab. I never know quite what to do with hugging people I am not close with. I’m fine with hugging close friends and family, but it just seems odd to me otherwise.

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    • Someone asked me what I felt a nice greeting was and I feel like a smile, eye contact and verbal acknowledgement is just fine. I resent it when I am made to feel that I’m not a warm person, just because I don’t want to grapple uncomfortably with someone and their buffet of scents. I was actually going to write a whole post about it, but even I had to laugh at myself – a whole post might indicate more than a passing issue on my part!

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  8. Good for you. Your honesty is really quite refreshing. I hope you’re feeling better. I’m sending you loads of Cherry Garcia in my mind.

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  9. This needs a Victorian silhouette if ever I heard it:

    I am no longer burning the candle at both ends. I’m just stuck in a puddle of cooled wax, wickless and dull.

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  10. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde. Thanks Michelle for this honest post. I agree with you on the holidays that we’re expected to make “special” (read: use lots of $$$). This year mine was just a normal quiet Sunday, with a few messages and e-flowers from my son & fam. My hubby is recovering from surgery so there was no overpriced this or the other, no dressing up and no overcrowded restaurants, which was truly enjoyable. That’s how I like it. But it’s funny how some on-lookers had to ask: “you’re not going to do anything?” with intonation on the last word…

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    • I like my quiet Sundays, too. Unless we’re going to an specific event, eating out in and of itself, is not an activity I enjoy. I got wished a perky “Happy Mother’s Day!” by a few people outside of my immediate family and I ungraciously thought Unless I birthed you, we’re not celebrating this day together.

      Hope your husband’s recovery is swift!

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  11. I vote for your version of Mother’s Day, where women in yoga pants can drink OJ right out of the carton and just vent about everything that pisses them off, without penalty or hurt feelings! That certainly beats the hell out a $22 a head brunch with runny omelets!

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    • That’s a great version, but all that Passive Aggressive energy we get from holding it all in would sadly dissipate into the atmosphere, melting the glacier ice and drowning us all. It’s a death sentence, I tell you.

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      • I hadn’t thought of the global warming aspect. So, brunch again next year? Have another mimosa, dearie, and try to relax.

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  12. Can relate to EVERYTHING you say here except the hugs. I like hugs. Unless they come with lingering yucky fragrances. I used to cry every mother’s day because of the pressure I felt trying to make the day feel as special for my mom as the Hallmark Corporation would have me believe it needed to feel. This was the first mother’s day without my mom. She never would have wanted me to ever feel I needed to do anything more than just be “present” with her, and even though I knew that, it took her absence to help me get through mother’s day feeling no pressure at all. Great post.

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    • I have an awkward relationship with my mother. She did the best she could, but I had to do a lot of my own parenting as a young adult. Many of us have mixed feelings about our mothers and regardless of yours, these holidays can often serve to highlight sadness or loss. I never want my daughter to feel that kind of pressure and I don’t want the role of “mother” to be blown out of proportion in comparison with all the other things that women can be. Thank you for reading and sharing your own experience.

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  13. Oh, Michelle, almost daily I visit someone in the ICU who is on life support and can barely breathe. It really puts the things that normally bug me into a different perspective. It makes me a more humble and mellow person, and all those little irritants are so minute in the face of severe illness or looming death. Enjoy life! It’s too short to waste it with irritation and anger. Namaste, andelieya

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    • It goes without saying that there are many things in the world that put life’s irritations in perspective. And most of the time I know that. But sometimes I’m tired and human and can’t be on my best behavior.

      I know you have written about this difficult time for you and your family – I hope you can find some hope and relief soon.

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  14. I like you–you’re cranky and sensible. I’m a hugger but I can see why someone would find it a turnoff–there are a lot of creepy, icky people out there. Mother’s Day is as much of a scam designed to benefit for restaurants, florists, and Hallmark as Valentine’s Day is. I’m not a mom but if I were, I would probably feel as you do…just give me a break, I’ll appreciate that more than an overpriced dinner. As for extremists, I hope they get what’s coming to them.

    Sorry to hear that you have sick kitties and had funerals to deal with. I hope things improve for you soon.

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    • Thanks – my cats conspired to start barfing up their regular food so that now I’m forced to feed them pricey canned food. Little bastards.

      Normally, life’s occurrences don’t throw me so far off balance, but it was like a big Jenga game this month. Sometimes it just happens. I collapse into a big, whiny heap and then I get up, shake it off and live to fight another day.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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    • I wish that I could improve at maintaining balance, but I suppose learning to shift one way or the next in accordance to circumstances gives me some skills. Nah, I don’t think I can spin this – I’m flat out toast right now.

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  15. Sorry you’re having a hard time of it. Now curl up and let’s have a nice squeezer….sorry, I’m a hugger and I like incense. Yeah, miss seeing you around sunshine!

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  16. Interesting. You were brought up by British women – I KNEW there was something. You read like a British person and I was surprised when I found you are American. Funny.

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  17. Thank you! — for saying out things that mothers are afraid of putting ‘out there.’ But these are real thoughts! The motherhood caravan must acknowledge this and submit to keeping things real. => Just reading this gave me a relief. Still, happy moms day! No hugs for you though. =>

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    • I think the day and age has come when gender parenting days should be tossed. Call it a Caregiver Day and make it a national no work holiday. I’m sure Hallmark could come up with a few cards for that. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  18. I love your honest writing style. I’m not a mom, but I can otherwise completely identify with the personal space issue, the sensitivity to smells (why do most people drench themselves in scents??), and the desire for more low-key celebrations.

    Have you read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain? It’s about the neuroscience, psychology, and societal influences of introversion, but it’s a great read for both introverts and extroverts. I’m a total introvert (though I’ve learned to be outgoing in most situations) and thought I knew all about it — this book blew my mind. Really great read. If you check it out, I’d love to know what you think!

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    • The personal space issue is interesting and worthy of more exploration. In a world that is becoming increasingly crowded, but through social media, more physically isolated, one has to wonder about the disconnect between the virtual and the physical world. Regardless, it seems most people who regularly wear scents can’t smell themselves.

      You’re probably the tenth person to recommend Quiet to me. Hmmmm…I wonder what that means. It’s on my reading list for the summer. I don’t normally write a lot about other people’s books, but I have a feeling that book might deserve a post all its own. I know I’m an introvert, but have learned to do well in social interactions – I just need a lot of recovery time alone!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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      • With regard to scents, there are three things you may know:

        1. As we age, we lose our sense of smell (and hearing and eye sight, etc). That’s why you can often smell your grandmother’s perfume two rooms away. She applied it so she could smell it.

        2. As with most sensations, repeated exposure in the short-term desensitizes you. Try smelling a rose for 10 minutes. The scent fades surprisingly quickly as your nose goes, “Yeah, okay, Rose. Got it. Next?”

        3. Long time smokers often have a reduced sense of smell. I’ve got a friend who’s a heavy smoker (the “can’t go more than a couple hours without a fix” type). He loans me interesting books that I have to air out before I can stand to read them. Smokers have no idea how much they reek… I can walk down a hallway that a smoker has passed through some minutes previously and still smell the stench.

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        • 1. I have some elderly relatives who have this issue. It reaches a toxic level and even in the dead of winter, I have to open windows.

          2. I’ve read the same thing about dead bodies in coroner biographies (occasionally I give in to morbid fascination).

          3. Perhaps my oversensitivity to all things smelly is karma for having been a smoker years ago. No doubt I polluted a few people’s air space.

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  19. Sometimes you have to call it like it is and tell folks to get out of the way, venting can help. About the hugs – I have gotten more used to them but do not like the assumption that I want everyone to hug me if I barely know them. And do not get me started on the kissing thing. My mother did a lot of things right but one I really appreciated is teaching us we did not have to put up with hugs from anyone, including family, that we did not want to hug. None of that “Now go ahead sweety, go kiss so-and-so, be nice.” People should pick up cues and if they cannot, then listen.

    Now that you’ve gotten the irritating stuff out of the way, I cannot wait to read what you write next!

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    • My daughter has been given the similar lesson. Although she is sometimes not sure how to tell an adult to back off. It’s a tough position to be put in and I wish people would be a little more attuned to cues, but it doesn’t always happen.

      I do feel markedly better getting some of the grouchiness out! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  20. Michelle, you’re the funniest grump I know, which seems *very* balanced to me. And you read my mind on a regular basis (i.e. “Things that I shrug off are now getting shrieked off.”)

    When the stress keeps piling up with no clear end in sight, there’s no way to shake it off. That energy has to get *out*. Ranting is good. Kick-boxing is even better. Doing both at the same time = Priceless.

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    • Wow, I need that class. Taekwondo helps, but there are rules, like you can’t beat on and rant at your partner until they cry. Something about points or fair play or some nonsense like that.

      I did manage to get some gardening in and some exercise. I always forget how much exercise improves my perspective until I desperately need it. Just being outside helped a lot, too. Not out of the woods yet, but there’s a break in the clouds. How are you doing?

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