My mother is always right. For a while, that infuriated me. Eventually, though, I realized what a #blessing it is to have a mom that patiently waits for me to come to my own conclusions, all the while knowing that it is only a matter of time before I come to hers. Here are five instances when I ignored Jeanne Fine’s wisdom at my own expense— I hope you learn these lessons much faster than I did.
1. It is okay to quit things
I've always been extremely terrified of any and all sorts of confrontation, and as a result I’m a thoroughly committed person and reluctant to quit things. I need an exorbitant amount of encouragement before I can muster the confidence to end something, and luckily, Jeanne Fine usually steps in and offers that.
As a child, I concentrated upwards of ninety-nine percent of my efforts on becoming my oldest sister Kristin, despite my mother’s constant reassurance that I could be an interesting human being on my own. The most obvious way I pursued this goal was by joining a competitive cheerleading squad at age nine. Kristin cheered competitively for the high school; she was an excellent dancer as well as very adept at flipping her body upside down. Because of some genetic mishap, I am a horrible dancer and adequate (at best) at flipping my body upside down. Despite all odds, I continued to cheer competitively for five years and hated every moment until Kristin left for college and my mother finally convinced me I could not only quit cheerleading, but find something that I excelled at individually. I briefly dabbled in soccer, but eventually landed on musical theater and choir, which she wholly supported. Sometimes, “supporting me” meant driving an hour to the local Jewish Community Center twice a week so I could rehearse for my minor role in Annie. Other times, it meant pretending I completely stole the stage as “girl at locker” in High School Musical.
Regardless of my star potential, I learned an important lesson about devoting my time to things that better me instead of sticking it out in things that don’t. Thanks, mom.
2. Relationships should be easy.
Jeanne Fine is the greatest judge of character I've ever known, whereas it takes me a minimum of two months of close friendship before I realize someone is less than perfect, and at least another two months before I realize someone is actually horrible. In seventh grade, a new girl — we’ll call her Melissa — moved in down the street from me. She had shiny hair, had already kissed a boy on the mouth, and had a giant bedroom with her own TV. Obviously, I was starstruck by her maturity and worked tirelessly to become her best friend. My mom hated her instantly because Melissa liked to walk around the neighborhood in a sports bra, wore lots of eyeliner, and didn't care much for homework — three things that were very foreign to my mother and me both.
Within three months, Melissa had moved on to newer, more popular friends and began to bully me via AOL instant messenger. Once, she tee-peed my house so spectacularly that we missed Yom Kippur services trying to clean it up. I've only heard my mother curse a small handful of times, but to paraphrase the advice she gave me in the wake of this destroyed friendship: “Bitches ain't shit.” She reminded me that I already had some pretty nice friends that wore considerably less eye liner, preferred to be fully clothed in public, did their homework, and probably wouldn't tee-pee my house on the holiest day of the Jewish year.
I have never doubted my mother’s character judgment since then.
Except, of course, when I did.
For some background information, I’ll tell you that my family rarely discusses feelings. For this reason, my parents didn’t even know for sure that I was interested in men until my sophomore year of college, when I came home for Thanksgiving with a Brand New Boyfriend Named Thomas. By winter break, Thomas confessed that he was questioning his sexuality and had been emotionally involved with another boy the entirety of our one month relationship. I was devastated, and because my mom is a saint, she passed zero judgments. She did repeatedly impart, however, that relationships are supposed to be easy. I ignored that advice. We eventually broke up, but I became Thomas’s one-woman support team and spent that semester rubbing salt in my own wounds while trying to dress his. Eventually that friendship ran its course, as they do, and I moved on to a much healthier, happier relationship. Thanks, mom.
3. Undershirts are not real shirts, and occasionally it is okay to spend real money.
I have really big boobs. There isn't a delicate way of saying that because any euphemism doesn't really get the point across. Being big boobed means that almost immediately upon turning fourteen I could no longer participate in most teen fashion trends, including Plano, Texas’s 2008 obsession with Hanes plain white v-neck undershirts. The petite girls could wear those with jeans or a skirt and still look adorable, whereas I looked like a weird box-shaped dude. Jeanne “Shops-once-every-five-years-at-Kohl’s” Fine told me repeatedly how unflattering this particular look was. “Your clothes need more structure,” she would tell me. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I took a good hard look at a photo of myself at a frat party and realized how right she was.
Being big boobed also means I cannot, no matter how hard I try, purchase a bra at Target, Victoria’s Secret or Aerie. It means that my large bras come from large department stores with large lingerie sections. These bras must have thick, supportive straps, a minimum of three hooks and usually cost around $65. If a bra is colorful, patterned or less than $65, it will look dreadful and Jeanne will inform me that it needs more structure. She will be right.
The final thing my mother encourages me to splurge on is my smile. I had my first orthodontic appliance at five, my first round of braces at nine and it wasn't until I was fifteen that I had a metal-free mouth. Then started the grinding, which I do all day and all night and has lead to a minimum of four cavities per dental visit. Between four wisdom teeth removed, two rounds of braces, three lost retainers, two bite trays and one root canal, my mother estimated that my teeth have cost my parents upwards of eleven thousand dollars. When I asked for that estimate she reassured me, “But you were worth every penny!” Thanks, mom.
4. Say what you have to say, and then just shut up.
I talk a lot. At any given moment I have at least three stories I’d like to tell you, two of which I've probably told you at least once. If I’m uncomfortable or anxious or upset, there is a near constant flow of words exploding out of my mouth. I usually will state what the problem is and then immediately begin to apologize for the way I feel and offer up any number of solutions without ever pausing for a reaction. It’s one of my most charming characteristics, I’m sure.
In contrast, my mother is slow to respond. She is thoughtful and articulate, and always reminds me to say what I need to say and then just shut up. Don’t downplay the problem. Don’t apologize. Don’t take it back. Just shut up for like a whole second and listen. Recently, I've been struggling to find a subletter to take over my lease. During one discussion with a potential subletter, I was so desperate for their money that I negotiated myself down $200 before they even had a chance to react to my initial offer. Now I am $200 poorer and still working on mastering the art of shutting the hell up. Thanks, mom.
5. Don’t carry it all.
My mom carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, a habit that I observed and internalized starting at a young age. My emotional scale centers somewhere between “nervous” and “worried,” and at any given moment I am concerned with approximately eight things that are entirely out of my control. My mother recognizes this in me, and at least once per phone call reminds me that I cannot manage everything and I cannot predict the future, even as I watch her struggle to do the same. This is not easy advice for either of us to follow, but as I prepare to move across the country and leave my friends, family and relationship in Texas, it is a lesson that I’m trying to learn.
Thanks for all of it, mom.Originally published on Medium.