Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"You sound just like your mother."

Aside from “Have you put on weight?” these are the five words most likely to send a woman into a paroxysm of panic, misery and rage. No woman, even those with healthy, loving, close relationships with their mothers, wants to hear that they sound just like them. That’s because men make this observation, not when you’re crooning a lullaby to your croupy child, or delivering a kickass keynote address at a graduation or serving up some witty repartee over cocktails. They make this observation when you’re being a harpie or a nag or a bitch or a killjoy or a critic or all of the above.

It drives me absolutely crazy when David slips in this little jab, which is guaranteed to instantly raise a low-level spat to a screaming, wake-the-neighbors fight.

So we have outlawed “You sound just like your mother” is our house. Instead, David is supposed to describe the specific behavior he is taking issue with, as in “You’re being insanely controlling,” or “You are sucking all the joy out of the room,” or “When you say such critical things I hate your fucking guts.” In other words, constructive communication.

It’s mot that my mother is an awful person. She’s perfectly nice and has many good qualities, even great ones. I just don’t want to sound anything like her.

[Let me amend that. There is one expression my mother is fond of employing which I like quite a lot and would not mind if David pointed out was inspired by her usage. And that expression is: “I’ll bite my tongue until it BLEEDS!” The genius of this expression when used by my mother (and, I’ll admit it, myself) is that, she wouldn’t bite her tongue if her life was on the line.]

What gets me thinking about this whole issue is that I saw an ex last week and HE told me I sounded like my mother. Now, how depressing is that? I mean, its one thing to let yourself get a little naggy and bitchy and henpecking with your own husband, but its another thing altogether to be incapable of presenting a cool, sexy, easygoing façade with a man you only see once every three years? That’s a signal that you need to do some regrouping.

Or maybe I’m wrong? Are there women out there who don’t mind hearing this? Women who thrill to hear they have, in any small way, approximated the greatness of their maternal predecessor?