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The Stale Air of Pretend

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

I am at the new in-laws of my friend's house in St. Louis, MO.

Oh man this is a gift and a half seeing my own family in the mother, father, and youngest daughter who is about to start college.

The stale, over-vibrational air of present.

The mother is people-pleasing and smiling with her teeth while her eyes dart daggers at her burnt-out checked-out husband who always says the wrong thing.

According to who?

Who are the real adults here?

Three children's accomplishments are plastered across the walls.

The daughter knows how to play the part of cue.

She's been groomed for this.

The youngest. She's their last chance at being the shining star.

The shiniest star.

She knows she's checked all the boxes.

After all she's off to college and she's got all the material things she needs.

And her soccer coach has patted her back and let her know "you're ready for the real games now."

What she might not admit but I so clearly see

is that she has no idea who she is

In a world that's told her who and how to be.

What's beneath that beautiful smile?

A revolution waiting to happen.

In need of a place away from a mom who hides her pain and a dad who sulks in the passive hope that those around him will rescue him from his.

I'm exhausted.

The mother has drained all of my energy.

She talked so much. So damn much.

She was rude and interrupting.

Changed subjects every few moments

Was all fucking over the place.

Had a story for everything.

Asked questions like she wanted to talk about me

as a segue to really talk about her.

Was judgmental and small-minded

and said all the wrong things

while she glossed it up as if she was saying all the right things.

It was as if her world is right and everyone and everything around her was somehow wrong

somehow always offending her and her family.

And oh how horrible

and of how unfair is it!



The need for validation reeked of pity.

She did it all right, but somehow was all wrong.

Never could do it right

Never was enough

While parading around her blond hair, and white skin, and suburban house, and accomplished kids.

Who are so good at being told what to do.

But it's never enough.

She hates her husband

She told me - a complete stranger she just met yesterday.

She learned to be content.

I think she meant complacent.

Because other people always have it worse, she said.

She minimizes and maximizes her experience within the same sentence.

She's confusing herself.

Has likely lived in that state of confusion, of self-pity, low self-worth, but "I'm fine" "everything's fine" for so long

that she doesn't realize there is existence outside of this.

So she talks and talks without taking a breath

and wears a mask that is cracking and leaking

but smells of rich perfume.

I try to plant seeds but they are blown immediately away

or trampled, or fall on concrete.

I don't waste my breath.

But I think of my own mother

and I feel exhausted

and worn out

and grateful that my own mother is starting her healing journey

is starting to shut up the voices that have run her life.

I hope she can hear herself.

Right now it's hard to have compassion for the woman I have spent the last 24 hours with

I want to shake her and tell her to wake up

I grieve for her children.

I grieve for the fact that this story is not uncommon.

I rage for the fact that this wounded world does not know how to wake up.


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