Saturday, December 05, 2009


The year after my divorce, I specifically asked my mother to have me and my kids over on my birthday. I just didn't want to have to plan, cook, and clean up my own birthday dinner with just my two sons. The month previous, my sister's birthday had (for some reason) been a big deal--nearly everyone in the family was there at Mom's, swimming in the apartment complex's pool, barbecuing in the back yard, and generally celebrating together. I didn't need that--for one thing they'd all just been, for another my sister is a family favorite and I am rather the opposite of that. I only asked my mother to cook dinner for me and my two sons, and have a birthday cake, on this first birthday after my divorce.

She repeatedly assured me that she'd invited the whole family just like for my sister's birthday, and that I'd be wowed by the cake. She'd call me up randomly to tell me what a great cake it would be, that she'd had this cake from the bakery before and it was wonderful.

After work on my birthday, I picked up my kids and drove out to my mom's for the birthday dinner. There were balloons! It was kind of neat. But hey, where was everybody? The entire family had independently decided (for different reasons) to fail to come to my birthday party. Well, I kinda figured they'd all bail, but at least my mother got me a birthday cake, right? That's really all I asked for and all I wanted.

After a delicious barbecued dinner Mom triumphantly brought out...a chocolate cheesecake. I smiled. She and my kids sang me happy birthday. She cut me a piece of cheesecake and urged it on me. I ate about half of it, praised it, and we all moved on.

About 15 minutes later she noticed I never finished my slice. "Didn't you like the cake?" she asked. "Cheesecake's your favorite, right?" she said.

"No, Mom, I don't like cheesecake. I have never liked cheesecake. Cheesecake is *your* favorite." I replied. I was disappointed but tried not to show it.

She got mad at me. Told me I did too like cheesecake, that I had always loved cheesecake. That I was only saying it to make her look bad. I kept trying to move on, I thanked her for the party, I told her it was very good cheesecake. I didn't argue with her, what was the point? I was never going to convince her that I've never liked cheesecake.

So not only did my entire family (brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins) bail on my birthday party after showing up just a month earlier for my sister's (and they all live within 15 miles of us, it's not like it was a huge trip) but my own mother hadn't paid enough attention in the 35 years she'd known me to notice that I don't like cheesecake, and served it to me for my birthday.

I have an aversion to being offered cheesecake, to even being at the same table with cheesecake, to this day.


Anonymous said...

My mother is like that among the three of us (I have two siblings) on many, many fronts: Always either getting us confused with each other or making up preferences that as far as we can tell none of us have ever had, and yet insisting to the last stroke that these preferences were ours. (One year for Christmas, they had really gone all the way out and gotten me an electric guitar and a little amplifier for it. It was a cool gift and an expensive one. The thing is, I didn't want a guitar, and never had. I've always been into keyboards and synthesizers. To this day, they insist that I asked for the guitar, *begged* them for it, even though I had been disappointed even at the time.)

It really does hurt sometimes. Sometimes I manage to just ignore and and see it as the way they are, but sometimes I can't manage it.

Kai Jones said...

The only way I could stop hurting about it was to try to sympathize with her. I know how awful and defensive I'd feel if I totally misunderstood my sons. I also know she never admitted any mistake (much bigger ones than this included) and had a policy of never apologizing for anything she'd done, because in her mind she'd always done the best she could and shouldn't have to apologize for that.

I don't think it ever occurred to her that she was essentially accusing me of lying to her about my own dislike for cheesecake, and why in the world would I do that?

Stef said...


My mom often confused her preferences and mine, especially where clothing and gifts were concerned. (I'm using the past tense although she's still alive because she doesn't have a reliable memory for anything any more.)

My dad seems to see me as an individual and understand what I like. I remember a few times he got me a gift that was exactly what I wanted. (Actually I made an LJ icon out of one of them and I think I'll post this to my LJ/DW too so I can use it.) It has helped a lot to have a parent who seemed to see me as an individual and not a reflection of themself.

I wish that everyone could have someone like that in their life, if not a parent, then another person they care about.