The Dominatrix and Her Daughter

We have all heard the all adage that daughters marry men like their fathers. Not true in my case. I definitely married my mother – no question about it. Our relationship has always looked like we were free-basing emotions. Not an assertive person by nature, I’ve let other people steer my life, usually based on their own agendas. My mother, the most forceful person I have ever known, was chief of these. Part dominatrix, part caregiver, she would sweep into my life, wrestle control from me, and “help”. Granted, I spent way too many years forfeiting my life too easily and was too easily cowed by her authority. During those years, the underlying persuasions were that to give up my own control over self meant to give up responsibility. I no longer had to “own” anything. And, by the same token, I could blame the dominator for all mistakes that occurred. Having the integrity to stand up straight in my own skin was something it took many years to learn.

I was desperate to leave home when I was I teenager. I put a great deal of energy into persuading my parents to let me go to private schools. No matter that, as a minister’s family with several children, there was barely enough to go around. In the idiocyncratic mind of a teenager, the financial repercussions of such an action would be cost prohibitive. When my parents finally caved in, it was to the compromise of being a day student in the private school in town. Immediately my nagging stopped, the matter dropped, never revived.

My parents were both alcoholics and they were entering the heaviest, most damaging years of their diseases as I graduated high school. Although my father lost his church as a direct result of drinking, and never had a job again, he was still a gentle, loving force for we children. My mother, on the other hand, was a force to contend with. Her rages were legion, you moved heaven and earth to avoid them. The middle daughter in the family argued bitterly with her as a teenager. They are now best friends as they are completely alike. My youngest sister was quick to build her own family and while she always lived near by, her marriage sustained her. I, on the other hand, kept running.

I went to the college that was the farthest away from my parents they would let me go to. There I met my first husband, and though we did little more than “play house” together, it served to keep me safe and away from my mother for a couple of years. For several years I lived in New Jersey (my family lived in Connecticut) and started learning how to support myself. I also dealt with my own drinking problem, getting sober at 23. Letting go of the first marriage, I embraced sober living, relishing new friends and changing perceptions of myself. However, there were plenty of times of conflict with Mom, particularly as I spent years being financially unreliable and for all my decrying of independence, I looked to her for bail-outs when the chips were down.

A person well known for talking voluminously, for talking at you, and not to you, I could get on the phone, say hello, and let that be the end of my contribution. One time she called as I was about to start washing the Kitchen floor. It was a large room, about 12 × 12. She started jabbering away and I placed the phone on the counter, washed the entire floor, then came back to the phone. She had no idea what I had done.

The quintessential couch potato, I’d wax poetic about my mother’s crimes, portraying myself as the shy, reserved, easily wounded, fragile creature bravely holding up under a barrage of constant tortures. And then I met my second husband. He was my mother in drag. And they hated each other. Now I had two domineering forces – one in Connecticut and the other in California, where we moved. It didn’t matter, even 3,000 miles away our dance continued.
Each one tried to micro-manage me, control my parenting, get me to denounce the other. Their were times when I would be on the phone with my mom with my ex-husband in front of me, both yelling at me about the other. Our respective families were drawn into the fray. His kept insisting I cut all cords with all members of my family. My mother once hinted about hiring a hit man to do him in and she lethally hated his parents. It was insane. Everything about our relationship was insane. Except for one thing, my mother and I loved each other. So I tried very hard to change our dynamics but change is hard to come by when only one of you has her heart in it.

My health has never been my strongest feature. I have all sorts of issues and just when I get used to those I have, new ones sprout up. Its just the bad luck of the draw. I am, in most ways, my father’s child and when it comes to health, I am his clone. In my twenties and thirties, when I had to enter the hospital, I would tell my parents – when I got out. I made the mistake of telling Mom a couple of times. The nurses begged me to make her go away. One time in particular I had been in for five days. My Mom came to “help” care for me. She drew all the Nurses and Doctors crazy. Then the day I was released, she got hysterical. So, I was barely out of bed and making tea for her and calming her down
. I learned. Hence, the lies and cover-ups. She wasn’t invited to the birth of either child . I hated it was this way but there were no other viable solutions.

So here I am, preparing to enter the hospital Monday for a medical procedure. In my desire for independence, I have not included her in the arrangements. It still sets her off. My other sisters don’t go through this. They have lived near her their whole lives. I was away for two decades and it didn’t do any good. The more I sought individuation, the more she sought to control me. She tried the same tact with my daughter but my daughter is very much like her in spirit. They butt heads on several occasions . . . about how my mother treats me. They now hate each other.

I am still the quiet, reserved person of childhood. The difference is I am stronger all the time. I remain my own person. I am no longer obliterated by her ways. I have found I do not have to be aggressive like my mother or sisters. I try hard not to manipulate situations and I don’t let myself be manipulated. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and, more than that, peace.

The Dominatrix and Her Daughter

DKerr

Joined February 2008

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Artist's Description

A short piece on the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and her adult daughter.

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