Monday, February 1, 2010

Case Study #22

Dr. Brian, 

I am heading to Dallas in two days and will be staying with my mother for five weeks. Should I humor her and go to church or sleep in and be true to my heathen self?


Bowletta Dingleberry

And Dr. Brian responds:

Dear Bowletta,

  What an extraordinary name. I’m assuming that this is not an appellation that you selected for yourself, as some rebellious young people are prone to do upon discovering that they have a boring personality and need to mix things up a  bit. I mean really, no person of sound mind would willingly name themselves after something you might encounter at the Sunday brunch table.

  Therefore, this name had to have come from your one or both of your parents. I’m assuming one, since I can’t imagine two people in strong agreement that naming their child “Bowletta” would  be a smashing idea. And regardless of who came up with this hideous name, I hope they came to their senses and stopped the madness after brandishing you in the way they did, and that your younger siblings were spared.

  However, if you do indeed have a sister named Tureen or perhaps a brother named Gravy Boat, please have them contact me immediately. Severe therapy is in order, assuming that they have not already been institutionalized.

  But let’s bring this back to you. As is typically the case, children are usually given names by their mothers. The fathers, assuming that they can be identified and held at least minimally responsible for the upbringing of the squalling new life form, generally are not much interested in what to call the creature that belches and poos.

  Instead, the fathers are much more invested in things like motor oil, grass clippings, and viewing national sporting events where people are engaged in athletic maneuvers that the father could never hope to exhibit. But this does not stop him from loudly proclaiming, often with the encouragement of alcohol, exactly what those players should be doing, and when they should do it. (These fathers often have a mystifying hatred of men dressed in black and white stripes, but that’s a whole other neurosis.)

  And this is the basic setup for the remainder of the child-rearing cycle. The mother, who has already suffered enough with the ugly maternity outfits and the awkward discomfort of strangers gathering between her wish-boned legs for impromptu consultations, must continue bearing the burden of keeping you alive.

  One would think that, post-delivery, the man would step up to the plate and take charge, allowing the exhausted woman a lengthy downtime wherein she can re-introduce herself to her toes as well as contemplate the fact that her girlish figure has gone the way of her virginity.

  Sadly, this is rarely the case. The father, in his near-sightedness and testosterone-fueled stupidity, assumes that his 7 minutes of heavy breathing during conception has somehow paid in full his contribution to the raising of the child. After that point, any questions, concerns or complaints should be directed to the mother, since she was the one in charge of the processing plant where the urchin was assembled.

  Anyway, the mother, along with all the other formidable duties surrounding offspring, is typically the one who assigns your unit name. As such, the given name of any child is a direct reflection of the mother’s state of mind and well-being up to the point of delivery. If she is mentally healthy and had a relatively pleasant experience during product development, she will christen the child with something lovely like Emily or Preston.

  Therefore, sad and unfortunate Bowletta, I’m afraid your mother did not extensively enjoy her internment as a vessel for continuing the human race. Apparently there was some extensive and growing resentment concerning the beast within. Perhaps you kicked a bit too much during amniotic playtime, or maybe you kept arranging for Chinese food to be delivered and she grew tired of having to answer the door while her favorite soap was playing on TV.

  In any case, some frustrating factor or another caused enough aggravation that your mother chose to punish you with an outlandish name that normally would be reserved for characters on Saturday morning cartoons or nasty pole-dancers at low-rent strip clubs where the appetizers are questionably prepared.

  What’s this? Ah, Lanae has just handed me an update for your budding file. It seems, Bowletta, that you were adopted by your parents, clutched from a potentially different fate and raised by parents who were not directly responsible for the blood flowing in your veins. Well, then. That introduces an exciting new mix of possible mental ailments.

  However, the underlying issue is still the same. Whether your name was chosen by your adoptive parents, or you arrived on their doorstep with a predetermined designation, it’s clear that someone, at some point, was not happy about something that could feasibly be blamed on you. Thusly, you were christened in a slanderous manner, and you bear the scars of such an episode to this very day, wincing every time you sign the credit card slip when Chinese is delivered to your door.

  So, having rambled on about all that, hopefully providing you with some psychological insight into why you have felt dejected and lonely most of your life, let’s return to your initial query. I always find it best to carefully evaluate each turn of phrase that you commit to paper so that we can get to the true root of your many and varied issues.

  “I am heading to Dallas in two days”

  WHY are you heading to Dallas? The fact that you have to head here means that you are NOT here at the moment. You live elsewhere. You have escaped the overheated land of your shameful upbringing. You have left behind the people who knew you as Little Bowlie, the girl with emotionally-distant parents that cried a lot and never seemed satisfied with her choice of snow cone at the state fair.

  I strongly heed you to reconsider your apparent decision to return to the scene of the crime. Is there really any benefit in doing so? Perhaps you should let the screaming of the lambs finally fade away, yes?

  “and will be staying with my mother for five weeks.”

  Are you out of your shame-ridden mind? Five WEEKS? There is absolutely no reason for this. Even the mentally-healthy Emily’s of the world wouldn’t dream of returning home for that length of time after finally leaping from the comfortable nest. This is madness. I strongly urge you to find or fabricate a scheduling conflict of some kind, thereby reducing your availability and vulnerability.

  If you’d like, I can sign some legal papers forcing you to attend one of our intensive on-site, minimal-restraint seminars here at Bonnywood Manor. There are many lovely options to choose from. Might I suggest “Cold Mommies and Cold Food” or “Daddy Makes Me See Ugly Visions”. Both programs have very high success rates.

  “Should I humor her”

  You cannot humor her. She finds nothing amusing in any way. If Lanae’s speedy research on the Internet is sound, this woman has not laughed since 1954, when there was that notorious barbecue at the Smithfield’s wherein the aperitifs were a bit too strong coupled with somebody making a critical error with the ingredients for the Planter’s Punch. There’s a footnote that your mother had all photos from the party destroyed because she was caught smiling.

  “and go to church”

  Do not enter a church at this time. I cannot stress this strongly enough. There’s far too much drama surrounding your maternal relationship as it is. Why would you want to invite further turmoil by prancing into a house of worship filled with righteous prigs who will take one whiff of you and immediately sound the gong signaling an Emergency Prayer Circle?

  Do not give your mother fodder for further humiliation. The church is her territory, she owns this hallowed ground, peopled with an overwhelming number of disciples who adhere to the like-minded principles that a properly-raised child must constantly cower and wail and endlessly beg for forgiveness of imaginary sins.

  And that’s just too much work. Take her to the park instead. Sit on a bench, and admire the trees and the calming reflection pool. If she starts to ratchet up into her craziness, you can always race down one of the nearby jogging paths, claiming to have noticed a mugging in progress. She will not be able to keep up with you, because she’s old, and you will have a few moments to regulate your breathing and refrain from slandering her gilded reputation. Mommy will never change, so avoidance of issues is the only recourse.

  “or sleep in and be true to my heathen self?”

  Yes, let’s do that.

  Heathen or not, there’s only so much time in the day. Why waste valuable minutes rehashing long-standing issues that will never be resolved? Your mother is your mother, and you are you, no matter how sordid and twisted things may be. Sometimes you can bake brownies together, where there’s a least a minimum of warmth and everyone can pretend that each of you doesn’t know the exact two words you can utter to send someone else into an apoplectic frenzy.

  Other times, you’re just not going to win. Suck it up, wait for the tenseness to pass, and look forward to those special times when nobody has an agenda, everybody manages to be decent, an exquisite wine is uncorked, and the delicious meal that all helped to prepare is peppered with amusing stories, the nice kind, where people chuckle instead of seethe. Family, for now. Hold on tightly to that.

  However, because reality has a history of intruding on all familial gatherings, and enhanced by the fact that you graciously pre-paid for your future counseling sessions, I have instructed Lanae to activate the First-Response Unpleasant Mother Protocols (FRUMP). Take this medic-alert necklace with you, and wear it at all times.

  If you encounter a motherly situation where you just can’t handle it anymore, just press the designer panic button. Immediately, a black-ops helicopter will be dispatched from the nearest rescue center and race to your current location. When you hear the approaching buzz of the chopper, simply lift your arms in the air, grasp the descended ladder, and the team will whisk you away into the night. You do not have to leave the recuperation facility until you feel fit enough to do so.

Enjoy your visit,

Dr. Brian

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