The One Book I Hide When People Come Over
My husband calls me a Book Snob when I place certain volumes out for display, or to catch attention of visitors. In my defense, some of the books I display come from his collection of classic literature, and I know he secretly likes it when I brag about our bookish lifestyle!
At any given time, there are books scattered around our house, some stacks are intentional, some are due to lack of shelving, and others seem to perpetually sprout in the spots we occupy most.
Each morning, I carry a stack of books and notebooks down to the coffee table so I can have easy access to everything I’m currently working on. Each evening, I gather it all up and place it on my nightstand so I can write or read before bed.
When I’m unable to find a copy of a specific book locally, I utilize my library’s Interlibrary Loan Program to borrow the book from another town. I recently got a phone call from the librarian saying “The book you requested is here,” then reading the title tentatively with an audible question mark at the end, “Mothers Who…Can’t…Love?”
“Yep, that’s for me. I’ll pick it up tomorrow, thanks so much.” I hung up chuckling at the exchange, yet feeling slightly embarrassed.
I’ve been reading the book for three weeks now. As you can probably imagine, it isn’t a light read, although I’m finding it informative and comforting.
When my husband’s family came to visit, I didn’t bring the book down each morning with the rest of my pile. It occurred to me then that I had been hiding it out of sight during the days ever since I started reading it. Why?
First of all I don’t want my step-dad to see it because I don’t want to go there. Well, I guess that’s the explanation in a nut shell: I don’t want to go there with anyone.
By “go there,” I mean I don’t want to defend myself for reading this book. I don’t want to be judged based on how other people will interpret my interest in reading about mothers who can’t love. And I certainly don’t want to listen to someone who doesn’t know my mother pass sweeping generalizations on all mothers’ abilities to love. I’m afraid for people to see I’m reading this book, then I’m mad at myself for feeling embarrassed of the book.
The book’s subtitle is A Healing Guide for Daughters, the purpose of the book being to de-stigmatize women who don’t feel close to their mothers, and/or have suffered abuse from their mothers. It aims to show adult daughters they aren’t alone in their situation. Because trust me, it is a very lonely place to be.
In fact, part of the reason I’m reading this book right now is because I’m currently writing a memoir with a similar goal in mind. It’s important to me to show the world you can be raised in an unhealthy relationship with your mother, yet grow up to be a well adjusted human being, capable and worthy of both giving and receiving love.
I call bullshit on the “My mom is my best friend” Pollyanna line. It’s a myth.
Okay yes, I do know some women who are close to their mothers, women who consider their mother a friend. It baffles me. And while I believe it is their truth, I also suspect that for a healthy “friendship” such as this to exist in adulthood, they have not been “best friends” for the daughter’s entire life. In order for this bond to exist now, I imagine there were healthy boundaries and reciprocal respect between these women and their moms over the years. I say I imagine it because that’s the best I can do.
In the way that these women I know take pride in their relationship with their mothers, I have been ashamed of mine for most of my life. Many years of therapy have helped me work through that, and while I am in a more comfortable place now, it doesn’t feel good and I doubt it ever will.
Susan Forward’s book comforts me in a way other books, and most music has, it tells me If someone wrote about this, then I’m not the only one who feels this way. When I first became aware of this book, it was liberating. Then the fact that my local libraries don’t have the book took me back down a notch. I guess no one in my community needs this book? Ouch.
I was greatly relieved to track down a copy. So you can imagine my reaction when I found this plate inside (I enjoy irony)
If people are close enough to me that they are far enough inside my home to see my books on the coffee table, it’s likely they’re aware of my difficult history with my mother. Also, they aren’t going to dislike or judge me based on anything they see in my home, and if they are, it’s more likely going to be related to my lack of housekeeping skills, not a book I’m reading.
You’re probably asking yourself: If she’s embarrassed to be seen reading this book, why in the world is she posting about it on the internet?
That’s a fair question. I’ve contemplated it quite a bit myself. I started this post and set it aside, returning a week later to edit, still unsure sure when I would post it. Gradually, the question of if I would post it became when. Rereading the piece made it clear to me that my book shame is completely unjustified, as is the shame I have felt about my relationship with my mother.
First of all, I’m writing a memoir. If I can’t handle admitting I’m reading a book about unloving mothers, how in the world am I going to stomach the publication (hopefully) of my childhood story? Second, I want other daughters to know that difficult Mother-Daughter relationships are more common than society leads us to believe. Our mothers aren’t our best friends, and that is totally okay.
I had a big wake up call this week, when a female Facebook friend posted a #MeToo status regarding sexual harassment and assault. The first comment on this status was another female who used the “everybody does it” defense of harassment, and ended her rant with “I call BS on this post.” Many people responded with overwhelming love and support of our friend, and called out the commentator on her ruthless response to our mutual friend’s admission.
While writing my response to the post, it occurred to me that I had not posted my own #MeToo status, because I didn’t think the harassment I endured was “bad enough” for me to be part of the movement. *insert eyeball here* We all want to be part of the solution yet aren’t able to see where we are part of the problem.
It was at that moment I realized the power in the “Me Too” statement and knew I had to complete this post.
I needed Mother’s Who Can’t Love in my life. Susan Forward wrote it because there are many women who do. What if the women she uses as examples in the book had been too embarrassed to speak up?
Books are written as a way to say “Me too,” and read for the same reason. They can unite us, heal us, entertain us, and teach us. It would be a huge stretch to say I’ve come around to being proud of reading this book, but I can say I’m grateful it exists, and that I have a platform available to share my experiences with others who might benefit.