I sit on the end of our row, adjacent to three women from the next department. At first their chatter seemed inexorable, endless, and inconsequential, but now I see that it is what allows them to be here, to somehow reconcile whatever they care about to the reality of sitting in front of their alarmingly lo-fi DOS-like interface.
The woman who shares a cube wall with me talks the most of the three; the smile in her voice hide a constant crease of worry, which somehow makes me picture my grandmother in the next cube endlessly chatting. She is obsessed with controlling her son. I found it amusing, but today as she rambled on I started to see the simple misery hidden at the bottom of her creases.
Her son is headed straight for teenage years, sure to be ripe with youthful misbehavior and sexual experimentation. She talks about him with her creased voice, about how he does not want to wear the shirts she lays out, preferring t-shirts from Hot Topic and loose jeans. About how he tries to play money from her so that he can pay for the older kids to go to the movies with him, and how they in return take him to the drug store to explore the condom aisle. “Of course,” she says matter-of-factly, “he doesn’t have the slightest idea about all of that.”
She has an image in her head of how her son should be; what he should become. It is faceted in her mind, I’m sure, gleaming from every angle. But, maybe not as faceted as he would wind up doing things on his own. I’m not sure, actually, which is why I have become so obsessed with following her endless stories, and why I sometimes feel sad for them both.
If my mother had that image of me, she never revealed it. I think she had the barest of ideas, with no overarching goals or guides to my personality or morality. I never had to make the bed, always got to buy the music i wanted, and never had any restrictions placed on how much or how little time i had to devote to people other than myself. Did she mean for me to value art more than industry, and myself more than anyone else? I was left to fill in all of those details myself, never realizing that there was not an upper limit to the facets I could have because she never thought to impress them upon me. And now, sometimes, I feel as though because of it I have organized my life horizontally — only one layer deep. Not multifaceted.
Who has the better mom?