Child-like parents switch roles in graduation episode

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January 18, 2008

8:08 PM

Facing my last semester at Confusion Corner, I took a look through my past columns to get a sense of my progression as a student and individual. Turns out, I haven’t managed to get particularly far.

p. I began the year looking at my options as a woman on the verge of employment, a long-term relationship and much anxiety. My parents’ refrain remains the same. Like a toga-clap chorus they hover always in earshot to say, “Give up! Give up! The lure of marriage is upon you! Marry a broker!” And yes, all of the exclamation points are necessary.

p. I thought about asking my editor to entitle this column something along the lines of “Graduation Sucks” in reference to both the literal and figurative whoring my parents suggest as a means of income post-graduation. But now that I’m faced with the prospect of employers reading my columns online, I think that would be uncouth and not particularly ‘good for business,’ as they say.

p. I never had any Beverly Cleary-esque angst during puberty to make my parents want to kick me out of the house. As it turns out, the unmitigated hatred between generations during that adolescence is fundamental to the proper distancing at age 22.

p. In fact, it seems there’s been a kind of familial arrested development in which my parents have reverted to needy children, and I, the resentful single parent, left by both of my sisters (the deadbeat dad in this metaphor) to care for these helpless creatures. Now I feel like I’m trapped in a “Degrassi” episode, smoldering with utter melancholy at the prospect of having to spend any time with Mom and Dad.

p. When I first left for college, my parents immediately turned my room into a den, replacing my bed with a futon and managing to lose a lot of my stuff in the process. Now that I’m on the cusp of leaving for good, they’re backpedaling.

p. One morning, when I was complaining about how awful it is to live for a month in a glorified office, my mother suggested she buy me a real bed.

p. “No, mother,” I said hastily. “I’m not moving in here. There’s no way I can live with you and Dad. I think it would be terrible for everyone involved.”

p. It all just came out at once. Nothing particularly offensive, and certainly not insulting, but my mother was pissed. Like, 13-year-old pissed.

p. She returned the next morning, still brooding. “I was really hurt by what you said to me last night.” It was straight out of an after-school special on how to talk about feelings. This was like nothing I’d ever experienced in real life before.

p. “Mom, listen, I didn’t mean to upset you,” I said, trying to think of what Pepper Ann would say. “I figured that you and Dad don’t really want me to move in, and honestly, it wouldn’t be comfortable to have three people in this tiny, two-bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t mind staying here for a few months until I got situated, but let’s keep our expectations reasonable.”

p. Situation diffused. After all of the education, all of the social training, all of the hard academic work, the hardest test of my maturity was learning how to use the hackneyed scripts of seventh grade tween-hood television shows. One could say, however, that I am very much a tween in my own right. With one foot on the comfortable turf of college and the other dangling over the ledge of adulthood, why would my parents want to hurl me out into unknown.

p. No matter what trite language I use to express this somewhat regressive state, I know that I’ll more or less be okay eventually. If not, I hear “Clarissa Explains It All” does exactly what it purports to do.

p. __Charlotte Savino is a Confusion Corner columnist. She’d rather model here life on Nickelodeon than daytime soap operas.__

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