University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik welcomes her second grown son back home with open arms and a long list of suggestions.
Are you are a member of the elite group of young people who completed their undergraduate studies last May? If, in addition to passing your classes, you returned your library books and paid your parking tickets, you are now the proud owner of a college diploma. And there it is — tacked between a faded Tony Hawk poster and a stolen street sign on the wall of your childhood bedroom.
Like so many of your peers, you have moved back home. The way things are going, this return to the nest may last quite a while. Here are some things to consider as you navigate this tricky situation.
You are just 22 years old, but you are big in every way. You are six-foot-three and your personality is twice that size. Your mom may be a foot shorter but her personality has been growing unchecked for decades. The two of you could probably occupy a space about the size of Moldova, but you will be living in a row home in Baltimore. What makes this situation more alarming is that your bigness, having been spawned by hers, takes a similar form.
For example, neither of you sees any need to let other people finish their sentences, as you have already guessed what they are going to say and do not have the patience to see whether you are right. This leads to a conversational stampede effect, as whatever the speaker was actually trying to express is trampled by supposition, confusion, correction, and heated arguments over positions that no one holds, or, just as often, that everyone shares.
While both of you have strong opinions, particularly regarding matters you know little about, you also share a certain bipolarity, alternating between joyous, chatty bursts of gaiety and sullen spells of anti-social tooth-picking. In your case, these down periods are accompanied by horrible flatulence. In Mother’s, they are marked by deep, self-pitying sighs.
Naturally, both are thin-skinned and defensive.
Let these obstacles be an inspiration! You must somehow make this return to indolescence a positive experience for your mom or she might kick your ass out of the crib — or make living there so unpleasant that you apply to graduate school. You do have a few things going for you. You have learned many new skills while away at college. You can fry an egg like nobody’s business and, after living in that ghetto in New Orleans for three years, you are the scourge of the rodent and insect kingdoms. Kill her mice, de-mobilize her smoke alarms, jump her dead battery.
Your mom likes your girlfriend. That is a good thing. When the two of them gang up on you about your pot smoking and unemployment, grin and bear it.
Here’s your ace in the hole. Your mom is bored and lonely and could use some company. So when the remaining members of your slacker posse from high school come over to smoke weed and listen to rap music in the basement, pause a moment. Everyone should greet her politely and inquire about her health. This will smooth your way up to a point, but realize that your mother’s residence simply cannot be turned into a crash pad for your friends’ fledgling bands on tour.
Do not try to keep any secret from your mom involving the house. She can perceive even slight differences in the direction of the carpet fibers and is well aware of the orientation of every throw pillow on her bed, so don’t think you can conceal the fact that nine people slept over while she was out of town. If you start acting like you are in high school, your mom will turn into just as much of a bitch as she was back then.
While it is important not to make a mess, to clean up any mess nonetheless made, to avoid finishing the milk or using the last scoop of coffee, there are certain platinum-level chores that actually increase the love. These are grocery shopping, hauling laundry up and down the stairs, and any kind of landscape work. Do these things and your mom will be so, so happy. She will make you a nice BLT for lunch. Compliment the BLT extensively. Next thing you know, she gives you her credit card and sends you to the liquor store. You’re on a roll. You can probably also charge a box of cigars and she won’t even mind.
Other situations are not as simple. What if you need a dentist appointment? Should you ask your mom to take care of it? If your mom is in a cranky mood (perhaps several unexpected overnight guests have just slunk out of the basement, perhaps she is peri-menopausal, perhaps she has just received her credit card bill), she will tell you that you are 22 years old, make your own goddamn dentist appointment. Then, feeling guilty, she will try to make the appointment.
The dentist is booked for months in advance, and says they will call when they have a cancellation. Now the dentist starts calling the house every other day, but you are never around. Your mom gets frustrated and books an appointment for you. Turns out it conflicts with band practice and the dentist calls your mom when you do not show up.
World War III!
Now if you don’t want to end up sleeping on your friend Ryan’s couch, get hold of yourself. Call her back and say kindly and softly, “Mom. I think we got off on the wrong foot. I’m sorry I put you in that position. Give me the dentist’s number and I will take care of it.”
Taken off guard, your mother will just about nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize. She will be so impressed. The BLTs are flowing. The beer is upgraded from Natty Boh to Dog Fish Head. Your mom is a sucker for your charms.
Of course. She is your mom.
Soon it will be time for your own band to go on tour. You should set up a Kickstarter site to raise money for this. Your mom will eagerly publicize the project to everyone she knows. She loves your music. She loves that you are a creative artist. She loves that you are trying to make some money, even if you have replaced traditional employment with hitting up friends and relatives.
Imagine how much your mom will miss you by the time you get back from your tour!
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.