A visit from Mother

She loves to opine. She sits back on my sofa sipping tea from the best china cup and proclaims. With each hard won breath disapproval flows sharply through her browning teeth, now loose in her gums. Dissatisfaction with the state of the modern world emanates from every pore in her increasingly fragile body. This isn’t how her life should be. She has paid her dues and deserves better.

Opinions radiate around matters of health, a care system on its knees. There are infections in hospitals which, once caught, cannot be cured. It is no longer safe.

It is the fault of the cleaning staff, all foreigners, why were they allowed into this country? It is the fault of the doctors, a different one every time, no interest in sitting down and chatting to their patients as they once would. It is the fault of the nurses who huddle together while patients are ignored. What they need is a matron to keep those youngsters in line.

And so many fat people taking up space, demanding treatment for avoidable illnesses. Greedy and selfish like so many in this world. Taking without giving.

Why do they not take more care of themselves? Resources that would be better used on the undeserving ill being diverted to care for the obese and the depressed. Life is easy these days, not like it was for us. What have they got to be depressed about?

She bemoans the lack of stoicism, accepting your lot, working harder to make life better. Eat less and exercise more, it isn’t hard. They should be made to lose the weight before treatment.

I am riled enough to respond, gently pointing out that obesity often has underlying causes. She glances my way, her body language screaming disapproval. I whisper that without treatment they may die.

The smile is thin, the eyes hard. “Let them”, she says.

At my age she was slim and beautiful. Money was never plentiful but she was always neatly dressed, hair coiffed, make up on, smiling coyly at the lens. Perfection was captured. The camera never lies.

She married at nineteen, was a good wife. She loves to tell of how the men opened doors, gave up seats, but I know there was a cost. Those neatly presented bodies would be silently groped, no fuss made about something that should flatter. Lewd comments passed for humour and the women were required to laugh. Their women. Ownership for coveted protection.

She looks at my body with its rolls of fat, its make up free face. Uncut hair is pulled back into an unflattering knot. Androgynous clothes are stretched over a despised shell, for comfort rather than appeal. She sees everything that disappoints her about this world.

I will not tell her about the scars on my arms. I will not mention the pain of a cold blade drawn from wrist to elbow, the gasp of anguish and then release as the blood flowed.

I will not tell her of the resources I wasted. Those medical staff gave me the best care in the world. They did not opine or complain as they patched my hated body back together.

She would call me selfish, and I was.

She would believe that had I truly wished to die I would have succeeded. She would look at me with those familiar, contempt filled eyes and wish I had.

So do I.



8 thoughts on “A visit from Mother

  1. Oh my. This story is so touching and sad. To despise your own body image as well as having your mother openly share her disapproval is just awful. Hoping this is fiction, and just wanted to say it’s a very powerful story!

  2. You navigated through the mother’s offensive ideas very well, Jackie. It was hard not to be on the daughter’s side. And I really like how the tension was resolved with the daughter agreeing with something her mother said. Well done!

  3. What an important and emotional image of the secret pain of body image and self-harm issues that people face. So important to remember that sometimes it’s impossible to know how harsh judgment may be impacting someone so deeply.

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