Sunday, May 09, 1999

The true story of politically incorrect mom

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Whenever anyone asked, I told a harmless lie. “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?”

        And, as every good pregnant woman knows, there is only one permissible answer to that one.

        “We don't care as long as the baby is healthy.”

        If you're lucky enough to be carrying a child, our reasoning goes, it would be shamefully greedy to be picky about its sex. And chauvinistic to hint that it matters. Even my mother, on that occasion, was politically correct.

        It was the last time.

Nail polish and skates
        The truth is she wanted a girl. And when it was my turn, so did I. More than that, I wanted a girl who would feel the same way about me as I feel about my mother. After our daughter, Meg, was born, I asked my husband if he thought that she would love me as much as I love my mom.

        “Well, I don't know,” he said. “But I'll bet she will love your mother as much as you do.”

        She does. Who could blame her? My mother taught my daughter how to paint her fingernails when she was 4 and how to drive when she was 13. (You don't want to know the details.) They roller skated and jumped rope together. My mother gave Meg her cheesecake recipe and taught her how to use it. She pierced my daughter's ears and sent her encouraging notes when I had grounded her “for life.”

        Sure. Let me be the bad guy.

        “It's your turn,” my mother said.

Bribery and collusion
        During my teen-age years, she was ruthless. An unapologetic snoop.

        She knew the contents of all my drawers. “I was putting away your underwear and found a pack of cigarettes.”

        She read my diary. “It fell open.”

        And my personal mail. “I've fed that boy a hundred times. I consider him a mutual friend.”

        The ACLU would probably have helped me sue. Today's enlightened counselors would shake their heads over “privacy issues.”

        She would stop at nothing. She was in league with my teachers. She conspired with my father. She made me go to Sunday school. She insisted that I speak civilly to my elders even if they pinched my cheeks and asked impertinent questions.

        She said things like, “You want a reason? Because I'm your mother and I say so.”

        Hallmark has Mother's Day cards for everything else, but I couldn't find one that said thanks for being willing to do absolutely anything to keep me safe. Thanks for knowing that although we might be friends one day, you were willing to postpone it until I was an adult.

        We are great friends now, my mother and I. And my other friend is my daughter, who thoughtfully supplied me with a granddaughter, Rosie. Just what we both wanted, although we didn't say so.

        When Meg was in the hospital, in labor, I distinguished myself by grabbing the nurse by the lapels and shrieking that I would give her a thousand dollars if she'd give Meg her epidural. Now. In fact, I may have said a thousand dollars and a new car. I don't remember. But it was not my finest hour.

        My mother would have handled the situation with considerably more tact. Probably I will never have her finesse. Assuredly I will never have her style. My idea of well-groomed is when both my shoes match and my hem is not held up with masking tape.

        But I have learned the important lessons.

        So far, I have taught Rosie how to turn on her mother's computer. I have hooked her on country music and gold jewelry. I am wondering how old she should be before we go out and get a tattoo together.

        “My mother,” says a friend, “drives me crazy.”

        I told her, “I know what you mean.”

        It is a harmless lie.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at Author of I Beg to Differ, she can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio and on NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.

        Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at