Wednesday, September 3, 2008

If They Call This A Disease, I'm Going To Ralph.

From CNN (Natch):

(LifeWire) -- Stacy Pearson keeps buying food she knows she'll never eat -- from tomato soup to green beans to ramen noodles -- merely because it's on sale. Why? (I don't know...she's demented?  Can we go with that?) Blame her mother (Ooooh, this could be fun.).

Her mom, Pearson explains, has always been one to stockpile, to the point that she's "set for a nuclear holocaust." And, Pearson adds, "I'm headed the same way." (Here's an idea.  DON'T BUY IT!  You see, we are rational, sentient beings with opposable thumbs and the wherewithal to make logical decisions as things happen.  Next time you get a yen to buy the $.99 can of beans, take one of those thumbs and stick it up your ass.  Rinse and repeat.  That'll do ya.)

Pearson, 31, insists on bringing home restaurant leftovers to "rot appropriately" in her refrigerator and phones friends during storms to find out how hard it's raining at their house -- just like mom. (You're not turning into your mother, you're turning into a 98 year-old.  Slight difference.  Are you keeping an eye on the neighbors' comings-and-goings as well, Doris?)

"I made a vow around the age of 16 to never be like her," (Worked so far.) says Pearson, a Phoenix publicist and mother of a 5-year-old daughter. "It's interesting -- the habits I thought I'd never want, I picked up." (It's a choice, it's a choice, it's a choice, IT'S A DAILY CHOICE!) Are you just like your mom? (No.  My 85-volume treatise on this will be arriving in stores this October.  It's called 'How To Avoid Becoming 'Looney-Tunes'.  Chapter 1 entitled "Your Dad's At The Tavern Again.")

Chalk it up to a potent and mysterious mix of nature and nurture, but many women -- particularly once they're raising their own children -- arrive at the astounding realization that they've become their mothers after all. (Oh!  This isn't gender-specific.  I know guys that have become their mother.)

Sandra Reishus, a Sacramento, California, therapist and author of "Oh No! I've Become My Mother," says it's not surprising that some daughters come to emulate their mothers even after living in fear of that outcome.

"It's inevitable, because our brains were forming when we were around her," says Reishus, who has been in practice for 16 years. "She was our window into the world." 

"I see it all the time," she adds. "Even if a daughter takes after her dad, there's still a bit of her mom in her." 

That's not always a positive thing. Linda Hutchinson has sought counseling to mitigate the bad habits -- namely, cynicism and a quick temper -- that her estranged mother has, and that she says she inherited. (Working closer to that whole 'disease' thing.)

"I'm on constant watch," says the 56-year-old writer from Lockbourne, Ohio. "If something happens to make me really angry, I have to take a deep breath to prevent myself from lashing out, which is something she never did."

Not everyone, of course, is so pained by the traits that have been passed down. (Ever closer) Other women find it humorous -- comforting, even -- to find themselves taking after their mothers. And sometimes, moms do, too.

Growing up, Lauren Leetun, 27, couldn't stand the way her mother would liberally use bleach during housecleaning. (Oh cripes, that seems to be a bit of a stretch.) Not only did the bleach make the house smell like a swimming pool, it turned the soles of Leetun's navy blue socks pink, an unforgivable fashion disaster. (I love that story.  I tell it at parties all the time.) But now that she's older, Leetun says she finds the smell of the cleaning agent strangely soothing. (In five years, Lauren will be a three session a weeker.  Start saving up now.  Shrinks be all expensive and shit.)

"I've always been uber-organized, and she's the same way," Leetun says of her mother. "I always liked that trait in myself."

Leetun's mom, Tracy Furey, says she isn't surprised.

"Lauren was always a perfectionist. She used to clean out closets when she had nothing to do," says Furey, 52, who lives 15 minutes away from her newlywed daughter in Longwood, Florida. "It's really cool to see your children come full circle." (Mom wins!)

A similar dynamic has developed between Lindsey Pollak, 33, and her mother, Jane, 60. As a teenager, Lindsey was greatly embarrassed by her mother's fascination with motivational speakers and self-help books. So imagine her surprise at choosing a career as -- yep -- a motivational speaker, one whose own shelves are crammed with self-help tomes. (Oh Holy Crap!  She's a Gen-Y expert.)

Lindsey and Jane now are both sought-after speakers and authors on career topics. "We still have our issues," says Lindsey, who lives in New York City, "but we share this unique connection, an additional special bond between us that is rare." 

Jane, of Norwalk, Connecticut, says she always knew her daughter shared her penchant for being meticulous to the point of being hard on herself, but she didn't necessarily predict how similar Lindsey would turn out.

"I didn't try to make her anything," Jane Pollak says, "just the best she could be." (Aaaaahhh)

But what if you don't want to be just like mom? Jason Greenberg, a psychologist in New York City who counsels many women with mother-daughter issues, suggests these steps to behave more consciously and not accept family influences as inevitable:

• Be aware of feedback. If your spouse or children are telling you your ways of relating aren't working, listen. It's difficult to judge your own behavior objectively. (Or not that difficult, really.  It's called being honest with yourself.  And that includes the bad things, people.)

• Identify what's not working. Create a mental or written list of traits your family and you don't want to see repeated through generations. (Again.  Coming out this October to a store near you.  It's 8 million pages long with 500,000 pages covering one sentence.  "Christo...will you rub my leg?")

• Stop and breathe. When you find yourself in stressful situations -- which make it harder to "catch" your behavior -- don't do anything at first. (Um...shouldn't you do that anyway?  It's called 'not being a raging loon' and usually doesn't have anything to do with mommy-daughter issues.  Of course, I refuse to use the word 'alloted' to this day.  I have my reasons.)  "Those are going to be the moments when you're most likely to repeat a behavior that's not constructive," Greenberg says, "or something that's just like your mother." (Personally, I don't think Jason likes his mother.  Maybe that's why he's chosen such a specialty.  See.  Generalizations.  It's easy.  But I didn't ralph.  So that's a good thing.  Tryin' to see the bright side of things.  "Today, I didn't puke out of disgust.")

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