My mother has forbidden me to write about her—a demand I’ve taken seriously for much of the past year. I’ve wanted to protect her privacy. At least, I’ve been willing to do that up until now.
I’ve even considered password-protecting this post, but, ultimately, it seemed doing that might play into the message I’ve been given my entire life—the one designed to keep me quiet.
Ultimately, I don’t know what “privacy” means in the context of telling my story. Ultimately, I can protect the privacy of those outside my family by changing names and identifying characteristics.
But it’s impossible to write out the fact of having had a mother.
And, yet, that’s what my mother is demanding—that I write as if I don’t have a mother.
Let me be perfectly clear. When my mother made this demand a number of months ago, I distinctly asked for clarification:
Me: Mom, it sounds like you are asking me to write as if I don’t have a mother. Is that right?
Mom: Yes, that would be good.
I’ve not pursued this conversation further, as the utter absurdity of it made that seem pointless.
I certainly never intended to mention my mom’s actual name in anything I write. And the reason for sharing my story has nothing to do with wanting to expose her. But, clearly, that’s her fear. You might call this paranoia.
You could call it guilt.
I fully believe my mother always did the best she knew how, but the simple truth is this. The story of my life has essentially been one of motherlessness. Indeed, I had a mother. In fact, I still do.
But the most basic fact of my experience has been that of my mother’s inaccessibility—her refusual or inability to nurture.
Clearly, the irony of this does not escape me—the fact that my mother’s demand would, in effect, be her life-long message to me.
I’m sorry. But I simply have to share this. I’m sorry to my mom, my readers, the world.
The request for privacy is one I certainly want to respect, but when that “privacy” morphs into “silencing,” and what I’m not supposed to say is, in effect, the most basic and fundamental fact of my life—
—Then that mutes me. And that’s where, unfortunately, I must draw the line.
I set out months ago to write a memoir, but I’ve ultimately been muted by my mother’s ultimatum. What I’ve written as my opening scene, for example, I haven’t been able to share. Or, at least, I’ve not posted that piece, as it mentions my mother, and is, literally, about my trying to protect my mother when I was sixteen years old—protect her from the FBI agents who had raided our home to arrest my father.
So, I’m sorry, Mom. I’m very, very sorry. But I can’t protect you any longer.
I have to tell this story.
I have to share my truth.