“Mom, how funny would it be if we auditioned for this reality mother-daughter TV show?”
Though I initially threw the sentiment out there as an off-handed joke, immediately I saw stars in my mother’s eyes. She’s completely mystified by the lives of famous people or, as she refers to them, “her friends”. One of her recent dreams involved casually swimming with Will Ferrell on a hot summer afternoon. It’s an absolutely endearing quality, I’ve always thought, for an otherwise very grounded woman.
So, I sent in an application, including a couple of pictures of us along with a paragraph detailing the nature of our relationship: teacher/student, nurse/patient, supporter/dreamer. Within the hour, I received an email notifying me that we’d moved on to the next round. This next round included two very hefty questionnaires asking about some pretty personal stuff—things like drug usage, sexual history and personal philosophies.
Immediately, I was filled with regret. And, I later found out, so was my mom. Not only were we not comfortable with these themes maybe showing up on television, but we weren’t even comfortable enough to discuss them with each other!
My mom had always been a relatively private person when it came to her childhood and pre-dad days. This application was shoving into the light some topics she and I had both been straining to keep in the dark the entirety of our 23-year relationship.
I ended up telling her that if she wasn’t comfortable going through with the process, I’d understand completely. But, as I’m learning more and more every day, my momma isn’t one to back down for comfort’s sake. So, we poured ourselves a couple glasses of wine and filled out our questionnaires. Yes, it was awkward. Yes, it was vulnerable. Yes, it was brand new.
In one evening, my mom morphed right in front of my eyes from a mother to a real life person with a story and history much bigger than myself. It was like a big red curtain had been pulled aside and, for the first time, I was getting to see backstage and behind the scenes. And how fitting a metaphor it is for my mother truly is a work of art.
I was absolutely hooked on this new person. How did she end up the way she is? What did she daydream about when she was six and bored in school? How did she cope with a broken heart? There was so much more I wanted to know.
We didn’t end up getting picked to be on the show. But we did have a GiRlszz WeEkEnD in Santa Monica a couple weeks later complete with strolling through the Promenade, playing pool, riding bikes, drinking wine and lots and lots of talking.
Now, I know not everyone who wants a stronger relationship with her mother has a reality TV show audition to help the process along. Here’s how you can connect with your mother sans a very extensive questionnaire:
Take the woman to dinner!
Master of None, anyone? Master of None is Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show. Episode 2 of season 1 is called “Parents” and it’s absolutely heartrending. Though this episode details the very unique, special relationship between immigrant parents and their Americanized children, the episode is filled with relatable moments for anyone wanting to relate to a parent figure.
In the episode, Ansari’s character, Dev, and his friend Brian (Kelvin Yu) take their parents out to dinner in an effort to learn more about their lives. Spoiler alert: the kids learn a ton, the parents are touched and though the two generations live vastly different lives, they have much more in common than they ever could have imagined.
It’s a beautiful piece of TV. Watch the episode—maybe with your mom?—and then take her out to dinner. It is the absolute least you can do. Even if the two of you have trouble opening up to each other, simply taking her out to dinner as a big “thank you for being my mom” is a huge step in the right direction.
Open up about your own life.
Show her yours and she’ll show you hers. What? Your heart, you sick-o! I used to look at girls who said, “I tell my mom everything” like they were baby-eating aliens. I couldn’t even fathom having that type of relationship with my own mother. Now, I call my mom five times a week. Sometimes she says, “Again? Really?” But I know she’s kidding and actually loves it! Right, Mom? Mom…?
Tell your mom something you wouldn’t normally tell her; something below the surface. Tell her your fears and anxieties, or talk about something that truly makes you happy. It’s so much easier to share when someone else goes first.
Talk to her like you would a new friend.
I have lots of older friends, and I have lots of younger friends. It hit me, that night of the questionnaire, to talk to this “new mom” as I would a new friend.
There’s something terribly selfish about solely treating your mother as a teacher, nurse and supporter. To believe, even if you’re not blatantly aware, that your mom’s purpose is to serve you.
I was in that head space for 23 years. I feel terrible and embarrassed—that’s not at all in line with the person, or friend, I aspire to be. Part of treating your mother like a friend is that you, too, need to be a friend to her. Learn about her, ask her about her day, inquire as to what’s been on her mind and if there’s any way you can help.
Two pure and beautiful phenomena have come from reality television: America’s Next Top Model and my newfound relationship with my mother. Have you always been friends with your mom or are you courting her later in life? Let a girl know in the comments!