Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Pissed-Off Matriarch

We've all seen her around from time to time. She makes a few appearances in family homes every year, often-but-not-limited-to special occasions. You know the Pissed-Off Matriarch (POM) has arrived from the subtle sound of dishes clattering a little too noisily, the tone of her clipped 'Fine' when you ask her if everything is ok, or from her uncharacteristic bark when the second cup of milk spills all over the lunch table. She isn't talking as much as usual, and her dark mood oozes out of her like venom. You have no idea who or what peed in her Cornflakes, but you know better than to ask. If it was you, and probably it was, it's best to just keep your head down. You find it uncomfortable, and you wonder why she has picked today of all days--your son's 4th birthday--to act this way. She has the whole household walking on eggshells, and you wonder why she can't put on a smile and just suck it up (whatever 'it' is).

What you fail to realize is that she is doing just that!  The fact that the POM in your life is accomplishing the sheer volume of tasks that she is, on three hours of sleep, with a baby on her hip, with a headache she hasn't told you about, all in the company of your less-than-quiet extended family whilst not resorting to screaming, tranquilizers, or retreat is a testament to her formidable ability to 'suck things up.'

What you also don't realize when your well-intentioned parents arrive with an abundance of garden fresh produce is that it takes time—time she doesn't have—to wash, peel, slice and present said vegetables and to make a dip so that people actually consume them.

And in your heroic efforts to get the groceries, sweep the floor, and peel the potatoes in the span of just two hours you forget that this woman—this beautiful, angry woman—has spent days, weeks organizing this birthday in her head so it will be just right for your son who she loves more than life itself. She has spent time arranging and rearranging a time that works for everyone, attended to thousands of little details—everything from cousin Sally's nut allergy to the sleeping arrangements for out of town guests (clean sheets and towels for everyone) to the creation of a Pinterest-worthy monster truck cake.

You wonder why she can't just scale back a little (a lot!). No one would ever notice. Do NOT say this to her. She tortures herself wondering why she fusses this way, but she knows it has something to do with love.

Though the little tiff she told you about with her bestie is long gone from your mind, she is still stewing, and the only way she can get her mind off it is to make monster truck confetti—lots of it. Yes she knows there's more than enough, and, no, that is no reason to stop.

She realizes that your family is unlikely to be impressed by her new kale and stilton dip, but, quite frankly, she is sick of obliging their desires for all things kraft and cheez with a 'z'. Besides, she likes stilton.

Yes, she knows your Auntie Elizabeth pulls off this type of classy affair every second Sunday, sans pissy mood, all smiles and chatty pleasantries, and seemingly effortless, but what you don't realize is that your dear Auntie Elizabeth's famous cinnamon bun are store-bought, and that underneath her fucking flower-print dress, big boobs, and Betty Crocker apron, Auntie Elizabeth is actually a ROBOT. And your dear POM makes it a habit to not compare herself to robots.

She hates herself when she snaps at the kids or you over little things. She knows she is not being entirely fair, that she just got herself in over her head, and that you're all paying a price. No one is kicking herself more than she is for overdoing it AGAIN and for forgetting to save some energy to enjoy the day as she'd planned.

Having said that, your Pissed-Off Matriarch loves doing this stuff only slightly less than the people she does it for. She really does hope you will never-mind her mood, give her a hug, some encouragement, at least try the stilton dip, and just get on enjoy the party. That's what she wants most of all actually. Just enjoy the damn party.