Bed bugs: mother’s latest paranoiac fad. Her home’s gonna’ get infested with the little devils. She’s sure of it.
Mother’s paranoia is nothing new. She’s been this way all my life. And her mother is a paranoiac, controlling narcissist too. Together they form a hysterical duo, collecting and trading dangers like some people trade baseball cards. Their “Danger Scrapbook” is second-to-none, bulging with terrors of every description.
Click here to read my newest article, Parents Who Are Jealous of Their Kids.
Oddly enough, none of these horrors have ever befallen them…nor anyone else in the family. Nevertheless, reality never stopped them from foisting dangers of every kind onto me. And only because they love and care about me, right!?
Ah, I remember well the first time their paranoia struck me as, well, odd. Maestro? Flashback harp music, please.
I was a happy little six-year-old enjoying one of my favorite foods: Green grapes. Rrrriiiing, rrrriiiing. The shrill jangle of the telephone broke into the peace of that sunny Summer morning.
“Hello?” said mother.
“A child has choked to death on a grape!” Grandma’s voice hollered through the phone. “Tell Lenora to bite grapes in two pieces so she doesn’t choke!”
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A few minutes passed. Rrrriiiing, rrrriiiing.
“Another child has choked to death on a grape!” Grandma shrieked. “Tell Lenora to bite grapes in three pieces so she doesn’t choke!”
Even at that tender age I knew something was off kilter. But the Dynamic Duo just “loved and cared” about me…right?
Why didn’t your other grandchildren have to wear dog tags, Grandma? When they got married, why were they “on their honeymoon” while I was “being abducted,” Uncle!? WTF!?!
As you might imagine, when I toddled off to school I wasn’t “like the other kids.” A military-style dog tag hung ’round my neck. Grandma’s idea. For twelve years it hung there, jangling loudly against my house key when I ran laps in PhyEd. Yeah…try explaining that in the girl’s locker room.
As if a kidnapper would leave it on to be found in the fire-pit containing my charred body. But hey! I’m sure Grandma did it from love. Right, right?
I’ve often said that my family could track a single germ from here in the Midwestern USA to the Great Wall of China. And my newborn Staph infection and constant illnesses were like gasoline on the fire of their germaphobia. While other kids happily traded food at lunchtime, Mother screamed at six-year-old me for half an hour when I confessed to tasting a dollop of the frosting on my friend’s slice of cake.
When classmates brought homemade treats for our class on their birthdays, I learned to say a polite “No, thank you.” If it didn’t come out of a package or bag, woe unto me if I tasted it at school potluck parties.
When I played someone else’s flute at school (age 9), Mother screamed for another half an hour…a diatribe that included educating me on the existence of AIDS and how it can be transmitted via anal sex.
But they just loved and cared about me, right?
Tour de France
Do you remember when people rode bicycles without helmets? Kids nowadays can’t even imagine it.
How I remember the joys of pedaling my second-hand banana-seat bike, the wind flowing in my hair. But a few years later, Dad took my bike away. It seems he’d ordered me to ride it across a busy street during rush hour and I’d refused out of fear of the traffic.
Hmmmm. What could fulfill his need for 1) total control, 2) “spending time” with his daughter and 3) delusions of Tour de France grandeur? Aha! A bicycle-built-for-two.
So he invested in a tandem bike and rode it like Lance Armstrong…at extreme speeds…in traffic…claiming the rights of a car…taking fifteen mile rides…his terrified daughter clinging onto the back seat of the bike for dear life. But after skidding out on a sandy corner at top speed, we got helmets.
Oh, not the cool ones with the colorful plastic shell with the point in the back. Nope! Just a dome of polystyrene with a “shower cap” elastic cover that usually popped off. But hey! All the laughter and pointing was “character building” for me, Dad said.
And so were the velcro tennis shoes I wore all through High School. Dad claimed they were the best shoes on the market, with the springiest soles. Apparently, the other kids’ parents didn’t love them as much because they wore those inferior Nikes and pathetic Adidas.
I guess love and care looks like a dog tag, a granny-style glasses chain, velcro shoes, an OCD-ravaged complexion and a styrofoam helmet, eh!?
I gotta think Mother simply doesn’t have enough to occupy her mind. When Mom’s not burning up the phone line with danger discussions with Granny, she’s cogitating on how to save money. Not to spend. Not to enjoy on her imaginary hobbies of jewelry or pottery making. No! Just to squirrel away for “someday.”
As I described in my Huffington Post article Parents Who Are Jealous of Their Kids, paying rent got me not more creature comforts…but less. By wrapping rubber bands around the plunger on bottles of liquid handsoap, Mother was able to limit usage to a pea-sized drop. Woe, woe, woe unto you if you got caught pumping the bottle twice. I only made that mistake once and got a royal ass-chewing out of it.
How well I remember sitting in a frigid, dry porcelain tub before work, trying to get warm by pouring hot water over my head with a pitcher, trying to protect my modesty while Mother reamed me out for wasting water. I s’pose that’s character building too.
But for all of my alleged soap-and-hot-water wasting ways, after I moved out Mother was surprised to discover that her water bill did not go down while her grocery bill went up.
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I dunno how she got this particular bee in her bonnet. Perhaps she heard about bed bugs on the news. Perhaps she traded “paranoic cards” with her mother again. Or perhaps it was a passive aggressive attempt to stop me from going out to lunch with my kinda’ sorta’ at-work-only boyfriend.
Whatever her motives, she and Dad jumped on the Batty Bedbug Bandwagon together. As usual, the rules mostly affected me…and only me.
Upon returning home from work, lunch out or anywhere, I was handed my bathrobe and ushered straight down to the basement. Standing barefoot on the frigid concrete floor, I shivered out of my nice work clothes. Heat, supposedly, killed bed bug eggs. So my work clothes had to be “cooked” for half an hour in the dryer. It felt like a punishment for leaving the house to earn rent money.
I’m thrilled to report that when Mother put the library books in the hot dryer to “kill the bug eggs in the glue,” the books melted and fell apart! Payback. It truly is a bitch.
And, after all, gluing books back together was very character building for you, right, Mom?
My Filthy Dog
A year after the Bedbug Hysteria started, my folks slipped up and “let” me move into my own townhome. Each week, they drove over on Sunday morning to examine their thirty-one-year-old daughter to see if she was capable of continuing to live on her own, scarf the expensive snacks I provided and listen to Dad monologue all about himself. Oh yes, and play with my puppy. Y’know, the horrible puppy I adopted, disregarding the loving and caring warning related from my dog-loving-uncle-to-my-grandma-to-my-mom-to-me, “A dog will ruin your home. Don’t do it.” (Whew!)
My nasty, filthy, germy puppy. “No offense,” mother would say upon arrival, disappearing into my laundry room to change into the “dirty clothes” they stored at my house. Only after changing into these outfits would they condescend to pet my adorable bichon, Delly. It took Mom a year to allow Delly to “kiss” her.
The last time my parents visited my townhome, Dad forgot his “dirty” socks. With a look of bestial rage, Mother turned on him in fury. You see, by wearing his socks on my filthy carpets, then sticking the same socks in his shoes and wearing them home, he might have transported bug eggs to the frigid institution they call “home.”
Escape from Bedlam
If you’ve never lived in the Unhinged Hilton, you’ve no idea how nice it is to live like a normal, average person.
Somehow I haven’t gotten food poisoning…even tho’ I’m no longer receiving not one, but two frantic emails warning me that cantaloupes are being recalled for listeria.
Somehow I haven’t gotten bed bugs…even tho’ I’ve lolled about in the oldest of motels in North America. (Very clean, btw!)
Somehow I haven’t gotten sick from eating many meals of homecooked food at my friends’ houses.
And somehow the house hasn’t exploded even tho, gasp!, we dash in-and-out with our shoes on!
Recommended Reading: Just when I thought my family was unique, meet Adam Chester’s mom. I think we must be related! S’Mother : The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed by