Important points to note before reading transcript:
- Daniel and I have not spoken for six months
- It is an accepted reality in my family that nobody much likes Daniel but we all love him regardless – even me. He is an arrogant, selfish and self-centred character who only wants people when they are of use to him; this is a regular topic of discussion, usually brought up by my Nan in one of her tirades/rants and witnessed by Mum, Auntie Karen and myself
- I have been living alone for over a year since breaking up with Wes and discovering, in the briefest of stints, that living with Mum as a grown, independent woman is even worse than living with Mum in any other capacity
- My 30th birthday is rapidly approaching – I have organised a family meal and am contemplating extending the olive branch to Daniel; if we can both agree to disagree over vapid-Charlotte then surely my 30th is the best opportunity to draw a line in the sand…?
- I never ever do anything for my birthday – I have not asked anyone to celebrate with me since my 21st birthday. Usually it passes by without acknowledgement
07:10 on the morning of Thursday 23rd August 2018.
The drizzle is lightly coating the windscreen of my car as I repeatedly switch between braking and accelerating in the usual stop-start heavy traffic of the M40.
I had been feeling daunted by the prospect of turning 30 – after all, what have I got to show for my decades on this earth? I am single, I live alone with two cats and I have pretty significant emotional issues that are unaddressed. I am paying my way out of a chasm of debt inflicted upon me by my wasteman of an ex-partner by working two jobs round the clock and I am generally just an unhappy person coasting through life in an apathetic and ambivalent bubble.
However, as Club 3-0 beckons me ever closer I begin to embrace it. Perhaps this will be a new chapter for me. I have learned a lifetime’s worth of valuable lessons in love, lust and finances and I am ready to open my arms to the next phase of my life. Waving goodbye to 29 will be cathartic and things will be better from here – I have made up my mind.
As the sun rises and shines luminously into my eyes I smile and ready myself for another day at the office. I turn up Sonny Fodera on my Spotify and breathe in. Yes – things will be different. And that starts with extending an invitation to Daniel and the vapid fun-hoover he calls a girlfriend. If for no other reason, getting to know my little niece will be worth the arduous task of swallowing my pride.
My phone cuts through the house beats and I flick my eyes to the display on my dashboard to see ‘Mum’ on the caller ID. Fleetingly I consider ignoring her; more and more I have been feeling detached from what’s left of my family recently – especially her. A lifetime of being let down has left its mark in the form of resentment and mutual hatred. Yet still we burgeon on, nourishing a relationship neither of us feels particularly passionate towards.
Since the death of my Grandfather the matriarchal family in which I exist has become a coven-like hub of monstrous oestrogen. My mother, my grandmother and my auntie take pleasure in the misfortune of others. Bitter as rotting lemons they sit on their pedestals looking down in judgement on the rest of humanity. In particular they judge me – they never liked Wes (rightly so) but more than his mistreatment of me and the enormous fiscal deficit he rendered my life into was the fact he was mixed race and ‘common.’ The person he was would never be good enough for those witches, even if he had treated me like a Queen.
I feel as though I am in a strangle-hold with them all. I can’t make a move or a decision without them telling me it is the wrong thing – I am compelled to toe their controlling line or face the wrath of the cold shoulder for an undisclosed length of time; my punishment for having a go at things by myself. However, conflictingly at the same time as being suffocated by their power I am floating in an ocean completely by myself on a raft made from ice and knives. They put their two-pennies-worth in on every aspect of my life and then leave me bereft of any support in terms of how I might make things more acceptable to them. In short, I feel as though I am at the bottom of a deep, dark well they have dug and thrown me into; I can do nothing without their watchful gaze upon me and yet they sit, arms folded, observing as I struggle to meet unreasonable expectations. I am reaching boiling point and when the final straw comes I know I can walk away with no depth of sadness in my soul.
Alas, she rings on – she will want to continue discussing the ongoing saga of her most recent boyfriend, the alcoholic, whom she has bought a car to get to and from the job she has managed to secure for him, and how he is still planning on leaving her. My mood had been high but I know this call will suck the life out of me. Still, I have to be the good daughter she leans on like an emotional crutch.
Me: Hi Mum…
Mum: Hello, you alright?
Me: Yeah fine thanks. How are you?
Mum: Oh you know, cracking on. Well, Sean left for work early this morning. Didn’t say a word to me. Just got up, went to the bathroom, got ready and left. I heard him making a fuss of the dog but he didn’t even acknowledge I was there. So I made sure I got up and banged around so he knew I was awake. Just as he walked out the door he shouted up ‘love you,’ and then off he went.
Me: Maybe he thought you were asleep and didn’t want to wake you up?
Mum: Don’t be silly you know I’m a light sleeper and so does he. He knows that full-well. I’m sick of it. So I’ve sent him a message to say if he wants to punish me that’s fine but he is living in my house, under my roof and if he doesn’t want to even acknowledge my existence in the morning then he can pack his things and go.
Me: (Cringing) Have you already sent that?
Mum: You’re damn right I did. Why should he be allowed to treat me like that? It’s MY house. He’s under MY roof. I cook, I clean, I pay for everything while he sits there drinking all bloody night. And do you know another thing? I’m sure he’s texting his ex. He keeps disappearing off upstairs and then I catch him lying on the bed on his phone. I found her on Facebook; I’m tempted to send her a message to find out what’s going on because I swear to God –
Me: No don’t do that Mum. If you don’t trust him and you’re not happy, just let him go. It is probably nothing that he’s on his phone upstairs –
Mum: I went through his phone a week or so ago and he was texting her! We had a blazing row about it.
Me: Oh Mum for God’s sake! What have I told you about going through people’s phones? You’ve got to stop doing that – you ruin it every time (consciously ignoring how hypocritical I sound knowing I had browsed through Wes’s phone a few years before on that fateful night).
Mum: Oh shut up, I’ll do what I like and if I have good reason to check up on him, I’m doing it. You have no idea what its like – you’ve only been with one person and he was a fucking down and out. We’re talking about meaningful relationships here, I’ve bought the man a car and he thinks it’s acceptable to not even say good morning to me? I’m not having it. I’ve been treated like shit by Jim – I’m used to these games so he doesn’t want to try it with me, I’m telling you now!
Me: OK, Mum. Well…I don’t really know what to say – I don’t think he’s done anything wrong to be honest.
Mum: Oh you always take everyone else’s side over mine. I can’t do anything right with you – I’m always in the wrong. Well this time I’m right and I know I am so just keep your opinions to yourself.
Me: OK… (Sigh while trying to change the conversation) Well, I was thinking about my 30th –
Mum: Yeah, I’m not sure what I’m going to wear to that. Have you invited Maria? Because you know I can’t stand her so don’t sit me near her.
Me: There’s no seating plan, Mum. Just don’t go near her – she doesn’t like you either –
Mum: Oh nice! I was only married to her dying brother for years – I don’t deserve her politeness or anything, do I!?
Me: Well, she’s coming for me, for my birthday; not for you.
Mum: So I just have to sit there and put up with it?
Me: Think how she feels! Travelling up from Devon to a pack of wolves she knows can’t stand her just because it’s her adopted niece’s birthday –
Mum: Oh anyway, I don’t care about her – she’s an ugly bitch and I bet she’s put on weight. What are you wearing?
Me: I don’t know, I’ll find something closer to the time. Anyway, what I was going to say was that I’m thinking about asking Daniel and Charlotte…
Mum: (Shocked) Oh right….right! OK… well that’s a nice thought. It’s about time one of you gave in and apologised.
Me: I’m not apologising Mum. I didn’t do anything wrong – I’m just agreeing to disagree on the situation and move on. If he wants to come, he can. If he doesn’t, it’s no loss.
Mum: He will want you to apologise before he agrees to come.
Me: Well, he can whistle for that. I’m not apologising for something I didn’t do wrong, especially not when it’s my birthday –
Mum: You’re too stubborn. One of you needs to be the bigger person and it really doesn’t matter that it’s your birthday.
Me: I AM being the bigger person by inviting him. I don’t even really care about him or Charlotte; I’d just like it if I could see my niece for my birthday. I feel like my thirties are going to be –
Mum: Well text him then and see what he says.
Me: Yeah I probably will…
Mum: Just apologise, it really doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, does it?
Me: Well…actually it does matter to me. I always back down and I feel like all I was doing was looking out for my brother. He let his girlfriend go for me, didn’t reign her in and then didn’t like it when I told her my honest opinion…I don’t know why I can’t stand by that – I’m allowing him to without insisting on an apology –
Mum: You’re just pathetic, honestly. You need to get over it now – he’s standing by his girlfriend and you’re going to be a sad and lonely old woman if you hold onto grudges like this. Your niece is really lovely and you’re missing out.
Me: I’m not going over it all again, Mum. I understand he has to stand by Charlotte but I am not apologising for telling her my opinion when she was giving me a hardy helping of hers. Besides, he never ever stands up for me – he’s weak and he’s a coward and I really don’t like him as a person. Also you had a pretty big part to play in all of this and you’ve sat back and let us fall out when you knew Charlotte was stirring it up in the middle. If you wanted us to make up, you could have done something long before now.
Mum: It’s nothing to do with me. This was you – it’s always you. You couldn’t keep your mouth shut and just let her say her piece; you had to tear the girl to shreds. You know she’s not as clever as you and we all know how fucking nasty you can be – God knows I’ve copped it from you myself enough times myself. I want to be allowed to see my Grandchild and that’s the only thing that matters to me – if that means I stand up for my son then that’s what I’ll do because he has no one else in his corner.
Me: That’s because he’s a selfish arsehole who only wants us all when he needs something. Otherwise he wouldn’t care if we were dead or alive.
Mum: Who’s ‘we’?
Me: Nan, me, YOU…any of us. He doesn’t give a fuck about us Mum-
Mum: Oh this is all over that Jim business. You have to let that go. Alright, he didn’t stand up for you but that’s over now so just move on.
Me: I have moved on – I let that go. This is over something else entirely. I’m not arguing with you over it anyway Mum. If he wants to come, he can come.
Mum: I’m sick of your shit. I’m absolutely sick of you, honestly.
Mum terminates the call.
To be clear, this is a relatively regular occurrence. I think no more of it and go on with my morning.
Thursday 23rd August 2018, 09:03
Text message from Nan:
‘I’m not coming to your birthday. Cancel my seat.’
Text message from Me:
Text message from Nan:
‘I’ve just had your Mum on the phone having a right go at me for slagging off Daniel. She said you told her we have been bad-mouthing him. Expect a text from Karen – she won’t be coming either.’
Thursday 23rd August 2018, 09:17:
Telephone call to Mum:
Me: What have you done?
Mum: What? What do you mean?
Me: Well I’ve just had a random text from Nan saying her and Karen aren’t coming to my birthday. So what have you said?
Mum: Oh I pulled them up for witching and bitching about my son. I’m sick of it.
Me: And what has that got to do with me?
Mum: You told me they were witching and bitching about him
Me: When did I say that? I have never used the phrase ‘witching and bitching’ and nor have you…and I never ever said anyone was slagging him off. I didn’t say it this morning or any other time. Besides, you know everyone’s opinions on him, it’s not exactly a secret, Mum.
Mum: Well I’m sick of you all thinking badly of him. He’s my son!
Me: So you told them I said they were slagging him off because you’re pissed off today just so you had an excuse to argue with someone?
Mum: Well it needed addressing anyway – it’s done now and I’ve had it out with them both.
Me: But it’s nothing to do with me! So you’ve lied to them all about something I’ve said and now they’re refusing to come to my birthday but you’re all good and you’ve made up?
Mum: Oh they’ll calm down and get over it – don’t worry about it. We’ll all be there – it’s weeks away.
Me: No you won’t be – I am going to cancel it, I’m not dealing with this from you anymore Mum. Honestly I can’t believe you’ve twisted a phone call this morning to let off some of your steam and now I’m left looking like the bad one when I’ve literally done nothing.
Mum: You really are pathetic sometimes. It will all be fine – I’m not having people slating my son, I’m not having it from you or them.
Me: But I didn’t even say anything about them or anything they’ve said-
Thursday 23rd August 2018, 10:50
Text message from Me:
‘OK, I cancelled the table. I have spoken to Mum; to be honest I think it’s really silly of you to believe her without clarifying the situation with me. You know what she is like. I did not tell her anyone was being horrible about Daniel and also, even if I had said it, it’s not a secret that nobody likes him, you tell her that all the time to her face. I also think it is very selfish of you to cancel on my birthday when haven’t asked anybody to celebrate my birthday with me since I was 21.’
Text message from Nan:
‘I am sick of it all. It is making me feel ill. How do you think I feel? My birthday is before yours and now that will be ruined too.’
Text message from Me:
‘No offence, Nan. But yours is a 72nd birthday – mine is my 30th that has been cancelled so it is slightly different.’
Text message from Nan:
‘I have cancelled mine too.’
What ensued for the next few hours was back and forth arguments between my Nan, my Aunt, my Mum and me. In short, I was accused of stirring up trouble by telling Mum that my Nan, my Aunt and I had sat round slating Daniel and they were now punishing me by cancelling my birthday. To them, this was an argument they would win and I would fold, as always, to their will. Mum refused to admit she was lying, Nan refused to back down and Karen stood by them both.
But for me, this was it. The final straw. I never asked for a thing from anyone in my family – I accepted they found me impossible to love, or to even like. I forgave them for brushing my terrible childhood under the carpet and for prioritising a paedophile over their own flesh and blood. But this…this seemingly tiny, most insignificant moment in the grand scheme of things shone a light on the entire situation, blinding me with sadness at my fruitless plight for their acceptance. I made the decision on that day to cut them all out. I have not spoken to them from that day to this excluding the birthday and Christmas cards I send to them all in a determined effort not to let them have a single negative word to say about me. I exclude my niece in this – I send her birthday and Christmas cards and I send her money for both occasions; she is blameless and faultless in the entire fiasco.
So the moral of this particular story is this: Stay away from people who make you feel like you cannot be loved, no matter how close to them you might be, no matter how much you think their presence in your life is necessary. These people will grow like ivy around you and choke all the sunshine and the happiness and the goodness out until eventually you find you can’t feel the warmth on your cheeks anymore. This miniscule, inconsequential moment was the turning point – I had made up my mind that everything was travelling in an upward motion for me from my 30th and I was not prepared to allow anyone to cast shade over that. It was, without doubt, the best decision I have ever made. I regret nothing.