parental perceptions

After my first year at the university, i moved in with my future husband, EJ. i was 19 years old, and he was 26. Technically, i sort of went over for dinner one night, after hanging out with him for a week, and i stayed for over 20 years. We joked that i was “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave”.

My parents weren’t wealthy, and i was the youngest of four. Dad retired that year also, so their finances were a bit of an unknown.  i knew they weren’t sure how they’d be able to cover my academic costs, especially since they were still paying some support to my older sister who was finishing up her undergraduate work.  Oh, and they were still throwing money at my two elder siblings, who were in various states of financial disarray in their lives.

i was living with EJ for a couple months when i realized i had moved in. Not a planned move, i just slowly started moving my things over to his place, which was within walking distance of the university. When my parents called* my apartment, my former roommates would tell them “she’s in class” if it was during the day, or “she’s in the shower” at other times… They’d then ring me to let me know to call my parents.

After about three months of this, i realized i needed to tell my parents, and get out of the lease at the old apartment.  i was working (through a co-operative engineering program for undergraduates), and after doing some math, realized that i could do it on my own.  It would be tight, but by sharing living expenses with EJ, it was manageable.  It was time to tell my parents…

EJ drove me down to the homestead, with the plan to just drop me off, and return for me in a few hours.  i wasn’t sure how the parents would react to this, and it had potential to be a “scene”… Subjecting my new partner to a howl-fest was perhaps not the best way for him to meet my parents for the first time. 

To this day, their reactions – so very different – tells me much about how they viewed their youngest daughter at the time. 

daisyfae:  Well, i’ve sort of moved in with my friend, EJ.  He’s 26, i met him through work.  He’s working on his Master’s Degree in Computer Science at The Other University, he’s very smart, kinda quiet and we get along well.  Since i’ve made this decision, i do not expect you to provide any more financial support.  i appreciate that you paid for my first year, but with working and sharing expenses with him, i can do it.

Mom:  You’re using birth control, aren’t you?

Dad:  Computer Science?  Must be very smart!  Does he have one of those personal computers**?

The initial meeting went reasonably well. Mom was cold.  Dad shook his hand and talked about computers for an hour.  EJ was cool and laid back.   It went pretty well with the folks from then on.  Over the years, there were still moments where they just couldn’t have responded more differently.

After living together for a year, we decided to buy a washer and dryer together.  Having saved up a little money, it would be absolute decadence not to have to use the communal washing machines, which were only open at odd hours and generally smelled like ass.  For me?  This was the first hint at commitment.  Purchasing major appliances.  Nothing says “i’m grown up now” like a Whirlpool…

Calling to share the exciting news with my parents, i got the following responses:

Dad:  It’s a big step.  You paid cash, and that’s the right way to do it.  Going in debt can cause trouble…

Mom:  Well, you know you separate the bright and dark colors from the white clothes…

Never mind the fact that i’d been doing my own laundry for a few years at this point….  But i guess that’s why it’s nice to have two parents.  It gives you license to ignore one…


* Footnote for my children and any other readers under 30: This was before mobile phones. We had a phone, attached to a wall. There was no voicemail, or even answering machine option, in those days. Trying times, for sure… but it made us strong…

** The answer was “Yes”, and at the time (1981) NO ONE had computers.  It was an Apple II+ and it was the total shit at the time…. and no, i wasn’t a golddigger…

15 thoughts on “parental perceptions

  1. HAHA, I’m 28, but I still remember a time before cell phones and voicemail and answering machines. Granted, I was just a tot when we got our first answering machine, but still. 😉

    Seriously though, your parents could have been worse. If I moved in with a boyfriend, even now, my dad would ask about the financial matters and be all awkward and probably try to hug me. *shudders*

    My mom would get up on her Born-Again High Horse ™ and freak out on me. Despite the fact she and my dad dated for 5 years before getting married. They are idiots if they believe I believe they weren’t getting it on.

  2. Interesting piece – this indirectly filled in some of the gaps I wasn’t sure about before (being one of the newer readers), meaning the family tree and so on. I wonder if your mom realized you were actually fully mobile when she was giving you 5th-grade level advice? Had the exact same issue with my old man for years, until, like you, I sorta sat down one day and realized that I didn’t need to stay dependent upon them. Something about breaking that final tether can be a big hurdle for some, and I know a couple who have yet to do this (!), but totally worth it. Seems to immediately trivialize that “helpful” unsolicited advice from the ‘rents right away (no matter how well-intentioned it may be).

    Pax, SA

  3. I remember when there were no PC’s and mobile phones and stuff. That was back when I was just a kid out riding dinosaurs and watching the smart kid invent the wheel. We all laughed at him and told him it would never work. At least Mum knew how to use that new-fangled fire stuff.

  4. I loved life before mobile phones. Back then leaving the house was a real commitment to be unavailable. I miss those days …

    (PS: My mother’s reaction to my fleeing the nest was similar: “You’re not pregnant, are you?”)

  5. I understand the need to deny being a golddigger. When I moved in with my future ex-wife, her parents wanted to make sure I was after her car. She had a two year old Chevy Monza. I would rather have had the PC.

  6. jimmy & nursemyra – i always have been practical. you can’t wash poo-poo undies in a diamond ring, now can you?

    renalfailure – EXACTLY! Eventually i bought myself a small diamond just to get our parents off our backs…

    chamuca – i dunno. maybe your parents would do that just to mess with you – they seem to enjoy that!

    tigereyesal – it strikes me as particularly bizarre in that both of my children are now OLDER than i was when i moved in with their father… how would i feel if my daughter moved in with a 30 year old? yoicks?!?!?

    sonny – in some ways my blog is a memoir of my father. he gave up everything he loved (friends, music, art, recreation) to rescue my mom and her two children (my elder-siblings) from rather difficult circumstances. mom was cold and bitter, from a life lived roughly, but no matter how good dad treated her, she was bitter. and remains bitter to this day…. dad died 7 years ago. and i miss him. still…

    archie – wow! you got to ride dinosaurs?!?

    tNb – i guess they must have taught that stuff in 1960’s/1970’s “mom” schools… dad actually laughed at it… said “she’s obviously acting responsibly. the first thing you thought of was sex?”

    chris – my ex treated me well. he bought me an ovation 12-string for christmas our first year together. after i lived there for a month. because he didn’t know what else to get me… it was sweet….

  7. I’m almost as old as Archie, and all I had to ride was woolly mammoths. Unfortunately, since I was the oldest, I was the goody two-shoes who stayed at home until I married. Hey, I didn’t say anything about not having sex, did I?

  8. @archie – as the creationists like to call ’em “Rapture ponies”… i love that phrase….

    @silverstar – i am still blocking out those moments of sexuality i toyed with while still living under my parents’ roof… especially since mom still has the same house…. it’s strange…. like a ghost of my ancient self…

  9. “Nothing says “i’m grown up now” like a Whirlpool…”
    Nail, meet head.
    I remember having an Apple computer as well.
    Total memory? 8MGs
    Yeah, a muscle masheen . . .
    Your Dad sounds like a hoot.

  10. @michael – my favorite pass time at that point? 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and UltimaII, RasterBlaster pinball… Dad put the ‘practical/functional’ parts in his youngest daughter. still miss him. a lot.

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