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…

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* 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…