I am flying home this week to see my family in Colorado. I wish I could view this as a delightful break from Boston apartment-hunting, but in reality, going home has become so anxiety-inducing that my stomach curled into a stress ball the second I bought the tickets.
Visiting home is just so INTENSE. My parents want me to do things for them, and with them, and are inevitably hurt if I say no or ask to do something different. The quiet alone time that I need to recharge is often interpreted as a rejection, and this has been a tough semester — I’m feeling pretty damned depleted already. Also, my brother is so volatile that spending time with him feels like navigating a minefield while juggling chainsaws.
But what’s really got me nervous is my dad and my stepmom. See, I made a critical mistake with this year’s Christmas gift.
One of my Christmas standbys is the Kate Spade online sample sale, where I’ve found cute stuff for my sister-in-law, my brother’s girlfriend, and ::cough:: occasionally myself.* In related news, I never know what to get my stepmother, whose taste runs to lamps shaped like buffaloes (not kidding), fake plastic antlers mounted on a pink embroidered background (still not kidding), and strongly scented candles (that triggered wheezing in my asthmatic husband). I usually get her scented foaming soaps, but this year I decided to change it up. I got her a bright purple Kate Spade wristlet that was on mega-sale.
Here’s what I wanted the gift to say: “I am getting you a Christmas present because you are married to my father. Please accept this lazily selected item as sufficient personal contact until this same time next year.”
Here’s what the gift apparently said: “I love you! Why don’t you love me?! Pleasepleaseplease pay much more attention to me and love me back!!!!”
After Christmas I got the world’s most effusive thank-you note from my stepmother, replete with promises to spend way more effort getting to know me, especially since she knows how lonely I am amidst my cold and uncommunicative family (OK, she didn’t put it like that, but that’s the jist). That’s a problem because I have zero interest in spending more time with my stepmom. I try really hard to be friendly for my dad’s sake, but I can’t think of a single conversation I’ve had with her that interested me on any level. She shops at tween stores and thinks “tough woman” is an insult.
But there’s no avoiding it. I’ve agreed to make the terrifying drive up to my dad’s mountain home to spend time with him and my stepmom, where I suspect I will have to endure a series of attempts to lavish me with the attention she believes I’m lacking.
Stupid Kate Spade wristlet. Next year I’m going back to the soaps.
* My former self, a seventeen-year-old who sneered at “label zombies,” would probably kick me with her Doc Martens.