Illustration by Tiffy Thompson
I have short, fat fingers that resemble breakfast sausages. I rub my feet together like a locust when I sleep. I can turn on ‘selective deafness’ with anyone who even slightly annoys me. These are my unavoidable inheritances.
I’m slowly but steadily turning into my mother, which is terrifying and comforting. Terrifyingly comforting. According to one study, age 32 is the magic point at which you start to become like your mother, “adopting her pet phrases, worries and style of treating romantic partners.” Transitioning into a parent can be a dicey affair. While I loathe the obvious genetic inefficiencies (damn you, metabolism!), I am thankful for the advantages — like a questionable Scottish constitution which guarantees that I never get hungover.
At the onset of my troubled teenage years (all 31 of them), I began to distance myself from my lame parents. Walk 20 paces behind me in the mall, mom! (but buy this shirt for me). “Augh! Can you please stop the tuneless humming!?! Are you harmonizing with a fabric softener commercial right now?”
Her quirks affect me on a visceral level because I know I will become her someday, like an alien spore. My friends do not understand my deep well of annoyance and scold me (because my mom is adorable!) so I feel guilty. Conversely, I long to possess the traits of my father: so measured, fiscally responsible, and easily tanned.
Of course, there are obvious bonuses. I’m pretty easygoing and generous by nature. I can tell a decent funny story from time to time and I have naturally curly hair. There are also things that I have made a conscious effort to avoid — like pronouncing ‘Washington’ as ‘Warrrshington’ and typing INEXPLICABLE CAPS LOCK IN EMAILS.
This is why I like the site ‘When Parents Text’ (small keypad, old hands). There is a smug tone to these kids reposting their parents’ hackneyed texts. I know by the time they are old, some new technology will have rendered them hilariously out of touch. They will have become their parents, despite all the raging against it.
I hate when I get short-tempered with my mom. She is quintessentially the best mom of all time – no question. She has dealt with my stupid antics and weathered my lousy mistakes with concern and love. When she suffered a stroke about four years ago the prospect of losing her (and all of her quirks) was unfathomable.
These little idiosyncracies come out in drips, filter their way down through generations, keep us connected to something larger than ourselves. A grandmother’s love of painting, a mother’s warm disposition, and even fat little fingers represent a chain unbroken. I will have gotten to the point where I am her as much as she is me.
And then I get to annoy the shit out of my daughter.