Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Lady Is a Tramp

Another day, another scene from modern life. A 33 year old woman breaks up with her boyfriend and moves back in with her mother. For reasons that are never made clear, her father is not in the picture. So far, so good. The mother has two other grown children, neither of whom lives at home.

Problems arise when the daughter brings a series of men home to spend an hour or two alone in her bedroom. One day mother runs into one of these strange men in the morning and remonstrates to her daughter. The latter takes serious offense and chooses to give her mother the silent treatment. Mother finds that not hearing from her daughter is a relief, but she does not know how to feel.

Of course, asking how she should feel makes her a therapy culture product. She ought to ask what she should do, but she does not. She addresses her plaint to therapist Lori Gottlieb.

Herewith, the letter:

I am the mother of three adult children who moved out of the family home to start their own lives. I lived alone for more than five years and I never had a problem with empty-nest syndrome. I cannot stress enough how much I loved the solitude.

Four months ago, my 33-year-old daughter moved back in with me (with her dog!!!) after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, whom she lived with in another state. Of course, if my children need shelter, my home is always open, so it was only natural that I would welcome her and her dog.

The problem is that she has an, ahem, active social life. Since she moved into my home, there has been a steady stream of men coming over and spending time in her bedroom. They usually only stay an hour or two, but this weekend I woke up to find a man leaving my house. While I am angry and upset, I tried to be rational and explain that my home is my sanctuary, and that I don’t appreciate all the men she has coming and going like it’s Grand Central Station, and that I really don’t appreciate her having men stay overnight, especially without my knowledge or permission.

She’s angry with me and giving me the silent treatment. (Full disclosure: I like the quiet, so I’m okay with it.) She refuses to see my position and I don’t understand why.

Can you help me clarify for her my feelings on this subject?

You would think that the solution is easy. Throw the bum out. Or at least, do as Gottlieb suggests, define the terms of her stay… her household chores, her domestic responsibilities and perhaps even her paying some rent. And then mother should set some limits and boundaries about how long daughter will be welcome in her home.

Since we do not know whether the daughter has a job outside of the home, we are somewhat up in the air about these issues.

I would add that mother might do well to address the issue with her other children present. I do not like one-on-one conflicts. A united front is often more effective and more persuasive. More so since the mother in question seems like a total wimp. She seems to be passive and retiring, willing to allow her daughter any misbehavior.

Gottlieb continues:

It makes sense that you want to set some rules in your own home, but before you can clarify them for your daughter, you’ll want to have a clearer understanding for yourself of your rules and what’s motivating them.

Apparently, the thought has barely ever crossed the mother’s mind. She seems to have been a highly permissive parent. She seems never to have disciplined her daughter. She has allowed her daughter to use her home as what the French would call  a "hôtel de passe.” And did not mind as long as the men in question were only there for an hour or two. Mother was upset when she discovered that one of the men had stayed the night.

Apparently, neither mother nor therapist ever considers that the daughter is earning money from these assignations. Because, we do not want to be judgmental.

As Gottlieb explains it:

Here it will help to figure out what, exactly, bothers you about the people she brings over. Is it that you’re uncomfortable having any of her guests in your home (such as platonic friends) because it feels like Grand Central Station, or does it only feel that way with her romantic partners? Given that most adults have sex, would you like her to take her romantic life to the men’s homes instead? Or is your annoyance less about location and more about the kind of sex life she chooses to have? Meaning, if she were in a monogamous relationship with a committed boyfriend who stayed overnight, would you still be “angry and upset” and require her to ask permission and inform you in advance of his visits?

The feelings underlying your request likely informed its delivery, so I wonder whether your daughter is angry not just because she objects to your request, but because on top of that, she also feels judged. If you want her to understand where you’re coming from, you’ll also need to understand where she’s coming from, and she may feel humiliated and wounded by what might have been implied about her character in the way you presented the new rules. 

Surely, if the mother calls out her daughter for behaving like a tramp, something that the therapy culture does not allow, the daughter will most likely retort by raising the issue Gottlieb notes: do you want me to go to these men’s houses. Isn’t it safer under your roof?

As though these were the only two options!

Of course, if the men are strangers, we do not know who the daughter is bringing home and we do not know whether said males would be a danger to the mother too. Remember that men are suffused with toxic masculinity. 

Notice, that Gottlieb considers these one night stands, these hookups, to be romantic partners. This lame euphemism sugar coats what is going on.

And then, Gottlieb trots out the therapy culture cliché du jour: namely, that darling daughter feels judged by her mother. Duh. This implies that the only problem with this behavior is that mother does not approve. Do you really think that this is the only problem? Do you really believe that the daughter does not feel like something of a tramp, does not feel some sense of shame all by herself?

The therapy culture allows people to do whatever they please, but God forbid if you think ill of them for as much. They have license to misbehave, but you are only allowed to think what they want you to think. It’s an astonishing exercise in despotism, in mind control.

And we will note that the mother in question has not cast judgment. She seems to find it all slightly off putting, but she has not objected to the steady stream of different men in her home and in her daughter’s boudoir.

Does she not care? Does she not believe that her trampy daughter is developing what used to be called a “reputation” around the neighborhood? Does she understand that there are health hazards associated with having multitude of sexual partners? Clearly, daughter is flaunting her sexuality in her mother’s face… but we do not know why she feels so much hostility. Perhaps she is simply a bully and perhaps her mother is a weak-kneed patsy. Perhaps she is settling a score?

For her part, Gottlieb seems to be erring on the side of tact. She understands that any confrontation or discussion about the daughter’s sex life will end in a grand dramatic scene. So she defines the issue in terms of setting down new rules about participating in the household. If daughter does not want to follow the rules, she can move out.

One appreciates the value of such a approach, but one doubts that the mother has the strength or the will to carry it out. The time to raise the issue was when the first man spent his first hour with her daughter. 


whitney said...

I am a childless woman and I know many other people or couples my age that don't have children and also a bunch of empty nesters. Every single one of us is either happy we don't have children or happy they're gone. These are loved children but time to go. It's never a good thing when they come back to the house. I don't know where the media finds these people that are so sad they don't have children and so sad but they leave the house but I've never met any of them. I don't seem to be unique in realizing that solitude, quiet and privacy is the greatest luxury a person can have

And yes, I get I will never know the joy of having children but on the other hand you can't miss what you never had

Anonymous said...

Maybe her daughter is running her own solo startup "business" and those men are her "business partners"? There are probably worse careers under might is right Capitalism.