Staying with a theme.
Since it seems to go without saying that the relationship that a mother has with her son is different to the relationship that she has with her daughter, it would seem to follow that the effect on a son of inadequate mothering would be different to the effect felt by a daughter. I wonder whether the wounds are deeper.
At least a daughter is not likely to extrapolate from her experience the conclusion that all women are like her mother, because she will have herself as another example with which to make a comparison. She will be able to say “But I am not like that”. Perhaps it is more difficult for a son, because his mother may be the only woman he knows intimately and he may, as a child, wrongly conclude that all women are like his mother. All women will abandon me. All women will need too much of me.
By the same token, of course, a daughter may be more prone to subconsciously branding all men with the stamp of her father than a son who finds it easier to simply dismiss the father as a jerk because he (the son) knows he (the son) would behave differently.
Becoming a stone child is one way of dealing with emotions that are too painful to feel. Another way is to dull the pain with alcohol and drugs. Both are ways of not expressing the anger, of not feeling the sadness behind the anger that accompanies the injustices suffered, anger which if turned outward, rather than inward, can cause untold harm to other people, and is socially unacceptable. Better to stay quiet or hurt yourself than to hurt others, right? I do not know why some people turn their anger inwards, and self harm, whilst others are able to project it outwards. What determines the direction? I guess it has something to do with the amount of power that the individual feels they possess. Harming yourself, with alcohol or drugs or hidden cuts, speaks of hopelessness and powerlessness, whereas outward aggression is a continuing rebellion, a refusal to be cowed, even if the invincibility is illusory or narcissistic.
I am beginning to rejoice in the fact that my defence mechanism was to shut everything down. It could have been so much worse.
Jonathan Rendall is a prize-winning author. He won the Someset Maugham prize for writing, joining a list of brilliant writers such as Ted Hughes, V S Naipaul, John le Carre, Susan Hill, Ian McEwan and Martin Amis, to name but a few. He grew up in Greece after his father and mother moved the family there, and his father sold Mills & Boon to the Middle East. Then he went to Oxford Univerity and met his (now ex-) wife, and they had three beautiful children. He is also an alcoholic. This is his very disturbing account of his two mothers:
Why me, Mum?
He was broke, his writing career had stalled and he needed to kick-start it. Why not track down his birth mother – surely that would make for a good book? Jonathan Rendall set out to find the woman who placed him for adoption but what started out as the pursuit of a book deal ended up plunging him into an identity crisis. His advice to anyone thinking of following suit? Don’t
This is a cautionary tale, a story not just about me and my family but about the culture we live in. It is a culture of intimacy, a confessional society where writers, artists, celebrities and nobodies routinely cannibalise their lives in pursuit of … what? Great reviews? Money? Notoriety? Who knows? I thought I could do the same and emerge unscathed. I was wrong.
I needed something to do. I had been a boxing writer, a boxing manager, a journalist, a novelist. Careerwise, I had hit a dead end. I was living on a flyblown Suffolk pig farm. You couldn’t even open the windows. I was 34 and skint. I got up from my desk, looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud: ‘What the fuck are you doing?’
I had a shower, put on a robe, put my feet up on the desk and cracked open a beer. I recalled that I had been adopted. That was it! I would set out to trace my real mother and write a book about it. Well, she’d given me away, so the least she could do was let me get something out of it. I walked across the fields to the village pub, the White Horse. I got my pint, stood by the bar, and told John the landlord what I’d decided to do.
‘Don’t do it,’ John said.
‘What?’ I said.
‘I knew a guy once who was adopted,’ he went on. ‘Very successful he was, high up in the BBC. But he was obsessed with finding his real mother. Finally, he found her. He was in his forties by then, she was a real council-estate job. He moved her out of there. He gave up everything for her so they could be together. His job, his old home, everything. And then, when his money ran out, so did she. It destroyed him. Terrible.’
Thanks for that, John. Have a nice day yourself. I laughed. This BBC bloke sounded like an idiot. How could you go all-in like that after 40 years of not knowing someone? I was not obsessed. I was just curious. It was no big deal. I would not go all-in. That kind of sentimentality is misplaced. My adoptive mother once gave me a letter all about my real one and within a week I had lost it. I can’t even have been all that curious.
Oh, cut the caustic will you? Losing that letter killed you. Don’t you remember how much you’ve thought about it? Every week of your conscious existence you’ve wondered what she’d look like and what it would be like for her to put her hand on your hair.
Read the rest here.