I have writers block or something. I have all these posts that come to mind. But I sit down and I can’t even post pictures. All I’m good for right now are one-liners on Twitter.
But then earlier this week I somehow found myself rewatching Pretty In Pink. I love Pretty in Pink. It’s one of my favorite 80’s movies ever. But I’m not sure how I actually watched it. Normally I put things in my Netflix instant queue with good intentions, but find myself watching The IT Crowd over and over again instead. But this week I had a shitty Tuesday and needed some good old fashioned fluff/love/OMD and Pretty in Pink fits the bill. And naturally I had to follow it with Say Anything. Naturally.
I love Say Anything even more than I love Pretty in Pink and almost any other movie, actually. But parts of it hit fairly close to home so I haven’t seen in in a few years. Cause, see, Diane Court’s dad is totally my mom. I told this to Bethany over Twitter and then made myself a promise that I’d journal this out here because it’s way too complex for Twitter. And also because I need to type something here.
I don’t know what my mom actually had – according to her medical records she was diagnosed as bipolar, but my understanding is that to be bipolar, one must exhibit both highs and lows. And I cannot think of one instance in my entire life where my mom was in a manic phase. I think it is more likely that she had some personality disorder. Paranoid maybe. Or depressive. Maybe borderline.
My mom was charming and charismatic and used these qualities to form unnaturally strong bonds with people. In some cases it would be an intense, but short-lived, friendship. In my case it was a controlling need to have me as her “best friend.” Which is confusing for me now that I’m a mom, because I’m always afraid I won’t know how or where to draw the line in friendship with my children as they grow. I think the biggest thing I can do, that my mom was unable to provide for me, is to give them the opportunity to question me, stop me, and make me apologize when I screw up. In my mother’s case even her apologies were manipulations, deposits into some emotional bank account she’d withdraw from the next time it suited her.
Diane’s dad has a similar relationship with her. He genuinely loves her, but he isn’t capable of love the way a parent should give it – freely. His love is controlling, but disguised as friendship. He tells her that she can tell him anything, but of course she can’t because he can’t actually handle it. He can’t handle the idea that she could be growing up and away from him. When I was 13, 15, and 18 – all significant ages in terms of growth into adulthood – my mom would go through a very difficult phase where she would become belligerent and angry with me. We’d fight all the time and I’d be punished for things that normally would not be an issue (for instance, one day I arrived home only five minutes later than we’d agreed on due to car trouble – I was grounded). She would repeatedly accuse me, “You’ve changed.” Which, of course, I hadn’t. I’d grown. But each time I grew a little more into an adult, she knew she was closer to being alone and she grasped desperately at me. It’s a bloody miracle I wasn’t entirely stunted by her manipulations. Being that I am, to this day, so open to what those I care about think of me, I don’t know how I remained strong and continued in my right growth pattern.
I don’t think Diane’s dad was quite as desperate as my mom in that sense. He still functioned in society and had friends. He didn’t have that same distorted need to keep Diane as close to him as possible. Still, there is definite dislike of Lloyd Dobbler, and I don’t think it’s only because he is worried that Diane will lose sight of her goals. I think it’s because he’s afraid that Lloyd will show Diane things her dad has kept successfully hidden from her. Lloyd is honest and that threatens Diane’s father. Truth always threatens liars. So he spends days trying to talk her into breaking up with Lloyd. And she allows him to make that decision for her. I’m not unfamiliar with this scenario. My mom convinced me to break up with my high school boyfriend.
“I just want you to have everything,” he tells her. “Is that wrong?” Suddenly switching from intense pressure on her to break up with Lloyd, he swings into Loving Father mode. Guilt. She has no right to be angry at her dad because he’s just acting out of love. She’s primed for the next step: sympathy for him. He’s being pestered by the IRS, he’s innocent, there’s so much on his plate right now. No. But don’t worry about him. “Live your life.” And he walks away, mid-hug.
And it’s done. She’s decided to give Lloyd a pen.
And the lies. I lived for years choosing not to see my mom’s lies. They were obvious, so obvious. Embarrassingly obvious. But for one reason or a hundred, I didn’t let myself see them. And I can remember the day I finally had to face them. It was also the day my relationship with my mom became irreparably broken. I see the look in Diane’s face when she goes to the IRS to plead for her father. She gets home and sits for a moment, trying desperately to stay in her safer world of denial before her need for truth takes control and she searches the house, eventually finding the evidence she needs to tear down the facade of her entire world.
“This money’s for you!” Guilt trip.
“I make their lives better!” Excuses.
“Go ahead. When I’m old give me someone like me. But go ahead.” Passive aggressive. Distract from the issues. Guilt trip. Make excuses. Gaslight.
“Is this because of Lloyd?” Angry. Denial. DEFLECTION.
“That’s right. Work it out.” False sympathy. Gross.
“Take it easy how bad you make me out to be. I’m the only dad you’ve got.” THREATS.
And she’s done. She’s so ashamed. I know, Diane. I totally know.
Later, from jail: “She can’t still be mad at this?” Actually, you know? She kind of can. Maybe you didn’t notice, but you tore her entire world apart. That’s going to take more than a few weeks to heal from.
And she turns to the only person she has left. Lloyd. And she loves him. She absolutely does. But she runs to him not because she needs him, but because she needs someone. She’s not being dishonest – she doesn’t know how to be dishonest. She’s just reeling, she’s confused, she doesn’t know which way is up. She doesn’t actually know what is real. There are aspects of this that I relate to as well. Needing someone. Running away. Needing to get my bearings. Only I had kids in the middle of that and got stuck as a mom before discovering what my world actually was and exploring it on my own, as an adult.
Maybe that’s why she chose her dad over her mom. Because she was already emotionally tied to him. Or maybe her mom is just that much shittier a parent – she doesn’t represent herself real well in the scene she’s in.
I made the choice, too. Sort of. There were times when I couldn’t stand to be at my mom’s. I remember briefly moving into my grandma’s house as a teenager. Because drunk grandma was better than drunk, lying, hoarder mom. But it didn’t last long. A week? Less? Because I missed my mom.
She always told me that if I lied to her, she’s have a hard time believing me because trust is very hard to rebuild. Ironic, isn’t it? Is that denial? Or was that a subconscious cry to me to stop believing her? In any case, she was right.
There was a time, a few years ago, where her friends called me and told me she’d stopped drinking. And I didn’t believe them. When we cleaned out her house we found no evidence of any alcohol. So they were right. Only. She’d been prescribed a heavy dose of morphine. So how sober was she, really?
So. Say Anything is kind of a heavy movie for me in many ways. And this post was pretty heavy, too. I just don’t have much of the funny writing coming out these days. I mean. Except for those tweets.