Class Traitor.

So this season, E had a hard conversation with his mom. When asked if I liked the book they sent me, he bit the bullet and explained that it really wasn’t my style of read. I could hear the (beat) pause and then the tone of his mom’s voice as she asked what I did like to read. “She reads a lot about werewolves and vampires,” E offered.

And then I think I heard the echoing crash of her highest hopes plummeting into the abyss.

Now, to be fair, I do read more than gothic horror tales, but I find it highly unlikely that I would choose to read her gift, a book containing the correspondence between Carol Sheilds and another woman, as they were both dying of breast cancer. E’s mom loves her some Can Lit, so that’s how she chose it. And as she sent along in a note, “I always think that people like the same things as I do”.

That sentence says it all, really.

As I am an educated, literate, artistic, middle-class woman with left-but-not-scary-left leanings, she expected that I was going to do what she would do: Force E to get a haircut, a wedding ring, a Toyota, a mortgage, and a ‘real’ job. She hoped I would take the soul of a rocker, and remake it into an accountant, I guess.

He has always been a big puzzle to his parents, no matter how he tries to explain himself. They’re all very musical, but they don’t understand how they raised a rock-and-roll guy. That’s the crux of it: He’s speaking in power chords, but they’re listening in opera.

And so when she heard about my lowbrow tastes, I think E’s mom finally twigged that I am never, ever going to ‘improve’ her son into something she understands. And I sort of hate her for wanting me to.

13 Comments to “Class Traitor.”

  1. By Deb, January 6, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

    “I always think that people like the same things as I do”.

    Wow….that sentence leaves me speechless.

  2. By Liz, January 6, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

    Yeah. I get speechless around her quite a lot.

  3. By Beth, January 6, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

    Ahhh, Random Illuminations? conversations between Carol Shields and Eleanor Wachtel? I got one for Christmas too, and haven’t opened it yet. Hmmmm.

  4. By Arwen, January 6, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

    Oh, Eleanor Wachtel?

    I’d read that… If either of you have a copy lying about.

  5. By Liz, January 6, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

    Nah. The Staircase Letters: An Extraordinary Friendship At The End of Life. It’s letters between Carol Shields and Elma Gerwin, a dear friend of hers. Arthur Motyer put it together for publishing.

    If it appeals to any of you, please let me know, and I’ll send it over.

  6. By Pam, January 7, 2008 @ 6:48 am

    Maybe you’re reading into this a lot, but along with the rest of the pressures mothers in law place on their daughters in (common) law, reformation of their wayward sons seems a bit burdensome.

  7. By Liz, January 7, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    Pam, I may be reading into it a lot. It’s a very weighted issue for me.

  8. By rachel, January 7, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

    Y’know, it is only the Very Privileged Indeed who get to choose to abandon the trappings of their own class in favour of another. So when their son uses the privilege they worked so hard for him to have, his parents have little right to complain, IMO.

    It happened like that with me and my family, to some extent. My entire life they’d told me I could be anything, do anything, think anything—I didn’t understand that they meant I had to choose it off a prescribed list. I went all lowbrow on them, and they were scandalized.

    The good news is, they’ve mostly come round. It only took 15 years and an explosive divorce. The divorce, in particular, made my parents realize, Wow, you CAN be, do, and think anything! Just like they’d always told me! Idiots.

  9. By Fran, January 7, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

    Hmmm, very odd choice of books to give to your son’s partner, considering the multitude of books available that would be more suitable. Nevertheless, it sounds like it could be an interesting read, though not necessarily for you!

  10. By Liz, January 7, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

    Haha, Rachel, I recognize that parental mindset!

    Them: You can do anything! You don’t need a man to be your meal ticket! You’re strong in your own right and the world is your mollusk of choice!

    Me: Okay. I’m not in a hurry to get married or own property. I am in love with a rock and roll guy. I choose wrinkled whelks.

    Them: ... Oh.

    I just wish E’s parents could understand that he is successful. He’s just not a genteel property-owner with concerns about crabgrass. Thank Goodness.

  11. By sarah, January 8, 2008 @ 6:29 am

    I feel the frustration. It’s hard to be in a family-type relationship with someone who just doesn’t get you. My mother- and sister-in-law persist in being absolutely flabbergasted (and not even trying to hide it) when my husband does something remotely competent. Both of these lovely women have told both me and their son/brother that they were sure he’d be a terrible father. And they seemed a little disappointed that he’s not.

  12. By stephanie, January 8, 2008 @ 11:38 am

    My husband’s grandmother used to give me books to read, then she would ask me about them every time I saw her. EVERY time. Finally I had to say, :Um…not really my style those books,” to which she would reply, “Oh…well, I just love them, I just love every part of them.” It’s awkward.

  13. By Liz, January 8, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    Sarah, they sound grim.

    Stephanie, that’s what I’m talking about. There’s no real way to both be honest and still graceful.

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