The Damaging Ideology of Perfection

The first time I realized my mother wasn’t perfect, that she wasn’t worth pleasing, was in December of 2017. There was a part of me that had always known the kind of soul-selling acts it would take for me to get a simple “I’m proud of you,” but I don’t think it had ever manifested itself so clearly as it had on that murky day preluding the week of Christmas.

When I had originally uttered the three little words which gave a brief yet clear depiction of what had happened, she grabbed my hand and all but yanked me off the edge of her bed, to the police station. She did not ask a single question and, to this day, I’m convinced that was her doing what she thought was expected of her. Nothing more, nothing less. I say this because, three days later, after various pep talks and saying I had to do what was best for me, she showed her true colors.

There have been a lot of disappointments in my life. A lot of soul-crushing moments where the very foundations of my perceived reality have shaken, and I have come crashing back down to earth. However, nothing has ever come close to the time my mom asked me to stop and think about how reporting my sexual assault might affect her. I was raised in a home where as long as we obeyed the laws, the police were on our side. Even though it was easy enough to mistake my assailant as the victim of this situation, one thing was evident to me, I had been touched without my permission and my body was used as a tool for the immediate sexual pleasure of a man who had acknowledged, and was actively ignoring, my wishes for him to stop.

My mom has this beautiful dream of a forever family of which white picket fences are a prominent fixture. I think everyone has an image in their mind like this to some extent. We all get stuck on this imagined need to create something that lasts forever. Whether you want to build buildings that never crumble or tell stories that never die, we are all longing to make something that will tie us to this life when we move onto the next.

She is and always has been a faithful Christian woman. Her parents were very traditional, and I’ve heard many horror stories containing emotional manipulation/abuse from her parents, my grandparents, which leads me to believe that is where her similar behaviors originated — this is not me making excuses for her toxic behavior, this is me making an observation. My mother’s college education was cut short when she decided to move to Utah and marry my father. The woman who raised me was dedicated. She shows up at church 30 minutes early, every Sunday, without fail and longs to one day reunite with her family in the celestial kingdom. I have never once heard her question a single gospel topic.

I am often left feeling like her biggest disappointment. This woman has worked hard her entire life to one day see all of her children married in a church and here I am, a pro-choice feminist covered in tattoos, throwing a wrench into her plans. Now, I know she says she’ll always love me but, as much as I would like to believe that, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so when she refuses to return my calls. I spent most of my time and energy growing up fighting to become my own person. My search for truth may have led me down a different path than my family, but that doesn’t mean it is any less valid or I am any less of a person than they are. So why do I always feel like I am?

It comes from the inherent disconnect between two people who believe different things and the inability to truly accept that there might not be any, one right way to live your life, and even if there is, it is not within our abilities as humans to decipher what that is. It comes from a disconnect in values, the way different generations/cultures are raised, and the different communication styles of separate individuals. Most of all, this problem stems from the unwillingness of two people to both acknowledge and adapt to differences in the other.

Why else do you think our country is currently tearing itself apart? Everyone has their own set of facts/opinions — the line between the two has become considerably blurred in our insatiable rage — and nobody else is allowed to be right.

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