It's very difficult sometimes to properly convey what my family is like to normal people. Fortunately, I have a convenient shortcut for nerds: My mother is Lwaxana Troi, only without the telepathic powers, and she's married to her Mr. Homm. She's very intelligent, independent, and has a total lack of shame that very occasionally comes in handy, such as when one has been kidnapped and stripped naked by a number of rogue Ferengi; but overall, her refusal to respect pretty much any social norm that strikes her as stupid, or capitulate gracefully to other peoples' requests, drives most everyone bats.

A number of people have independently drawn this comparison over the years, one of them actually being my mother. She's thrilled. She has no idea why everyone on the Enterprise has sticks lodged up their unmentionables and thinks they should all just lighten up. She's also aware that I used to play a sort of gallows-humor game with my friends in high school that we called "My Mother's Insaner Than Your Mother", and she's proud of having routinely won.

There are many stories I could tell about my mother, but a lot of them end with people looking at me like I'm recounting light-hearted tales of having lived down the road from Dachau, so I've clapped a lid on most of them. One of the few that is both representative and relatively harmless is also one of the most annoying when I'm trying to eat cheaply, like I am now.

I hate white rice. Hate it. I'm good with rice as an ingredient in things -- I like casseroles, curries, sushi, stuffed pepper, and puddings. I will occasionally eat fried rice when I'm jonesing for cheap Chinese food. But the rats go berserk whenever I order a bentou box lunch from the sushi place that delivers from all the way out in Brighton, because they know the scoop of plain rice that comes with it goes straight into their bowl. It's theirs. I cannot stand the stuff. No amount of thinking that I need more grains and protein will make me eat beans and rice, regardless of how cool I am with burritos.

The reason for this is that, barring holidays and special occasions, my mother made white rice with dinner every single night for the first eighteen years of my life. I am not kidding. (She also boiled the broccoli until it was cammo green, but that's a separate issue. My mother does not so much cook as she heats food until it's non-toxic.) I was so sick of the stuff that when I left for college, I didn't touch rice in any form for an entire year. I left it on my supper plate whenever I went home to visit, because she still made the stuff.

Eventually, I asked her point-blank why the fuck she would do this. I expected I'd get, "rice is cheap," because my mother is one of those people who at some level is convinced she can't possibly be out of money if she still has checks left, and my childhood, while never really dangerous in the food department, was somewhat variable financially. Or possibly, "rice is easy," as my mother is at least partly aware of the aforementioned deficits in her cooking. I was even prepared for "but I like rice" -- which is way narcissistic but trust me when I say it would not be at all out of character for my mother -- or even "[insert family member here, possibly even me] refused to eat anything but rice!" -- which would almost certainly have been a confabulation, but if she had inserted that justification somewhere in her brain, would have at least made some sense.

What I actually got was, "Because my mother made mashed potatoes with dinner every single night, and I didn't want to do that to you kids."

I didn't actually make the face you just made, because I was in my twenties by the time I asked and I was unfortunately used to this sort of thing, but I did decide it was best for my mental health if I didn't inquire further. A friend of mine once told the tale to her therapist, third-hand, to illustrate some other point by allegory, and apparently it even made the therapist go a bit cross-eyed for a moment.

So if I ever mention that my family is kind of bats, bear in mind that the above is the thing I tell when I need a cute, harmless illustration of what they were like. They were also like that about basically everything else, which is not so cute and harmless, but you guys don't have to deal with them, so you're allowed to cut your imagination off wherever it starts distressing you.

When I moved to Boston, I did not bother to tell any of my relatives I was leaving Arizona. Zero of my non-relative friends thought this was a bad idea.


  1. I, uh, wow. That is an impressive disconnect between her brain and reality!

  2. My family is a different version of inexplicable, but that experience of trying to explain to people whose association with "family" is fabulous? So awful.


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