Out of Treatment, My Mother’s Vagina Came First

Michael the Therapist asked why I had to go to the dentist.

— Because of the Conference on Depression, I cracked a tooth.
— How did a conference crack your tooth?
— Sigh…

There was a Conference on Depression that I decided to attend — because I am depressed — even though I was not presenting. Normally, I don’t go to these things unless I’m involved somehow. Anyway, I knew a few people from the Art Institute who were going to be giving papers. I met them when I interviewed that Palestinian Journalist a couple of years ago for their video archives. I decided to arrive early and mingle with them.

“You’re not usually so social,” commented Michael.

“I can be a butterfly when need be,” I explained.

— Plus, I was bored with sitting around at home watching Star Trek re-runs.

When I got the conference, I saw that they had a tray of bagels sitting out. The university provides the same food for every event, and I knew they’d have these. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I was talking to someone I knew when I bit into the bagel. The bagel was so hard that it cracked my tooth. I felt this sharp, intense, pain and shouted out. Then I asked around if anyone had a Tylenol or aspirin on them. But none of them had one. The two people from the Art Institute acted all aghast that I wanted an aspirin. They harangued me for “dependence on the Pharmaceutical Industry.”

— Because you wanted an aspirin?

YES! Assholes!!! I even asked Kat, an acquaintance who helped organize the event. I thought all women carry painkillers around for their periods. No one had one. While the speakers were all condemning me, including some lady I never even met from Austin, Kat gave me a sad, condescending, look. As if I were “the problem.” I was furious! I can’t remember ever being so angry. I already knew what this conference was going to be about. “Depression is socially constructed,” or something equally insipid. I was ready to start yelling, “Fuck all of you! If you people hadn’t taken your Prozac this morning, you’d be huddling in the corners of your hotel rooms, weeping.”

— You didn’t say that, did you?
— No. I was in too much pain. But I was right about the conference. I walked out on the first paper because she was delivering the same Foucauldian line about mental illness being a social construct.
— I take it you don’t believe that.
— Obviously, neither do you. I was in the suicide ward, remember? I’ve seen true mental illness, and it sure as hell wasn’t socially constructed. Plus, I hate hate hate everything Michel Foucault ever wrote. It’s all eloquent gibberish. He’s the kind of thinker with a Humanities training who instrumentalizes any other field he can get his hands on, even if he doesn’t fully understand it.

At this point, I stopped talking.
— You’ve gone quiet.
— Oh, I was just thinking about when I was in the suicide ward, and Michael called but refused to visit. How he told me “I was about to get back together with you, and then you go and do this to yourself. I could never be with anyone who could try to kill himself.”
— You never told me he said that.
— Yeah, it’s what he said.
— That’s fucked up.
— Yeah. What bothers me about it was that he made the whole attempt about him. It was his way of taking even that away from me. When it was really about me. It was my thing. My act. He’s too narcissistic to understand that. He’s such a fucking asshole!

I began to cry.
After a couple of minutes Michael the Therapist said, “I’ve never seen you cry before. This is the first time you’ve cried in session.”
— I never cry.
— Really? Are you exaggerating?
— It’s true. I don’t cry. It doesn’t do any good. I was raised to believe crying is ‘manipulative.’
— Still, children cry.
— I didn’t.
— That’s difficult to believe.

When I was about five or six, I explained to Michael, my mom took me to the dentist for a cavity. I don’t really remember the incident — probably because I was anesthetized — but the dentist screwed up; he drilled into my gums. He was fairly panicked about it. I remember, afterwards, he was trying his best to placate my mom. I don’t know why he bothered. She was very blasé about it. I guess he was worried she would sue him or something. Knowing her, she probably bartered my missing piece of gums for a discount. In the car, on the way home, my mom blamed me for the accident.

— How was it your fault?

It’s because, according to her, when I was a baby I would cry a lot at night for my bottle. She never got up. ‘Crying was your way of manipulating me and your father. Your father always fell for it. All that milk he would give you rotted your teeth. I used to tell him not to indulge you so much.’ I guess, while she sat in bed, my dad would bring me the bottle. She thinks that this caused milk-rot. I think my dad, being an obstetrician, knows how much milk to give a baby. But she thinks that her assessment is objective since my brother never ever gets cavities, and my dad was already out of the picture shortly after he was born. I have no memory of them at the same time. I remember my father, and then I remember my brother. Never both of them at once. I really don’t know why she thinks Ameer got any more or less milk as a baby than I did since Ameer was my Aunt and cousin’s pet project, not hers. I didn’t have “milk-rot.” I was just lackadaisical about brushing my teeth, whereas Ameer — because is a robot in all ways — is very methodical about brushing.

— So your mom blamed your cavity on your crying as an infant?
— Yeah, she used to go on about how I’ve always been manipulative since I was a baby. And she’d rant about how I cried. Gawd, she’s a total bitch. Oh! Also, her other line is “you’ve always been aggressive. Ameer never punched me when he was in the womb.” Get that? I didn’t kick. I was ‘punching’ her. I guess even as a fetus, I knew how to throw a punch.
— I can see why you don’t talk to her.
— Which doesn’t stop her from butting into my life. Lately, she is convinced I am bi-polar. She keeps sending me “literature” on bi-polarity.
— You’re not bi-polar.
— Really? I’d hate for her to be right for once.
— If you were bi-polar you’d have experienced severe and immediate side-effects from the Adderall.
— Other than the side-effects I am experiencing?
— Far worse.
— I see.
— Why does your mom think she knows anything about psychiatry?
— Because that bitch is a know-it-all. Also, she became a nurse in a mental institution after she married my dad. Can you imagine? She worked there while I was in the womb. Think of the level of neurosis I was exposed to even before I was born!
— I’d like to discuss your feelings about how your mother put her needs before yours.
— What’s to discuss?

Ever since I was a little boy, I understood that my mom’s vagina came first. She never let my brother walk around alone. I always had to walk him to Little League. But me, even when I was very young, she always sent to the store whenever she was having her period. I was supposed to go there by myself and “ask for ibuprofen.” It was always very ominous. She’d be sitting in her room with the lights off, and would scream my name. I’d come running into the room and she’d ask me — either politely or angrily — to go to the store to get her some ibuprofin.

— How did it make you feel when she asked you to do this?
— Oh, I suppose at the time, I was glad I felt needed and important. I think, at first, I was confused because I didn’t know if ibuprofen was an English or Arabic word. She would use Arabic with me, but not Ameer since he never learned it as a kid. This would lead to difficulties if I, for example, were to ask for something in Arabic at the store and not be able to pinpoint an item in English. Yeah, so I felt important. Later, I remember being annoyed at her lack of preparation. The annoyance is what helped me learn to start standing up to her. I mean, why did she wait till she got cramps before getting the stuff? Since she was raised in Egypt, from a cultural perspective, it was very slutty and inappropriate for her to involve anyone in the business of her cramps. She was pretty trampy when I was a kid. She’d be out for all hours, staying out till 2AM a lot. I’d make dinner for brother and I, and make sure he went to bed. I once walked into her room one Saturday and found some guy in her bed. Come to think of it, he looked a lot like the dentist who cut my gums. They both had a Magnum P.I. look. I wonder if it was the same guy?

For a long time, we lived in terror of her. Whenever Ameer and I would hear the garage door open, we’d start throwing all our toys and action figures into a blanket. Then, while he wrapped the blanket up into a sack and swung it into the corner of his room, I’d be wiping down the kitchen counters. He’d come back and switch the channel from cartoons to the news. We had a system. Sometimes one of us would make the mistake of speaking to her when she was opening the mail, and she’d scream that she didn’t need to be assaulted right after she walked through the door.

My mother always complained that my father — who delivered me — gave her a never-ending episiotomy after I was born. He kept sewing her tighter and tighter. Eventually, she had to warn him that if he put in one more stitch, he would never touch her again. She always told this story. I would say her vagina was central in my childhood imaginary.

— I think we made some progress today. How do you feel?
— Vague. I’m surprised I cried. I don’t feel embarrassed about it.
— You shouldn’t.
— And you shouldn’t tell me how to feel.

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment!

The End is Nigh!

3 Responses to “Out of Treatment, My Mother’s Vagina Came First”

  1. Ali Says:

    Wow, the image of your mom in the dark, demanding that you get here ibuprofen is kind of creepy. You’d think that she’d make it easier for you and have you ask for Advil. But I’m sure she didn’t want to pay brand name prices.Also the Star Trek mention is interesting. It was Sausan, after all, who seemed offended by the fact that I didn’t watch Star Trek. She went on and on about how every episode has some sort of moral or message, that every philosophical question has been answered by Star Trek.Great post.

  2. Jason B. Says:

    I’m always pained by accounts or depictions of adults being mean to children. Some people just don’t get it.

  3. Novaya Havoc Says:

    Bitch. You’re not depressed. At least you wouldn’t be if you accepted me as your new boyfriend. <3We could rip on Carey together. And then make sweet love. CONSIDER!

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