I seem to have knocked down a number of sunny dispositions in my day. My dad would get mad at me when I threw gum wrappers out the car window that always found their way back in. Mom was perturbed hourly due to my frequent puerility. Then she went into mad-mother overload once she read my diary. My signature move was to bottle up all my feelings over time and reduce them to pages under lock and key. I got mad when she found that key and helped herself to my troublesome behavior.
Men get irritated when the TV station is changed during a major play in sports. They also turn into irrational hotheads if they receive a humongous and unexpected bill in the mail from a women’s retailer. And they will practically evaporate into thin air at signs of hormonal changes. But there are many more indications when a woman is displeased. They stare with a murderous look on their face. They’re yelling. You’re injured, and there’s a kitchen skillet lying next to you. I remember my mother getting mad at me for some things I did in kindergarten, grade school, high school, and long after I left home. I got pretty mad at her as well, mostly because of her various capacities as an ongoing prison guard and habitual interrogator. In fourth grade, I wrote her a note that said, “I’m not speeking to you for the rest of my life. P.S. I love you. Pattycakes.” She responded, “You’re so cute when you’re mad.” I contemplated a harsh comeback, that if it were up to me, would have sounded like, “Yeah, well I’m about to become goddamn adorable.” Except that she would have propagated irrepressible rage and likely killed me if I had spoken to her like that. Talk about your major mood swing. But she was usually smiling again within thirty minutes of being angry.
Back then, I lived on the fertile ground of misery. I wanted to be a happy-go-lucky individual with the freedom to do my own thing. Except the only thing I was entitled to as a teen was food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention. Otherwise, I was always involved in some sort of upheaval with my parents over whether or not I was deserving of anything else. I remember a specific instance as a teenager, calling our house after my curfew and telling my Dad that I would be home soon after I stopped to get something to eat.
“Where are you?”
“I thought McDonald’s closed at ten?”
“No Dad, they stay open twenty-four hours.”
Mom was in the background overhearing our conversation and said, “Not our McDonald’s. They close at eleven.”
“Well this McDonald’s is open forever.”
I could hear my infuriated mother. “Tell her to get her sweet hiney home right this minute.”
Dad paused for a moment then whispered, “Can you bring me one of those hot apple pies?”
Apparently my mother’s conduct policy was not showing positive results. I found temptation to be quite stimulative, with both the peccability and possibility of chastisement. I had to hustle to find an open McDonald’s. Dad wasn’t mad, but Mom was a bit chafed to say the least. I suspected that she got even angrier when I came home without any golden arched goodness for her as well. Humoring her got me nowhere. When I saw her dressed in a black nightie, I couldn’t help but inquire whose funeral she was attending. “Yours,” she said snidely. Nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the people you thought would never scar you. I asked, “Why are you mad at me?” I’m surprised she didn’t stand on a raised platform, hold a microphone, unfold an extensive scroll of my devious actions, and respond with, “Gee, now that you’ve asked,” proceeding to give me all the reasons she was peeved. She’s just lucky I didn’t have one of my really major mood swings.
Teachers were also continually mad at me in school, probably because I couldn’t take orders very well. Geez, I barely took suggestions let alone a succession of word and math problems. I was curiously concerned what good the standardized numerical testing did for us. I mean why would someone buy seventy-two watermelons then subtract sixty of them? And if Patty had fifty cupcakes and ate twenty of them, Patty was more than likely going to end up with elevated glucose levels and the need to run a cross country marathon. Math surely wasn’t going to help anyone find Nemo. I was told to pay attention. I was scolded for slumping in my seat. And there was that subtle discrimination when I wasn’t prepared for class. For some odd reason, using “the cat clawed my homework” excuse didn’t go over very well with my doubting educators. The biggest barrier to living my best life was being secluded in detention when I didn’t answer a bunch of inconsequential and silly questions on paper. They also got angry if I was talking, chewing, burping, lollygagging, and basically breathing. I’m pretty sure that institution is where most of my sarcasm and pent up anger began.
Then I married, and was fraught with all of the problems that couples face. I became a peace- obsessed warrior trying to understand a husband’s place in the world. Some days, I had to walk cautiously through the hallway while Arnold hubby Palmer practiced his putting. He may have had a superlative career in golf if I hadn’t come along and thrown his game off. He also got upset if I was vacuuming while he was trying to nap. Every discussion should have been recorded for framing and equality purposes. He got most annoyed when I made lousy meals. However, I did perfect one thing. I made pretty good citrus ice cubes with flavored vodka. If this man died, I swore his very last words were going to be, “I’m starving.” He could have taken the time to look inside a cookbook, gone to the grocers for ingredients to sustain his never-ending appetite, and slaved over a stove himself. If I got pregnant, I was sure he’d name the kid Chip or Lorna Doone. He was just a great big riled ravenous bear. Yet, I did think that he might be more miserable without me.
He did come through for me those times when I was mad. I remember specifically lying in a hospital birthing room spilling out my first daughter. I could finally relate to the time when he had that small sliver in his fingertip. He had a ringside seat to my screams and placental expulsions, and compassionately asked if I wanted a beer. I got a little more irritated knowing full well I couldn’t suck down some suds under those strenuous circumstances. I needed either a ten- gallon jug of Guinness or a hundred milligrams of morphine to stay relaxingly upbeat and calm. I would have been downright psychotic if my man had gone for a beer by himself. I was sober, and marveled at his ability to feed me ice chips when I was spewing snippy tones. He never got exasperated when I was clawing his arm like an ill-tempered wolverine. Though I did want to avoid being regarded as a burden. He loved me anyway during those final hours of pregnancy petulance, mostly because my boobs grew to the size of hot air balloons. But I had to tell him the baby was first priority.
Unfortunately, we found out that marriage is one of the leading causes of divorce. My betrothed wondered why everything wasn’t tidy when I was home all week, and I wondered why we weren’t living comfortably in wealth and splendor when he worked all week. I think I should get an award for not pitching a major hissy-fit when he wanted to keep everything when we separated, including the goldfish bowl with all the colorful pebbles. I needed time to recover from this tragedy. Then he turned downright indignant when I had a garbage sale and sold his golf clubs, his video games, the cobweb-covered exercise equipment, and other treasured belongings. I thought seventy-five cents was a reasonable offer for the grass seeder, and I threw in the lug nut wrench and taco stained couch. How else was I going to buy my new social calendar and all those single-girl essentials?