Monday, 12 December 2011

A question about mothers

Here's the next scene! Don't worry, I'm not going to post the entire book a paragraph at a time, but in the early stages there's lots of character development to work through. Questions to think about at the end ... does this feel like school :-)?

Misfortune Cookie

I wish my mother would get out of my head, but she’s in there like a splinter, working her way deeper by the day. To hear her talk you’d think she was Gloria Steinem, treating me to bitter doses of parental disappointment on the I-didn’t-raise-you-to-make-decisions-based-on-a-man theme. I’m not surprised she isn’t taking my move well. She can’t understand that I’m totally in love with a man she’s never met (read: she hasn’t had the chance to interrogate him with the tenacity of a Confessor during the Spanish Inquisition). This fact also stokes her arguments for coming back home. She likes to punctuate her sentences with the phrase “no need to rush”. In her view, to commit before the relationship has weathered at least two presidential elections is rushing. But we haven’t rushed. We’ve known each other more than a year. Sure it would have been nice to go out a little longer in London, but Sam couldn’t very well turn down his dream job just so we could date within the boundaries of my Oyster card.

I give Mom credit. She’s wily in battle, changing tactics to exploit the opposition’s weakness. But her most recent empathy attack hasn’t got a chance of success. I see right through her we’ve-all-been-there bonhomie. She’s no Liz Taylor when it comes to falling in love. She confessed this to my sister Deb and me one Christmas after a few too many White Russians. Marrying Dad, she’d claimed, was simply the sensible thing to do after a reasonable amount of time. They’ve always been sensible, my parents, embracing the all-American lifestyle with both hands. They produced two children, spaced appropriately, raised and educated with the resolutely middle class mores of our time. They’ve lived in the same (now paid off) house since I was in nappies. They lease a new fuel-efficient car every five years and keep fit playing tennis twice a week. They’ve gone on holiday to the same lake house every summer for thirty years. Believe me, coming from a stable family like that is no blessing when you’re naturally inclined to screw up. 

I know she doesn’t mean to sound judgmental, and I do appreciate her genuine concern. After my rather out-of-the-blue move 3,000 miles to London last year, this relocation probably has a whiff of déjà vu about it. That was completely different. Then, I got fired, got drunk and booked a non-refundable ticket that I was too cheap not to use. This time I have a plan. I admit I can see why she might question my judgment given that my plan involves a man who isn’t actually in the country. But she should know me well enough to understand that it’s no use trying to bully me into returning home. It’s not (just) that I’m stubborn. She’s fighting against an involiable mother-daughter dynamic, a formula that has held true through the ages:


where a mother’s nagging across time zones is directly responsible for her daughter’s inability to listen, plus her exponential capacity for spiteful digging in of heels. It doesn’t take Pythagoras to work that one out. 

* * * * * 

Those of you who've already read Single in the City will know that Hannah's mom is not an easy woman to deal with. So our decision is this: Given that she doesn't like Hannah's move to Hong Kong, should she remain obstinately against her daughter's decision (hopefully to comic effect), or should she soften, and support her daughter? I wanted to keep this more open-ended instead of using a poll, because there's lots to consider here. So what do you think? Post a comment and let's chat about it!

* * * * *
Poll results:
Those who've read Single in the City know that Hannah's mother is not happy about her daughter living abroad. Should we:
Keep her unhappy in the sequel - it's much funnier to see her trying to get her daughter to see sense (70%)
Make her mother supportive - after all that's the way she'd be in real live (11%)
Keep her unhappy but have her come round to Hannah's point of view in the end (17%)


  1. I think Hannah's mom should continue to give her grief because that's what mothers are for. :) In all seriousness, a heroine needs drama and obstacles to overcome on her journey to true love/happiness/whatever. Her mom can come around in the end, but only after Hannah proves that the decision she made was the right one.

  2. Thanks Tracie (Mom, if you are reading this, ignore Tracie's comment :-))

  3. This is a bit unorthodox, but I'm posting for someone else... a lovely commenter over on the Guardian article about our collaboration has had a look here and written some very good ideas over on the Guardian website. I don't want to lose her (his?) ideas, so am posting them here. UnpublishedWriter, I hope you'll join us here!

    "Michele - had a quick look at the blog - I wondered (not really knowing the characters) if the mother's first fears might be of her daughter living in a strange foreign country (as she herself, I presume, has never ventured out of the US).

    This could range from what will she eat, won't she miss oreos, how will she communicate - to fears of opium dens and communist brain-washing and the dangers of the slave-trade and the Triads. I'm sure there's comic potential in these, but they may be a bit stereotypical and perhaps not reflect the mother's character as you have drawn her.

    Also thought there was maybe potential for remembering some of those holidays at the cabin through a young Hannah's eyes?

    Just a thought."


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