Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Control control control

There is nothing more irritating to me than being around control freaks. People who start sentences with "you need to..." and "you have no business doing..." and "you should think about..." Sometimes I feel like everyone I am related to is a control freak, and the main object of their control is my life. My siblings, every last one of them, seem to feel the need to direct me, advise me, push me, know where I'm, what I'm doing, when I'm doing it. When I fail at something (like oh, say, a marriage), they are all over that, not with "I-told-you-sos" but with endless unasked-for input and disapproval and ways to be more like them. When I was married, they treated me much more like the adult that I am. When I divorced, I got demoted back to 12-year-old status again. I can't seem to shake their endless involvement and frankly, they are making me neurotically private in an effort to avoid their infantilizing scrutiny and control.

I have one sister-in-law who treats me like one of her kids. She's only five years older than me, mind you, and she's got all sorts of stuff going on in her own life that needs addressing, but I guess it's much more fun for her to criticize mine.

"You need to sleep more. If you slept more, it would be easier for you to lose weight and you wouldn't be at such high risk for cancer."

"High risk for cancer? Erratic sleeping habits place you at high risk for cancer?"

"Yes, I just read an article about that. And you need to drink more water."

"You know I also just read an article about the whole water-drinking thing. Turns out it's not really a health benefit to constantly flood your body with water...."

"(utterly dismissing me and anything I have to say) You need to drink more water. You're not giving your body enough fluid."

"Well, I think cutting down on eating and exercising more will probably be a lot more important than going to sleep at 10:30 and walking around with a water bottle all day...."

"Listen to me! You need to get to bed earlier and you need to drink more blah blah blah..."

And so it goes. Mind you, this particular sib has a weight problem and is a breast cancer survivor, so there is no question in my mind that she is projecting her stuff on me because I am a relatively easy target and she knows I won't fire back. Frankly, I think getting cancer is just a lottery, and I don't think staying up late is going to put me at higher risk. But I am subject to this kind of "helpful advice" all the time. And it bugs the hell out of me.

Maybe it would be easier to take if I thought my sibs actually appreciated some of the stuff I've had to deal with of late. You know that supposedly Indian proverb: before you judge me, walk a mile in my moccasins. I mean, in less than eight years, I have moved cross-country twice, lost a job, lost a parent to a horribly slow illness (to whom I was the primary caretaker, being the only sib without children), lived through a painful marriage, gone through a divorce, and find myself all alone at an age where they are all immersing themselves in their spouses, their children, their nachas-enriched lives. I pat myself on the back that I am still gainfully employed, emotionally sound, and high-functioning. I never complain to them, not a word, even when there is significant stuff about which to complain. I don't expect sympathy or a prize or even acknowledgment for what I've had to deal with, but a little privacy would be nice. My female sibs and sib-in-laws are all stay at home moms, and my male sib and sib-in-laws are all career oriented dads who have their every personal need taken care of by their wives. I know everyone has worked hard and I really don't deny them one bit of their happiness, but then would they please leave me the hell alone and stop trying to control my life?

I have another sib who insists that I email her my itinerary whenever I fly somewhere.

"Why? " I ask her.

"In case something happens or we need to locate you."

"But I have a cell phone. And what exactly are you thinking will happen, that you need my flight itinerary? The plane will go down and you will need to know which seat I was in? I mean really, what? When I was married , I flew seven or eight times a year and you never asked me to send you anything."

"But then your husband knew your itinerary and he was taking care of you."

Hah! If she only knew how disconnected I was to my husband during the course of our marriage. And what is this "taking care" crap? So now, she needs to take care of me? Am I one of her kids?

I think one of the reasons I was so close to my Dad was that he never, ever tried to control anything I did. Once I moved out, he pretty much treated me like a grown-up, even before I was married. I think he instinctively recognized that this control thing was a major trigger for me and wisely avoided it. Maybe he empathized. His life was so much harder than any of ours, but he never complained. He too, was a private person who didn't take control or criticism well.

This morning, one of my sisters started in on my again. This time about the way I was handling some stuff with my cousin. I had enough. I didn't hang up on her, but I did tell her that I couldn't listen to it anymore and gently hung up the phone.

This is why family members are often so estranged from each other. They don't know when to stop. They don't know when to back away and give the people they love the space they need. I love my sibs, but I need some time away.


abandoning eden said...

if you don't want them to tell you what to do, why tell them about your plans at all? I fly all over the country and go on trips all the time without telling my parents or siblings. I might tell them when I get back, or maybe not. Then again i'm not as close with them as you seem to be.

Also you think your 5-year-older sister in law treating you like a kid is bad, my 5 year YOUNGER cousin treats me like a kid cause she has a husband and 2 kids, and as far as she knows, i'm single.

Also I hear you on the entire female family being stay at home mom thing. I actually find I can relate to men in my family more so than the women, cause they at least can appreciate that I acomplish a lot at work, while to the women, if I'm ont staying home raising babies, I'm a failure.

WebGirl said...


I love my family. I want to be involved with them, but still have some privacy and autonomy over my life. Unfortunately, their attempts at controlling my life has made me ultra-private and secretive, and that's not the way I want to be. I want them in my life but I want to be treated as a grownup too.