This week's column is written by daughter Francesca, and you'll see why.
Did you hear about the 10-year-old who writes self-help books? His name is Alec Greven, and in the spring he penned, or crayoned, How to Talk to Moms. Presumably, the intended audience is other 10-year-olds, but I think this book could have broader appeal.
Namely, to me.
I wasn't attracted to it in some condescending, look-how-cute way, either. I need this book. I need help figuring out How to Talk to Mom.
But here's the problem. I need the 23-year-old, just-moved-out-to-New-York-City version.
As you know, my mom and I are very close. When it comes to the big issues, feelings, emotions, etc., I can always speak frankly with Mom. It's the small stuff I'm sweating.
For instance, last night, I went to see my cousin in Long Island City. No big deal. So I mentioned this mundane outing matter-of-factly to my mother over the phone. But she didn't find it so mundane.
"How are you getting there? The subway? At night? ALONE?"
I thought I said, "I am going to see Paul's new apartment," but in mom-speak that translates to: "I am going to meet certain death in the New York City subway tunnels that are soon to be my tomb."
Talk about lost in translation.
So how should I have said this to Mom in a way that would not have thrown her into an unrecoverable tailspin of fear and worry?
Recently, I met a nice guy while out at a bar with friends. He's a young lawyer, and it turns out he grew up near me and we have a lot in common. I gave him my number, and lo and behold, he actually called me to go out. I share this good news with Mom, but again, in plain English. Her response?
"Dinner with a stranger? Did you verify what he told you? He could be anyone, you have no way of knowing."
See, my story in Mom-ese translated to "I met a guy named Ted Bundy, and I think he really likes me!"
To appease her, I had to Google the guy, find his last five addresses, proof of his alleged alma mater, and one official Notice of Appearance in court to prove he was a practicing (she immediately assumed he was laid-off) lawyer. And she still wanted me to spring for the $19.95 criminal background check.
God help me the night I actually went on the date.
I understand playing it safe, so my mother and I discussed some strategies on how to protect myself, just in case. Meet him at the restaurant instead of my apartment, make sure I get in the cab to go home alone, tell my roommate where I'm going, and plan when she should call me and expect me back, etc. I thought I had said all the right things in my pre-date Talk With Mom. But I made one critical error - this time, not with what I said, but what I didn't say.
I didn't say, "I'll call you when I'm home."
Big mistake. Like, huge.
You see, New York dinners start kind of late, so I was still out at 11 p.m. when she texted the first time. And the bar we went to afterward was loud, so I didn't hear my phone ring at 11:37 p.m. or again around midnight. And we happened to have a conversation about how people who constantly check their BlackBerrys are so annoying, so I kept it in my purse while the next four text messages chimed in. And at the very end of the date, the guy actually seemed to want to kiss me, so when I finally did hear my ringer go off, I quickly silenced it and leaned in.
Kiss of death.
In the cab, I saw I had five new text messages, three missed calls, and two new voice mails. I winced when I listened to the first voice mail and heard my mom's barely controlled voice saying, "Hi, honey. Just making sure you're OK. Please call me when you get home."
But this time, I could translate.
"CALL ME NOW I AM FREAKING OUT!"
I felt terrible. Sure, my mom was overreacting a little (I found out when I did call her that she had even e-mailed my roommate). But the fact remained that for a couple of hours there, she was really scared for me, and all because of a simple breakdown of communication.
So how does the newly-moved-out twentysomething talk to Mom?
Alec Greven can't grow up fast enough.