I left my mom alone in my apartment for five minutes during a visit so I could carry some heavy stuff for her and she managed to find both my vibrator and my copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves while “testing the smoothness of the drawers” of my new nightstand. While I am willing to accept she might not have initially meant to snoop, as a rule of thumb opening the drawers of another adult’s furniture without permission is icky and the outcome is the same.
What do I do? I feel so violated and angry and she just laughed it off and thinks if I I don’t want her to know I have something, I shouldn’t own it. I’m not ashamed to own those things, I’m 21 for pity’s sake, but I also never want her to come to my home again.
Masturbation Helps Menstrual Cramps
Dear Masturbation Helps,
“I was testing the smoothness of drawers” = “I was totally snooping in your stuff.” Your mom is full of shit and she knows it.
One option you have here is to give it some time where you give yourself permission to not invite her into your space for a while but you don’t otherwise comment on or escalate the situation. This is the path of least resistance, where your mom might realize she overstepped and that her baby is all grown up (or whatever), and you might decide to let her save face by not bringing it up, and over time things will normalize. To this end, don’t use the silent treatment, but do use quiet. Don’t initiate contact for a few days. Next time you see her, don’t invite her up, maybe.”No, don’t come up, I’ll come down!” It’s not even about her, what she realizes, what she learns, how she feels, whether she agrees, whether she changes her mind or apologizes, it’s about giving yourself permission to protect your private space and to flex your “Nope” muscle.
If further discussion is needed to clear the air, with a parent who is normally not an asshole, a heartfelt appeal can work: “I realize that you think this is funny and not a big deal, but I am actually really angry at you. It’s incredibly weird to go snooping through my things. Not everything is your business, and I’d like you to apologize and agree not to do that anymore.” Even if your mom basically disagrees with you about her ‘right’ to know private things, or thinks you’re making too big a big deal about it, she should relent if she sees that it genuinely upsets you, right? Use the tactic of agreeing with her if she tries to deflect by characterizing you as “touchy” or “too sensitive.” “Yes, I am very sensitive, also, it’s gross to go through my private things and then comment on what you find there.”
If she’s routinely a boundary-pushing asshole, or if she won’t relent and seems to take pleasure in your discomfort, then you need an asshole-parent kryptonite script. One that I’ve seen work is, “You and I aren’t that close.”
- “I’m not embarrassed by having sex toys, just, you and I aren’t that close. I don’t want to see your sex toys, either.”
- “It’s weird that you think that my private stuff should be available to you; you and I aren’t that close.”
- Mom: “You never let me come over anymore.” You: “After last time I know you’re dying to try out my new dildo collection, Mom, but we’re not that close.“
To a reasonable, not-asshole parent this would be a really mean, horrible thing to say and you would never say it. With an asshole parent who is trying to manufacture the illusion of closeness by hugely violating your boundaries, think of it more as an attention-getter/boundary-defender. If you threaten the narcissistic illusion that you are a close, fun-loving mother and daughter who tell each other everything, she may just behave herself to get the illusion back.