“Gah, these shoes don’t fit.”
“Well, at least you HAVE shoes. Some people don’t even have shoes, Becky!”
“I know this, but MY feet hurt NOW.”
“Becky, some people don’t even have FEET. They just have worn down bloody stumps of legs that they have to walk on to go to work every day. Can you imagine how THAT feels?”
I knew someone who was more than willing to remind you of how good you have it while other people suffered unimaginable and unspeakable tragedies. I’d call him a friend, but it’s really not what he was, and his purpose was valiant: sometimes it *is* important to remember how fortunate you really are and be reminded of how crappy things can be.
Other times, you just want some freaking sympathy.
I’m fortunate, I suppose, that I have two leading ladies in my life (my mother and my mother-in-law) who will both stop at nothing to remind me, while I whinge on and on about something as trivial as sleeping properly (I have insomnia while pregnant), that there are always people who are worse off than I happen to be.
Those people happen to be: THEM.
Most of the time I can ignore this, although after years of being +1 as a child, I’m particularly sensitive to it. A childhood riddled with illness (on my part, I was a sickly kid) only punctuated by a mother who often would take to her own bed whenever the puke began a-spewing, because she was “afraid she would get it, too,” tends to make one overreact to this as an adult. (She never got the stomach flu, ever).
Nowhere is this more evident than when I have a baby.
Because both my mother and my mother-in-law have had children (obviously) and because those children who married (The Daver and myself) began to produce heinous babies (much like our baby selves, if legend is to be believed), babies do happen to be something that they do have experience in.
No sooner do I exclaim that I’m “having a hard time walking” after delivery because “my son’s head gave me 4th degree tears and I nearly bled out,” than does one, then the other chime in with one of these two nuggets:
1)”Well, *I* didn’t have an epidural when I delivered YOU.”
2) “Well, *I* had a C-section. I didn’t walk for DAYS afterward because I had a HUGE ABDOMINAL INCISION.”
Not really the “Okay, honey, I’ll have the nurse bring you your pain pills now” I was hoping for.
Even more frustrating comes months later, after having had no more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep a night for the preceding (pick a number, any number) months. Without bothering to take into account the tears that are spouting from my eyes (without being punched!), the puffy black circles under my eyes, and the fact that I look pretty much like I was run over by a truck named Alex, the moment I say, “I’m so tired,” before bursting into hysterical tears, it’s time to play Whose Pain Was Worse again.
I’m met with any number of response, none of which happens to involve what I want to hear, “Yeah, Alex is quite a handful. You look like ass. I’m sorry you’re struggling so very much. Do you want to give him back now?” Or really what I needed to hear: “It will get better soon, I promise.”
No, what I hear are things like this:
“Well, (insert YOU or Dave here) were AWFUL BABIES. You cried ALL THE TIME. I almost went INSANE.”
Then they look back smugly at my puffy, tear-stained face and wait for me to say…I’m not sure what they want me to say, but I have a feeling that what they really want is some sort of apology or recognition for the horrors of infant hood that they experienced with Dave and I.
Problem is, have you ever tried to feel sympathy for someone who has gone through something similar to what you’re going through while your wracked with such terrible PPD that you are honestly thinking suicide is probably the best bet for a good night’s sleep? Especially when that sympathy is for something that happened 28 or more YEARS AGO?
It’s damn near impossible.
Were I to have this same conversation now, after Alex has been sleeping through the night pretty regularly since about 11 months of age, I could try and at least PRETEND to feel sorry for them. We could cluck, commiserate, and move the hell on with our days.
With (crosses fingers furiously) a new baby on the horizon come January, I know that this is bound to spring up again, and while I’ve tried to steel myself for it, I think it’s high time for me to mention my quandary to them.
I don’t expect that it will lead to tearful apologies or hugs or anything remotely maternal from either of them, as that’s not the way either of them happen to behave, but I want them to realize that what they are doing is NOT helpful. If it’s infuriated me so very much that I’m already dreading it, I think that the adult thing to do is not to look the other way (like The Daver suggested) and change the subject. If they’re not going to change what they do (and I sincerely doubt they would) and are going to continue to look for sympathy from me during this time, they should, at the very least, know that they’re upsetting me.
But I don’t really know how to handle the situation and to diffuse it without screaming at them, which is simply Not Done in my family. I’d love to yell, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis,” but I do like my familial gatherings sans drama.
What would you do, if you were me? Any and all suggestions (besides telling me what a trite bitch I am being) are welcome. Would you pull a The Daver (it doesn’t bother him, mainly because it has nothing to do with him) and ignore and redirect or would you make mention that this is bothering you?
And then dish, lovers. Tell me what kind of +1 people do to YOU.