Open Letter to Random People “In the Know”

Dear Concerned Semi-Stranger,

Please stop fucking assuming things based on one piece of information. It annoys the piss out of me and makes you like an ass of enormous proportions. Seriously, it is a thoroughly unflattering amount of “junk in the trunk”.

Yes, my mother kicked the bucket. But making assumptions about how her death affected my life makes me want to strangle you, and then have a city bus drag around your doused-with-gasoline-and-set-on-fire corpse as a warning to everyone else about making assumptions. Yes, I feel that strongly. No, I am not overreacting.

You know why? Because I keep hearing the same things from you, over and fucking over. You keep saying things like “So you’ve obviously taken on more responsibility” and “So you’re the mom now” and “You’re helping your dad out, right?” The pretentiousness of those statements wafts over me like the stench of dead goat, and at this point, I may never scrub it out of my sinuses.

And I get it—you’re trying desperately to deal with coming in such close contact with such an ugly reality. Unfortunately, you forgot to check your own shit at the door, and that is the reason you keep sticking your foot in it: you’re imagining what it would be like for you in my situation. You forget that I am not you, that I have had different experiences and relationships with my family members that radically impact what my mother’s death meant to me.

So when you say “you’ve obviously taken on more responsibility” in all your well-meaning awkwardness, I’m trying not to face-palm. Because, no, actually—I haven’t taken on more responsibility. I’m still going to school and earning straight A’s, doing my laundry and keeping my room clean, booking and keeping appointments with my doctors and specialists and school officials, washing the dishes and scrubbing down the countertops and giving a hand with dinner sometimes, helping my brother and sister with their homework when they ask, going trick-or-treating with them and on walks and to the park. But those are all things I did before Mother started pushing up daisies. The only new thing is that now I take out the garbage on Monday nights. Does that count? Or have I still not taken on enough responsibility?

And when you say “you’re helping your dad, right?” I want to punch you. Because a) that’s a stupid question, b) of course I am, you nimrod, and c) there’s a fine line between “helping” and “enabling”, and I know where that line is a flaming fuckton better than you do. I have known this man my whole life. I live with him. And the last thing he needs is to end up stuck in his grief because I babied him too much. That’s not helping him—or me, or his other two kids.

And I swear, the next time someone knowingly nods and says “so you’re the mom now,” I’m going to chirp “Oh yeah! I sleep with Fatherbot and everything! . . . What? I’m just following your statement through to its logical conclusion!” Because NO. That question is incredibly insulting. With one little phrase, you have managed to imply that a) my mother was replaceable (is yours?), b) that I am a replacement part, not a human being in my own right, and c) that there is something wrong with me if I happen to refuse the “Replacement Mom” role. Give your head a fucking shake, would you? My mother died, she wasn’t magically transferred into my body! I have no more responsibility to care for my family now than I did when Mother was still breathing. As much as I love Liz and Will, the fact that I did not squeeze them out of my vagina hasn’t changed. I’m their sister. I will always be their sister, and that means that I will love them and protect them and take care of them to the best of my ability—because they are my family, and that didn’t change when Mother passed her sell-by date. If Mother’s entry into the underworld changed what it meant to be family, then I’d be a piss-poor excuse for a sister and daughter.

So please, for the love all things holy, think before you speak. And when in doubt, ask how I’m doing, and then listen. Or offer a hug. I might not always take you up on it, but offering a hug will never make you look like a horse’s ass.



I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

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