Bridal Shower Boundaries by Kristin Mitchener
What happens when you see your mother for the first time in 8 years at your younger sister’s bridal shower:
But there she was, coming up to hug me, showering me with superficial comments about how long my hair is and how good I look. And there she was, asking me questions that I didn’t want to answer — “Where are you living?” “Where are you working?” “I don’t even know what kind of car you drive.” “The last I heard you were…..” I was vague with my answers. I said a few words, nicely, without really saying anything; then I got up and casually walked away. I was angry she was there. Sans my sister’s fiancé’s mother, she was in a room filled with people she has been horrible to, people she has badmouthed and labeled and blamed. I was quite surprised that she even showed up. But there she was. Laughing. “I’m doing awesome!” “Yea, that’s so great. I haven’t seen you in forever.” No one wants to see you. Oh, but there she was.
And I kept an eye on where she was. I sat in places where she couldn’t sit next to me. I went inside myself. I wasn’t my outspoken self. I wasn’t making jokes. I didn’t want any of the focus to be on me because that would mean her focus would be on me. I didn’t want to make eye contact with her. I didn’t want to look at her or talk to her or feel her presence next to me. I made myself the designated photo taker, which I love to do, so that gave me freedom to move about the party and not be in any one place for too long. She’s still doing it, she’s still causing me to be defensive, to be on alert for danger, and to act in ways that will bring about the least emotion and friction. The food was delicious and I talked and laughed with family members, but I felt a constant uncomfortable, anxious, awkwardness in my stomach. I kept reminding myself that the day was about my sister.
And she was so happy. She was glowing and smiling the entire time. During the gift opening, I felt a pang of sadness. Sadness for my life, for my anger toward my mother, for not being able to scream at her, for not being where I want to be in life, for feeling these feelings on one of the most important days of my sister’s life. My little sister is getting married. What does that say about me?
The reasonable and rational and healthy answer (which I came up with tonight, mind you) is nothing. My little sister getting married means I have to squeeze into a cocktail dress and walk around with heels on for 6 hours. My little sister getting married means we finally have another man in the family to balance out all of the raging estrogen. My little sister getting married means my little sister is getting married. What my sister does says nothing about me — this makes sense, this I understand. If what my sister does says nothing about me, then this means what my mother does says nothing about me, either. But I’m just not there yet. I don’t believe this statement is true, and I don’t know if I will ever get there. As my counselor would say, “This is your journey.”
I felt my inner struggle at the bridal shower — my racing heart, my knotted stomach, my out-of-sync breathing, every part of me physically experienced the presence of my mother. As the party ended, an opportunity for manipulation presented itself. “Hey Kristin, come over here, I want to show you something.” I looked at her, wanting to say “I’m on my way out” or “I don’t really want to talk”, but instead, I nervously said “Hang on a minute”. While looking at her for this brief moment, I saw meanness in her eyes, her face had that look I always remembered, that look that said “Obey me, you bad child” and “I am your MOTHER”. Coward. This was my chance to set boundaries. I couldn’t tell her no. I walked over to her where she was sitting on the couch. I remained standing. She held up her phone to show me a picture of a man I didn’t recognize and said, “This is my real brother.” I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. I looked at the picture for what seemed like forever, and then I looked at her. With tears in her eyes and a shaky voice she said, “Your uncle.” I shook my head a couple times, raised my eyebrows, and gave a low “uh huh”. Then I walked away.
What did she think would happen when she showed me a picture of “my uncle” I’ve never even met? Why did she even come at all? Mother of the Bride, really? You have intentionally hurt every single person in this room. Does she actually think anyone thought she was doing “awesome”? Does she think she accomplished something by going to the shower? I could go on and on with the “what-ifs” and “why’s”, but ultimately, I must remember that this is my journey, and I accomplished something by going to the shower. I did what I haven’t been able to do. I kept my emotions tidy. To everyone, I was just another guest, the maid of honor, the proud older sister. The broken, angry daughter had to step aside for her sister.
But as the party ended, as I was shown a photograph that said “family is your family no matter what”, I wish the broken, angry daughter would have spoken up. Right then was my chance to draw the boundaries, to say no, to assert myself and tactfully and calmly tell her that I have no desire or intention of communicating with her aside from what’s required at my sister’s wedding. But I wasn’t sure I could find the words. I wasn’t sure what she would say or do. So I said nothing and walked away.
Until tonight, I viewed these actions as cowardly and a failed moment in my journey, but something inside tells me differently. I was able, in a matter of 15 seconds max, to be presented with something uncomfortable and that I didn’t understand, remain in control and aware of my thoughts and feelings, and respond in the best way I saw appropriate in that moment. I was present. Everything I know has conditioned me to react, react, react, and for one of the first times, and in one of the most crucial moments of my journey, I naturally went against everything I was taught — and I did it face-to-face with the very person who taught me.
I still have doubts and questions about yesterday — I would be lying if I told you otherwise. But the doubts and questions from tonight are much different than the doubts and questions from yesterday. Tonight’s questions hold curiosity; tonight’s doubts hold hope and wonder for what yesterday’s experience will bring tomorrow and the day after. Something wonderful will come out of yesterday’s difficulties — God has put this revelation in my heart; this I confidently believe.
Source: https://thedaughterjourney.com/ Used with permission