Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 40: Hiding the Book

(Bloom is laying on the floor of her bedroom, reading a role playing rulebook. I step through the door.)

Mom (Present me): Hey Bloom.

(Bloom doesn’t respond, engrossed as she is in the book.)

Mom: Bloom, sweetie?

(Bloom jerks abruptly, startled. She slams the book shut and slides it deftly behind her as she sits up tensely.)

Bloom (High school me, nervous): Oh, hi Mom! I didn’t see you come in.

Mom: Bloom, it’s okay for you to read! I just came in to check on you.

(Bloom’s shoulders drop as the tension in her body leaves her.)

Bloom: Right, sorry Mom.

Mom: You don’t have to apologize, sweetheart.

Bloom: Oh sorry, I guess not, I just…

Mom: You said sorry again.

Bloom: Ah, sorr…

(I give Bloom a pointed look. Fortunately she catches herself this time.)

Bloom: I mean — thank you for coming to check on me.

Mom: That’s much better. Are you okay?

Bloom: Yeah, it’s just an old habit — I guess being in my old room put me in that old headspace. Our parents didn’t really approve of spending time with this role playing stuff while we had schoolwork to do.

Mom (frustrated): Which was almost always.

Bloom: Yeah. Anything I did instead of my homework was considered a distraction, and I had to hide things so they wouldn’t be taken away… We used to hide books under our bed, remember?

Mom (sad): Under, along the wall, between the mattress and the bedframe — yes, I remember. We got pretty good at tucking things away as our parents came up the stairs so they wouldn’t see what we were doing.

Bloom: I just wish we could have engaged with this stuff authentically, you know? Without being shamed for it, I mean. I read over my D&D sourcebooks again and again, creating characters and stories on paper and in my mind…

Mom: I know some of that resistance was a product of the times — the message that we got from society and media was that our interests were nerdy and shameful, and the penalty for not hiding them well enough was to be shunned and beat up by our peers.

Bloom (distraught): I’m glad things aren’t like that anymore.

Mom: I am too, but there’s more going on there. Like you said, we always felt like if we were somehow able to do our homework first, engaging in role playing would have been tolerated, even if it wasn’t really viewed as acceptable.

Bloom: Yeah…

Mom: But that was rarely the case for us. Most of the time we had to hide, and on the rare occasion that we did get our homework done first, our reward was to hear that it was proof we could do things the way our parents wanted, so we should be doing it that way all the time.

Bloom: But we couldn’t do it all the time. We already talked about this, didn’t we?

Mom: To an extent, yes. My point is that our parents created a very rigid world around us, where there were strict rules about behavior, and strict punishments for not following those rules. A set of firm boundaries that didn’t bend and that I couldn’t break.

Bloom: I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

Mom: Kids learn by pushing boundaries. Their grown ups respond by making those boundaries flexible so their kids can grow. This gives the kids a measure of control and agency.

Bloom: Yeah, we certainly pushed those boundaries…

Mom: But did those boundaries yield to us?

Bloom: I mean, I’m sure our parents let things go sometimes. I’m sure they’d say they were plenty flexible.

Mom: I’m sure they would too, but did *you* ever feel it?

Bloom (timid): No.

Mom: No. We felt like those boundaries wouldn’t yield to us. There were gaps in the boundaries — there was no boundary preventing us from doing all the schoolwork we wanted, for instance. That’s how we were allowed to grow. Anything else was forbidden, and we had to hide any growth we were able to do in the “unapproved” directions.

Bloom: Fine, so what’s your point? How does dragging out the past like this help us?

Mom: Well, what did you just do when I got your attention?

Bloom: I… I hid the role playing book.

Mom: You hid it, yes. And you hid much more besides, because you knew it wasn’t safe to show it. You hid your interests, you hid your romantic frustrations…

Bloom: I hid my gender frustrations.

Mom: You did. *We* did, for a long time. There are still things we keep hidden because we believe people will shun us if we share them.

Bloom: But there must be hope! Eventually you couldn’t hide your frustration with masculinity anymore, and you transitioned.

Mom: I hit a breaking point and broke through. Maybe that’s the only way, for something big like that, but I don’t think it has to be. What we learned from our parents unyielding boundaries is that the world is strict and uncaring. Rules are immutable and strictly enforced. If you can’t follow the rules, you are to blame for your failures.

Bloom (upset): I hate those lessons.

Mom: So do I. And we know now that there are ways to push gently against them, to shift them without breaking through them. To be subtle in making effective change. It’s a skill I’d dearly like to learn, but it’s one I don’t have much experience with. So now I’m playing catch up, and we’re starting from behind.

Bloom (disappointed): It always feels like we’re behind these days.

Mom: We only transitioned a couple of years ago, so there’s a lot of catch up to do. But we won’t always feel like this, Bloom.

Bloom (hopeful): Promise?

Mom (smiling): I promise, dearest.