Housewife by Anne Sexton

Some women marry houses.
It’s another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That’s the main thing.

I lived in San Francisco many years ago, when my relationship with my ex-husband was new. We moved there from New York, and it rained continuously and I hated being three hours behind everyone and my husband was studying for his accountancy exams and I was lonely and angry all the time. I took to winging objects at my beloved whenever we fought, which was most of the time… Heavy objects. Things made of glass or clay that shattered against walls near his head with a satisfying, violent sound.

He suggested I “see someone about my anger issues,” and I went to a self-satisfied Psychologist on Russian Hill. Early in our exploration of my aberrant behavior, the Psychologist said, “Tell me about your mother.”

I said, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? We’re going to blame this on my mother?”

It seemed so obvious, a sort of cheesy, psychoanalytical catch-all.

What I’ve discovered over the years, is that every woman is either just like her mother, or the opposite of her mother. When you think about it, the influence is the same. One of the good things I have done since I got sober is to reconnect with my mother. We were estranged for several years, and although I remain righteous about who was to blame for our tiff, I did feel bereft without her. And I do feel more whole with her in my life.

Is she responsible for my alcoholism, occasional unbidden fury and general fucked-up-ness?

Does it really matter?

Today I’m not drinking because I’m a mother.

How come you’re not drinking?