Family, Love+
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Mommy and Mookie: Living Up to Our Nicknames

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(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

 

I reluctantly befriended my mother on Facebook last month. It was a move I’d resisted for obvious reasons. I regularly fire f-bombs and reveal snippets from weekly sessions with my psychiatrist. Plus, I have a weird phobia that one of these days someone with whom I’ve had sex will tag me in a post about my vagina. And it won’t be euphemistic. In fact, it’ll be horrifyingly accurate. It might even be a selfie that I sent him while we were sexting. I trust that my partners have more discretion than that. But you never know. And when it comes to the fear of social-media humiliation, your mind spirals into worst-case-scenario thinking. And, I mean, we’re all capable of being crazy muthaf*ckas on Facebook.

Until a month ago, I’d taken a hiatus from Facebook for nearly two years.  But when I became active again, my mom’s name popped up in my “people you may know” queue. So I sent her a friend request.

I should tell you: My mom had sent me a friend request many years before, when she originally joined the site. I, however, ignored it (but I felt guilty because I didn’t want her to see it as flat rejection).

[pullquote]When my mother calls me “Mookie,” it’s like when hot air starts blowing through the vents in a cold car. The world feels snugger and more secure.[/pullquote]

Although my mother and I are incredibly close, our closeness has its nuances and prerequisites. Our mutual presumption: In order to best get along we need to be our best selves. This might sound obvious, and it is. (I mean, what mother and daughter wouldn’t get along better if they weren’t being better people with each other? Goes without saying, right?)

Bless my mother’s heart and my heart, too. We want so desperately to please each other, to take care of each other in our own ways, to give one another what we think the other needs and wants.

Simply put: We want to live up to our names.

See, to me, she is Mommy and, to her, I am Mookie.

Mommy is the workaholic single parent who would skillfully curse out any person and powerfully cast down any obstacle that threatened her baby’s livelihood or success in this world.

And Mookie, of course, is me. Her baby. As my mother’s only child, it has been made quite clear that I am perennially her baby. I was her baby when I was born, I am her baby now at 37 years old and I will be her baby twenty 20 years from now.

I have been Mookie for as long as I can remember. The nickname originated as baby talk. And baby talk is a kind of verbal delirium. “You’re Mommy’s little Mookie Nookie. Oh, yes you are. You’re my Mookie Nookie baby, yes you are.”

So, yeah, technically, it’s Mookie Nookie. But, typically, it’s just “Mookie” for short.

In many ways, Mookie is my compass. When my mother calls me “Mookie,” it’s like when hot air starts blowing through the vents in a cold car. The world feels snugger and more secure.

When I am “Mookie,” I am precious. I am loved. I am cuddled. Plus: I am capable. I am confident. I am strong.

And when my mother is Mommy, she is a consummate protector and defender. She once raised hell at my elementary school when I was given a surprise test for the gifted program. Another mother might have been satisfied that her child was being considered for advanced classes. But my mother was all,  “How dare you test my child without my knowledge? If I had known about the test, I would’ve ensured that she was in the best frame of mind that morning. What if she had a rushed breakfast or we had a hectic time getting out the door? This is unacceptable. I demand that you retest Penny.”

“This is unacceptable.” “I demand.” “How dare you?” Not to mention, her favorite, “Have you lost your mind?” Those are my mother’s signature fighting words. They are classic Mommy.

No mother should have to be Mommy all the time. But my mother, like many mothers, can’t help it. She still literally wishes she could take care of me, especially since she knows I am frequently broke. She lives in Oklahoma City and I live in New York. Over the years, she has frequently asked me to relocate.

Translation: She wishes I would move in with her so she won’t have to worry about how the hell I will take care of myself.

And here’s what I wish: I wish I could take care of myself in a way that didn’t make her worry about how the hell I will take care of myself. I wish I were a to-do-list murdering, positive-thinking badass who’s brimming with enough can-do attitude to aggressively dig myself out of my damn financial hole for good. I wish I could be the fearlessly confident person she always encouraged me to be, because, in her eyes, her Mookie should be infinitely awesome.

When I was a teenager, my mother would tell me to “Walk like you think you’re cute!” Which sounds encouraging enough, but that admonishment always made me feel as if I were being chastised for not being a more ostentatiously self-assured person than I naturally am (or than I ever wanted to be). Personally, I am a strength-in-weakness kind of gal. The confident way that I choose to carry myself in the world is with self-deprecation and proud uncertainty, which, when combined, most people read as crippling doubt and wishy-washiness. But that I like to think of as being wonderfully contemplative.

Alas, my mother’s wish and my wish to be what we think the other needs aren’t realistic. For me, at least, my attempts at being a fearlessly confident, positive-thinking badass are regularly hampered by clinical depression.

So where has that left Mommy and Mookie? Well, until about a month ago, right around the time that I became active again on Facebook, we hadn’t spoken for six months, save for a phone call Christmas morning.

As for what got us talking again, that’s a story for another story.

But now we text or call each other everyday. And we’re Facebook friends. Through social media, we’ve found a way to be Mommy and Mookie without all the pressure to be, well, Mommy and Mookie. I can be confidently unconfident — and she doesn’t always rush to fix or protect me from myself.

On my Facebook wall, I sometimes tag my as Mommy with her name in parentheses and she publicly calls me Mookie.

My mother sometimes responds to my posts with comments that echo her “walk like you think you’re cute” preaching of my youth. When she does, she might, say, announce herself, like “this is your Mommy” and she’ll sign off with “I love you, Mookie.”

And for every “Mookie” that Mommy writes, I always hit “like.”

Filed under: Family, Love+

by

Penny Wrenn

Penny Wrenn is a Harlem-based writer who was raised in Lancaster, PA. (Right? Can't you just see the From Amish Country to the Apollo memoir now?) Penny's work has appeared in Esquire; Essence; Glamour; Marie Claire; O, The Oprah Magazine and Redbook, among other publications. She writes a weekly (or twice weekly or, sometimes, thrice weekly column, "Penny For Your Thoughts" for MadameNoire). And, by the way, she doesn't usually use the word "thrice" in conversation.

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