Sunday, July 06, 2008

Living at home, or, I am a big jerk

I can't decide anymore how much of my overwhelming panic and discomfort with living at home is related to real concerns, and how much of it is me having categorically, non-negotiably relegated life in the parents' house to the "abjectly terrifying" column. But either way, as soon as I looked out of the window of my plane as it approached John Wayne Airport today, gazing down upon the rows and rows of generic track housing, I raced right back into "oh my god why Orange County" mode. By the time I reached baggage claim, I was seriously contemplating a decidedly socially inappropriate response to a crying 4-year-old in the area.

It was about 2 hours after landing that my mother and I started exchanging thinly-veiled swipes about how very much we enjoyed each other's company when we weren't forced to cohabitate (and at that point, we were still at lunch and hadn't even entered the house yet). It was about 30 more minutes until the first aggravating political conversation. 4 more hours from there for me to flee the house so that I could try to do some Bar work at Starbucks (and so prevent myself from bringing the simmering hostilities to an outright boil by making some bratty or impertinent remark toward my parents).

The funny thing is, I don't really blame them at all at this point. It's certainly true that all of us have spent enough time living apart that we're no longer any good at living together (my mother's various neuroses have graduated into full-blown OCD, and I've developed a rather unhealthy disdain for parental authority). But I was getting all tense and knotted inside long before they did anything to offend me, simply in anticipation of the slights that would inevitably come. Even in the moment I could recognize my feelings as totally immature and counterproductive, but in so recognizing, I wasn't able to fix them...only to remove myself from the situation fast enough to avoid a real conflagration.

And even Starbucks offered little comfort, as I quickly realized that the studious, intellectual environment of the Harvard Law School Starbucks bore little resemblance to the Huntington Beach location, frequented as it is by stunningly loud slacker teens. Tomorrow I'm experimenting with some of the more independent and esoteric coffee house locations in the area.

In making it through Day 1 without openly fighting with my parents, I've already improved upon my last extended stay. But I'm still ridiculous - literally, worthy of ridicule. Before he went to bed today, my dad asked if I needed him to make sure I was up for class or if he could make me coffee or breakfast or a mid-class snack in the morning, and I felt equal parts gratitude for his generosity and resentment for his involvement. I had no problems accepting my parents' kindnesses, in the form of pre-cooked food and freshly-laundered clothes, while I was inhabiting a physically separate building. But put me under the same roof, and apparently, I'm instantly an ungrateful brat. I smiled and tried to sound as wholly appreciative as I could, because he really has the purest intentions in offering to help (in no way did I or do I think it's some play for influence or control on his part).

But I wish that not being a jerk wasn't apparently such a struggle.

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