Daughter of the bride
I go on Facebook and notice a new friend request. Marco Soares, the 26-year-old soccer player who’s been dating my mother for a few months, wants to friend me. His profile picture is a couple shot, he and my mom smiling, sharing their happiness with the world. I take a deep breath. My darling mother has a boyfriend half her age. A boyfriend who is younger than me, who is younger than my younger brother. Good for her, isn’t it? For me, not so much.
I had the perfect script in my head, but it looked nothing like this. In my dream scenario, there would be no room for panic when my mom started dating. I would not lose my shit. I’d handle it with the professionalism of a shrink.
It is every child’s dream to see her parents happy. The thought of my poor mama spending the rest of her days alone, after living for 30 years with a man who thought he was being romantic by paying for the car lease kept me awake many nights. I even thought of setting her up with some people I knew. Men her age. Partners I had leverage over. But the heart wants what the heart wants. My mother’s heart wants a hot 26-year-old professional soccer player; it wants it so bad, they’re talking about getting married. What’s worse, I’m not handling it wisely. I am totally losing my shit. Which is so unusual for me.
All my life, I’ve been the family’s peacemaker. The mature child. The bigger person. When my parents got into an argument, which was all the time, I’d go back and forth with messages, most of which edited by me to prevent a worse outcome. I hadn’t even had my period yet, and I’d say, “She’s in those days, dad. Gotta love her double.” To my mother, I’d go, “Don’t be silly. You know he’s crazy about you.”
I was 14 when I suggested they get a divorce, 25 when they finally did. Heartbroken as I was that they could never make it work, I wasn’t the least bit worried about us kids because I knew where we stood. Whatever problems they had was between them. We were the babies. Nothing would ever come between our parents and their babies. I was grounded and confident and mature, until one day I wasn’t.
Funny thing: my father’s dating doesn’t bother me much. After the divorce, which put him in a depression, he thought he’d become a modern day Don Juan de Marco, dating three different women at the same time, sometimes four. Some were a lot younger than me —his first serious girlfriend was 22, he was 50. But that’s how my father is. All his life, the only girl he took seriously was his daughter. When it came to raising me, he gave it his best, which is not to say he was perfect, but it was definitely more than he gave his marriage. My mom is a different deal: the first one night stand the woman ever had turned into a three decades marriage. Zero to sixty. Rolling in the deep.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that I’m afraid to lose my mother. I can act grown up regarding most matters, but when it comes to her moving on with her life, I’m at a loss.
I know how far women go for love. I moved to California for love. I’m no stranger how love changes people, gives their life a different meaning, draws a line in the sand: from here on, it’s all new. Well, what if love turns my mother’s life upside down, like it turned mine? What is she decides to follows her young soccer player across the world? What if it things are never the same between us?
Our relationship is already changing: for the past five years, she and I went on special trips for her birthday. It’s become a holiday for me, something I look forward to more than Christmas. We’ve been to Paris, London, Madrid, São Paulo and New York so far. I was thinking we could hit Italy next, but now there’s the boyfriend whose work requires him to be gone for months. For her birthday this year, mom wants to go out with her boyfriend.
She never had much romance in her life, not once a romantic birthday dinner, and now that she has, I – the mature one – am crying on the inside like a neglected child. Does she really need to move on? Can’t her life be all about her baby?
I guess my point is, I’ll always be her baby. No matter how old I am, a part of me will always cry for my mother, mine and mine alone. But here’s the thing: I’m wrong in thinking I know exactly how to react, that I’ll have the right answers, and (it pains me to say) that I’m enough to make her happy. I mean, I am enough as a daughter; no other person can fill the space in her heart marked Flavia.
But because I love her so much, I need to get real: there’s more to her life than being my mother. There’s the woman who faced judgment for deciding she wouldn’t spend the rest of her life stuck in a marriage that didn’t make her happy. There’s the divorcee who, in a hometown of machos and gossipers, thinks her independence and happiness are worth the fight. There’s the 50-year-old grandmother who waits by the field, along with dozens of screaming teenagers and sports journalists, for her 26-year-old boyfriend to score a goal and blow her a kiss. There’s the kindest soul I’ve ever met, who found bliss in the toned, tanned body of a soccer player.
I smile as I read the notification on my profile page. Marco and I have just become Facebook friends.
* Ilustração: Thiago Thomé (Liquidpig).