Mothers and Daughters.
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Do you understand the gist of this book simply by reading the title?
I assumed I did. And then, if there was any doubt, the subtitle cleared it all up: The Challenges Mothers Face With Their Daughters.
The author, Susan Shapiro Barash, writes smart, insightful books exclusively about women. She’s got a knack for apt titles: Tripping the Prom Queen (inter-female jealousy), Toxic Friends (abusive female friendships), and others exploring sisters, female infidelity, and marriage. She also teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College. I recently had the pleasure of being on Michel Martin’s National Public Radio show, Tell Me More, to discuss mothers and daughters with Susan Shapiro Barash.
I like Susan’s work tremendously. Almost as much as I like her catchy titles. So I didn’t expect to be surprised by her book.
But I was.
Here’s the revelation that up-ended me: her research showed that women are afraid of their daughters. At first I thought sure – me too – I’m afraid of my daughter every day.
She’s a great kid, but one of those that embodies Plutarch’s quote, “The wildest colts make the best horses.” I’m afraid that my daughter will scream and pout in the morning because I might have woken her up “wrong.” I’m afraid that at 7:08 she will start bugging me because I’m taking too long grinding my coffee and I’m going to make her late for school (school is 10 minutes away and doesn’t start until 8:10). I worry she is going to yell at me, slam doors, tell me she hates me, and that she’s getting her own apartment in Manhattan (she’s eleven and we live in Washington, DC). My daughter has threatened, pushed and bossed me since she learned to talk nine years ago. She regularly raises her palm inches from my face and says things like, “Mom, calm down. YOU need to listen to ME.” I’m used to her attitude, her vociferous volume, and the hand gestures that make me grind me teeth in frustration that occasionally verges on rage.
Frankly I don’t pay attention to any of it. If a day passes that she’s not screaming at me, it’s probably because she has food poisoning or I’m on a business trip 500 miles out of range.
But no, Susan’s book was not about THAT kind of afraid.
Turns out that other women are afraid every day – of their teenage daughters not liking them.
Hence the need to take them shopping after grounding them.
I get it now.