Mothers and Daughters: Are You Overstepping Your Boundaries?
By Amy Bloom, O, The Oprah Magazine
Yes to sharing eye makeup, yes to sharing hairdressers, No to matching haircuts and outfits. Yes to helping each other avoid certain relatives, No to dishing about husbands or boyfriends or dating. Or Yes to dishing about all that (and even sex), No to lending money. Or Yes to lending money but No to telling the truth. Or Yes to all of the above but No to discussing the will, the custody agreement, the prenup, and all other painful legal documents.
The boundaries between mother and grown daughter are more complicated, more heartbreaking, more absurd, and far more slippery than even the most wiggly, unexpected border markings around our most rapidly shifting, emerging, and disappearing country-states. Our human boundaries contain…and they separate. They embrace…and they bar the door. They define…when they’re not making definition just about impossible. They show us how self, family culture, and memory slide around, left to right, past to present. Mostly our boundaries show us where things have been (or may have been—since memory is such a notorious liar) and where they could be and, most maddeningly, or most comfortingly (depending on the day and hour), where things are with us.
Boundaries are the lines we draw that mark off our autonomy and that of other people, that protect our privacy and that of others. Boundaries allow for intimate connection without dissolving or losing one’s sense of self. There are the professional boundaries (that’d be why you have to take your hand off my leg, Mr. Boss) and the personal ones. The same arm around a shoulder can be a violation of personal space or a much-appreciated gesture of affection, depending on where your boundaries are. Boundaries are about speech as well as action—what we say (mothers conjuring up images of specific sexual activity in conversation with their daughters are a boundary no-no, no matter what your personal style) as well as what we do.