Dysfunction circus

I saw an article today that was honestly too inane not to tear apart. It’s to the point where I’m considering making this dysfunction circus thing a regular feature, inasmuch as I have such a thing as regular features at all. What you’re about to read is a story about a truly awful thing that may or may not have happened at all—by which I mean even if the story is true as told, so much was left out that it’s literally impossible to tell if its central premise is correct—where the teller paints herself as a victim but fails at every conceivable opportunity to recognize that she’s every bit as much to blame. There are no winners in this story.

On ozy.com, Liza Dezfouli shares her story called, “My Mother Slept With My Husband“. I’m going to quote liberally from the first half of the article to shred it, but I encourage you to read the whole thing so you can decide if I missed any context at the end or if the message of forgiveness that it ends on justifies the mess at the beginning. And in the middle. And actually a lot of the end too.

My marriage is splintering. My baby’s just over a year old and my toddler nearly 3. They wake every single nightmy older boy is asthmatic—and I’m the one who gets up to help them. My mother has a loving bond with my boys, and it’s good to have another pair of hands and someone to talk to. The tension between me and my husband escalates daily. He wants sex. I want to sleep for 200 years. He sulks.

Questions abound right in the lead paragraph. Why doesn’t the husband get up to help sometimes? (I know there’s a subtle point she’s making here that he never does, but based on the rest of the article I’m inclined to view that as an exaggeration.) How are you and your husband communicating about the sex thing? What are you both doing to try to improve your lack of sleep? With the mounting tension, have the two of you sought any counseling at all? These things matter. Communication matters. Making sure both of you maintain a satisfying sexual relationship even after two children matters; you don’t simply get to brush him off constantly any more than he gets to allegedly brush off all the childcare onto you. Not if you want a healthy marriage.

Maybe you think I’m overreaching here. You know, don’t judge because everyone has crap to deal with and what makes me so special? Well I’m not special, but any idiot can see that this is a bad situation, and it’s about to go all kinds of Jerry Springer up in here. It’s not like Liza could have known something was going to happen (if it did), but still it’s clear that she and her husband needed some dialogue, some sleep, and some frickin’ nookie.

Bonus question: The mom apparently lived with them too at this point, or so it’s implied. Why in the world was it always Liza who got up to help them? Always. She implies the husband never does it, but why isn’t her mom doing it some nights if she’s there to help with the kids? Nobody ever said, “Don’t worry, Liza, we got this—you get some sleep for a change”? Right here is where I get the notion that Liza got up every time because she insisted on it. This is some seat-of-the-pants armchair psychology here, but I’m betting Liza is a micro-manager; she couldn’t leave the situation alone and let her husband or her mom take care of it, because her children needed her. That conclusion didn’t come from this paragraph alone, but it could have.

It’s late. We’ve had visitors, we’ve been drinking. I’m demented with exhaustion and stress.

What in the frell, lady?! Are you freaking kidding me with this?

If your entire life has reached a point where you feel like you’re weeks behind on sleep and can’t function anymore, where you’re so blind exhausted that you can’t even muster the energy to try to find a way out of that trap, why in the world would you 1) have visitors over, 2) stay up late,  and 3) drink? If you can’t function in your own marriage from fatigue, then having guests over is absolutely moronic. Your social life—this goes for both of you—does not come before your marriage or your children, ever. You shut that crap down for weeks, months if you have to, whatever it takes to find a rhythm that your family can work with.

And if you’re short on sleep, why are you allowing these guests you shouldn’t have in the first place to keep you from getting to bed? Don’t stay up late if you’re never sleeping! I’m a night owl but I have the option of sleeping late to make up for it, and I don’t have young children.

Also, the drinking. Firm no, for both of you. Guys, alcohol is a depressant but it actively interferes with restful sleep. Don’t pop the cork on that bottle until you’ve got your ducks in a row.

The baby needs a bottle and the toddler demands a hug.

It’s a shame about them both not sleeping through the night. I get it; that’s hard to deal with. (Just kidding; that isn’t what’s happening here.)

My husband sits on the couch and my mother’s on the floor in front of him. There’s an undercurrent, something unspoken, between them. He’s massaging her shoulders.

Hrm, why isn’t he massaging your shoulders instead, at least when you’re not busy with the kids? And no disagreement whatsoever here; this is kind of creepy and it’s getting into a weird area. Remember at the beginning when I said Liza is to blame for a lot of her problems? I didn’t mean her husband or her mother get a pass.

This next part is priceless.

While I get my sons fed and ready for bed, I can see the massage is becoming something else.

Did you see it? Did you spot the problem? Because if you didn’t, I’m guessing you never once watched an episode of Supernanny. Let’s play Fun With Juxtaposition!

While I get my sons fed and ready for bed…

It’s late. We’ve had visitors, we’ve been drinking.

It’s late. You’ve been drinking. Your baby and your 3-year-old are still up. And you wonder why they have sleeping problems, that have now become your problems. Liza, I’m not saying lots of parents don’t fall into these kind of bad habits, but come on. You never once wondered if not setting a firm bedtime was the problem? Unless “late” means 7 PM, you’re an idiot. And so are your husband and your mom; yeah, they’re not off the hook either. Whole lotta stupid in this family.

My husband and my mother are making out, in front of me, in my living room. Unable to deal with it, I ignore them. I should throw a pot of cold water over them, throw them out of the house and out of my life, but I’m so tired my face is falling off and my bones are crumbling, and this is too outrageous to even acknowledge.

I didn’t skip anything. This is the same paragraph. We went from massage to “making out”, except she doesn’t actually say what she means by “making out”. Are they actually kissing, or are you counting the ongoing massage? And I ask this because it looks like you left out a pretty big segue here, and from the rest of the article that’s kind of par.

“Fuck ’em,” I think. “They deserve each other.” I take myself off to bed but can’t sleep. I hear the door to the spare room where my mother sleeps open and close. I hear them go in. Eventually, my husband comes into our bedroom.

At this point she asks him if he had sex with her mom, and he says no; she asks if he wanted to, and he says no. It’s not worth quoting. Again we’re missing a lot of context here. Did something happen? Was there sex, a sex act, or did he merely put her mom to bed and wish her goodnight? I mean sure, based on the whole squicky lead-in I’m willing to give Liza the benefit of the doubt that something inappropriate probably went on in that spare room, but we have no idea what. Neither does Liza. She doesn’t even really know that anything went on at all.

Does she have the right to be mad here? Heck yeah. Is she a victim? Heck yeah. Looks like at a bare minimum, her husband was massaging her mom and that crossed a line, especially when he should have been massaging Liza. And even taking her characterization of the husband as a massive exaggeration, he still sounds like an incredible prick; of course I have only her word filtered through a massive BS sieve to go on.

In the morning my husband goes to work, and my mother and I pretend nothing has happened. This is the way of things in our family: hysterics when the cat’s tail gets caught in the door, but if your 16-year-old son takes off into the night in crisis or your 18-year-old daughter slashes her wrists, we don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen. Ours isn’t the only family like this, but with us the habit of denial runs especially deep.

Here we’re moving on to the middle and I’m not going to go too much further because I don’t want to quote the whole article, but this is important. Look how once again Liza is skipping past all kinds of important context. I’m taking these anecdotes as things that literally happened, and that being the case: Who did they happen to?

Was Liza that 18-year-old wrist slasher? That kind of matters! We already know Liza likes to gloss over details and ignore her own really obvious mistakes here, but if she had a suicide attempt at 18 she might have a lot more problems under the surface that bear a mention. And if it was her sister, that’s sad and so is whatever happened to her brother—but again we’re still obviously dealing with a family that was broken twenty years ago. Bad things happen in happy homes too, but Liza clearly didn’t have one; and that’s partly her mom’s fault too, but hoo boy. It sounds like Liza should have sought some hardcore therapy long before marriage, let alone the couples counseling that she and her husband apparently didn’t seek either.

I know, I know. Not everyone jumps right into therapy or can even afford to, nor do they necessarily have a pastor or wise friend or whatnot to help them work through stuff. There are books, though. Lots of them. Maybe one of them could have helped.

Gonna skip some more here, but there’s a lot still going on. Liza mentions casually at one point that her husband is now “long gone”, once more completely blowing past the gist of what happened between that night and this moment several years (apparently) later when the marriage is long since over. The mother denies having intercourse, but it’s left entirely murky whether anything else actually happened. Liza goes on to talk about how her mom is “incapable of assuming responsibility” and will do anything to get out of it. Acorn, meet tree.

Now of course Liza is not responsible for her husband and her mom having sex or close-enough-to-sex, or for the massage or anything else there. But she is responsible for the state of exhaustion she was in because of her kids; it sounds like all three of these alleged adults were. She is responsible for letting her husband’s frustrations build up and he is (probably) responsible for just sulking and letting her weariness continue unchecked; it seems neither of them put in the work to show any kind of selfless love for the other. None of that excuses him or the mom at all. But blame is not limited to one moment. He and the mom are to blame for whatever happened in that moment, but the moments leading up to that were caused by all three of them, with plenty of blame to go around.

(Remember the Andrea Yates case? Even though she was out of her mind at the time, nobody gives her a complete pass for killing her children. But if you read about the case in depth, you can’t help but feel like her husband was the real villain in all of it. He set up the situation that led to her ultimately cracking, by blatantly ignoring her severe trouble with postpartum psychosis birth after birth after birth. I’m amazed she lasted as long as she did. It’s a sad, sad case, and she will go to the grave full of remorse for what she did. But I have no doubt he placed those dominoes to fall, even if it wasn’t deliberately.)

This is the very last quote, and it’s worth it because it drives my point home.

It took a lot for me to understand my mother, and even more to forgive her, but I’ve learned to see her behavior in a wider context. My mother’s been competing with other women all her life—starting with her own mother over her father’s affections, with me over my father, my boyfriends, my husband, and with her friends over any man around. She’s such a flawed bundle of insecurities that she even needed her children to find her sexually attractive, imposing herself on us in ways so murkily inappropriate we were left demolished, muted, unable to form any kind of response.

Where do you even begin to untangle that? Was Liza’s mom abused as a child? Was Liza’s mom an abuser of her own children? (And it could well be both.) If either of those are true, as it seems Liza implies, that’s horrifying. If Liza’s penchant for exaggeration is making it sound that way when it wasn’t, then we might conclude that at least some really despicable lines were crossed—hey, not unlike the line this same woman crossed with Liza’s husband.

But if nothing else, multiple paragraphs by now have told us that Liza’s mom has entire warehouses of neuroses, and her neuroses have neuroses, and so on layer after layer like Russian frickin’ nesting dolls. Which brings me to perhaps one of the biggest questions of all:

Why was she living in your house?

Too subtle? I wanted to use an F-bomb there, but there’s an off chance my mom reads this blog.

Actually, I’m not positive Liza’s mom was living there, or just staying the night frequently enough to use the spare room a lot. But it’s about the same either way. Liza, recognizing her childhood was a dumpster fire as a result of her mom having a legion of personality disorders, figured: “Eh, let’s not try to keep at least a little distance. My mom has crap to work through and she’s not doing it, but what’s the harm of having her in my house 24/7?”

Yeah, Liza. So your husband is to blame, your mom is to blame, but you’re not. No, it’s all three of you. Let’s go over your admitted mistakes again.

  • Delirious from exhaustion, but invited people over
  • Stayed up late, despite aforementioned exhaustion
  • Everyone was drinking, while the kids were up
  • Drinking not such a good idea when trying to sleep better
  • Kept the kids up late, despite their aforementioned sleeping problems
  • …with no indication you even considered this out of the ordinary, like you had no idea bedtimes are a thing
  • Invited mother with baggage that could swallow a plane to live with you
  • …even though mother didn’t help with the kids-not-sleeping problem
  • …even though said baggage included wildly inappropriate behavior with the men in your life
  • …even though she screwed up you and your siblings that badly
  • Left your marital state at “He wants sex and sulks; I ignore him because I’m tired; we both fix nothing and let everything fester”

I said there are no winners here, and boy howdy did I mean it. Signor Handsy was obviously no prize, although I’m curious what his side of this story sounds like. I expect Liza was right that he and her mom did some unspeakable things, but that only means three people are responsible for this mess, not two. Liza goes on at length about her mom’s inability to take responsibility for anything, but spends the entire piece dodging everything that even looks like it; she’s as introspective as a telescope. She harps on how her mom comes with a 50-foot basket o’ crazy, but thought it was a good idea to have her around a lot. Sure she loves her mom and there’s nothing wrong with that, but when someone is as toxic (however unintentionally) as Liza made this woman out to be, you have to be just as insane to give them an all-access pass.

Now it all ends on a message of forgiveness and whatnot, but I’m gonna be blunt here. Well, I’ll continue being blunt. This article was a bus and Liza drove it right over her mother. It wasn’t to hurt her or shame her or anything, I think, and I don’t even think it was to brag about how awesome she is for being so forgiving. No, I think she wanted this to be a beautiful message. But Liza carries the same burden her mother does, the same disorder that blinds her to her own bad choices, and the only way to dodge that was to run her the heck over.

It’s still worth getting some professional help, even now.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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