When I grow up I want to be an old woman
When I grow up I want to be an old woman
Oh, an old, an old, old woman
Then I think I'm gonna find myself an old man
Then I think I'm gonna marry myself that old man
An old, an old, an old, an old, a really old man
Michelle Shocked

I suppose it's natural to identify with your same-sex parent. Many women have told me that when they had children they found themselves - often to their horror - transformed into their mothers. Perhaps one reason I've never had any children is because I didn't want to hurt my daughter the way my mother hurt me.

It's not what you think.

She hurt me by dying. It started when I was thirteen, with a hospital visit for a biopsy that turned into a radical mastectomy. She had metastatic breast cancer. It ended when I was twenty. In between there was lots of chemotherapy and vomiting and pain. It scarred me, as such things will.

For many years I thought that I too would die as she had.

I guess it's normal to repeat the patterns you learned growing up.

My parents divorced when I was eight, and like most kids, I blamed myself. I didn't know what I did wrong to make this happen, but I knew, somehow, that it was my fault. I loved my mother and I loved my father and I just wanted them to be together again. I hated those Sundays with dad - not the day, but the way he'd ask "how's your mother" when he picked us up in the morning, and she'd say "how's your father" when we got home at night. As if we were the reason for their connection.

When my father told me he was getting married for the third time, I didn't say congratulations, though I was old enough to know that was the right thing to say. Instead, I said, "this better be the last time." Maybe that was harsh, but I was on myself too: for years I picked the wrong men as partners. The ones I really loved would leave me; the other ones, the ones who really loved me, I'd leave.

I didn't think I deserved to have a good partner, one who would last.

Now I'm older than my mother was when she was first diagnosed with cancer, and older than my father was when he met his third wife. I'm not living my mother's life, getting sick and dying too young, and I'm not living my father's life, marrying the wrong person again and again. I'm living my own life, and I hope it will be what it promises to be: a long happy life with someone I love, and who loves me. And when I'm an old, old woman, this life will end. But not till then.

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