My First Heckler: My Mother

This entry is an inside look into a key part of my stand-up act: my mother. Upon reading my recent entry (Why Comedy?), she pointed out that there were no pictures of her featured in it. My mother turns being passive-aggressive into an art form. When I called her on it, she claimed she was joking. She wasn’t joking. I got trolled by my mother. Nevertheless, per her complaint I am going to rectify the lack of pictures of her on my blog as I give you an inside look at one of the biggest characters in my act.

My mother, cosigner of my silliness since 1892
My mother, cosigner of my silliness since 1982

I’ve talked about our family sarcasm or what we call the Barton sarcasm. It was passed on to me from my grandparents through my mother. In a lot of ways, I owe the bit of success I’ve had in stand-up to her and her more interesting personality quirks. We have a bit of a unique relationship. When annoyed, my immediate impulse is to get smart with the person annoying me. As is the case with all children, my mother has annoyed me a lot. She would probably say the same about me and she shares the impulse to use sarcasm. This has made for some very interesting interactions like this one:

Me: Mom, can you pull in your chair? I can’t around the table.

Mom: *trademark sigh* (Grudgingly pulls in her chair) You know maybe if your ass wasn’t so big you’d be able to get around the table without me having to move.

Me: You know what, mom? You can bite my ass.

Mom: Pick a spot. You’re all ass.

-End Scene-

The reason I get away with being smart with my mom is twofold. First, she knows not to take it personally and second, my use of sarcasm is proof that I’m her kid and she feels a bit of pride in passing that on to her progeny. I never mind when my mom gets smart with me because I too know not to take it personally and I know she really can’t help it.

My mom has other quirks besides the genetic sarcasm and her trademark sigh that are just hilarious and absolutely beg to be stand-up material. She has the most epic road rage. I’ve taken to calling it Driver’s Tourette’s and I’ve even done a bit about it (Grammy Road Rage). She also has a stellar reputation among customer service agents far and wide. She should be the final exam for every call center agent. You pass if you successfully get through the call without crying or running screaming from the building. She’s a retired nurse who strikes fear in the hearts of all hospital interns. She makes a horrible hospital patient. I’ve done a bit about that, too. (My mother: Worst Hospital Patient Ever) She also has a hellacious case of OCD that would both disturb and baffle the psychiatric community.

My mom is on the wall at UPenn's School of Nursing. Is your mom on the wall of UPenn's School of Nursing? I think not
My mom is on the wall at UPenn’s School of Nursing. Is your mom on the wall of UPenn’s School of Nursing? I think not

There is a reason for her quirks. She’s impatient. There’s really no nice way to say it. She spent her entire 30+ year nursing career being in a hurry to care for her patients, so it almost puts the Driver’s Tourette’s in perspective…almost. As for her relationship with customer service agents, I’ll say it again: she’s impatient. After spending 30+ years providing the best possible care to her patients, she expects to receive the same level of excellent service wherever she does business. She’s always told us that when you’re in the hospital you can either talk to the doctor who’s treating you or the nurse who knows what’s really going on. I’ll give you one guess as to who my mother would rather hear from. She has a very wide knowledge base when it comes to medicine and it’s pretty much impossible for her to switch that off retired or not, sick or not. After working 30+ years in a hospital cleanliness becomes less a habit and more an obsession, so one could argue that my mom’s OCD was inevitable.

They say every woman eventually becomes her mother and while I’m fully aware that there are much worse things I could become, I still find the fact that I’ve inherited some of the very traits I’ve made jokes about a little disconcerting. I too shout at other drivers as if they can hear me. Having spent time working in quality assurance, I also expect to receive excellent customer service everywhere I do business. Being of small stature and therefore the least threatening woman on the planet, I don’t exactly strike fear into my less experienced coworkers or anyone else for that matter. However, I promise you if you’re coming to me with a question, you better get out a notebook and pen and put an apple on my desk because you will be schooled. I’m really not obsessed with cleanliness, but God help you if you move something and don’t tell me. I also can’t get out of my car until I’ve parked it perfectly and if I’m the passenger there’s a good chance I’ll beg you to let me fix your jacked up park job. I guess it’s true: mental illness really does run in the family.

There’s a great deal that my mother and I have learned from each other. It would take forever to go into detail about what I’ve learned from my mother. After all she taught me how to use a fork. There’s a great deal my mother has learned from me other than how to use her various technological devices. I didn’t inherit her passive-aggressive trait and in so doing, I’ve taught her that not everything can or should be candy-coated and sometimes it’s okay to be as subtle as a brick through a window. I had hoped this post would teach her not to mess with a comedian, but I think that hope is a little too far-flung. By now, she probably understands the reason why lions eat their young.

My mom and the horse she rode in on
My mom and the horse she rode in on


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