My mom is schizophrenic. This is a fact that usually comes up in conversation with new crushes, on about the second or third date. It’s not that I go out of my way to tell people, it just naturally comes up. Right about the time you realize the person you’re getting to know didn’t just fall out of the sky, and that they have a whole history, complete with people and towns and epic events, and you might start asking questions like-
“So, where are you from?” and, “Where does your family live?” and then, of course, “Do you talk to your parents? What’s your relationship like?”
And that’s about when I tell people my mom is schizophrenic.
It’s not a big deal. Except for once, when a date accused me of being a big downer, as if I was deliberately trying to sabotage the date and keep us from having any fun, it’s never really bothered anyone that my mom thinks she’s the Virgin Mary and lives in a halfway house in Alaska. The part I hate, that part comes after the part where I tell my date my mom is schizophrenic and they shrug their shoulders like it’s no big deal.
I know it’s coming, and I hate it. I tell them my mom is schizophrenic, and if it seems like they’re still interested, I tell them that my aunt is schizophrenic, and that my grandpa’s mom and brother were schizophrenic too. You know, just to make small talk. And after I finish talking, I see this look pass over their face, as if they’ve just realized where the keys to their bike lock are, the keys they’ve been missing for days.
And then, they ask-
“So, since your mom is schizophrenic, do you ever worry that you might one day, you know, be schizophrenic too?”
The last time a date asked me this was earlier this year, in the spring. She said it with such naivety, and such good intentions, like she was doing me a huge favor by finally putting this piece of the puzzle together for me, that it made me want to scream. What logic!
“You know,” I said, with just a bit of angry sarcasm, “I’ve never thought of that!” Although it might have been more helpful, I did not tell her that asking me if I had ever thought I might go crazy one day was a lot like having someone tell you their mom had died of breast cancer and then asking them, sort of casually and with as much naivety as you can muster, if they, you know, ever thought about how they might one day die of breast cancer, too.
My date eyed me suspiciously. “Are you being sarcastic?”
“Do I think about how I might go crazy one day?” I cried. “Only every day of my fucking life! Only every minute of every day of my fucking life!”
And then, more recently, I was on a date with a new friend. Our second, I guess. We were talking about all sorts of things, family and whatnot, and then I told her my mom was schizophrenic. I told her all these other people were schizophrenic too, that were, you know, related to me. She nodded like, oh that’s sort of interesting. And then nothing.
I felt a wave of relief the likes of which I had never known. It was like I’d been trapped in the movie Groundhog Day, and had been suddenly set free, at the moment I’d least expected it. I was suddenly allowed to be myself, with no genetic mental illness bullshit dark cloud hanging over my head, a cloud that I didn’t see but that my date couldn’t help but point out every time I brought up my family history.
Of course I wasn’t going to be crazy. “I have like five-hundred cousins,” I said to my date, “and none of us are crazy yet. The oldest generation, we used to all secretly wonder- who’s next? Who’s next? But we’re all fine. None of us are ranting and delusional. And my oldest cousin, he’s like thirty,” I added for weight, because most people have heard of the popular theory that if you haven’t gone crazy by the time your twenties are over, you’re probably fine.
My date sort of shrugged her shoulders, and looked half-interested. Of course, she seemed to be saying. Why would you go crazy?