Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Life with Mother

The best lesson that I can teach you, after eight successful years in blogging and social media, is the supreme importance of communicating the positive message of your personal brand. Unfortunately, today is not the day for this lesson.

Today I want to remind you that I live with my mother.

Last night, I wrote this status update on Facebook —

“In October, my mother is having a big birthday and she was thinking of celebrating by going with her friend, another woman in her 70s, on some dull cruise, something they already did twice before.

“Forget the cruise,” I said. “Why don’t you go somewhere that you always wanted to go but never had a chance, and go there NOW, while you’re still healthy enough to travel?”

So, for ten days in October, I’ll be accompanying my mother and her friend — to — yes, Paris.

My mother is so excited. But she’s worried now that I won’t find us a place to stay and we’ll be wandering the streets. So, if anyone knows of a good apartment to rent in October for three adults, maybe two bedrooms, please tell me.”

People were very generous, sending me all sorts of links to apartment rental agencies and friends with apartments in France. But later that night, I thought to myself —

“I must be perceived as a very weird guy. I’m always talking about my mother. I am going to Paris with my mother. I am living with my mother in New York. When I think of men who live with their mothers, even on a temporary basis, I immediately think of Norman Bates in Psycho. I must really appear f*cked up. You know, maybe I am f*cked up.”

Now, some of you I have successfully fooled, especially those who follow me on Instagram. I post so many glamorous photos of New Yorkers on Fifth Avenue, that you’d think I spend my nights at parties with Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting.

No, I’m in Queens, with my mother.

If you met me, you would think I was fairly normal. Not completely normal, but mostly normal. At least, I don’t think I would scare you.

Here’s how it goes. I come and go from my mother’s apartment when I want. My mother has her life. I have mine. We treat each other like two adults. We’ve even watched R-rated movies on HBO together, and no one blinked an eye!

Of course, both my mother and I know that this arrangement is not healthy in the long run. She can’t wait until I leave and start a normal life again. And I can’t wait until I have a place of my own, living a normal life again. As much as we try to be “roommates” over the last few months, a mother and son will always be a mother and son.

If I am in Manhattan at midnight, I still call her up to say that I am not dead on the 14th Street subway platform, the same thing I would do at age thirteen, except back then, it was on a pay phone, not an iPhone. There are also some mornings where I wake up to discover an umbrella hanging on my doorknob, a reminder from my mother that Al Roker said it was going to rain today.

I know it’s all a little weird. I’m here to own it. I can’t be a personal blogger if I don’t talk about my personal life.

I’m an only son, and I’ve always been close to my mother, particularly after my father passed away. But I’ve never considered myself a typical momma’s boy, or my mother the type of overbearing Jewish mother you would see in sitcoms (even if I sometimes portray her that way on my blog).

The instability of my marriage with Sophia took a toll on me. Like a ping-pong ball, I went back and forth from Los Angeles to New York for the last two years, depending on the current state of our marital relationship. All this turmoil also had me wasting a lot of money, flying back and forth, and putting stuff into storage. And since I couldn’t afford two apartments in two cities, I stayed in my mother’s place, my childhood home, when I was in New York. It worked out well because during the winter, the apartment was empty while my mother rented a place in Boca Raton, Florida. She went to Florida. I stayed here.

In many ways, the experience of spending more time with my mother in New York has been an enriching one. Not many of you get to experience a truly honest and adult relationship with the woman who brought you into the world.

But there is also a darker side to this. I have been plagued with doubt and anxiety over the last few years, which makes it difficult for me to make a decision of where I want to go next. It’s not as if I don’t have confidence in what I do. I have strong writing and work experience, but most of my contacts are in Los Angeles, not New York. And I just feel happier in New York. But my bank account is getting in trouble, and it time to take action.

And then — the biggest question of them all — what about the beautiful, intelligent woman that I met in — of all places — New Zealand?

I am at a crossroads between divorce, starting over, career change, and the need for more money. I’m not even sure freelance writing is a sustainable job for me anymore. My health insurance alone is costing me $800 a month, and I’m thinking of taking on a paying job, with health insurance, just another one of my poorly timed decisions — looking for work during a terrible economy, while thousands of younger and cheaper recent graduates hit the streets. So, I sit here and think. And worry. Less about how you perceive me, than how I perceive myself.

I have a vague feeling that someone is going to hold me in disdain after reading this post. Or one of my old trolls will return, the one who usually reappears only when I seem vulnerable.

“Talk about first world problems,” she will say. “Who cares about your petty life when Turkish students are fighting for their democratic rights?!”

We tend to have sympathy for underdogs, except for when the villain is the main character’s own brain. And almost all of my issues are based on my own decision, action, or inaction.

Why did I move to Los Angeles and pursue the entertainment business if I didn’t intend to stick it out living in Los Angeles?

Why did I stay in such a a unsatisfying marriage for so long?

Why don’t I just shut up, get a normal paying job and move into your own apartment like a normal person?

Don’t you realize how much privilege you are squandering as a straight white male who has the world at his feet?

Why don’t I just get off Facebook and write a novel and sell it rather than talking about writing so much?

Why did I connect with Juli in New Zealand to only leave her stranded with your indecision?

Who goes to Paris with their mother?

Believe me, I ask these questions of myself. I’m hard on myself. But I’m OK with living in a world where my mind is in flux. I’ve been living with myself for a long time, so I know how I work. I’m living this life as best as I can. Eventually, I’ll figure it out. Even if it makes me seem a little weird. I am a little weird. I can’t change that. Better you know the real me than a fake one. I know, I know. Fake it Until you Make It. But not on my blog.

As I started saying in the beginning, I understand how “branding” works. I am suppose to appeal to your aspirations. To be influential. My aim is to make you want to “be” me — to inspire you! “Look at me. I’m having lunch with some popular person at a fancy restaurant!”

The internet is all about promoting success. I look forward to the day that I can write the tweet announcing the million dollar screenplay sale. I hope to wow you with more sexy stories about my adventures with Juli in New Zealand. I can’t wait to make you jealous with my Instagram photos of the party I attended at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Gwenyth Paltrow and Sting. I know you want that for me. But right now, I can’t. This is how it is, right now, in June 2013.

Hang on while I try to figure out the next step. I’m sorry I can’t give you any more “added value” than I currently have.

But one thing I do know — and I say this with more pride than shame — in October, I will have photos of Paris with my mother.

38 Comments

  1. You’re my favorite.

    the end.

  2. I see you and your mother as an extended family as opposed to ‘a single man living with his mother.’ It is simply a matter of perspective. I have lived in an extended family situation (my 76 year old mother, my husband, myself and our 23 year old son) for almost 10 years. We spend a large part of our time together but also have things we are involved in individually.

    Now, to take my mother to Paris. That is one of my dreams. :o) Have fun! I look forward to enjoying the posts and pictures.

  3. You’re having a new beginning. It’s not like the Big Bang, where there’s blank then a big noise then an atomic party. It’s a regeneration and rebirth, and any woman can tell you that gestation is the period of time where everything cool that’s happening is inside and unseen. Have you heard us talking about our birth stories? The average gestation is 6,384 hours long. The average birth is 10-20 hours for a first-time mom. Yet to hear us tell the story, the pregnancy was over so fast and the labor lasted years. Horrible, freaky years.

    So you’re hour 4,000 into your 6,384 and you don’t have your rebirth yet? You’re hard on yourself. Let it happen naturally. You’ll know when to push.

  4. I think it is sweet you are going to Paris with your mom. Life is short & most of us don’t spend quality time with our parents as adults. It’s a gift.

    You will figure it all out in your own time.

  5. I’ll always like the real you the best.

  6. I went to Amsterdam with mine! Beat ya!

  7. I don’t think there’s anything unhealthy or off-putting about your relationship with your mom or hers with you. It’s not smothering, it’s not manipulative, it’s not quarrelsome or melodramatic. It is one of the most stable, healthy and balanced relationships you have in your life.

    Why worry what anyone that doesn’t know you and doesn’t know her thinks about it? Hey Bradley Cooper, former “Sexiest Man Alive,” lives with HIS mother, a widow. Even though he’s rich, he didn’t buy her a house or put her up in a guest house on his property, they LIVE together, like family.

    I think the trip to Paris with your mom and Laura is a brilliant idea. It is something you’ll always remember and never regret.

    As for the rest, it’s a lot to face down at once. I think you should use that insurance policy to see a therapist and start working through the depression and anxiety and self doubt. You deserve the best version of YOU, not some imagined prototype.

    • V’s comments and advice always have me nodding in agreement. Neil, be good to yourself. Most of us have a villain residing in our skull. I’m told that muscular brains can be trained though. I use common techniques — like when I catch myself over-analyzing, paralyzed with spinning indecision, or overwhelmed by thoughts, I say “thinking thinking thinking,” or “shhh.” Sounds goofy, but has helped me move through some tough moments, days, weeks, etc.

  8. I echo what V-Grrl said, especially about therapy. It does help, a lot.

    Your relationship with your mother sounds pretty awesome – I can’t even fathom spending a weekend with my mother, never mind 10 days in Paris. You’ve been thru a lot this last year or two and you kind of deserve some time to lick your wounds and recover and if that needs to happen while sharing a flat with your mother, so be it.

  9. You’re human. Whoa! Shock and awe!
    Seriously. It’s okay. You’re human.

  10. I love this. Authentic Neil is awesome.

  11. Traveling and living with your mom is no big deal. Calling her to let her know you are alive is awesome. I call my parents when I get home from work every day. I talk to them about 4 x a night. It means you are a nice guy and that you have respect for people

  12. I wish I could talk my mom into going to Paris! I struggle with living so far from my family and grapple with the decision I made as a 20 year old, now that I have children and our family spends such limited time with them. As a fellow blogger that writes what is in my heart and what is of interest to me in the moment, I admire your candidness on this situation. There’s a real plague of bloggers that only paint their world as beautiful and truly struggle behind the screen. More honesty makes the world a better place.

  13. We’re all trying to figure out the next step. There’s no shame in that at all. In fact, that’s more of a common thread than you think. You’re extremely lucky that you have the relationship with your mom that do. Going to Paris with her will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll always remember. Can’t wait to see the photos!

  14. I don’t know what to say other than I love this post so much. I feel good things coming for you.

  15. What Heather said. Hard.

  16. I read your blog for posts like this, not glam pics or pep-talks. Being able to co-exist with your mother as an adult should be a source of pride for you. She’s a person. You’re a person. Living together makes sense. Who the hell cares what anyone thinks? Have fun in Paris. More immediately, have fun living your fantastic life in NYC.

  17. Who the hell gets to say which family members it’s cool to hang out with and who it’s not? I think it rocks that you’re traveling with your mum, living there. I thoroughly enjoy hanging out with my parents and do so all the time. I’d travel with them in a heartbeat — in fact, we often do once per year. I say spend life with whom you wish to spend it with.

  18. Very good writers are rarely “normal.” The best writers I know are terribly neurotic, indecisive, lazy, vacillatingly opinionated with all sorts of questionable characteristics. It’s more fun that way.

  19. My 27-year-old super hot co-worker is dating a 49-year-old man who lives with his mother. She actually befriended his mom before him as she frequents the local bar and does crosswords. It’s a crazy world.

    I think it’s interesting and good that you can live with your mom. So many people can’t sustain a reasonable relationship with their parents or children. I love my folks and if need be, I would live with them or vice versa. I hope you have fun in October!

  20. Self-doubt, perfectionism, depression, anxiety, even Queens — I know that old gang very well. I can’t put into words how much more I value your writing honestly, with humor and precision than I would your “communicating the positive message of your personal brand.” Just reading that latter phrase is squicking me out AND making me feel kinda small. Your relationship with your mother sounds fantastic. As does the Paris trip. As for “faking it till you make it?” That ain’t art. That’s a self-help book. Stick with the truth, Neil. You wear it well.

  21. This is my favorite post. Truth quotient 100% and still good. You have it 🙂 why is living alone better than living with your mom? If you get along, and it works… Then it works. Period. Plain as that. Don’t over think it.

  22. And like that, this post: Blogging 101, How To Be True To Your Brand

    Boom.

    I love you, Neil.

  23. Oh, Neil, you are weird–but in the best, most positive way. It really is a privilege to be allowed into your mind, weird as it is. Makes me more comfortable with mine, weird as it is. Thanks.

  24. I went to Europe with my mother, and we had a blast. Mostly.

    I really do love underdogs. So I’ll keep rooting for ya–until you hit the big time. Ha, just kidding. Good luck.

  25. This post makes me like you a lot, Neil. Vulnerable, thoughtful, open, articulate; I trust the person you describe here. Perhaps this would be the ideal time to cash in?

  26. You rock. When I read that post I thought 1. How fantastic that you talked your mom into doing this & 2. I can’t wait for the pics! Nothing about “weird” entered my mind. You’re just figuring things out like everyone else.

  27. Well look what a complete failure this post was… 😛

    It’s OK to drift, I think. You never know what kind of wonderful thing you’ll discover when you are not completely focused on one goal.

  28. After a disastrous relationship in San Francisco, my Dad flew me home to DC, took me on a Caribbean cruise and said, “I think you should go live with your mother.” I was 24.

    And I did. I spent 3 years living in her Paris apartment until I was confident enough to move to Manhattan. Fast forward 2 years ago when I was evicted from my apartment here in LA. I called her and said I thought I should come home and live with her until I decided what to do next. I was no where NEAR 24 years old.

    I waited for her to say, “Sure, come home.” Instead? Silence!

  29. I think it’s cool that you’re taking your mom on a “big” trip while she can still enjoy it. Dave from Blogography does this with/for his mom every year. I think it’s nice.

    I do hope to read a tweet heralding great success from you this summer, but if it doesn’t come, I’ll enjoy pictures from France in October.

  30. I refuse to read posts about success. Blech. how boring. Don’t read ’em, don’t write ’em. guess I don’t understand the internet at all.

    Paris with your mother is better than NO paris at all. Maybe?

  31. Last fall I took my mother to Italy. I didn’t let her bring a friend. I brought a friend. It was amazing and weird but good.

    Good luck with being in flux. Thanks for taking us on the journey with you.

  32. I think it’s terrific that you’re taking your mom to Paris. I hope one of my boys does that for me someday. Life’s tricky; sometimes we just have to stand back, take a deep breath and reassess before getting back on the ride. Hell, it probably wasn’t all roses for Gwyneth and Sting either. Okay…maybe not Sting…

  33. I like this post very much, so much so that it has been open in a tab since the day you put it up just so I could come back to it and leave you a comment that had more than 140 chars.

    I like it because it lets me glimpse into the very heart of you Neil, into your fears, your vulnerability, and – to some extent – into your confusion. There’s a lot of humanity here, a lot of relatable opportunities which are far more interesting than the bragging and self-quoting commonly masquerading as blog posts on the positive, brand-building blogosphere you allude to.

    I like it that this post goes some way towards getting to know you better, even if I have been reading you for years, since that surprise birthday blog carnival where we sent little trinkets to your friend Danny for your birthday, and I was blogging under another alias.

    It feels like a lifetime ago and we’ve both come a long, long way even though we clearly still haven’t quite learned how to handle others’ judgment of us. As a case in point, you wonder what living with your Mom says about you, and I am still an anonymous blogger.

    What I take from this post is that you are very, very lucky to have such a wonderful mom (and I cannot even begin to imagine what that must feel like) and that you seem to be getting stronger as time goes by.

    And that birthing of strength is a wonderful thing to behold.

    Thank you for allowing us to be your witnesses. x

  34. As much as I want to read that tweet about your million dollar screenplay sale, this, in some ways, is much, much better. And not in that Schadenfreude-y (totally a word), trollish way, but in the “real life happens” way. Much better. (After all, how can we root for the underdog if you’re not an underdog in the first place?)

  35. It appears you are the only one who thinks it is weird to live with your mother. It’s not like you never left. Or married. Or divorced. It’s not like you never experienced life. I had to move in with my mother 15 years ago. Because it was the only solution. And we both hated it. But we have a great relationship all these years later. Life goes on. You worry wayyy tooooo much man. And why not go to Paris with your mom??? Who gives a rats ass who you travel with!?!? If you have fun with your mom, go on more trips together, including dull cruises. It’s ALL about making memories.

  36. Lovely. Life is complicated — good luck with all of it.

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