Reject or Neglect

Bernadette Judaea
4 min readJun 26, 2023

I was having a conversation with my mom and grandma last night over midnight snacks.

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

We began to talk about relationships which I am so very pleased we can do. One of the things my mom said during this conversation was that she began to prefer neglect over rejection. She described a scene where she would simply ask my dad for a hug. When she would go for an embrace, his arms would flop to his side, and she was the only actually participating in the hug. This doesn’t surprise me at all. My dad showed little affection, particularly towards my mom but also not very much towards me from what I remember. This exact image is a perfect representation of his way of gesturing that he actually cared “at least I let you hug me” I guess.

I feel like I have a complicated relationship with my dad. Ultimately, the way he left my mother was atrocious and not worthy of respect in anyway shape or form. He lost a lot of intregrity in my mind with that process, and still to this day he hasn’t said a word to me about it. I wasn’t invited to his wedding, he almost forgot my birthday this year, he hardly ever reaches out, I initiate most of our conversations. I gotta tell you there are a lot of other ways I feel neglected by my dad. The thing is, I know he loves me, but I guess for 23 years with my mother he developed into thinking thats what love looks like. Staying out of someone’s way.

My mother didn’t deserve neglect, but she preferred it to rejection. I know that feeling of rejection all too well, so I imagine that had I stayed in my toxic relationship I might have reached a point of preferring neglect myself. At this stage of my development, it feels like abandonment. It's a very emotionally charged feeling of distance between my dad and me. I don’t deserve neglect either, but I also know that I am reacting from an emotional place. This feeling isn’t necessarily rational. Worst case scenario, I could call my dad and I know he would answer without a question. He’s come to push my car to get it to start. He got me an attorney before a detective could ask me a single question. He’s got my back, no doubt, but it feels like I perhaps molded myself onto my mother’s behavioral patterns.

I think its important to say that I don’t think anyone is to blame for this reaction from me. There are a lot of things my parents did right. Even in their shortcomings, I was able to learn from them. I genuinely think they are both incredible people, but they lack tools to navigate emotions. If they don’t, they’ve hidden them from me or maybe I just fail to see them because of my own reflection.

“Men,” Grandma asserted, “all men are like that.” She meant that all men are up to no good when they are not around. She also said she never really felt very emotional about things, to include the deaths of family members and friends. Considering she survived the Great Depression by dumpster diving and tended to her grandmother after he grandfather died, Grandma had a tough life until age 13 when she was adopted. I told her its no wonder she felt like she didn’t have emotions, she was toughened up from an early age. She was led to believe that you just go with the flow, but in the next breath she told me that she always felt like she had control and could be independent and make it on her own. In that expression, I could see the message as: “I didn’t need a man, I could do it on my own” as what I might call toxic individuality. The incessant need to be self-sufficient and to not need anyone else.

You do. You need other people. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a life-partner, but nobody is self-made. Everyone that makes it is lifted up and supported, even if only by their closest friends, family, relatives, or business partners. I can guarantee you, there is not a single person that has made it in this world all on their own. No possible way because at some point in life, you were a baby that needed care. It may not have been good care, but it was care nonetheless. I told my grandma that the feelings are my compass. They are not necessarily rational thoughts, but just ways for me to explore parts of my psyche that stay hidden in the shadows. I need other people to see those shadows, we all need other people to see our true reflection.

Somewhere along the line, love and affection became less valuable than consumer goods but we are social creatures. We work too hard to pay bills and provide for our family, even if that means we are absent. It's easy to say from my perspective but I do appreciate that men are forced into believing they have to be providers to have any value. That could be why my dad often seems to prioritize work over family. It feels impossible to know the minds of my parents but I will continue to try to dig in so that I can understand my own mind better.

Now I leave you with a quote from Lucille Ball, “Id rather regret the things i have done than the things I haven’t.”

Originally written for what turned out to be my final writing session in Collective Journaling at The Stoa on to being Less Foolish.