Over the weekend, Mom took me to an ashram, which is a place that stressed out people go when they’re rich.
We were supposed to stay for the whole weekend but we ended up sneaking out in the middle of the first night, which sounds like a bad thing to do but it was also the most fun thing that Mom and I ever did together.
When we first arrived at the ashram, I knew we probably wouldn’t last the whole weekend. There was a sign at the front entrance that said, REPEAL YOUR VANITY, RELEASE YOUR POSSESSIONS, RELEARN TO LIVE. I knew Mom would not want to do any of these three things. We had just spent the whole week shopping for sexy yoga outfits for Mom to wear at the ashram and she was definitely not planning on repealing or releasing any of these.
I don’t even know why Mom wanted to go to the ashram. She kept saying that she just needed some “Me Time,” which seems like a strange thing to need, but even more strange because Mom spends every day taking “Me Time” because she has no job and drinks alcohol every night until she passes out.
But Mom put on a fake smile, which has become her only kind of smile, grabbed our suitcase and said, “Wake me up when it’s over.”
The ashram was made up of several buildings that were kind of like old-timey cabins surrounding a big pool. At the front was a check-in building and, when Mom and I entered, there was a woman behind the counter who had dreadlocks for hair even though she was a white woman. I could see Mom hide a face of hatred for this woman, especially when the woman said, “Namaste and welcome to the first step toward Inner Harmony. Our spiritual founder Satchidananda once observed, Truth is one, Paths are many. Nonetheless, we were rated as the best ashram in the Northern Lakes region by Wellness Magazine two years in a row. Welcome, namaste.”
I could sense right there that Mom wanted to escape from what she quickly realized was a kind of prison, but she smiled a fake smile again and said, “Namaste, thank you, we’re checking in.”
The white woman with dreadlocks proceeded to tell us about the Ashram and the rules we had to follow, which all sounded like things that Mom hates. We had to wake up every morning at 5:45 for a “satsang,” which is a meeting with the other guests of the ashram. Mom asked if she could just send me to the meeting to take notes and report back but the woman said that it was mandatory, which is one of the words that Mom hates.
The woman also said that we were not allowed to use our cell phones and that we had to put all of our “material possessions” into a “Trust Locker,” which were little cubbyholes. Mom said a “Trust Locker” is something that is called an oxymoron, like "Happily Married.” Then she laughed in a kind of fake way and the woman and I just stared at each other waiting for her to stop.
Mom then asked the woman, "What happens if someone steals our stuff from the Trust Locker?” And the woman said, "Then you’ll be one possession freer.” Mom nodded and said, "I think I’ll just hold on to it for now.” And the dreadlocked white woman said, “I’m sorry to hear you’re still bound.”
Our room was near the back of the ashram and next to the large pool. The pool, the woman explained, was "clothing optional.” And apparently, everyone currently in the pool chose the naked option and Mom and I could see their privates as they sat around the pool, casually talking to each other like they weren’t naked.
It was actually disgusting to see all of the men and women with their weird penises and soupy breasts. I normally would have found it funny to see naked people in a pool outside my room, but for some reason I just felt really strange looking at them, like when you walk in on someone going to the bathroom.
Mom and I finally got to our room and closed the door. Mom stared at me in a really intense way like we just got out of a war together. I wanted to tell her that we should leave, that this place was scary and weird and that she could have “Me Time” at home if she wanted to and that I would promise not to bother her all weekend or ask for anything if she would just take me home.
But Mom just put on a fake smile and said, "Yoga’s in an hour. And then dinner.” Then she walked into the bathroom and shut the door.
Yoga was held outside, next to the Penis Pool. Everyone gathered in a really serious way onto Indian-looking mats that were spread out. The mats were damp from sweat and smelled like a wet dog, and we had to take our shoes off which made me feel gross.
Mom wore really tight grey spandex pants and a little pink shirt that didn’t cover her belly all the way. And I think she thought she looked sexy in her short shirt but her belly fat poked out from the bottom and made her look fatter than she actually is, which is not really that fat.
A man with a long beard who looked homeless was the yoga teacher and he was wearing orange pants and necklaces instead of a shirt. He started by giving a speech about how we have all gathered here today to focus inwardly and relearn to move like a baby, which kind of made me laugh because I pictured everyone there crawling around the sweaty mat like babies. Then he told us that we had to think about the real things in our lives and forget about our material possessions. He told us to focus on the important relationships in our lives and how we are all connected to energy and other people.
Then he made us all bend down and do weird positions and everyone seemed to know what they were doing, even Mom. And while everyone was bending down with their eyes closed, I stood up and looked around and suddenly realized that I was the only kid in the whole group.
Then it occurred to me that maybe Mom didn’t actually want me to come here; none of the other people brought their children. Maybe Mom only brought me because, as part of their divorce, Dad agreed to pay for any activity Mom did with me. Maybe that’s why she took me to nice restaurants and on vacations and to the ashram. I tried to put this thought out of my mind because it didn’t do anything good, but it wouldn’t really leave. The homeless teacher wanted us to focus on our relationships, but my main relationship was Mom and I started to worry that maybe it wasn’t even real.
After yoga, we had to gather in the biggest cabin for dinner. Everyone was still sweating and smelled like sweat and had sweat on their feet, but I was happy to be done with the yoga and I was really hungry.
All through dinner, though, I still had the weird feeling in my head that maybe Mom only took me around so Dad would pay for her. I kept telling this thought to go away, but for some reason bad thoughts always stay longer than good thoughts.
And the food was so disgusting. It was all vegetarian, which I usually don’t mind, but it was the bad kind of vegetarian food, where they put so much spice on everything to try to make you forget that it’s not meat.
The fork was made of a carrot cut into the shape of a fork and we had to eat the fork after eating the meal so that there was no waste. And the bowl was made from seaweed, which tastes like when you accidentally swallow dirty ocean water. Seaweed is something fish might like to eat because they have limited options under water, but humans have other things that are better like waffles and grapes. But I was so distracted by my bad thoughts that I couldn’t really focus on how gross the food was.
Mom and I walked back to our room after dinner but we didn’t really talk that much. I think we were both a little homesick and I didn’t want to ask Mom about my fear. I guess I was scared that it might be true and, even if she lied to me and told me that she took me everywhere with her because she loved me, I would probably know that she was lying. Mom lies all the time and it’s usually easy to tell because she overdoes it.
When we got back to the room, Mom said, “Great day, huh?” which was a lie. I almost wanted to cry because I wanted her to at least say, "Yoga was weird. The Indian carpet was sweaty. The Penis Pool is disgusting. And the food was gross.” I wanted her to say at least one true thing but for some reason she needed to lie. And I wanted to say, "No! It was a terrible day. I hate it here.” But for some reason, I felt I had to lie as well. I don’t know why. I think I felt that if I said anything true, I would start crying. So I just said, “Yeah, I love it here.”
And then we didn’t say anything else to each other all night and we just went to sleep, which was hard for me because I couldn’t get the bad thoughts out of my head. Nighttime can be really scary if you’re worried about something. During the day, there are all sorts of things to distract you, like phones and people and daylight, but if you’re worried about something at nighttime, it seems like it’s the only thing in the whole world.
And I kept worrying that maybe my whole life was fake. Like if Mom was my main relationship and it was fake, then what did I have that was real? I’m friends with Matthew, but sometimes that feels fake too. And I liked Dad but he turned fake and moved away. Sometimes I think that the only thing I really have is myself and that’s a really scary thought.
I must have finally fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was really weird: A loud bell started ringing and I opened my eyes to see Mom standing above my bed, wide-awake. Her hair was wet from excited sweating and she looked wild-eyed. She said, “It’s 5:45. We can either go to the morning meeting and spend the whole day doing yoga and eating carrot forks or we can get the hell out of here. Your call.”
I didn’t even have to say anything. I just nodded, so relieved! And Mom smiled, so relieved, as well. Then we grabbed all of our stuff and crammed it into our suitcase and darted out of the room.
We ran around the Penis Pool, over the sweaty carpets, past the Trust Lockers and finally into the parking lot.
We jumped in to the car and, as Mom started the engine, the dreadlocked white woman ran out of the welcome booth and called after us, “You’re going to miss satsang!”
And Mom rolled down her window and shouted back, “Trust me, I’m not!”
And then the woman said, “We’re sorry to see you’re not spiritually aligned enough to make it through the whole weekend.”
And then Mom said, “Fuck off!” and pulled out of the parking lot.
And even though Mom cursed, I started laughing, which is not normal for me because usually when Mom curses it makes me feel like I have a sister instead of a mother.
But for some reason, I couldn’t stop laughing. Maybe because it was so early or maybe because I was just so happy to leave the ashram, but I laughed until my cheeks hurt.
As we were driving home, the sun began to rise and I stared at Mom who seemed kind of happy for the first time since Dad left. She opened the window and let the air blow her wet hair back, which is something she never does because she doesn’t like fresh air.
And I started laughing again because I suddenly thought that, a long time ago, Mom was a child like me. I never realized that Mom had her own life before me and maybe she was happy as a child or maybe she was sad, but she probably didn’t think that one day she would be so angry.
Mom asked me, “What are you laughing at?”
And I said the truth: “I thought of you as a child.”
And then Mom started smiling. And I almost didn’t recognize her smile because it was a real smile. And it made her face look different—her eyes squinted and her cheeks puffed out a little. And even though she looked older than when she fake smiles, she looked a lot happier.
And then she said, “I was actually a really pretty girl.”
And she had tears in her eyes even though she was smiling.
And then I had tears in my eyes even though I was smiling too.
And I wanted to ask her if she only took me around so that Dad would pay for her but I already knew the answer: Mom took me around because she needed me.
Because going through a hard life with someone else is better than going through an easy life alone.
That’s why I’m giving the ashram 27 out of 2000 stars and Mom 1892 out of 2000 stars.