Rotondo being evicted from his parents’ house,
and all I thought: Fix Your Hair!
By Shappi Khorsani.
I shared a room with my brother until I was 15 and after that with my grandmother.
I didn’t have a bedroom of my own until my third year at university. But it’s important to always be moving forward.
I know that in the blink of an eye, my children will be shouting, “Oh GOD, Mom! Why can’t you just leave me alone? You’re trying to ruin my life! You don’t understand me or my music!” and slamming the door. My hope is that they will be doing this at 14 rather than 30.
I hope by 30, they will be living in their homes, which will be quite near mine, and I will have keys to their homes and be able to pop in and out as I wish, dropping in groceries, rearranging their furniture and putting up guests in their spare room. I imagine whoever they will be sharing their life with will not see this as an intrusion but a
welcome quirkiness they could not be without.
This, by the way, is what my own life became like after I gave my mother my keys “in case of emergency”. To my mother, dropping in some particularly ripe aubergines she came across at a market is an emergency.
I welcome my mother’s unannounced visits to my home. I’m lucky to have her and my father still to fuss over me
and buy me nightshade vegetables. Partners have not been quite so understanding and I’ve been known
to hiss, “She is my mom, she is welcome any time and no, she cannot ‘text to give us warning’ because she keeps
her phone in my kitchen drawer.”
Happily, my being single now makes my mother’s life much easier. Coming home to find her napping on my sofa causes no ripples in my life, though my cats do get the hump.
Sharing everything, including a roof, is the culture of my family. Everyone’s door is always open. We constantly
had family from Iran staying with us for months, sometimes years, during my childhood. A relative with depression
slept on our sofa for almost two years. I shared a room with my brother until I was 15 and after that with my grandmother. I didn’t have a bedroom of my own until my third year of college.
I yo-yoed back and forth to my parents’ house until my late twenties. Never for long – I did cleaning jobs, bar work and life modelling to supplement my stand up comedy wages before I finally saved for a deposit and properly moved out.
There has to be a balance, an understanding, a mutual respect. I was at home, but I kept busy: I was haphazardly building my future. Your parents shouldn’t have to resort to taking you to court to get you to live independently.
I can’t help but feel for the mother of Michael Rotondo, the 30-year-old whose parents took him to court this week
to boot him out of their house. I imagine after eight years of nagging “Michael, if you don’t tidy up your room,
I’m going to take you to see the judge”, she finally acted on her threat.
It’s one thing living with your parents because you are in dire straits, in a transitional period, ill or contributing to the household or if your family’s culture leans towards communes, but if you’re not and it doesn’t, then after eight years (Rotondo apparently moved back in with his parents at 22 after a job loss), it’s time, perhaps, for some tough love.
Rotondo, it seems, didn’t get a job after he moved back in. Any job. A job isn’t just about money: it’s a reason to get you up and out of bed, to be somewhere, to feel productive and useful. During a low period in my teens, I dropped out of college and drifted for a while. It was ghastly. I was in a funk, and I felt totally useless until I volunteered in a charity shop. It mattered if I didn’t turn up. My clothes-sorting skills were missed and knowing that allowed me to slowly climb out of the pit I’d climbed in.
In my early twenties, I was lost again after uni and didn’t know how to stop drinking all the time. I spent a couple of years living at home. I earned a little money as a cleaner but mostly worked as a volunteer in a theatre company with homeless young people.
It’s a luxury to do full-time volunteering and I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t have free accommodation at my parents’ house. My parents trusted that it would lead to something. It did. It led to hanging out every night in comedy clubs and eventually getting on the stage myself.
Watching interviews with Rotondo as he spoke to journalists while constantly fiddling about with his luscious locks,
I thought, “You’re not going to get a job if you can’t leave your hair alone for a moment – stop it! Stand up straight! Be a bloody grown-up!”
As a parent, you delight in your children’s growing independence landmarks: their first steps, when they first dress themselves and look like Lady Gaga on acid but you praise them because they did it on their own. By the time they are 30, I want to be saying, “Did you set up a direct debit for your council tax all on your own? Who’s mummy’s
clever thing, then?” And, of course, demanding my own keys to their home.