Before the pandemic, I lived in New York City. On one of my mom's visits, we were sitting side by side on the subway heading downtown. I think we were talking about what to do about dinner that night. Suddenly she turns and asks me, “so, how many men have you slept with?” I'm used to questions like these coming out of the blue. Luckily, she says it in Greek. I began to argue with her, also in Greek, in a half-empty subway car, in the middle of the afternoon… about sex. Particularly how it wasn't really any of her business. “You came out of me,” which is her argument whenever I ask for privacy. Which I'm certain is a Greek thing. “Just tell me that there have been men!” She shouted. Was she asking if I was a lesbian, or if I was a virgin? “It's just sex, it's like a sausage going in and out, it's no big deal.” She was calling me a prude. “Okay, please stop talking, I have had sex,” I might have shouted in English, my mother then sighing in relief and going quiet. I would be remiss if I didn't say this is how most of our conversations go; me exasperated and mortified, she going silent or moving on to some sort of small talk. Our relationship has always been a tug and pull, mainly between my mother's traditional Greek ideas and values, and my yearning to be just like any other American Girl. My mother only come to the country in her early twenties, newly married, and not knowing one word of the language. Even so, she adapted to some American thinking and raised her three daughters with notions of getting an education, being independent, and never having to rely financially to anyone; especially a man. But some of the greek traditional ideas leaked through now and again. And then the entire world stopped. I was in New York when the pandemic came to the United States. We quickly became the epicenter of the crisis, sirens wailing at all hours, make-shift hospitals being pitched up in Central Park, and millions of people all around us completely devastated. It became too much for me. I started having panic attacks, not sleeping, and worrying about how I was going to survive. New York is expensive at the best of times, so I decided that it was best to move back home to save money. So I'm back in my childhood bedroom living with my mom and our cat Violet. I'm 30. I quickly had to set some ground rules. See, mom doesn't really know what a closed door means. She comes into my room without knocking. This would not work if I was in the office in the middle of a zoom meeting or filming a self-tape or writing. So I had to explain if the door is closed, you cannot come in. No, you cannot come pee while I'm showering. Have I mentioned my mom is bad with boundaries? She thinks I'm messy because I leave plates in the sink and she has accused me of loving Violet more than her. We've had a lot of difficult talks. Some even about sex. I told her about a guy I invited to stay over after we stayed out really late; how he offered to sleep on the floor and that nothing had to happen. “So he slept on the floor, did you give him enough blankets?' “No Mom, he slept in my bed because I wanted to have sex.” My mom shuttered. “I thought you wanted me to tell you about this stuff?” “Yes, but not all at once, Niki.” She's learned about online dating which she calls appointments for sex. Which I encourage because it's hysterical. On our family trip to Greece the summer I was 13, my aunt, my older cousin Eleni and I were sitting in a cafe. A really obnoxious sports car drove by, I think it was lime green, and my cousin said how much she liked it. Without a second thought, my aunt told my cousin, “if you marry a rich man maybe he'll have a car like that and you can ride in it.” I was shocked, so I asked my aunt, “why couldn't Eleni get a car like that for herself?” She looked at me with pity, “that's harder for girls to do.” My mother would never have said that to me. If I wanted a fancy lime green Ferrari she would say, “you'll have to work very hard.” I realized how different the two women were. My aunts do not know how to drive a car, they don't own their own property, do not have a bank account separate from their husbands, and don't work. Leaving in her early twenties made all the difference, not just in how she carried herself and lived her life, but how my mother raised her daughters. I'm brave because she was. I'm moving back to London in September and my mom is not very happy about it. She's just always going to worry about me when I'm somewhere alone with only me looking out for me. That's just the way it's always going to be, because I'm her kid. We keep having our hard talks, she keeps walking into my office without knocking. But we make sure we have an outing every Sunday, and she makes me laugh because she's the funniest person I know. And we talk. I haven't told her how many men I've slept with but I put the dishes in the dishwasher now. She's still learning about boundaries. And that's okay.

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