PENSACOLA, FLOut of concern for her daughter's well-being, Valerie Guzman spent the majority of her 26-year-old daughter Nancy's brief holiday visit belittling her.
"You only have that small bag?" Guzman asked Sunday when her daughter stepped off the plane. "You don't plan to wear the same outfit for three days, do you? You remembered we're going to the DiSicas' dinner, right? I don't want you running out at the last minute and buying a dress with money you don't have, just because you forgot to pack something nice."
"It would make things so much easier on everybody if you'd just plan ahead," added Guzman, whose first priority is the well-being of her children. "I mean, think about what you're doing once in a while."
Within the first hours of her daughter's visit, Guzman attempted to help Nancy by noting that her job doesn't pay enough and observing that her wardrobe is "scruffy."
"You could be doing something better if you'd put your mind to it," said Guzman, who is simply worried about her daughter's future. "I have no idea why you stay at that place. You say you like it, but I'm concerned about how you manage to get by."
Guzman observed that Nancy's hair looks better when she cuts it short, that drinking coffee is staining her teeth, and that men don't like women who curse. The mother cared enough to help Nancy plan her visit with her high-school friend Barbara Legstrom, as well.
"Are you going to try to see Barbara this year?" Guzman asked Sunday evening. "Because if you're going to have to run all the way across town again, you have to think about it ahead of time. You're here for such a short visit, and we have so many family obligations."
Nancy told her mother that she and Barbara would probably go out for drinks some night after everyone else had gone to bed.
"Well, don't wear your nice clothes to the bars," Guzman said helpfully. "You always reek of smoke after you go out with her. You don't want to smell like an ashtray for brunch at your brother's, do you?"
Nancy said she understands that her mother only wants what's best for her.
"Mom says she gets involved because she cares," Nancy said. "Apparently, she lies awake at night worrying about me and my brothers."
Although the topic has not yet been broached, Nancy said she expects that her mother will want to discuss her July 2003 breakup with long-term boyfriend Keith Solanas.
"She usually brings Keith up when other people are around," Nancy said. "I don't mind people knowing about my personal life. She just asks if I still talk to him. She always says she has no idea what could've possibly gone wrong. Then she tells me she feels bad for me because she knows how hard it is to find a good guy these days, especially for someone who's almost 30."
Although her father Thomas tends to be less emotionally open than his wife, Nancy said she knows that he cares, too.
"Dad doesn't get as involved in my life," Nancy said. "But he does always say, 'Listen to your mother.' And he'll check to make sure that my car is clean and my trunk has antifreeze in it if Mom tells him to."
Nancy said that when she moved away to go to Boston College in 1994, both she and her mother had hoped that there would be less need for parental guidance. This hope soon faded.
"I thought that when I moved so far away, Mom wouldn't be so much a part of my life," Nancy said. "But I still find myself relying on her. Like, if I talk about going to Ikea, she tells me that I have too much clutter and that's probably why Keith left me. That sort of thing."
Nancy acknowledged that her mother is right to say she has a temper.
"Every once in awhile, I even blow up at Mom," Nancy said. "Like, once, I told her that eyeliner doesn't make me look like a hooker and that she shouldn't talk to me that way. Well, after she ran to her room crying, I realized I shouldn't have snapped at her."
Nancy said she has been the object of her mother's constructive belittlement since she was 4 years old, when Guzman told her it was unladylike to run in a Sunday dress.
"Even if I land a million-dollar job, marry a great man, and lose 20 pounds, I know my mom will always be there for me," Nancy said. "It's like Mom says: No matter what, there's always room for improvement."