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Mother: Elizabeth (62)

Daughter: Angelica (33)

Boulder, Colorado

“The Russian Dolls”

Mom, Elizabeth, is a carefree, gypsy spirit who loves nothing more than to spin on a beach in a flowing dress with pig-tails and a fanny pack. Daughter, Angelica, (known to mom as “My Angel,” is the over-protective, breadwinner of the “odd couple” who manages their finances, makes the rules and oversees the household chores. The typical mom and daughter dynamic is completely turned on it’s head with this duo. Not only that, they have physical panic attacks when not together, guests are required to wear booties inside their home, and lastly: mom gained fifty pounds so that her daughter wouldn’t be overweight alone… Welcome to the twilight zone.

Angel and Liz have what their friends and family describe as, “extreme paranoia, co-dependency and OCD.” The paranoia manifests in one another’s equal worry regarding each other’s safety and well-being. If separated they get severe anxiety, so much so that mom gets physically ill and her back literally aches. It’s so bad that if Angelica goes out with friends she has to text her mom a photo of where she’s at and with whom or mom will call the police and come searching herself. Neither approve of rideshares, so regardless of where they are and what they are doing, they drive one another wherever they go. It’s not just Liz! Angelica keeps extremely tight-reins on mom. She manages her mom’s social media, tells mom what to wear and who to socialize with. She’s also been known to escort mom to and from her college classes. Although they are extremely close, Angelica having just completed her PhD wants to buy a home and establish roots, whereas Liz finds Boulder to be dull an uninspired and she desperately wants to move. Liz, however, isn’t willing to move without her daughter, and Angelica doesn’t want to move and feels that they have a quality life in Boulder. Mom feels that there are no men and no future for them in Boulder, whereas Angelica wants to build her life in Boulder. The two are at an undeniable impasse.

Their actual home is evidence of their extreme OCD. Angelica and Elizabeth live together in Angelica's tri-level condo. There are strict cleanliness rules and levels for all who enter their home, even for their Shiatzu, “Mischka.” Like quarantine airlocks at disease control centers, the garage serves as phase 1 of reentry into their home. This is where they take of their outdoor shoes and put on their indoor shoes. This is also where they wipe down their dog with special dog-friendly alcohol wipes. Inside the home guests are required to wear booties, (bare or stocking feet are not options.)

The first level of the house is meant for taking one’s shoes off and changing into "living room pj's.” These are special “indoor only,” clothing that are acceptable to touch their furniture. If a guest wants to sit on the couch, they must first sit on an approved blanket set on top the couch. Angelica and Elizabeth each have their own couch that they sit on. Naturally, they’re not allowed to sit on each other’s couch. Because: germs. On the third level of the home where Angelica and Elizabeth's bedrooms are located, they only wear special "bedroom pj's" that are only meant for the third level of the house. Due to the level of anxiety that germs cause Angelica, she rarely invites friends over to her home. Additionally, the duo partitions and delegates their daily tasks. Mom is only allowed to do dishes on occasion, and is only allowed to take out the trash if she is wearing gloves. Angelica is in charge of the cooking, cleaning and their email correspondences. Every task and daily routine is decided together and delegated. They hide nothing, and share everything. Each of their rooms is reminiscent of a children’s play room. They each have dozens of stuffed animals, toys, and childlike décor. Stuffed animals, toys, sailor art, games, etc.. It’s their own world and their own sanctuary. To decompress mom plays her piano and sings or paints and daughter goes into her indoor tent with Christmas lights, with her stuffed animals to read.

Elizabeth is a former Russian gymnast who came to the United States in 1978 when she was 21 years old, not knowing anyone, looking for a better life. She had Angelica when she was 27 and the two have been inseparable ever since. Unlike the typical mom and daughter, Elizabeth is back in college at the University of Boulder pursuing a degree in Women's Studies whereas Angelica just finished her PhD in Communication. Elizabeth worked to provide for Angelica during her time in school and help pay for her tuition. After Angelica graduated, Elizabeth decided to return to college full-time. Angelica now feels compelled to provide for her mother in the same way that Elizabeth provided for her. Like the parent, Angelica handles all of the household chores and upkeep, cooking, cleaning and paying all of the bills so her mother (like the child) can go to school and focus on her studies. Though Angelica thinks this is the right thing to do, it's putting a strain on their relationship and is starting to burden Angelica with extreme pressure and stress of providing for the two of them. Angelica loves her condo, but thinks that it is too small to accommodate two adults. Her dream is to buy a home with two separate wings so that she and her mother could co-exist with more space. Elizabeth loves the coziness of their current home and doesn't want more space. She likes being as close to Angelica as possible and be able to watch her every move. 

Angelica has had a life-long battle with her weight. Until now she has given herself a pass because she’s been monastically focused on her PhD. Now that she’s done she can allow herself to focus on her own wellbeing. Angelica has a really difficult time managing pain each month when she menstruates, so she often orders mom to give her pizza. Although mom knows she’s enabling her daughter, she not only gets the pizza, but mom eats it right alongside her. In solidarity mom has gained nearly fifty pounds so that she can match her daughter’s weight. They both know that their weight isn’t healthy and they need to make a serious life change in order to feel good, look good and to confidentially put themselves out there on the dating scene. Elizabeth is incentivizing Angelica to lose 30 pounds by promising her a trip to Disneyland (her favorite place) when she reaches her goal. They’re on a weight loss journey that includes the challenges of eating right, (no more ice cream and pizza!) and daily exercise classes.

Elizabeth and Angelica are both single and blame each other for their lack of love life. Liz feels that she can’t date while her daughter is still single, and Angelica feels that taking care of her mother is her first priority. They are aware of their own paradoxical catch-22 but still they can’t escape the cycle. Angelica has only had one serious relationship that ended in her early twenties, largely due to the fact that Liz was so intrinsically involved in her daughter’s love-life. Angelica doesn't see how a boyfriend could be incorporated into her existing life, although it’s a priority for mom. Angelica is feeling discouraged about the next chapter of her life because the window of opportunity to get married and have kids seems to be closing. Elizabeth has 3 divorces and 2 broken engagements under her belt. Admittedly mom is a naïve, carefree, hopeless romantic and a terrible judge of men’s character. Daughter feels she needs to shield her mother. In the past they go on each other’s date’s together but undercover and incognito. Liz will sit three tables away and spy on Angelica’s date to ensure that she’s safe and comfortable. Angelica will do the same for mom. 

Liz’s ex-husband (Angelica’s father) lives one town away with his new girlfriend. Mom and daughter have a rocky relationship with dad. Liz doesn’t see eye to eye with her father. She thinks his worldview is sexist, classist and antiquated. It doesn’t help that dad thinks that it’s totally unacceptable for his 33-year-old daughter to still be living at home, not dating, and taking care of her mother. He’s concerned that as long as she’s prioritizing her mother that Angelica will never build a life of her own.

Although insanely loving, fun, hysterical and over the top, the closeness has to stop or else each one will not have a life of their own. They will either give themselves full on panic attacks, or their co-dependency will reach truly unhealthy levels. They need to make lives of their own with real boundaries in order to pursue a healthy and balanced life.


·       In order to maintain an extremely clean home, they an exhaustive reentry process when coming home, wiping down their feet, their dog, changing into one pair of shoes that they can use in the garage, then they have to wear a different pair of shoes or pre-approved, clean stocking feet in the house

·       Inside they have to wear indoor only clothing, outdoor clothing cannot be worn inside and it especially can’t touch their furniture

·       There is also specific clothing that they each wear in their individual bedrooms that isn’t worn in the living room

·       They each have their own couch in their home, neither will ever sit on the other's couch. It's against the rules!

·       They go to the Russian Spa together - Elizabeth likes to go nude which horrifies her daughter!

·       If one goes somewhere without the other they have to text photos of where they are and who they are with

·       Elizabeth likes to pick out all of Angelica's clothing and do her hair, though the two have very different styles. Angelica is "boho-chic" and thinks her mom's style is more "gypsy bling”

·       Angelica monitors Elizabeth's Instagram and often deletes photos that her mom posts that are too risqué

·       Mom plays her piano and sings and daughter goes into her indoor tent with her stuffed animals and reads.


Angelica and Elizabeth are in the midst of a full-blown codependent relationship. They smother each other with being overprotective and monitoring each other's every move in life. As each of them are starting new chapters in their life, Angelica having completed her PhD and starting off into her career and Elizabeth moving towards finishing her college education, there is a lot of change on the horizon for the duo. They both want a life with each other, but also want balance, which is hard to obtain under the best of circumstances. Each of them will need to loosen their grip on the other in order for them to move forward.