|Real friends, loud music, a dance floor and yes, good food was my good time|
I went to my junior and senior prom solo. At both dances I had a blast. I danced every dance except for the slow ones, that was just awkward… and boring. Other then that nothing chafed my night(s). Even in middle school I’d dance with my girlfriends, never had a guy. I liked boys. Crushes were my only relationships really and still today it seems that’s all they are. But I only ever remember feeling miserable about this fact when someone pointed out to me that it wasn’t “normal”, that girls have to have dates to proms. Even if, like my friend Chrissy, it’s someone their aunt’s friend set them up with that they’d never met before. Pretty lame to me, but to society at large I was the lame one. I was the one without the other. I was the one happy to be alone, which I hadn’t realized I was either. I didn’t know I was alone. I was surrounded by my friends, people I REALLY liked and had fun with and liked me back, people who knew me, knew my family, knew things about me and my family that I kept secret from most people but still wanted to be around me anyway. Real friends, loud music, a dance floor and yes, good food was my good time.
But I was supposed to be miserable. Because girls were supposed to go to proms with guys even if they didn’t like the boy. To everybody else that’s what was right, what was supposed to be. I was freak for being happy to be alone. Or I must have been a lesbian, because only lesbians can feel complete without a man. Hetero girls like me had to have a man to be complete. That’s just the way the world worked. It’s what my mother had taught me. Place men above all else. Having one of them meant being whole. Even if they beat you, attacked your children and left you penniless living in a housing project. Better that then be alone. Until they died and left you alone anyway and all your chances for escape were wasted. I was 13 and my sister was 19 when our father had passed away. We had our mother and she had us but we were not what she needed. She needed him. And without him she took off to find the first replacement that would have her, his best friend. My sister and I were left to fend for ourselves and I resolved to never be anything like her.
I’d worshiped my mother. I wouldn’t leave her side as a young girl. We’d dress up in her old gowns and put on fashion shows for my father. I’d rummage through her jewelry box to put on bobbles that made me feel like her. My father was a fun and funny guy when he wasn’t in a rage but even he had trouble soothing me when she’d leave to go grocery shopping. I stopped masturbating because she told me it was hurtful and disgusting during a family meeting we had with my brother, father and sister present. My sister had caught me the night before under the covers. I was six and absolutely mortified. I never touched myself again and every time I wanted to I was disgusted with myself. A bony child my mother had forced me to eat under the threat of death and disease. We’d been watching the T.V. program Fame and the character of Holly was dying with anorexia. I didn’t like to eat as a little girl but my mother showed me Holly and told me I’d end up like her if I didn’t eat so I forced down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich even though I didn’t want it. I still over eat to this day. She was perfect and anything she said I did. I loved her like no other. But she left us about six months after my father’s death, she’d found a fresh start that didn’t include us and we barely saw her. My brother was off in the military, age 21 and cared for by his new career. My sister was left to care for me and I resolved to disassociate with anything and everything that I likened to my mother. I refused to wear dresses, adopting a mixed match grunge style that I could hide behind. I stopped styling my hair. I gained weight and forget about make-up, I refused to even wear rings on my fingers. And at 15 years old I masturbated again for the first time since that mortifying incident when I was six; right on her new husbands couch when they were out of the house. Boys were the enemy. They were the type she had abandoned us for. I would never need them. I waged war against co-dependency. They weren’t people they were opponents, which made my crushes really awkward because I did like boys, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to care what they thought of me. I thought pretty horribly of myself so why chance they felt the same anyway. That “class feminist” title I garnered in my senior year book was hard earned. All my relationships were crushes, entirely fantasized. I was safe that way. I could hate them but have them love me at the same time. It was lonely, but I learned to make lonely look good. Unfortunately that doesn’t make the imbalance go away and by the time of my sexual awakening (I was 19) I was primed for toppling over. I’d enter into “intimate” relationships with men based purely on sexual attraction. It worked for two reasons: one- it scratched an itch (if you know what I mean) and two- it allowed me to maintain my solo. When things didn’t work out it was because they were pigs and I’d walk away hurt and frustrated, confirming all the hatred I’d developed toward men, the enemy. I was single, so I wasn’t like my mother and they were hateful bastards, so I had a right to see them as the enemy. They would use me and leave me feeling wretched and belittled, just like my father had treated my mother. Wait…
I realize I’ve made myself out to sound like a slut. I really didn’t sleep with many men. But the ones I did get involved I’d chosen carefully. If I was put into a room with 50 men, 49 being decent men who wanted to love me and 1 being a complete lecherous asshole I’d choose the asshole, even if he was in the bathroom when I entered, I’d wait ’til he got back, pushing away and even being irritated by all the others. I’d found a way to stay solo. I picked men who were belittling and used me. I was EXACTLY like my mother. What!? How had that happened? Hadn’t I been attracted to those men because my father was abusive, with big hands? Hadn’t I done everything to ensure I was NOTHING like my mother??? How the hell had this happened? How had I backed myself into the same horrible relationships trying NOT to be like her? Believe me I was stumped. I was stuck in this enigma for a long period of time, repeating the same mistakes, making the same bad choices in men and even four years of therapy hadn’t saved me. I really had no idea what to do. I knew there was a problem but I didn’t realize what was causing it. It had been my father, my relationship with him, my fear of him. It had to be. Even though, even now, most of the memories I have of my father’s rage were aimed at other people not at me. He’d actually been very gentle with me. Oh I knew he’d abused my mother and brother and sister. He’d beaten them. One of my brother’s beatings I witnessed. But me, he’d always been gentle with, until the end and even then his angry words toward me were filled with hurt and pain that even at thirteen I could distinguish. As a baby, 9 mths old, I’d suffered a terrible accident and almost died. After two weeks in the hospital they brought me home and my father was NEVER as hard on me as he had been on the rest of the family. So, the confusion stayed. Honestly I didn’t know how to resolve any of it and had it not been for a serendipitous moment not but three weeks ago I would still be in the same lurch.
|And that bubble was situated somewhere near my heart|
I’d gone to my friend Vasi’s house for a visit. She’d moved to Miami for work and had been gone for a year and because of the shit summer I’d had along with conflicts in her life, it’d been almost two years since we’d actually gotten to spend quality time with each other. We entered into one of our long conversations, the kind I love so much and distinguish friends by. We had a lot of catching up to do and opinions to share. It was great. The peanut butter and jelly for lunch was great. And then our conversation turned to our childhood. She remembered me when I was the spoiled little princess, the dress up/make up queen that would cry for her mother in second grade. She remembered the attention my mother lavished on me. And she reminded me of it. She reminded me of a time with our Girl Scout troop, how we’d gone to a senior home to perform a Thanksgiving play for them. She told me things I hadn’t known, or things I hadn’t realized, that my mother had said; how she bragged about me to every parent watching and was happy to buy me the doll I asked for in the gift shop when the other little girls weren’t getting anything. My friend thought I was such a spoiled little bitch. And I was. We weren’t friends back then. I was actually quite mean to her back then. She was tall and awkward because of her height and I was happy to treat her like the outcast she was. But time and fate had twisted things and turned what I’d thought was certain into the variable. My mother’s love abandoned me and that abandonment had hurt so badly I’d forgotten it had ever existed at all. But she reminded me. The me I’d become. The lover of outcasts and queen of solo I’d become. The person who’d been humbled enough to see an incomparable beauty in the tall awkward girl I’d been happy to make fun of years before. And I’d become a better me. A more informed and sympathetic person that actually cared about how I made others feel. A person that quite frankly I’d go through all the pain and horror again for, so long as I was assured I’d become her again. I love her. I like her. I’m proud her. But she’s got a whole in her. Like a bubble in the clay that left a crater in the master piece while it was being fired. And that bubble was situated somewhere near my heart. I’d defined my new self by everything I’d thought my mother was, everything I was trying not to be. And during that conversation I was made to realize I’d left out a few pieces. She had loved me. She’d actually adored me. And if she hadn’t I’m sure the shock of her betrayal would not have impacted me so profoundly. But the reminder that at one time she was my biggest fan, the reminder that at one time the attention she paid to me was the envy of other little girls made me see a few more pieces I’d missed. And my friend helped me put them into place. “Maybe she was depressed (when my father died) and scared and was going through things she wanted to run away from”. I’d been through so much of that lately, with my son, not being able to get out of bed even to make him breakfast. What was I making him feel that I didn’t WANT to be making him feel? What were my weaknesses, my sicknesses teaching my son about himself that were inaccurate lessons? Was he learning that I wasn’t interested in him when in fact I was? Was he learning that I didn’t love him when in fact I love him more then ANYTHING? What was he learning these things from? When I ignored him to sleep longer? When I told him to work by himself and leave me alone? What had he learned, or decided about me when I can’t find a job that can provide for us? Were these lessons twisting his mind because he doesn’t yet have the perspective of an adult? He only knows what all children do- that they want their parents’ unconditional love and when they don’t have it (even when they’re pushing it away) their world is shaken. I don’t know how my depression has affected my son. What I do know is when I take my friends advice and look at my mother’s actions through my adult eyes they seem a lot less hurtful. They seem sad and desperate. How desperate and scared does one have to be, after all, to leave one’s children to their own devices? But I’ve thought of it, I’ve been tempted to walk away and never come back. Mostly because I didn’t feel good enough for my son, like he’d be better off without me. And maybe that is what my mother was feeling. Like she just couldn’t do it. And self soothing through a man’s attention was her drug of choice. So she didn’t have to face her fears or her mistakes. She was depressed. And she ran away. And I believed it was because she didn’t love me. But I don’t believe that now because I was reminded of how much she did, when I was little and times were safer for her. She is not a strong person but she did love me. She is not a mentally stable person but she loved me. And now, thanks to my friend’s reminder I have been awakened to a piece I so desperately needed to find. I am like my mother. And not all of that is good but none of it is something I should be ashamed of. There are pieces of her in me, most likely some that are the mental illnesses I suffer from. Mine have been articulated, hers are still blurred, but I can see them and so I can do something about them. And I can remember her when she felt safe enough to love me. I can remember her when she felt worthy enough to nurture me. Even if that worthiness was coming from my father’s approval of her. It was a weak and shaky foundation destined to break. What I can realize though is this, the good feelings she was able to muster for herself she lavished upon us. When she could feel happy she turned it toward us. And even though her collapse meant my ruin, I realize now that it was because she was had fallen to ruins and had no idea how to piece herself back together. She didn’t want to be that weak, she just was and she was ashamed that she was so she relied on the closest thing she could, the idea that we would be strong enough to make it without her. That we were stronger then she was. And so I became what she insisted I be: Stronger then she was. And it hurt like hell. But I wouldn’t change it for all the world. And know I can fill in that whole created from the bubble set loose by her abandonment. I can fill it in with the realization that she’s weak, but she loves me, as much as she can and as often as she feels strong enough for. And with that I verge on a dawning. An awakening of a girl interrupted by what she thought she had to be to become who she is proud of, and who is now, able to fill in some more pieces to get a little closer to being whole.
|She is not a strong person, but she does love me ( Doug with his Grandma, my mom, about four years ago)|