2:33 p.m. - 2004-12-08
Without further ado:
In 9th grade, I auditioned for my first school play. Despite a flair for the dramatic, this was the first time I'd really experimented with acting (as opposed to music). Our theater department was recognized statewide, was very competitive, and was peopled with some amazingly talented performers. I made callbacks, but did not make the show. When I took my father to the play, his first words walking out were "I can see why you didn't get cast." I know, now, that he was probably just trying to convey how impressed he was with the play. But he had never seen me act (and neither had I, really), and had no idea if I was talented or not. This still hurts to think about.
Third grade. We were still living in Pittsburgh. My mother starts telling me about the skeletons in the family closet, especially my dad's alcoholic and abusive father. Her intent was to make me "understand" why my father was sometimes a verbally abusive asshole, but try to convince me that he really did love me. I was eight, for god's sake. I knew we didn't spend a lot of time with my dad's family. But I don't know that I needed to know about my dad getting kicked out of the house, my grandmother being beaten, and my uncle being the favored child. It didn't make me understand. In fact, it made me absolutely baffled. If his daddy was so mean, why was he mean to me? Why didn't he try harder to be nice?
When I was 9, my father (who has had a weight problem most of his life), told me "you'd be really pretty if you lost 50 pounds."
At 11, my mother broke the news that she didn't really get along with her mother (my favorite gramma). She told me horrible stories about her mother basically not thinking anything she did was a big deal, about being forced to care for her younger brothers, about screaming and fighting and throwing things and drama and chaos. I could not equate any of these behaviors with my gramma. I was the only granddaughter (of 6 grandkids. It's actually a semi-cool thing…I'm the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter.) I was spoiled rotten. My gramma let me do what I wanted, stay up late, watch Benny Hill, spell dirty words at Scrabble, taught me to play poker, let me eat hot dogs and macaroni & cheese 7 times a day, and generally thought I could do no wrong. I know, now, that it must have been really hard for my mom to see my gramma spoiling me rotten when she was treated badly, but, dammit, my gramma's was one place I always felt loved and safe, and she didn't need to spoil that by trying to make me basically pick which one of them I loved more.
In sixth and seventh grades, I went through the kind of hell only teenage girls know how to create. My so-called friends would stab each other in the back, I would get them talking to one another, and then they would all end up mad at me. I would come to school on Monday and hear them whispering and giggling when I walked by. I think that's why, to this day, I despise groups of teenage girls.
Sophomore year in high school. My drama teacher was one of the most truly evil human beings I've ever encountered. I remember the first time she ever screamed at me. It was after a rehearsal. She was not directing the play I was in (another drama teacher was), but she was giving us "notes" (critiques) after a dress rehearsal. We had been instructed to get a move on after we finished running the show, hurry up and get out there for notes. I left my costume laying on the counter in the dressing room. She went in there to go to the restroom (it was in there, too). Saw the costume. Came unglued. Basically told me I was a horrible, worthless, human being who didn't appreciate all her hard work in finding costumes for me because I couldn't fit into the ones we had on hand because I was too fat. That I was disrespectful, ungrateful, and untalented, and if she'd been casting the show, she wouldn't have picked me. This was only the first of many abuses by her. The problem was, she made you want her praise, she made you respect her talent, so you really felt compelled to bust your ass to gain her approval and be in her "inner circle." It is a testament to how much I loved performing that I stayed. However, as a result of her criticism, I never really had any appreciation of any talent I may have had. The one thing I did learn was not to be as afraid of other teachers and their melodrama. Our choir director was melodramatic that way, but I had no fear of his tantrums. As a result, he treated me much better than he did a lot of the other students.
First grade. I already knew how to read and write. As a result, I was incredibly bored much of the time. There was an evil little girl who sat next to me. She copied. All the time. I told my teacher, and she basically asked why the girl would want to copy off me, since I never did any work. The problem was, I did do the work. I just forgot about it after I did it, because I finished so far ahead of everyone else. This was where I learned being smart didn't matter unless you kissed ass and people think you're doing stuff, whether you are or not.
I don't recall what the conversation was leading up to this comment by my father. I think I was about 13 or 14, because of the house we were in. I can see my father's reflection in the mirror as he was putting on his watch and grabbing his change. I can see the fingerprinted brass bedstead and the dresser that my mother wanted to keep, but that he insisted upon. I can smell the Obsession aftershave. And I can hear my dad say "well, it's like when you played softball. You were never very good at it, but you tried really hard."
Freshman year in college, and I was head over heels for a guy…the first one I'd ever really been interested in. My "first." We had our difficulties. He was still clinging to the girl back home. I remember sitting on the bed in his dorm room while he talked on the phone to this girl, saying all the right things, but making faces at me while he did it. I remember the fight I had with him, when he basically told me that I was good enough to fool around with while he was away, but not good enough to be his "real" girlfriend. I remember after he left that night. I was in my dorm room, and I couldn't scream and rage like I needed to. I did, however, slam a plastic bottle of SeaBreeze on my dresser so hard it punctured a hole in the bottom. I didn't realize it until I smelled that distinctive smell and felt the wetness on my hand. At that point, I left the room, got in my car, and drove all over Norman for three hours, smoked an entire pack of cigarettes, and listened to the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera at top volume. After that, driving was always what I did to get away.
About a month later, my so-called "best friend" breaks the news that my pseudo-boyfriend raped her and gave her an STD….and that this happened three months before. I was enraged and devastated. Suicidal, really. She never went to the police. He, in an attempt to regain my good graces, told me it happened, but that she begged him, and that it was consensual, and that he was clear of disease. Later, after everyone's lives had been completely destroyed, I pieced together what probably happened….they were stoned, and they ended up having sex, and he wasn't where she got the STD from, or I would have had it, but I never did. It was a long time before I trusted anyone again. She later spread all sorts of hateful stories about me, did everything she could to ensure that I was not happy, and finally moved away. Thank god. It was only then that I really made some friends on my speech team. Everyone hated her, but they were afraid of her. As a result, I was ignored and ostracized.
Age 22, I fall hard for an 18-year-old. The attraction is very mutual. But he wouldn't admit how strong it was. The next year was spent divided between elation and despair. He alternated between acting like he wanted me and doing things to hurt me. One night, a bunch of people were over at my house. One of them was a friend of a friend, kind of a cute girl. She made eyes at him all night. I stubbornly refused to go to bed, and he didn't leave. When I finally could no longer hold my head upright, (a lot of the people were crashing at my house), I heard him leave 10 minutes later. And I heard two car doors. And I no longer heard her voice. Forget sleeping. I tossed and turned and almost threw up. Finally, a few hours later, I ran over to BFRB2's house. I took my laundry so I'd have an excuse when I got back. I left a note to that effect informing the friends who were still there. He came back over to bring his little fling back to join her friends. We had it out. I basically told him how I felt about him, I told him how what he did made me feel, especially since he spent a lot of time flirting with me. He of course denied all of his misdeeds. Our friendship died at that moment. That was probably the last time I admitted my feelings about someone first.
About four years later, my friend TD broke the news that my friend JT had slept with my 18-year-old during this period. Granted, she was getting divorced and going a little nuts. I suspected this at the time. But SHE KNEW how I felt. SHE KNEW how things were. To this day, I cannot tell her I know about this. I cannot tell her how betrayed I felt at the news. I suppose I have forgiven her, but I certainly never told her anything else with the power to harm me.
I cannot tell any more stories today. I still bear the scars from these events. I still look at the person I was, and point to the changes that these moments caused in my soul. I know that, compared to a lot of people, these things are minor. But I was a very sensitive child. Perceptive. Smart. I took in a lot more, and personalized a lot more, than I think anyone ever realized. In college, a lot of the people I knew only saw my depression and burning desire for acceptance. They took advantage, and I let them. But I did see some of the taking for what it was. I had fewer illusions than most of them thought.
Now, I am just more obvious about my lack of illusions. I have not changed that much. I have just changed what information I choose to reveal.
I appreciate all of you who read and comment, and I'm glad if you took the time to read this far. I don't know if it's the prospect of another dysfunctional holiday or another year ending or just an internal switch that's told me I will not reach some of my goals if I don't get this crap out of my head somehow, but I needed to see these things in black and white, see objectively, realize that no matter how painful these things were, I can learn to work around the scars and discover softer, new places rather than just forcing people to touch the places are alien, that are hard, that are unyielding. People may lean against rocks and hard places, but they do not embrace them. I don't want to be a rock. I'd rather be a tree….growing, changing, bending in the wind. Keeping the strength, having the ability to strip down to the bones sometimes, but always knowing that what is soft and beautiful will grow back; always knowing that for every season of rest, there is a season of renewal.