Monday, June 06, 2005

The Little Hurts that Linger

I keep thinking that it must be strange to read Tiny Cat Pants and get the feeling that all is not well in the extended family of your dear Aunt B., but not be able to put your finger on what just exactly the problem is, since all my posts about them seem to be about what charming eccentrics they all are. Here's something that sucks about them, that I should be over by now, since it's been almost half my life ago, but I'm not. When I was 16, we moved to another little town in central Illinois. This one came equipped with a boy who was a good six foot three, a good two hundred and fifty pounds, a moody, creative, sensitive, boy a year older than me, who dated one of my best friends. And who stalked me for three years. Just for starters, he broke into my house to leave things, stood at the end of my street, just staring at the house, threw me into a locker when I talked to some boy he didn't approve of, screamed at my mom about what a whore she'd raised, kidnapped the Butcher, and made my life a kind of hell I would not wish on anyone. To say it fucked me up is probably putting it mildly. I still don't think I know how to quite trust that men who like me aren't insane. I don't think I have any idea how to let my guard down enough around men I actually like, and I've been unnecessarily mean to men I don't. In fact, I think one of the good things that feminism has done for me (and, by extension, for the men I know) is to make me sure of my own competence and worth, which has gone a long way towards making me less of a pain in the butt towards you, dear men, and by extension, to myself. I hope, anyway. But, while all this was going on, my parents did next to nothing. I say "next to nothing," because they did do something--they blamed me. When this asshole befriended the Butcher--seven years his junior--and I begged them to forbid him from coming over to play ball with the Butcher in our front yard, they told the Butcher that I wouldn't let this asshole come over. When the Butcher didn't come home from school, because that asshole had picked him up and took him out for a drive to grill him about me, I got in trouble. When he broke into the house to leave things, it was cute. And he was regularly invited over so that we could smooth things out. I guess I was supposed to find some way to appease him and I was to blame for never being able to. It's funny how you can so clearly understand why something is how it is. I can know why it is that my parents cave to people who are bullies. And I can see that this was just the first time I noticed that. I can see how they carved for themselves a little life that is very insulated from most of the world and I can understand how important it was for them to keep us so near them, safe, and how terrible it must be to want to desperately to keep your children near you and safe while at the same time you are unable to stand up to bullies. How terrible to not be able to do the very thing you need most to be able to do in order to feel okay in a world you are afraid of. I have so much compassion for them, but I'm still fucked up about it. I was telling the Professor that there are just a couple of things I really need. I need for the 13-17 year old me to hear often that I am beautiful and brilliant. And I need for the 16-19 year old me to have my parents tell me they understand what's going on and that I'm not bringing it on myself. I don't need that now. I don't need to hear that now. It'd be terrible. It'd be so uncomfortable and weird and I would hate it. God, I would rather do just about anything than to have to have some kind of Resolution, where they weep and gnash their teeth and tell me I'm wonderful and how sorry they are. God, the last thing I want is for my old-fart sixty-something parents to be apologizing for shit that happened half my life ago. I hope you get that, and that it makes sense. What really devastates me about the whole thing is that it's shaped who I am in a way I really don't like and that there's no way to really fix it. I need for things to have gone completely different and there isn't any way for that to ever happen. And that's what still makes me sad about it.


Blogger Peggasus said...

Yeah, shitty shit happens. To everyone, some worse than others. I hate being trite, but I really do believe that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

We've all got baggage. It can either weigh us down or, you know, that stronger part again. I'm definitely on the stronger side of that equation. And I'm older than you, so you should heed my wisdom.

6/06/2005 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Feral Mom said...

The way you write about your family is quite amazing - with compassion, but also with clear eyes and feminist consciousness. I first visited your blog because of the Bitch Ph.D. link, but stayed because of the stories about your farmily. Anyway, being stalked is never a joke, but especially not as a teenager, and ESPECIALLY not with your parents' (tacit) consent. FUCKED UP. Preach it. And glad you survived to write about it. Thanks.

6/06/2005 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

OHHH! That makes me so mad! I hear things like this all the time: the girl/daughter being blamed. Sickening.

As badly as I want to retroactively rescue you and punish that jerk and your parents, I can't learn your lessons for you, and why would I rescue you from your own well-deserved evolution?

If undoing a single hurtful incident made a person less of who they could become, why thwart lifetimes of progress and growth? It might affect someone--maybe your children or grandchildren adversely down the line.

This sounds callous, but I believe there's a reason for everything. And especially since you are very introspective, you're likely to move from why to maybe it's because... in short order.

I'm still mad though.

6/06/2005 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger _Summer_ said...

It's strange to read something about someone else's life that very well could have been written about your own.

Our stories aren't identical--they rarely are--but they're similar enough that I feel confident in saying this:

I understand the sadness that lingers. And, I'm sorry.

6/07/2005 02:47:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Y'all are really amazing and generous with your responses. Even though I thought, reading Peg's, that I'd come across very whiny. But I just want to say that I hope it's obvious that I'm not really hung up on what happened. I know it's not the worst thing that can happen to a person (unfortuntely) and it's not even the worst thing that's happened to me.

But it's the moment when I really got that my parents didn't know what was best for me. And I think that the fact that it happened so late in my adolescence and how it happened tells you (and me) something about me.

Which brings me to the second thing that reading your comments helped me put into words. Part of changing "religions"--worldviews--is that, though I still ask the same thing I've always asked--"Why am I here?"--it's not the same question anymore.

The question my Christian experience sought to answer was the "why". Because God so loved the world he gave his only son. Because God has a plan and a purpose for you. Because you need to learn these lessons so that you can move on. Etc. I'm sure you all are well aware.

But the part of that question I find compelling now is the "here." What brings me here to this point? Why am I sitting in this chair at this keyboard right now and not someone else? Why did I finish high school and not my best friend from 8th grade? Why do I have a job I love and some folks who are just as smart and funny and well-deserving not? What brings me to this moment?

And the only way to answer that question is to throw my own eye to the bottom of my own well and look up through my past and down from my present and see what shape the murky stuff in between takes.

Or maybe that's not the only way, but that's the example I've chosen to emulate.

6/07/2005 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger twila said...

How many of us women have suffered under direct or unspoken blame while being victimized? I would dare to say that almost every woman reading this can immediately pluck up a memory to relate.

And that sucks. No, it's NOT alright to lay blame and guilt on the weary shoulders of the victim. Thanks for saying that out loud.

That said - although experiences like this shape us in ways we don't like, they can also serve us. From them we can learn compassion and kindness. From our own pain we can learn to identify the pain in other victims and , eventually, even the bullies.

That's the lovely thing about self-inquiry. The delights of self-discovery are always available.

6/07/2005 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger the Professor said...

amazing post and great comments
I'm not ready to say anything yet, but I can't say nothing

6/07/2005 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Sarah Bott said...

That is really fucked up. Seriously. I am so glad you wrote about it. Shed some light on it. Light kills the darkness.

I'm glad you're there.

Yer pal, Twink.

6/07/2005 11:46:00 AM  

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