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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Telling: My Mind is not my Own

If telling the body part of my story was weird, this is going to be even weirder. I always like to have facts to back up my ideas. I think this is partly because in college I was a literature minor, and I had to write so many essays and papers along the lines of "This is what I think of this book, and this is why." And I think it is partly a defense against the unfounded opinions and statements inflicted on my by guess who.

But anyway, explaining the mental mind-fuck that pretty much defined my growing up years is going to suck because it is so hard to think of actual examples of things that happened and were said to me. I know the impression I was left with, but I can't always state why.

Fuck this. I'm just going to dive in. Maybe something will come to me.

These are the messages I lived with growing up:

You are not capable
. This was a serious one. My mother really does not believe she is capable of much, or at least she is always saying she is not capable. I totally internalized that. I grew up believing I was incapable of doing math (I got through trigonometry in college, before I got pregnant and took a break), cooking (I'm quite good at it now), drawing (ditto), singing (I get standing ovations at karaoke), sports, and so on.

My mother sabotaged me quite a bit in this direction, too. She set me up to fail, so to speak. The whole math issue makes a great example. It played out like this:

I was always a little slow in processing math problems. The root issue was that I had never truly memorized my facts (1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc.) and then it took me forever to do more complicated problems. My mother gave me a few conflicting messages here: 1. You don't need much math for real life, so just do what you have to to get through this. 2. You have to get good grades (in grade school) if you want to get into a good college. 3. These math problems you were given are too hard. 4. You must please the nuns, so you must do all these problems.

Mom's idea of helping me with my homework was, after supper and after all the kitchen was meticulously cleaned and immaculate, (about 8: 30 at night) she would sit down with me and a ditto-copied sheet of homework problems. Say the first problem was 736 x 592. So we would begin the painstaking process of, "Julie, what is 6 x 2? Yes, 12. Now write the two and carry the one. OK, now what is 2 x 3?" and so on. There were probably 30 problems on a page. This took hours. So it was no wonder I hated math and began to see it as a boring, painful process. (Now that I have had this epiphany, I think I would like to go back to school and take calculus. Just because I can!)

It didn't take that much effort to mess me over on most things. If it had, life might have been easier for me. But is some cases, it was enough to be told, "Quit singing! You are annoying! Your singing voice is terrible!" And in the case of sports, I really wasn't very athletic, so a simple "I told you so." worked wonders.

Add to that, I picked up her habit of saying "I can't" when I meant "I don't want to" or "I don't feel like it." And then I began to believe it. Oh, what a mess.

You are not lovable and You have worth only as much as you can be useful to other people. This was partly tied to my weight. as in "No boy is going to want you if you are fat." (Since she didn't want me having sex anyway, I don't see why it mattered.) But then: "Boys only want one thing." (NOT my fascinating company, if you know what I mean!) Romance and friendships were not something that happen naturally, they had to be cultivated. I was told "You should get on so-and-so's good side because she has _________." To this day, I have no idea how to make friends (and therefore no friends) . I never reach out to anyone because I really don't feel that I have anything to offer. Conversely, I don't want to be perceived as having an ulterior motive for friendship. Therefore I do nothing.

The world is a dangerous place. Be afraid, be very afraid. Let you fear smother you like a blanket, and don't ever imagine you can protect yourself. The only safe place is inside this little cocoon that I want you to stay in. And if you don't heed this advice, you won't get any help from me because:

You are not worth defending and protecting. Bullies, child molesters, and anybody else had free rein with me. My childhood and teen years were a long parade of perverts, schoolyard bullies, abusive teachers, ass-grabbing employers, deadbeat paper-route customers, and a whole bunch of people who wanted to take advantage of me or hurt me in large and small ways. I was never allowed to defend myself and my mother never, ever, even once went to bat for me on any issue. Her advice was to laugh off insults, not get too close to sexual predators (because of course, if they were family, we still had to see them), and never, ever make a scene. Anybody and everybody was apparently allowed to speak to me, humiliate me, and touch my body in whatever way they saw fit--to release anger, frustration, and sexual tension. It didn't matter how I felt about the matter--I was not to fight back and not to make a scene. Apparently the only person she didn't didn't think should be able to fuck me (literally or figuratively) was the one person I wanted to--my boyfriend. Although once consensual sex turned into coerced quasi-rape, then that was OK.

You cannot think for yourself. You do not have an original thought in your head. Your opinions, tastes, and ideas are not valid. If I ever disagreed with her, it was considered a personal attack. My fashion sense was always in question. Her favorite phrase was "Who told you?" as in, "Who told you leg warmers are in style? Who told you polyester pants are ugly? Who told you nobody wears socks with boat shoes?" As if, I couldn't see for myself.

Your feelings are not important. You are over dramatic. You make mountains out of molehills. Didn't matter what the issue was. Unfair teachers? Treacherous girlfriends? Get over it. It's not that big a deal anyway.

Your feelings are not important. Your anger is unacceptable. More important, it's un-lady-like. Ladies don't get mad, they get walked on. Even when one of my deranged newspaper route customers turned his dogs loose on me, I was the one who got in trouble for filing a police report, because, What will the neighbors think?

You do not deserve privacy. I learned not to keep a diary. Enough said.

OK, I have had enough of this. I am starting to sound like a narcissistic whiner myself. I guess that means that the catharsis portion of this program is now concluded, and I can move on to better things.

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