I feel sad today. My family hasn’t done anything new, but as I’m going through this book, reading these people’s stories, I’m remembering all these feelings I had stuffed down inside me.
I feel betrayed. I feel angry and sick. I don’t like feeling these things, but they are there, and I can’t not feel them anymore.
I know I wasn’t the perfect child; I know that parenthood is difficult. But everything good about myself was ground into dust and set on fire. I feel like my mother emotionally checked out on me to pour herself into the hardship that is raising younger kids. She says I was an “easy” child, but I have to wonder if she says that because she didn’t have time for me.
I don’t know why that hurts me so much now. It was years ago.
My emotions were always burdensome. When I got angry, I was told to stuff it, since whatever I was mad about didn’t really matter. When I felt like I’d gotten the short end of something, I was told to suck it up because I was the oldest and so had to “be a good example for the younger kids.” When I was sad–especially when I cried–I got laughed at and called oversensitive. I always felt cheated; everybody else could express their emotions–no matter what they were–except me. I eventually figured that my emotions had to be bad, since everyone acted like they were such a hard thing to bear.
Even my private thoughts and secrets were not safe. I learned to never tell my mother anything in confidence, because it eventually became public knowledge, either public family knowledge or really public knowledge.
I remember once when I was about 15, I had a crush on this boy. He played the clarinet in the school band, and he sat right across from me in third period French, so I was looking into his eyes every day–a heady thing. I even joined the drill team to be close to him, since they worked with the band, and I wanted him to see me in a short little skirt (I know that’s obvious, but I was 15, all right?).
Anyway, my mother knew I had this crush. One day, the school band was over at one of the parks for a rally or something. The drill team was there, and we were all in uniform. I thought the object of my affection was so handsome in that uniform, and I must have paraded back and forth across his field of vision (always with other girls, of course; it wouldn’t do to appear too interested) a million times. Finally, I swallowed my nerves and went to stand next to him.
And there was my mother. She saw me, and she saw him. Then she shouted: “Hey, [boy’s name]! Look at my daughter. You see her every day in French class. Did you know she has a massive crush on you? Do you like her?”
The poor boy’s eyes widened, and he paled as he stared at me in open-mouthed astonishment. Then he said, “No!” in a strangled-sounding voice, and almost ran away from me.
Yeah, I wanted to disappear, or just die right on the spot.
My mother? She laughed. She looked at my “oh-God-please-kill-me-right-now-or-make-me-invisible” face, my teary eyes, the boy’s hastily retreating figure, and laughed.
“You were never going to tell him you liked him, so I did it for you,” she said once she stopped laughing.
I certainly wasn’t going to tell him anything anymore. He transferred out of French and made a point to stay far away from me when the band and drill team came together to practice from then on.
You know what’s funny? That was more than 15 years ago, and I’m still angry about that.