Ch. 5

FOURTEEN

At 14, I was a freshman in high school and once again had to make friends all over again. The administration forgot about me so I didn’t have a locker my whole first week of school, but it didn’t really phase me because I was used to being left out and forgotten.

– – – – –

For three months, I “dated” a boy named Danny. We only hung out once after school. On that one occasion, we made out at town center; he looked under my shirt, and asked me why I had such weird shaped nipples. We broke up soon after, but his words stuck with me for life.

– – – – –

            I knew Hunter was gay for a while, but had always been waiting for him to feel comfortable to tell me himself. We were super close and I wanted to help him however I could because it was important to me that he felt supported and loved.

            Two things he struggled with: school dances and hair.

            He didn’t know how to grind and asked me to teach him, so I did. I grabbed a pillow for the each of us to practice on and showed him everything I knew.

            The topic of hair was a bit trickier for him though. He was in the emo phase where he wanted pin straight surfer hair that partially covered his eyes, but he didn’t know how to achieve that look, which is where I came into play.

            I taught him how to straighten his hair with a flat iron and then use product for finishing. The first few months he wouldn’t get it. So I would either straighten his hair before bed, or in the morning before school.

            I had no problem helping him with anything. I never treated him differently or asked him any weird questions. I just respected him and his space and let him live his life the way he wanted to.

            But my whole life it seemed like I was always the big sister, even when I was really the little sister. I looked after everyone, all the time. That was my job. I just loved people, loved life, and I wanted to make people happy, but I rarely remember anyone acting that way towards me.

 

FIFTEEN

Sophomore year was a lot. By 15, I never wanted to have kids- At least that’s what I told people if they asked. I thought it made me sound cool to say I didn’t want to get married or have kids, like one of the bad/popular girls at school. I thought if I said I wasn’t into marriage and into having kids that there was no way I could be let down if I didn’t have them later in life. But what I was really saying was I didn’t want to become my parents because that was my worst fear.

– – – – –

My mom picked me up from a hockey game I was managing. In the car ride home, she accused me of sleeping around with my on-off boyfriend Jake. I denied the claims because I was still a virgin in my own head, even though Taylor had broke my hymen when I was ten. At the time he did it, I didn’t even understand what happened, and truthfully, I still didn’t understand it at 15. As far as I knew, I was a virgin.

I always had trouble concentrating in school and no one knew I had ADHD until I was 20, so I was never properly treated or medicated. Instead, I would stay after school almost every day and get tutored.

But my mother… Queen of the crazies and Empress of Bitch Nation started screaming at me, saying she knew I was having sex after school. Her argument points were that a.) Logan told her and b.) I was never getting smarter.

I ignored the dig at my intelligence and I told her Logan was lying…. She didn’t even go to my school.

For the 15 minutes home, my mother called me a slut, whore, worthless trash, prostitute, damaged, pig, embarrassment, catastrophic disappointment, and many other colorful names.

That whole car ride, I was crying so hard and begging with her to stop. I was pleading through my tears, insisting I was telling the truth, but she wouldn’t listen. Instead, she yelled louder and louder, called me a liar, and told me I was lucky if she didn’t “close me up with superglue” when we got home. I was sobbing uncontrollably with no end in sight.

It’s exceptionally challenging for anyone to be accused of something they know they didn’t do. But for a 15-year-old girl, this was one of the most horrific days of my life, one I have never completely recovered from either. My memory can still snap back to that exact moment in time, before I drag myself back to the present day reality. This trauma of verbal and emotional abuse, as well as slut-shaming, has stayed with me after all these years. It has impacted my relationships both with others and myself in so many ways.

– – – – –

            A few weeks later, my dad asked me to drive out with him to Montauk. He liked to go out there to clear his mind, so normally, I wouldn’t expect anything to be out of the ordinary, but there was an eerie feeling this time.

            Halfway into the trip, he confronted me. He told me “several sources” (aka mom and Logan) had told him I was having sex and he wanted me to tell him the truth. The way he spoke was like he had already made up his mind on what he was going to believe. I could hear it in his voice. He thought I was guilty and there was going to be no convincing him otherwise. I didn’t feel like I had any way out.

            To spare myself another agonizing fight, I lied. I told him he was right and that I had been having sex, knowing damn well that was the farthest thing from the truth.

            I had to lie to my dad, the one person I looked up to and respected most.

I had to sit there, in that car, for hours with him and the air convoluted with my lies and try not to fall apart.

I had to look out the window at the normal happy world we were driving by, and know I was never going to be part of it.

Lying to my dad was one of my biggest personal failures… and it all happened because of my repulsive poor excuse of a mother.

Years later, I finally told him that I lied and why I did it, but I don’t think he ever believed me.

– – – – –

My French teacher was the biggest barnacle I had ever met. She was some useless obese woman who failed 60-75% of her students every year. Third quarter, she gave me and 70% of my class D’s for a final letter grade. Naturally, I thought she must have been on crack, but soon learned this was no joke.

Once I brought my report card home, my father grounded me for 15 weeks straight. He was not open to listening to anything I had to say whatsoever.

Since he wasn’t going to lift my punishment, I felt like I had to prove I was right. So, I talked to my classmates and told every student in my class to go talk to their guidance counselors about our class and teacher. I told them to be blatantly honest and say whatever they wanted. If they liked her, cool. If not, cool. But I needed to establish there was a pattern of her poor performance.

I met with my counselor and explained how not only did my teacher NEVER actually teach, the only class time we had consisted of her struggling to pull out the TV cart, breaking a sweat, and panting as she shoved in a VHS tape to put on Muzzy. She was no teacher… She was a babysitter with a bad attitude and hated her job. With hair like hers, I could understand.

Within 5 weeks, each classmate had met with his or her counselor and not one of them gave any praise. By the end of the fourth quarter, we got her fired.

            The school sent home a letter saying they felt her teaching skills were sub par and were letting her go. But my father still wouldn’t lift my sentence because according to him, I “still got a D!” It didn’t matter what the school told him or how many emails my guidance counselor tried to email him. He wasn’t going to budge. He was essentially saying, “I know you didn’t do anything wrong, but I am going to punish you anyway.”

– – – – –

In time, I grew up watching my father avoid responsibility, get out of trouble, and then teaching me to do the same. He didn’t care about the effort I put in. He only cared about the grade. It didn’t matter if I was proud of my C. He wanted an A. And when you’re a child with ADHD and abusive parents, you just do what you’re told to avoid more conflict. You get the grade no matter the price. I lied. Cheated. Manipulated. And I got so good at it. I was the best of the best. There were times when I actually thought I could have a career being a con-artist and was proud of myself. My dad didn’t care how much I loved art. Or the effort I put into it. He cared what I got in math and science. And he conditioned my behavior with fear. 

– – – – –

In April, the emotional stress and repression from so many years began to take its toll on me. My body was at its limit, but no one seemed to notice. Eventually, with no help and no way out, the severity of my weakened psychological state caused me to go partially blind in my left eye for over two years.

To make things worse, my dad left us April 21st. I was never one to cry publicly, but I couldn’t keep everything together and broke down in class one day. In tears, I left to gather myself in the hallway while one of my teachers asked my classmates if I was okay. One of my friends must have filled her in because the next thing I knew, she was sitting next to me on the floor, with her arm around me, letting me cry onto her purple blouse.

I was so thankful to have had her. All I needed that day was a hug. That’s it. I just needed one moment of human nurturing to ease the pain enough so that I could stuff all my feelings back into their tightly closed box.

When I got home that day, I walked through the front door and my mom appeared out of no where, grabbed me by my arm, pinned me against the back of the door, and slapped me repeatedly. The slaps turned harder and the nails became sharper. Eventually her hand of claws found its way into my hair, balled up, and began slamming my head backwards into the wooden door. The whole time I was in shock. I didn’t understand anything that was going on. As far as I knew, I got off the bus and walked home like I always did. As she hit me I tried to push her off, but she was so enraged that I wasn’t able to for a few moments.

After so many blows, my inner bad bitch turned on. It was a little delayed, but I remember feeling thankful that I was able to find my strength and push her off me. She slammed into that wall as if I had superhero powers and screamed, “DON’T YOU EVER PUT YOUR FUCKING HANDS ON ME AGAIN!” ME…. Put MY HANDS…. On her!?!? I dared her to touch me again so I could break every bone in her hand, but I could tell by how her eyes changed that she knew she had pushed me too far and no longer had control.

She proceeded to then yell at me for telling my teacher about my dad leaving. Apparently, my teacher called home to check in on my mom and offer some girl talk/advice/whatever adults talk about. But my wild ape of a mother then decided to share that she denied everything and told my teacher I made it up for attention.

I was a 15-year-old girl with no one to comfort her in a time of need. There was too much emotional chaos in my life. And I was getting yelled at for getting help… But not only that, my mother told me it was MY FAULT that she lied because I gave her no other options.

I’m not sure how much earlier I learned this similar lesson, but by this occasion, I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about anything family related outside the walls of our home. I remember harboring this feeling of everything was my fault, including the actions of my mother.

In retrospect, I wish I knew how fucked up and how unfounded her parenting was, but I was a child. They kept me from play dates and a normal free life that I didn’t know families to be any different. All I knew was everything bad happened because of me. My entire life I harbored deep feelings of self-prosecution, hatred, and blame. I never wanted to speak about my life or any of the bad things that happened in it because I internalized everything and believed it was a reflection of me/my behavior, not my family.

– – – – –

            This same year, Hunter came out to me, I gave a speech (written by my mother) comparing my dad to Hitler for grounding me, and I met someone new.

I was still dating Jake on and off, but during one of our times apart, I met Connor while managing the JV Boys Ice Hockey team. We made out on the bus coming back from an away game once, but that was about it. Jake and I got back together soon after that until we ended for good two days after my birthday in June. During that time, Connor and I never spoke.

 

SIXTEEN

After Jake and I ended, Connor started texting me every day for a month. In August, he asked me to be his girlfriend. That’s it. There was no waiting or earning the title. He was confident he wanted me all to himself and didn’t want to share.

I said yes. I wasn’t attracted to him in any sense of the word, but I honestly just wanted to be with someone older. I hated all the boys in my grade and somehow thought a 1-year difference between Connor and I would change everything. But it didn’t.

Our ‘first date’ was the first time we ever hung out. His grandparents were out of town so we went to their house to use their pool, although Connor didn’t tell me this was the plan when he picked me up so I didn’t pack a swimsuit.

Once we got there, I somehow convinced him to go skinny dipping… alone. I was too nervous to show myself naked like that in the daylight. I was a 16-year-old girl, so needless to say I was very insecure about my body. And comments from years prior still haunted my mind.

He got in the pool and I sat on the edge, dangling my feet in the water. I remember checking him out and feeling so young, like when you go into an adult changing room with your parent. I had never seen a guy naked like this before but remember thinking he looked so manly. I tried to play it cool and use my peripherals to check him out while we kissed.

At 2 months, he cheated on me with Haley. She tried to get all of my sloppy seconds with every guy I had been connected to and couldn’t just wait her fucking turn on this one.

At 3 months, I was finally ready to let Connor see my boobs.

At 5 months, he asked my permission to go to a school dance with his friend Britney who needed a date. I was reluctant and originally said no, but he told me I was being an “immature underclassmen” so I changed my answer and let him go. For 5 months, he had said good morning and good night to me every single day. That night, he randomly stopped answering me and I just knew in my gut that he cheated. I just felt it in my bones and confronted him the next morning. He, of course, vehemently denied everything, but I could never shake the feeling. Since I had no proof, I let it go. It turns out I should have listened to my gut all along. After 2.5 years together, I confronted him again and made up a story that someone told me everything. He confessed. Her name was Jen. She was Britney’s friend. And the whole school knew but me. I gave him my trust, and he destroyed it.

At 6 months, I said, “I love you.” He said it back, but in my gut I knew he didn’t mean it. I don’t know how… it was just intuition.

At 9 months, we got in an argument. I cried and told him not to leave me and he said he wouldn’t. What he ended up doing was far worse than leaving me. He went to a party and had unprotected sex with two different girls. Like the coward he was, he never told me. Kids at school started what I believed to be rumors. And, like the loyal girlfriend I was, I foolishly defended him and lost a lot of friends in the process.

Two weeks later, my friend Dan (Connor’s grade) told me the truth. He wanted me to know it was a fucked up thing to do and that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. I was beyond humiliated. I screamed, I shrieked, I went insane. And I broke up with Connor.

I was supposed to be going to his prom with him, but decided not to go. His mom knew EVERYTHING that happened. EVERYTHING. And to this day, I will NEVER understand her actions as a woman or a mother. Instead of being a parent and punishing Connor, she laughed, wouldn’t return my money for the prom ticket, and said everything that transpired was my fault, her son shouldn’t suffer, and that she shouldn’t be out the money.

UH, LADY? Yeah, hi. You’re a fucking lunatic and your son is a dirtbag. I wish you nothing but a lifetime of bikini waxes from blind Asians. All your cheap ass did was enable your son’s poor behavior and add to my life long sense of internalized blame. I hope someone eats your nipples off while on bath salts, you satanic waste of human life.

(Update: She broke her leg in three places, tore her ACL, bruised 2 ribs, and fractured her collarbone during a skiing accident a few weeks ago. WANNA KNOW WHY? Well, kids, pop a squat and LET ME TELL YOU. It’s because of thing called Karma. And boy, do I just luhhhh me some karma).

– – – – –

For one session, my psychiatrist scheduled a meeting with my parents. He told them both of my feelings of neglect and asked them what their thoughts were. Without missing a beat, my mom admitted to favoring my siblings, inappropriately punishing me, and intentionally making my life miserable. She also said she hated me and wished she never had me.

Later, the same doctor explained to me that those feelings came from a place of jealousy because I had a good relationship with my dad and she didn’t. But my parents ended up cancelling therapy and never letting me go back after my psychiatrist told them they were the problem and should consider professional treatment themselves.

– – – – –

In therapy, my parents made the doctor ask me all kinds of questions about Connor. But I never lied to him. I said no we weren’t having sex at 9 months because we weren’t. I hid the relationship from my family or at least tried to because I wasn’t proud of Connor. I wasn’t proud of who he was or how he made me feel. I didn’t want to publicly own such an embarrassment. And that’s all he was to me because I eventually I lost respect for him. I didn’t feel like I could get space from him. Every time we broke up, he was scream crying and blowing up my phone, calling the house, and leaving hand written notes in my mailbox. He wrote me songs, drew me pictures, and left me surprises at our message center. It felt as if there was just no escaping him without a restraining order.

Desperate for a partner and a shred of protection from my family, I stayed and always took his bullshit. I eventually caved to everything and told myself he’s trying and he loves me. He didn’t love me. The only person he loved was himself. He was a fucking selfish asshole. I gave him my heart in ways I never gave anyone else.

Because of him, I trusted less and my walls went up. I remember riding him months later with such hatred that I was actually trying to hurt him because my behavior has been so conditioned to do what other people wanted that I knew the only was I was getting out was if he released me.

– – – – –

16 was definitely a big year. I was diagnosed with anxiety, socialphobia, and PTSD. And this same year, I was doing volunteer work, running two fashion shows, helping out in art programs, and raising 25 chickens for an environmental science project. Don’t worry; I made sure to throw myself a chicken baby shower. There was a 3D chick cake, party favors, and the incubation room decorated like a nursery.

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Age 16 was also the time I was diagnosed with HLA-B27+. It is an autoimmune disease that behaves like an arthritis.

            The best way to understand autoimmune diseases is to think of a burglary. In normal bodies, the bad guys (bacteria/virus/etc) come in and the homeowner (body) calls in the good guys (immune system) to come help fight them off.

In my body, the bad guys come in, I call for the help, but because it’s so dark and late at night, my immune system gets confused on who is good and who is bad. So it accidentally takes out its own good guys and lets the bad guys get in.

So, my body essentially attacks itself, which is why it takes longer for me to heal and recover. In addition to frequent sick episodes, the disease attacks every single joint in my body with excruciating daily pain. Unfortunately, it’s a life long illness with no cure. But FORTUNATLEY, I’m as tough as the stale shortbread cookies my grandma leaves at the bottom of her purse and can handle anything.

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