I didn’t have a good childhood, right. I guess some people did? Weirds me out. I can’t wrap my head around that. Up until I managed to leave, I was continually told how much worse everyone else had it, so therefore I had no right to complain. If I failed to be sufficiently grateful that my parents weren’t even worse, I was a horrible child and I deserved whatever was coming.
It’s true that that most of my problems were a matter of neglect, rather than active violence or abuse. So that’s something, I guess. It’s just that it was a matter of record that no one wanted me. No one cared that I existed. They vocally, regularly, in so many words, resented the fact that I was there, and tried their hardest to wish me away.
I was hungry most of the time. I was left mostly on my own, to figure out my meals in a house full of things nobody sane would eat except each of them specifically and independently of each other. There were no meals and there was no compromise, middle ground of communally edible food because everyone hated each other. I’m pretty okay at baking because I learned in grade school if I wanted a birthday cake i had to work it out myself.
I has nothing to wear except old, too-small, torn and thin, usually dirty clothes that I had no say over and that often gave me a rash. I knew better than to ask either of them for help or a favor. If they didn’t turn on me, they’d find a way to fuck it up. I learned never to express emotion or betray a hint of what I wanted or needed or intended, lest someone scream or hit me or lock me in my room for a couple days. Best case, all I’d get is mockery.
They were both horrible, but of the two I think my father sometimes took a kind of pity. Like, he wouldn’t actually address anything or many any steps to make it better but he’d make these gestures toward… not an apology, but filling the void in some small way. That’ll do; assuage his conscience.
One of the reasons I’ve all this background in videogames is that around 1986 he found that if he kept up a slow but steady supply of the things, I would spend all my time with them and not bother anyone. He wouldn’t have to think about me again for days. Weeks. That was his parenting done. I don’t want to knock that entirely because, yo, I got a fair number of videogames to occupy me, and to use to escape from… all of that, everything around me. And I know we didn’t have a lot of money. But this wasn’t really about me, right. It was pure fucking guilt on his part.
Anyway, these gifts really made my mother livid. (Which also may inform part of why he continued to do it.) She got so angry at the idea of my… well, having things. So I never got any clothes that i needed. Nothing would ever get washed. She’d ensure I didn’t get any food that I wanted in the house, and again no one prepared anything. Were I to actually ask for something—some toy or book or whatever—well, who did I think I was? Royalty?
The exception being the odd, rare thing she got it into her head to bestow upon me regardless of whether I wanted it or not. Regardless of anything I said, any boundary I put up. I had no right of refusal. I’d unambiguously tell her straight out no, then she’d pretend it was news.
When she saw me receiving things that she didn’t pick out, that I actually wanted and enjoyed, she went fucking apoplectic. It was like, what the fuck was this; I didn’t deserve anything! If she saw me leaving the house with my father, she would scream at him, “DON’T BUY [them] ANYTHING!!“
So, okay. Let’s take a step back now. At this point there are a few possible ways to read this, right?
I know my mother used to be all hippie-dippy. I’d heard stories of how when my sister was a teen the former would dig through the latter’s drawers for any bras, so she could trash them. The patriarchy and all, you know. So, a lack of barriers, lack of compassion and theory of mind, Just plain fucking crazy, but second-wave feminism forever! There seemed to be some guiding principle here, even if a stupid one, applied maliciously.
All this time, these forty-some years, I figured, okay, what a flaming asshole—but anti-consumerism, anti-materialism? Sure, okay, I get it. Again we didn’t have much money, and I can see how especially in the 1980s, putting all this value on owning stuff would be perceived as, like, not so superb. Even now, I’m not totally ascetic—I have my books and games and movies, my small collections of things I’ve hung onto all my life—and I am so fucking broke that buying things isn’t really an option. But even if I weren’t, I’d think twice before any purchase. Do I really need this, I think. Do I really want it?
Here’s the thing, though. Just now while eating my garlic bread, I remembered a pretty key clarifying detail. My mother, who was so adamant against my having appropriate clothes to wear, food to eat, anything of my own that gave me a little joy in the void of humanity that was my childhood? She has a fucking consumer addiction.
She will never not spend money on any random thing you put in front of her, no matter whether she wants or needs it or likes it or has the money or not. She lives like a fucking trust fund kid. She will sit and watch QVC for 16 hours a day and buy at least two of everything they show. It gets so she’s afraid of the mailman because she doesn’t even know what she’s ordered. After the divorce, she got the house, completely paid off. Within a few years she’d taken out two mortgages, to pay off credit card bills from all the stuff she orders every day.
All this woman does all day is buy things for herself. Non-stop.
So. It’s taken me all these years to connect these dots, right.
She was so against my ever having anything at all. It was obscene for me to ask for so much as a sandwich. But it wasn’t about a lack of money. It wasn’t about anti-capitalism or anti-materialism. That wasn’t a problem at all. All of the neglect, the active denial of care or support, the rage at the idea of my being on the receiving end of anything but the scraps she hand-selected—it was all about me.
All of which to say: holy shit. Fuck her.
I cannot emphasize this enough: Fuck. Her.
What the absolute shit.
I knew that my parents always hated me, but. Like.
There we go.
I have no guilt, no qualms whatsoever, about wiping her from my mind. Any lingering crap about cutting her—anyone related to me—out of my life, I just.
No. Fuck her, absolutely and forever. This is not a person worthy of my pity, my guilt, or anything else. She can just fall down a well and die.
I’m not especially angry, even. I just—no.
I mean, I’m a little angry. but it’s not this overwhelming rage. It’s too tired for that. It’s more that I’m done. I solved the puzzle. I don’t have to ever think about this again.
Time to shut down that runtime. Clear that space.
Still at 42 years old, I feel such intense guilt for wanting anything at all for myself. It’s a thing I’ve had to actively work against since coming to grips with who I am, and recognizing my need to recognize and affirm and support this person whom I’ve discovered I like and want to be. And, that’s why all that garbage is there, inside of me. That’s who put it there, and that’s why she did it.
All this shit, it’s from some jerkass who called me an “interloper” for happening to be alive through no action or desire or consent of my own. Who actively wanted to deprive me of any agency, means, joy, or respect even as she ran up the bill on her own interests.
To her i was an “interloper.” To my father I served only as an excuse for her not to get a job. He was open about my older sister being the only good thing that ever came out of the marriage. Nobody wanted me, so for me to assert my existence, to remind them that I was there, was fucking evil to them.
And I just—no.
Despite everything, somehow—despite the pieces that I’m made out of, despite all my experiences and neglect and a fucking lifetime of trauma—I’m actually kind of awesome.
I never deserved to be treated like that, by anyone. Nobody does. Nobody would.
And, I love me. Finally. Despite everyone’s efforts.
I deserve to want things, materially and otherwise, within whatever ethical structure strikes me best. My basic needs deserve to be tended. I deserve joy and reward and support. I deserve to be a fucking human being.
Which is a thing that nobody in my life has ever told me.
Despite everything, here I am: still alive. and everything that I’ve been accused of.
What they did to me was wrong.
What my ex-spouse did to me was wrong.
And the list can keep going on, filling those gaps in between.
And I absolutely cannot carry that around with me any longer.