As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a heightened sensitivity to everything that goes on around me. I can remember worrying about the struggles and tragedies of the adults in my life since I was young, instead of the norm of a blissfully oblivious child’s existence. Instead I was aware of things most kids shouldn’t be. If there was tension, I felt it, thick and suffocating. If there was worry, I worried, constantly and relentlessly. When I’d naively try to “fix” things, it would be to no avail, or completely backfire and I’d become the brunt of the problems. When I’d hear arguing about the burdens of life and family and kids, I felt I was the burden. Stressed and anxious and worried and tense, I found sick, sad, solace in envisioning my sudden nonexistence. I can remember being around 6 or 7 years old when I started imagining how my funeral would be. I only ever imagined my maternal grandmother being upset, but I took comfort in thinking how much money she would save for her rent if she didn’t have me to spoil and spend money on. I pictured my parents sad at only the thought of how I could have been a much better kid. I pictured my sisters happy and joyed, calling dibs on my things. Obviously looking back on it, I had no real sense of what dying would actually mean. Nevertheless, I envisioned it all the time.
My childhood was not cold, however. There was lots of love. But constant criticism and too-high expectations from adults that treated me as a peer definitely took its toll. The harshest of all criticism was definitely from my father, and although I love him, it wasn’t easy growing up being called names by the first man ever in your life who secretly resented you for existing in the first place, and also for not being a boy. Plus I was the “new kid.” ::gag:: I had moved from my hometown to start over at a new school for third grade. I made a few friends quickly but a lot of times I was kept from attending birthday parties due to some “horrible disobedient thing” I had done a month ago… or for striking out at my softball game that week. Then on the chance I did go to a classmate’s birthday party, some totally crazy, embarrassing, insane thing would happen like my dad bursting through the birthday girl’s front door, loudly and unabashedly chastising her parents for not properly communicating the part of the celebration that included packing kids into cars and driving to Pizza Hut to eat. Then subsequently ordering my removal from the home and thus ending any further inclusion I may have had in this girl’s gatherings…. and probably a handful of others’ whose parents heard of the incident through the grape-vine. Then when neighbors on my block could hear my parents’ constant fighting, the invitations to anything grew slim. I still had a handful of friends, but eventually I became to timid to ask permission to attend play dates I had been invited to, and I grew accustomed to just “no” to anything involving being in another parent’s car for even a short period of time. All the while dealing with the adolescent trauma of my paternal grandmother forcing me to weight myself every time I went to her house…
I mean, I cant say I had it worse than most, but this continued and worsened throughout middle school where I learned to lie a lot, and then high school where I felt I’d mastered the art of sneaking around. A failure at friends, academics, being thin, sports, being a daughter, being anything, I began focusing too much on what would later initiate some of my most epic failures in life…boys. Thinking about it though, I always got along with boys better than the girls I grew up around. Despite feeling like a failure from my father’s constant criticism over sports I played, I was good enough that boy’s at school noticed, and would include me in competitions during recess. I’d even get “picked first” for kick-ball and basketball games, and would silently celebrate hearing the other team collectively groan about not selecting me first. But my focus on boys was very different now. I sought my validity through their opinions of me. Maybe seeking that inclusion I once felt, or seeking masculine attention I wasn’t receiving at home. Maybe both.
…to be continued.