When I was barely 14, struggling to grasp algebra or pre-algebra and my mom lost her shit and threw the book at me in a screaming tirade.
Math has always been a sore spot, involving many many tears, but none so terrifying as that day.
It was a heavy textbook. It wasn’t saxon, but it was similar.
All my math books got smaller after that.
But that cemented in my mind that I couldn’t do math, even if I wanted to. I don’t even know exactly what was said…but I was devastated.
/random sad thoughts with kiery
I found our last two bibles in the closet the other day, one of which is KJV (of course). I spent this evening trying to do art with/deface it, and I got up to leviticus before getting bored/having it in my face started getting to me. It’s weird how triggering objects can be – bibles, dental floss, strollers, big vans…
I’ve felt weirdly out of it this week, kinda listless and unfocused, but antsy. So I’ve been puttering. Puttering is a weird word, it’s really fun to say, but it was also a word my parents used a lot, but it’s also a word I don’t know how to replace. Puttering: doing random busy work/cleaning that doesn’t require too much thought or result in much stress energy. I putter around on the sites I manage – make tweaks and updates, I’ve been de-cluttering random stuff IRL (actually only have two reachable surfaces left)…puttering. The phrase is like a low grade trigger.
And maybe it’s that, and a run-in with general triggery things this weekend that’s been making the phrase my dad repeated ad-nauseam stuck in my head all day.
Being a girl is just better
I don’t know what made him think that – maybe a little bit of jealousy because my mom got to stay home and sit in a recliner in a state almost-constant pregnancy, or maybe because in their sexist complimentarian marriage, he had to carry all the weight?
What wasn’t said at the end of the phrase was strongly implied:
Being a girl is just better:
- because you don’t have to worry about responsibility
- you don’t have to make hard decisions
- you don’t have to fight or stand up for yourself or your family
- you always have a man to protect you
- you don’t have to get a job or do anything but homemaking (fun?)
- you don’t have to think about anything
- you don’t need to be smart or have thoughts of your own
- you get to be served by men (by staying home and doing what they want you to do in exchange for dates and some of their income?)
Being a girl is just better because who needs autonomy anyway?
Being a girl meant:
I didn’t get to decide anything (and that was better because decisions are hard)
I always had someone to take the fall (which was better than me having responsibility for myself)
I didn’t need to learn “male” skills – like basic building, or how to pump gas or change a tire (I could just have a guy do it for me)
If I could cook, hold my tongue, and produce children, I would be a success (because women don’t need their own thoughts)
My dad/husband/brother could/would get me out of any situation and defend me (because I couldn’t defend myself)
In exchange for my autonomy I get a pre-defined life of luxury (if luxury = breeder, chef, teacher, house keeper, and sex toy)
Even though no one has told me that phrase in years, sometimes, with conversations with people, it’s still a really strong undertone.
Because even though other people never phrased it quite like my dad did, this insidious patriarchal brain worm, this line they tell people-born-with-uteri: Life is better for you, great for you even, just stay in line, and you’ll never want for anything.
I think being reminded that I’m not what any of the parent-figures in my life had planned for me to be, is just another version of the same line.
Being a girl is just better: just stay in line, and everything will be perfect*.
But even when I was a little kid, and I was told that my lot in life was just better… I knew it was a lie.
Maybe some people can happily trade their autonomy and agency for being “taken care of”, but that deal never seemed sweet to me, it seemed wrong and unfair, though I didn’t have any words for it or any way to express it.
Being a human adult may be more work, require more effort, and mean I have to own my decisions, but I lived without autonomy for my whole childhood, and I’d much rather own my decisions than be denied my agency.
I don’t care if that means I’m not who I was planned to be.
Fuck the patriarchy.
When I was 8, I was expected to be an adult. I had adult responsibilities (taking care of kids) and was expected to act as mature as an adult – learn all the things, do all the things, cook all the food, wash all the babies – I had to fight for some semblance of my own childhood. My mom wanted me to grow up and grow up fast. I remember her asking me, before I was 10, to stop playing “dogs” with my brother (we’d run around on our hands and knees barking and stuff) because, essentially, it was embarrassing. I don’t remember the exact words she said, but that was the gist.
I just looked at her, and willfully ignored her until I was 11, and by then, I was too busy doing her job that I didn’t really have time to play with my siblings, because if I did, I was quickly ushered to change someones diaper.
Funny, because my mom said that I should be happy I have so many siblings/sisters to play with and that I don’t NEED friends my own age. But I never had time to play with them even if I wanted to – and honestly, they were so much younger than me, and she had them with such frequency, that I wasn’t even on the playmate list – I was the caretaker, the other kids, they all had each other, but I was quickly forced out, alone, and expected to be happy about it and have no needs.
I wasn’t allowed to have needs. I wasn’t allowed to be a child after I started puberty.
As I aged, I was expected to be more adult – not in like the normal, kids mature way, but in the I-was-8-and-was-expected-to-be-20-and-go-from-there kind of way. By the time I was 13 I’d lost any semblance of childhood that I’d had. I’ve never experienced the care-free years of being a kid or a teenager, because the entire time I was a kid(‘s age), I wasn’t.
I don’t understand teenagers, I don’t understand 18 year olds who don’t look and feel like they’re 40. I don’t understand 16 year olds who still play and aren’t crushed under the weight of grown up responsibility. I don’t understand 22 year olds who act like 22 year olds are supposed to act, and don’t have random existential crises because they feel like their life is over and they’ve accomplished nothing.
I’m 22, but most of the time I feel like I’m so. much. older. and learning how to act my age – I’m actively trying to become more immature, because I can’t handle the continued weight of having to be more responsible and older than I am, of having to be the parent all the time even though there’s no one around to parent (except myself, which isn’t healthy either).
When I got married, I was 18, but I felt as though I’d lived a lifetime before that even happened. It said 18 on my documentation, but in my head I was in my 40’s, most of my life lived – well, survived, and it was time to do something else. Most people are like, no, you can’t marry at 18, and I agree and feel bad about it until I realize, when I was 18, I wasn’t actually 18. I was much older than that – because I was forced and pushed into growing up well before I even had the ability to understand what everything meant.
When I was 8, until I was 18, I was given all of the responsibility of an adult, with none of the power. I often felt like the only adult in the situation, like I was the actual parent, but I had no ability to change things for myself or for my siblings.
My mom confided in me things that really she should have confided in other adults to – things I didn’t need to know and didn’t understand and had no idea how to respond to. You shouldn’t tell your kid about how you’re mad at their father, or what you do in the bedroom and how it’s sinful (because every sperm is sacred), but you just really don’t want to be pregnant again (and pulling out is SO effective) – bearing in mind, I still thought sex consisted of invisible metal tubes connecting at the belly button of the other person.
When Alex and I started going out, I wasn’t even 17, and they heard wedding bells. They wanted me married right away, it felt like I was being pushed out, which was strange, considering.
My parents wanted everything to move so quickly. They said “but you WANT to get married, right?” and I was like “sure, yeah, but not RIGHT NOW” (because, 16, even I knew that was a bad idea). They didn’t seem to understand the concept of time. They wanted me to grow up so fast and never experience having grown up.
I never had a relationship with my mom and I think this is largely why.
I was the parent. I was the confidant. I was the one who had all of the responsibility, the consequences, and the anger shoved on to. I bore the brunt of her frustrations and I was the one who was berated for simple mistakes.
In every way, I never had a mother. I was never her daughter, I was only ever her tool.
The only time my mom was ever sweet to me was when she was trying to butter me up and manipulate me.
So when people say they’re so sorry I never had a relationship with the person who made the choice to give birth to me (and then demanded my life in return), I stare at them blankly. I don’t understand why they would say that. It actually hurts, because it’s almost as though they’re blaming me for not having or wanting a mother-daughter relationship – like I’m unjustified in my relief to have finally left her grasp.
I’ve grown in odd patches, with massive gaps where experiences should be, but aren’t. Learning what to do with feelings, and learning what needs are (after not being allowed to have them, because adult…which is BS, actually, my mom had ALL OF THE NEEDS). I feel old, I look young, I have experience and naivety in all the wrong places.
I hate having had to fight for everything – whether it’s for childhood, or autonomy, or myself. I am tired.
I don’t know what made me think of it – maybe it’s because it’s the holidays and I really want the gingerbread that we used to make, and that reminds me of the fact that holidays were chores and mostly unenjoyable, save christmas morning, and I get tired from the memories and the forced aging and I feel like Benjamin Button.