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.
Everyone is told, no crushes are allowed to happen at TeenPact (because you can “allow” a crush to begin with).
Boys are told, to open doors for women, to let them go first in line, and to treat them like they’re delicate little flowers. Essentially, boys are taught to treat women like objects who are helpless and can’t take care of themselves. Girls are told to accept these gestures, always, even if they’re unwanted. Never turn them down.
Some of this is Tim Echols forcing southern manners down everyone’s throat, and some of it is perpetuating the idea that women are “the weaker vessel”. It’s hard, as a courteous person, because, having boobs means I can’t practice common courtesy on a human level. I’m not allowed to open a door, trade my place, give up my seat for someone who’s a boy because then it is interpreted as a slap in the face to them and their efforts at (forced) chivalry. This tells women to expect “special” treatment because they’e seen was weaker, and teaches men that women are weaker and need help to do basic things.
We’re supposed to let the men take command in setting things up, in making decisions, and whatever even if we disagree or have a better one. We can’t just assert ourselves and say no like normal people, because we need to learn submission.
In what I like to call the 2007 Speech From Hell, Tim Echols started by going on a raging tirade about “effeminate men” and I’m pretty sure he worked in how homosexuals were evil too. He said that it was an abomination to god and he was really angry with any man he saw who didn’t act manly enough for his liking. He listed specific examples (that I thought were ridiculous) but I can’t remember what they were now.
Then, he turned his attention to women, he singled us out and spent far too long on another tirade.
He talked about how we need to grow up and get married (fast! young!) so we can start breeding an army, because that is what we women are supposed to do. Our job in life, our job to further the cause, is to create more people and train THEM to make the changes that (hopefully) our husbands will have started to make. If we did that, god would be happy, we would be fulfilling our roles as women – because that’s just how it is. Women are not supposed to actually lead, women’s place is in the home, behind a man, who is supposed to be bringing the nation back to it’s christ-centered roots (don’t get me started).
Well before that point I had sworn off marriage, because a life of doing nothing but being pregnant and teaching children with the HOPE that they would be passionate about the thing I was and want to do the same thing just sounded horrible and unlikely. When he singled out all the women in the audience I felt embarrassed, ashamed, sad, horrified, and broken.
Because I had been told by my parents that what Mr. Echols was conveying was indeed my purpose, but I didn’t want that. I never had. It sounded like hell to me, though I would never have used those terms. It sounded just….the thought of it crushed my soul, and I was hoping TeenPact would be the place I didn’t have to fit that mold, but I was so wrong. I knew that once I got married I would have to go into that box – so I swore it off, and in case that didn’t work, I resolved to do all the things I wanted to do before I got married. Remembering that speech still devastates me and kills that thing that it killed before over and over again. I think maybe it was hope.
I felt completely broken, like a failure, because while every other girl was sitting there, raptured, already sold on the idea of getting married and having kids and getting permission to get married young, I was devastated, because that was just not the life I wanted – not the life I felt I was supposed to live.
I was supposed to do what they wanted me to do, without question, because a guy said it, I was never supposed to think.
And yet, thinking is what saved me from that fate, so, Thank you, TeenPact, for introducing me to my thinker-husband, my thinker-friends, and our sense of knowing we can indeed change the world, and reverse the lies and beliefs you perpetuated that only serve to enable the abusive environments we escaped from. Because of you, maybe we can make that change.
I had intended to spend the day painting my dragon (Archangel) for my Horde army that I need to pick up the rest of on Thursday. But while in the shower, thinking about the meaning of life (as you do, and then quickly do that thing we call “washing” 2 minutes before the water turns cold) I realized that a large reason that I’m not bat-shit crazy, and the reason I attribute to my marriage being awesome and not abusive, is because my grandmother on my dad’s side was my rock.
I struggle and have always struggled with feeling worthless, like I’m nothing more than a broom with a brain and octopus arms for doing my mother’s bidding (or now, cleaning my apartment like there’s no tomorrow). I wonder, sometimes, why I’m not with some asshole of a guy, someone who is manipulative and mean, I wonder why my story is different. Why am I with this guy who’s been nothing but a catalyst of/for freedom and acceptance of me in all my nuances and idiosyncrasies. Who loves me for my intelligence and heart (as well as my boobs)?
I think, it’s because of her. My parents did a lot of lip service to self-worth and not settling for people who don’t treat you right, but they proceeded to treat me horribly. My Gramme?
She is the strongest person I’ve ever known. She was the second-youngest in a huge family, and the “all bad” child in the eyes of her mother (even though, like me, she spent her life slaving away for her family), she was neglected and abused and the most loving, accepting person I’ve ever met. She was brave and unafraid of anything, she was my original escape plan. She was the one, who, by her unconditional love and acceptance instilled in me this sense of I-deserve-to-be-treated-well-by-my-friends (family I was kinda screwed with, but *my* circle, I deserved to create to feel safe in).
She was the type of person who wouldn’t sit quiet if her kids were wrong, if her grandkids were hurt she would fight for them. She was my defender. I knew that if things got bad enough, I could run to her and trust her to protect me (not that I would have, but she was *that* kind of safe place).
When she died I was devastated. I’ve grown up around death – my first funeral was at 6 months old. My great-grandparents have passed, my uncle, two siblings, friends…my Gramme is the only one that still affects me. I still cry and get choked up when I talk and think about her (so I usually try not too, because there’s a huge gaping hole where she should be). Sometimes, 5 years later, I still do a double-take on the street because I see her dopple-ganger. If I were spiritual, I’d take it as a sign that she’s looking at me (instead of just some random elderly lady with the same haircut).
When I think about how she’d feel about me, I feel so so secure in that she’d still love me – that I could still tell her anything and she’d keep it between us, that she’d be supportive, that she’d be proud, she’d tell me I’m brave, and she would understand.
My gramme is the reason that I am so strong. She’s where I got my stubbornness from, she’s where I got my I-will-protect-the-shit-out-of-the-people-I-love-screw-you-if-you-hurt-them impulse, she is why I value acceptance and completely unconditional love.
She is why I am so lucky. Because without her just loving me? I would have been so different. She taught me, without either of us realizing it, that I am worth loving because I am me – that people who don’t accept me for me are not worth my time. And that’s why my marriage looks the way it does, that’s why I’m lucky, that’s why I built a circle of friends who genuinely cared about me, a circle that my family couldn’t penetrate.
I am lucky because as a child, I had a tether – and when all hell broke loose, when the shit hit the fan, when the abuse left crushing and devastating imprints on my soul – I KNEW that someone loved me unconditionally and THAT was right.
That’s why my story is different. That’s why my marriage is actually healthy – the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had.
I’ve never talked about this explicitly publicly – I’m open about it to people who ask, and I don’t hide it, but I’ve never really felt the need to come out and say it (because honestly, it’s no one’s business).
The reason I’m coming out with it now, is because I embrace it – I’m proud of it even, and it would come out eventually, so why not?
I’m bisexual. It took me a long time to admit to myself due years of repressing my sexuality growing up, years of feeling guilty because I wasn’t completely straight – but I embrace it now, I love this about me, and it’s so freeing to be open about it.
The other reason I haven’t mentioned it was because I was afraid of the fallout with family. I’m not anymore, because it doesn’t matter. I’m not a different person just because I’m bi (I’ve always been bi) – but this doesn’t mean that I flirt or drool over every female I encounter, just like I don’t do that with every male that I encounter. Just because I’m not 100% straight doesn’t mean that I’m on the prowl or uncommitted to my husband (because he’s my favorite person. period.).
Actually the openness about it has been beneficial to our relationship – because hiding part of yourself from your spouse or significant other is never a good thing.
So here I am – I am the same, I haven’t changed (except for getting a tattoo) – I’m just not hiding anymore.