The worst toy I ever had.

penny_the_poodle

Christmas, 1966.   For months I’d been begging my parents to buy me the hottest new toy the commercials were telling me I just had to have: a walking, barking dog called Penny the Poodle.  Even if you’re old enough to remember this horrible toy, you may not, because it was quickly forgotten after the initial pre-Christmas hype.    I’m sure millions of small children spent that Christmas Day in tears of disappointment and frustration when they realized Penny the Poodle did NOT live up to the hype.

Here’s the commercial, which in retrospect, was pretty creepy, even for those days:

I remember unwrapping the large box with joyful anticipation, ripping off the green and red foil paper and bows to reveal the “Penny the Poodle” logo and the see-through window on the side of the box that revealed Penny’s Pepto-Bismol pink head.

Eagerly, I pried her out of the box with my small sweaty hands and tried to get her to work.  No batteries were necessary.  Penny was supposed to stand, walk, wag her tail, bark, and turn her head.   She was supposed to do everything a real dog does except poop and pee.

She did nothing.  Instead, she lay on her side on the floor, twitching as if she was having an epileptic seizure.    I tried to right her and squeezed the little remote control to get her to walk, wag her tail, do SOMETHING, but no dice.  She fell over again. This time she didn’t even twitch and convulse. I righted her again and manually tried to make her legs move. Her right leg fell off and lay there on the rug like a turkey drumstick covered in pink gravy. Penny was DOA.

I was heartbroken.  I opened the rest of my presents apathetically, because Penny the Poodle was the toy I had REALLY wanted for Christmas.   I cried on and off for most of the day.

My parents returned Penny to whatever store they had got her from and brought me home a replacement, this one powder blue instead of Pepto Bismol pink.   But this one wouldn’t work either.  Back to the store it went.  My parents refused to get me a third Penny, but by then, I’d given up and was happily playing with my Barbies and Wishnik troll dolls.

Penny the Poodle has curiosity value to toy collectors.   You can find a few on eBay, but none of them seem to be in working order, and probably never were.

Thanks to my readers who voted for me to post a funny true story tonight in the poll I posted earlier. I know this story’s a little sad, but there’s always humor in pathos. Or pathos in humor. Or something like that.

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Okay, Tony Burgess, happy now?

steel_wool

Tony Burgess wrote a post telling me to post something new right now. I was going to take a night off, but now I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, so here’s a new post.

I was a weird, sketchy kid who had weird dreams. When I was about 5 I had a dream about something called a “clout” that looked like an oversized steel wool pad. It was sitting on the small rug in front of my bed and I was too scared to put my feet on the floor because that clout thing was evil. It just sat there on the rug, in all its black malevolence, not moving, but I knew it was alive and meant to kill me.   I knew if I put my feet on the floor the clout would suck me down into the Hell-portal it must have come from.

When I was around  the same age, one morning I woke up doubled over with laughter.   My dad asked me why I was laughing, and I remember saying, “someone was throwing mud at my door.”   I pointed to the door of my room and globs of gooey mud were sliding down its painted surface. I couldn’t stop shrieking with mirth.   I kept pointing but he couldn’t see the mud and told me to stop making things up.  “Look!  Look! There! There!” I screamed in frustration, but I was still laughing.   Then I woke up for real and was almost afraid if I looked at the door, mud would be on it. I was really awake this time, so there wasn’t. Relieved, I went downstairs for my Cap’n Crunch and orange juice.

Like I said, I was a weird kid.

A rare opportunity.

Two-Girls-are-fighting

Life doesn’t present you with many opportunities to make amends to people in your distant past, but yesterday I had just such an opportunity.

A woman I knew back in the 1970s when we were in 7th and 8th grades contacted me on Facebook. At first I didn’t understand why this woman was sending me a friend request and I didn’t recognize her name so I asked her where she knew me from. It turned out this was the girl I bullied at the Catholic school we both attended.

I wasn’t normally the kind of kid who was a bully. Usually, I was the one getting bullied. However, there were 2 exceptions–this woman, and another girl I attended a class at the Y with when I was 9 years old. In both situations, I perceived that these two girls were even more vulnerable than I was, and I liked the approval I got from the “cooler” kids for my behavior toward them. At the time, it proved that I wasn’t at the very bottom of the pecking order, even though I was close to it. Kids that age are incredibly mean.

I always felt badly about the way I treated her. The strange thing is, this isn’t the way this woman remembers things. She told me she’s sorry for bullying me! I don’t remember her bullying me, but maybe we bullied each other and she doesn’t remember. Memory is a funny thing, especially when so many years have elapsed, but the important thing is that her contacting me provided me with the opportunity to exorcise that particular demon and move on from the guilt I’ve held all these years.

The furnace.

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In 1968 our family moved to a Dutch Colonial three-story house built in the 1920s. We only lived there for five years, but the memory of that house is etched into my mind like veins of quartz in granite. Some other time I’ll write about how cool the entire house was, but right now my concern is the old oil furnace that lived in the basement.

Yes, it lived there. It wasn’t hard to imagine that furnace was alive. It had a personality.

Its squat rotund body stood in the sooty gray-concrete corner like a Russian sentinel from a lost age. Its concrete exterior had been painted what appeared to have been white in the distant past, but had turned a dirty tan with age. Rust stains snaked along it like varicose veins. Tumors of soot embedded themselves here and there and filled its crevices. The furnace was covered with guages and meters relating information about the furnace’s internal state my young mind couldn’t understand.

Snaking from the furnace were too many old iron pipes to count. Some were painted what had once been white but were now pock-marked with rust the color of old blood, others were unpainted and rusted over completely, and a few had been replaced with more modern steel pipes that looked out of place. All these pipes stuck out of the furnace like limbs, and converged along the ceiling, delivering their payload of heat to the house that was home to the inhabitants that that served it so lovingly.

The furnace chugged along in the cold months, clanking and blatting and hissing in its corner. Sometimes it leaked hot water all over the peeling painted cement floor around it. Other times it farted black smoke. There were a few times the entire basement was filled with its sooty miasma, and you couldn’t go down there. It was probably dangerous. I used to wonder sometimes if the old furnace might explode when it did that. I was assured it was safe but I never was sure.

Sometimes the furnace scared me when it did that. It also scared me when it made more hissing and clanking sounds than normal. I used to think it was angry that it had to live in the ugly damp unfinished basement and the only light it ever saw was the dim gray light that filtered through the filthy slit-like windows that dotted the white painted brick wall near the ceiling. Those windows were veiled with spider webs and caked with soot. Even my clean freak mother, who had a meltdown if she saw so much as a gum wrapper anywhere else in the house, never did anything with the basement windows. The basement was the one place she allowed to get dirty, except for the laundry room, which had been partially modernized with a carpet, fluorescent lights, and acoustic tile ceiling. The rest of the basement was lit–barely–with bare incandescent bulbs screwed in between the ceiling rafters and operated by metal pull-chains. An old rusted (but working) toilet sat in a tiny closet with only one bare bulb screwed overhead, and no sink.

I used a tiny room that at one time had been used for canning as my escape from the dysfunction that regularly went on up above. My bedroom was too close to the master bedroom, and offered little refuge from the oppressive tension and constant arguing. My basement room was outfitted with a metal desk with wood grain Formica where I did all my homework, and an old piece of salvaged carpet. The canning shelves housed my Barbie dolls and all their accoutrements. The cinder block walls were painted mint-green. A small painted shelf sat above the desk, and my favorite books made their home there. I loved my books. They opened parallel universes in which I could escape from my painful reality.

I’d stay in my little room for hours at a time, barely aware of anything except the world of my books and Barbies. Although I had a probably healthy caution of the furnace and didn’t like to get too close to it because it was so unpredictable, its clanking and hissing noises, when they weren’t too loud, were comforting to me. Its grumpiness and isolated loneliness reflected my own state of mind most of the time. I could relate to it.

Occasionally after one of its sooty temper tantrums, a serviceman would come and minister to it like a doctor on house-call, and then the furnace would be happy again. If a psychiatrist could have given the furnace a diagnosis, I bet it would be Borderline Personality Disorder.

I remember taking a picture of it shortly before my parents’ divorce. I kept that picture for years, but somewhere amidst my many moves, it was lost. I know the house is still standing and was updated at some point (my family never updated anything in that house), but I would be shocked if that old furnace is still there, and even more shocked if it still works. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened to it. I hope it was treated well.

My son is “furry”–got a problem with that?

mexnyman

So far my blog has been pretty inoffensive. Well, I like to think so anyway. But I knew the time would come where I’d have to post about something controversial and now is that time.

My son is a furry. And not only do I not have a problem with it, I’m damned proud of him. Yes, I really did just say that.

I know what some of you are probably thinking.

“What kind of a ‘parent” are you?”
“Furries are a bunch of perverts! How can you accept your own CHILD being one?”
“You are depraved to be writing bragging about that.”
“Ewwwwwwwww!!!”
“You are going to hell and so is he.”
“You are SICK!!!ELEVENTY!!111!!
*puking sounds*
“MAKE HIM STOP!!!”

Let me explain. My son, now almost 23, was, along with me, his father’s scapegoat during most of his childhood and teen years. Like me, he’s a HSP (highly sensitive person) and HSPs and psychopaths as parents do NOT mix.

His father, Michael (not his real name), nearly destroyed my son’s self esteem. As a child, he was easily hurt, withdrawn to the point I thought he was autistic (he isn’t though your truly is), and was told (and began to believe) he couldn’t do anything right. Michael called him stupid, sissy, a wuss, and constantly told him he’d amount to nothing. Like me, my son had few friends in grade and middle school. He was bullied. I identified with him (and tried to protect him from Michael’s narcissistic rages) because well, he was so much like me.

I already told you earlier how Michael’s flying monkeys bullied him just prior to the divorce. Ethan (not his real name) was about 12 during this time and that’s a vulnerable age for even the strongest, most confident kid.

Fortunately, Ethan decided to live with me instead of his father after the divorce (my daughter chose her dad, and that’s another story I’ll get into in my next post). I don’t like to toot my own horn and I certainly wouldn’t have qualified as “Mother of the Year” but I like to think I did a pretty good job as Ethan’s mom, and some of the damage that Michael and his team of flying monkeys had done on my son was repaired. Or at least kept him from becoming one of those hardcore emo kids who writes freeverse poetry about suicide, rain and darkness and may even attempt the ultimate self destructive act. Or kept him away from drugs and early drinking. Or becoming a Narcissist himself. He never became any of those things, and in fact was always pretty straight edge. He told me (and I believe him) he never tasted alcohol until he was of legal age. He never liked pot and certainly never touched anything harder. He always did his homework. In high school he was one of those computer geeks and found he had a fascination with photography and art, something I also was involved with when I was his age.

Ethan wasn’t popular and seemed to have no interest in girls. He had a few friends he hung out with to play Age of Empires,” “Legend of Zelda” “Black and White,” and other video games. He was really good at the games and started his own forum about auto racing (something he’s still passionate about). But he was still painfully shy and lacking in confidence.

Two things helped to improve Ethan’s self esteem: Outward Bound and Kung Fu. His 8th grade graduation trip, instead of the usual “fun” trip to New York City or Washington DC, was a physically and mentally challenging 4 day Outward Bound expedition to the mountainous wildnerness right here in western North Carolina. I won’t get into detail about his trip (that’s a story he can tell), but he came back a little different, a little more mature, a bit more confident. When I asked him if he had fun, he said not really, but it was a trip he would never forget and that taught him a lot of things about himself.

When Ethan was 15, he decided to take Kung Fu classes. He was pretty good, and stuck with that for 3 years, advancing to Green Belt, which is more than halfway to Black Belt.

Ethan was keeping some secrets though, and admitted later on he was still deeply unhappy. I didn’t know this at the time, but I did know there was something he wasn’t telling me, and I could have guessed what it was. But I had to wait for him to say it.

At age 17, Ethan came out as gay. He was afraid to tell me, but I told him I had known for a long time but was waiting for him to say it. Ethan was relieved, and now that he was “out,” his confidence level went up a little more, and suddenly at school he was considered “cool,” something he had never been.

It’s so funny how kids will bully another kid they suspect of being gay but who isn’t “out” (and he was definitely bullied about that), but as soon as they’re “out,” they become accepted and cool. It’s a paradox, but it really isn’t–because it’s really not about gay vs. non-gay, it’s about self esteem. Bullied kids are kids who are too outwardly sensitive and have little self confidence. A kid with confidence, even if different from the other kids, is accepted, or at least respected. And I think that’s what happened with Ethan when he came out as gay.

After Ethan graduated from high school in 2010, he came out as “furry.” At first I didn’t even know what that meant, and Ethan didn’t want to explain it to me so I had to go online and do some research myself.

There’s been a lot of negative publicity about “furries,” especially since an infamous episode of the TV show CSI, in which a serial murderer was a furry who liked to kill wearing an animal costume. But this negativity isn’t deserved or even valid. Most of the criticism of furries is related to their alleged depravity–furry detractors insist furries engage in bestiality, or at best, have a fetish about having sex dressed up as animals.

While I won’t deny there is a subset of the furry community that may have a sexual “fursuit” fetish, it’s a small subset from what I’ve seen (and I know a lot about furries now) and the idea that they’re into bestiality is a ridiculous claim with nothing to back it up.

My intention here isn’t to give you a history of the furry fandom (there’s plenty of other places to read up on that). But a little background is required. The furry fandom grew out of the science fiction community back in the early 1980s. Most furries are geeks–comic book geeks, computer geeks, sci-fi geeks, Dragoncon geeks, art geeks, and among Millennials, animated cartoon geeks. Millennials grew up inundated with a huge array of the best made animated films and shows Disney had to offer; and because their stressed out parents were often working or busy with other things, cartoon animals like Mufasa, Timon and Pumba from “The Lion King,” CatDog, Bolt, and the Animaniacs were often left in charge as surrogate babysitters to entertain them.

Naturally a lot of Millennials developed a special affection for these cartoon critters who gave them so much laughter and comfort as children, and some of them continued this fascination into adulthood.

Enter the furries. The vast majority of them are Millennials (born from 1982 to 2000 or so) and there are a surprising number of female furries and heterosexual furries, and many of them are married. There are furry conventions that are becoming more popular every year, the most famous one being Anthrocon, which is held in Pittsburgh every year. Most furries are involved in art–either visual or performing art. I’ve talked to furries, and as a whole they’re a creative bunch. Furry isn’t a perversion; it’s a hobby, no different than someone who attends Star Trek or comic book conventions.

Being a furry has helped Ethan find his creative outlets. Ethan is naturally rather shy and reserved. Dressing up as “Mex” and his other “fursona” has allowed him to discover his outgoing and sociable side and that he has a love of performing (dancing and acting), which is something he might not have explored had it not been for the costume where he feels more comfortable experimenting with that side of himself.

He showed interest in photography and art at an early age, but has developed these abilities, and is now a fledgling filmmaker with a professional eye. He took up filmmaking in college and now has a degree. He makes his own music videos and has posted many of these on Youtube. Not all are about furries. Although none have gone “viral,” several of his films have received thousands of hits. He also is a competent artist, and draws well, although I think he’s more naturally talented at photography and filmmaking.

Here’s one of his videos from his music channel, Radio Recall.

What he’s proudest of is his dancing. He’s been training himself in street-dancing for two years. At the past two conventions he’s attended, he entered the fursuit dance competition. At the most recent one, he was one of the finalists, and he told me being accepted as a finalist was the happiest, most validating moment of his life and the high from it lasted for days. Now he’s working hard at getting even better so he can possibly win one of the Top 3 awards the conventions give out to the winners.

Here’s a video of his performance in the dance competition at a convention in Florida.

Ethan has shown me what can happen to a highly sensitive person who is able to escape from psychopathic abuse when still young, and then is given validation and encouraged to follow their own path, even if it’s not a path most of us would take. He’s shown me what I could have become had I been given such an opportunity (or taken advantage of it) when I was young. Not a furry or dancer or filmmaker, but someone who chased my dreams and never looked back. Ethan has shown me that none of us is a hopeless cause, and it really is possible to free yourself from the barbed wire prison of family psychopathy. Instead of being attacked by the flying monkeys and having your wings clipped, you can learn how to fly.

And that is why I’m proud my son is a furry.

Raised by a narcissist: my story of psychopathic abuse (childhood and adolescence)

lonelygirl

Welp, I’ve been putting this off (and frankly sort of dreading it), but decided to dive right in and start writing my story about how I came to be the kind of person I am and the way I came upon my present circumstances.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about malignant narcissism and psychopathy, and realized that rather than me being at fault for my “bad choices,” as both my parents love to remind me (and had convinced me was the truth), I’m not really the one with the personality issue that got me into so much trouble throughout my adult life (not that I don’t have personality flaws because I certainly do–as do we all). I realized I entered adulthood without the tool kit most people are given during childhood and I also realized that this was intentional on their part (especially my mother) and I was never a loved child–in fact, my mother, being the psychopathic narcissist she is, hated me and still does. It’s been really hard to face this fact — no one wants to believe their own mother didn’t love them and it’s all too easy to listen to people who say, “oh, she must have loved you in her own way” but I now know that’s bullshit. Strangely, being able to face this has given me a sense of freedom and lessens some of the guilt I had over not being a “good enough” daughter. Her dislike of me is not my fault!

So let me get started. My conception itself wasn’t under ideal circumstances. I was “wanted,” but for all the wrong reasons. Two years prior to my entry into this world, my father had lost his 3 year old son he’d had with his first wife. He had been hit by a train. The car stalled on the tracks as the train was coming and his mother desperately hustled the baby and 6 year old daughter out of the car to safety first. Billy, strapped into his seat, had to wait for her to come back to get him after removing the first two children, but it was too late and the little boy died immediately.

My father (let’s call him Harry), in his vulnerable, grieving state (I don’t think he is a MN, although he definitely has always colluded with and been attracted to narcissistic women and has some narcissistic tendencies himself–more on that later) was never the same. Almost immediately he took to heavy drinking, and he and his wife grew further apart as he tried to drown his grief in booze. This was the late 1950s and divorce wasn’t acceptable especially when young children were involved, but she could no longer put up with his drinking and filed for divorce.

Before the divorce was granted, my father (who was a Navy academy teacher at the time) met a beautiful redhaired woman named Ginny at a dance at the naval academy in Annapolis. It was love at first sight. Ginny listened to him talk about his lost son, and cried with him and held him as he talked and grieved. She seemed sympathetic in a way his first wife never was (and probably couldn’t have been as she was grieving in her own way). Ginny was married to a minister, and had two young daughters, but that didn’t stop her from seeing my father romantically, and for no reason other than infatuation (her husband treated her and the girls well from what I understand), she divorced him and left her daughters to be raised by their father so that she could marry my father. Remember, this was the late 1950s and a mother leaving her own children just wasn’t done. But she did it without a second thought. Her oldest daughter (age 7 at the time) was greatly damaged by the abandonment, and to this day has issues related to that and has been in therapy her entire adult life (today she’s one of my mother’s flying monkeys but more on that later). The younger daughter (age 2) was too young to remember anything but I’m sure she was damaged too. Their father remarried a lovely woman who loved the two girls as if they were her own. They were raised with two other children and went on to have a normal childhood with parents who loved them and supported them. They got lucky. It was actually a very good thing that my two half sisters got out of having to be raised by Ginny. I was not that lucky.

So Harry and Ginny married, and almost immediately she became pregnant with me. The pregnancy was a wanted one, though why a woman who abandoned her own two children a year before to have another baby with another man is kind of beyond my comprehension (but she’s a narcissist so it’s not too surprising). She smoked during the pregnancy, though at the time, doctors actually recommended pregnant women smoke to keep their weight down, and my mother was always obsessed with her weight. She always brags how she never gained any weight during her pregnancy with me (or her other two children). Miraculously, I was born healthy if a little on the small side.

From the get go, I was a difficult baby, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I cried all the time, and had health problems–I suffered from horrific ear infections that left me 80% deaf in my left ear. I was allergic to many foods and to just about everything else. By the time I was a toddler it was apparent I was an incredibly sensitive child, one who reacted to everything in a very emotional way. I was high strung, threw a lot of tantrums, and was easily hurt. From reading about other people’s experiences, especially this one by a wonderful survivor whose story is remarkably similar to mine, it seems that very sensitive children (empaths) are often born to and raised by narcissists and psychopaths, and that’s just about the worst parent/child combo possible. Whether they become overly sensitive due to their treatment, or whether the sensitivity is innate and just a cosmic joke that these kind of kids and parents wind up together so often is something I can’t explain, but unfortunately it all too often seems to be the case.

As I grew a little older, I’d go into these sort of trances where I’d tune out the environment and enter my dream world. I had an active imagination and imaginary friends, and this was my form of escape from the tension in my home. When I was about 3-4 I also engaged in banging my head against the wall. I don’t know why I did this, but at the time it felt good to me. Go figure. Today I believe I actually have high functioning autism (Aspergers) even though I’m self diagnosed (confirmed by a psychiatrist later). I seem to fit all the criteria for it, as well as for C-PTSD and Avoidant personality disorder, but more on that later. My mother hated it when I went inside myself, and always used to chide me for acting “spooky” and would tell me to snap out of it. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. But if I continued to act “spooky” I’d be punished, usually with a beating or slap in the face.

I used to have terrible nightmares. Some were about Ginny, and I remember one where I dreamed she was standing over me, and I realized her eyes were nothing but black holes, like the demonic people you see in movies whose eyes are completely black. And she was wearing that self-satisfied sneer. I woke up screaming, but the nightmare continued in waking life as she rushed into the room demanding why I was screaming and then laughed at me for getting so upset about a “little dream.” But to this day I think what I saw was actually who she was inside. I think she hated me because she knew that I had the ability to see what she really was.

mommiedearest

Both my parents were big on corporal punishment and a yardstick was kept in the kitchen hanging next to the refrigerator as a constant reminded to me that punishment was always close at hand. I was never allowed to express my opinions on anything and God forbid, never, EVER show any anger. Showing my emotions was a huge no no, although my mother was allowed to rant, scream and cry whenever she felt like it. My father usually colluded with her on these punishments, and dinner was always eaten at the table in near silence. Occasionally though the attention would be focused on me, usually to make fun of me in some way. Both parents used to laugh about how “literal” I was. When I was 6 and starting first grade, they found it hilarious when they asked me if I was looking forward to school, and I became frustrated because I couldn’t “see the school.” They weren’t laughing with me, but at me. Of course I was taking things literally. I was just 6 and not capable of abstract thinking yet, and it’s also a fact that autistics think literally, especially as children.

My parents never had another child, and my mother began to chafe at her role as housewife/mother. She was bored and would leave for long periods of time to see her friends, shop or just to get away from me and my father, and left me with a lot of babysitters. When she was home, more and more of her criticism of me focused on my weight and appearance. She treated me like a doll she could dress up and she loved to play with my baby fine hair to the point it tangled and hurt, and I would scream in pain and she would get mad and slam the brush down. She was also obsessed with my bowel functions and if I went a day without a BM, she would give me an adult sized enema. This was pretty traumatic. She also used to sit and watch me go to the bathroom to make sure I produced something. Naturally this led to me having even worse constipation as a result to “hold it in.”

As such a sensitive child, I was bullied in school. I didn’t know how to joke back, how to roll with the punches, how to appear invulnerable like the other kids. I always felt different. It was always difficult for me to make friends, though I usually managed to make one or two. Third grade was the worst, as I not only was targeted by a group of bullies who used to follow me home from school and fed on my reaction (I always cried) but was targeted by my psychopathic teacher as well. Mrs. Morse scared the daylights out of me. She was an overweight woman in her 50s whose upper arm always shook like Jello when she wrote on the board. She regularly liked to call me up to the front of the class to answer a question (and she ALWAYS called on me because I was always daydreaming) and when I couldn’t answer the question (which was often the case as I went into freeze mode at these times and couldn’t think straight) she’d demand why I couldn’t until I cried. At this point she’d call out the crying to the entire class, and all of them would have a good laugh at my expense as I stood there wanting to sink through the floor in shame.

Oddly, I was always told how pretty and intelligent I was (especially by my father, who I think really did love me in his flawed way). But the compliments stopped there. Any praise was almost always limited to innate qualities rather than my achievements or things I could do well. I was also was told constantly I was “too sensitive.” (This is another thing psychopaths like to say to keep their marks in their place). I WAS too sensitive, but this was always used against me and used to embarrass me. When company came over, my mother loved to “brag” to her friends and relatives about how sensitive I was and how everything made me cry. I became very self conscious as a result and started to hide my emotions more so it wouldn’t be called out to shame me. Of course she just found other things to use against me and undermine any little self confidence I had.

Ironically, though they hated my sensitivity, both my parents almost seemed to encourage it. They always wanted me to look frail and helpless and as I entered my teens; Ginny in particular became critical if I looked or acted too “tough”– a demeanor I sometimes used as a way to protect myself and hide my vulnerabilities (though it didn’t usually work too well). All teenagers are sarcastic (and most parents don’t really care for it), but when I used sarcasm or humor to protect myself, she’d tell me I was acting “low class.” Oh, and that’s another thing. Ginny was obsessed with social class and always described us as “upper middle class,” never the more humble “middle class,” even though in actuality that’s what we were. She always put on airs as if she was of higher social status than she actually was and to this day, has a very affected and fake way of speaking, not to mention extremely condescending.

Ginny never let me do anything on my own when I was a child. I remember wanting to help her wash the dishes one night after dinner, and she said I wouldn’t be able to do it because I might break something. When I was 11 and wanted to join the swim team at the pool and tennis club we belonged to, she didn’t say no, but pointed out that maybe I shouldn’t because “you don’t like competition–you’re too sensitive and you’ll get bullied.” I joined anyway and had no problems with my sensitivity or bullying even though I usually finished in third place and never first and rarely second.

I was a good student expected to make straight A’s (and was beaten with the yardstick if a failed to make an A) but always had problems with math. I had a low frustration tolerance for it and was lucky if I got a B. This was never acceptable to my parents, but I was doing the best I could.

When I was about 12, Ginny’s focus on my weight became an obsession. She was always a thin and vain woman herself, and expected me to be her mini-me, even far into adolescence. Even though I was far from overweight (in fact I was a little on the thin side) she liked to point out how big my ass was, and used to do this when other people were present, embarrassing me so much I wanted to die. Probably as a form of rebellion, I actually tried to gain weight and developed a love of junk food. Anytime I wanted dessert, or seconds at dinner, she’d remind me how “overweight” I was and that I needed to watch my calories. She even threatened to send me away to weight loss camp. With all this obsession over my non-existent weight issue, it’s a miracle I didn’t develop an eating disorder.

weight-loss

My half sister came to live with us when I was 12 for a short time, and we got along great. Debbie was far more self confident than I was, very outdoorsy and adventurous, and took me around to meet her friends and do things with them. They all seemed to like me. For the first time I felt liked and was developing a little confidence in my social skills, which were never that good (I’m painfully shy even to this day). After a couple of months of this, my parents decided to send Debbie back to her father and stepmother (even though this was her own daughter!) because she was having a “bad influence” on me. I was heartbroken.

My parents divorced when I was 13. My father’s drinking had become much worse, and both parents were having affairs (this was the 1970s). It was around this time my mother decided she was a feminist, and started spending more and more time away from home, and landed a job public relations. After my father moved out, my mother and I moved to New York City to a one bedroom apartment. At first, I hated the city, but I was never asked my opinion about the move, or given any sympathy that I’d be leaving all my old friends behind. My mother’s new PR career became her primary focus (what a perfect job for someone so image-conscious: public relations is ALL about image!) and she always talked about how much more rewarding this was than being a mother. She left me alone overnight often so I learned how to fend for myself and cook my own dinners. I actually didn’t mind this because it meant time away from her (by this time I decided I couldn’t stand her) But this was New York City in the 1970s (the city was rampant with violent crime then) and I was just 14 and 15 years old.

Ginny began to drink a lot and bring her boyfriends home. To leave my bedroom for any reason, I’d have to walk through the living room where more often than not, they were in bed together or even having sex. I never said anything about it but it really bothered me. She had a string of boyfriends, most who she’d recruit as her flying monkeys to join her in her belittlement of me and constant gaslighting.

One night we had a huge argument (I don’t remember what it was about–I was drunk myself but she was so wasted she didn’t even notice) and in a drunken, narcissistic rage she started throwing bags and all my belongings out the door and told me to go live with my dad (who was already living with the woman who would become his third wife) who really didn’t want me around much. I told her he didn’t want me and didn’t have room for me in his apartment and she told me she didn’t care. At that point I grabbed a kitchen knife and started to come at her with it. I wasn’t actually intending to use it, but I was very emotional and wanted to scare her. I guess it worked because she got on the phone and begged Harry to come pick me up, telling him I was “disturbed” and “insane.” So he did, and I spent three months living in his studio apartment where I was pretty much ignored (they were never home).

Within a few months, I was placed in a girls’ residence in Queens, New York, and was bullied by the girls there too. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the world. I felt so alone.

High school was a nightmare. I was attending a Catholic all girls high school, and I was completely out of my element. I was bullied by the popular girls, and even the not so popular ones ganged up against me. I became the school pariah. I had no friends at all. I regularly went to visit the guidance counselor in tears. She seemed the only person in the entire school who took any sympathy on me but soon she disappeared and I was informed she found another job. My grades suffered, and one day my mother received a letter from the school that “perhaps Suzanne would be happier in another school.” My mother went ballistic and raged on about how much the school was costing my father (who she usually berated and trashed) and what an ungrateful little shit I was.

I finished high school at the local public school, with its mostly black and Hispanic student population. I found out I got along well with the blacks in particular, and felt more accepted by them than I had by the snobby white girls in the Catholic school. I made a few friends, mostly black. The school didn’t have high standards, and I’d get A’s just by showing up in class, so I didn’t learn much. In my spare time I’d bury myself in books and writing–this was the adolescent version of my childhood daydreams and “trances”–but got criticized by Betty for “reading too much” and not being social enough.

depressedteen

As I entered my late teens, I became a little boy crazy. My first serious boyfriend at age 18 was a narcissist and an abuser. This set the pattern for what was to come.

The next part of my story will be about my early adulthood years culminating in meeting my narcissitic ex husband.