Monday, September 5, 2011
Forgiving My Mother: The History, Part 2
I called her one night, terrified by his rage. I was begging her to talk to him, to try to calm him down. My husband was a man of pride, however, and he did not want someone else to bear witness to his rage. He did calm down, and then he tore the wire out of the wall and told me if I ever called her again during a fight, it would be the last time I called anyone. I don’t remember the rest of the night.
I was twenty-five when I finally left Ron, and I was the product of my life. I had no real choices of my own, and even if I did, my ability to make good decisions was nonexistent. The ability to make good decisions is a learned skill. Much of what I had learned to date was how to survive. The rest I learned was about my value and self-worth, which was nonexistent. My worth was obtained from how much men valued me. Even though I was considered an adult by my age, I was a child from an emotional aspect. This was a big problem considering I had a six year old and a two year old in tow and I was responsible for their well-being. I had no marketable skills, and no clue as to what I was going to do next.
My mother was around twenty-five when she had me. Unlike me, she did have some choices, according to what she had told me. But even so, her choices were limited. She could not have been too very different from me. She gained her value from the men in her life. My father came along at a point where she was lonely and vulnerable, her husband was overseas. My dad pursued her; she did not seek him out. He was also considerably older than her by almost twenty years. He was fresh out of a marriage and he had a fifteen and sixteen year old daughters from that marriage. My dad appeared to be even wealthy from where she had come from; he owned a sixty acre farm in Carrolton, Ohio as well as a home in Barberton, Ohio where he lived. My dad could be very charming and personable; he showered her with attention and gifts. Much like Ron did with me.
My mother told me once the early years with my dad were not bad, she did not say what happened or when it started to go bad. It could be it started to go back when she walked in on my father forcing me to perform oral sex on him when I was six, but that would only be my guess. Late at night, my mother would talk to me, almost as a best friend instead of a child. I remember how she told me dad treated her more like a prostitute than a wife, the next morning after they had sex, my dad would leave a twenty dollar bill on the dresser for her. She talked about how humiliated that made her feel. She talked about how men really only wanted “one thing” and how my dad slapping her on the rear all the time was embarrassing. At the same time, she would take me out to bars with her to pick up the cases of beer my dad liked to keep on hand. She would hang out there for a while, talking with any men in the bar. She would flirt with them, and would talk to me about how I should flirt with them, too. I thought they were old and icky. I was also less than twelve years old. My mother felt demeaned by my father, but then she would demean herself by her sexual behavior in bars with other men when she was a married woman. It is a cycle most women find themselves in after a lifetime of incest. Your only means of validation and worth as a woman is defined by the men who desire you, yet you behave in a manner that invites the type of men who would demean you. It is a spiral of self-esteem that begins with a “high” of gaining the sexual attraction of a man, or many men, but ends up at the bottom of the self-esteem pool. It is a vicious cycle, because in order to dig yourself out from the bottom, you must attract a man again.
My mother was “pimping” me out in a way to much older men. No sexual contact occurred (that I recall) but my mother should not have been teaching me how to behave sexually toward men at all. My counselor called this “covert sexual abuse.” My mother never touched me, but not only did she discuss her sex life with my father to me at a very young age, she also introduced me to a sexual cycle of debasement. I don’t know what my mother was thinking. On one hand, I thought my mother and I had this “special bond” because she shared these “secrets” with me. I wanted to please my mother, so I did my best to behave toward these icky men as she instructed. In this way, the relationship I had with my father and mother was identical as far as the emotional damage it did to me. Each one of them used sex to form a “special” bond with me, and that was the only time I was of any value to either of them. The rest of the time I was trying to escape their wrath. Not only did my mother know what my father was doing to me, not only did she guard the gates while he did it, but she taught me how to be sexual with other men.
My mother also had body image problems which she instilled in me at a very young age. My mother was 4’11” at best, her breasts were disproportionately large for her size, and she was considered “chunky.” Her father, my grandfather, preferred heavy women. My grandmother Dorothy was morbidly obese, and his next wife was heavy as well. The one picture I have of my biological grandmother is not that of a heavy woman, but then it is the only picture I have, and I don’t have an age or anything to know if she was married to my grandfather at the time. She looks young in the picture. A counselor theorized my mother may have been trying to protect me from sexual abuse in some way by the issues she had with controlling my food and keeping me very thin, but I don’t think so. My mother was a cruel woman in almost all aspects of her contact with me. Knowing how verbally and emotionally abusive I treated my young children, I have to give her the benefit of the doubt that she just didn’t know any better. Admitting how I failed my own children and understanding why I thought what I did was what a good parent was, helps me to understand how my mother could have been so cruel. It wasn’t a personal attack on me, my mother just didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any better either, but landing in counseling and the Battered Women’s Shelter helped to teach me a better way to raise my children. My mother did not have access to any type of parenting models or classes.
Food was a big issue with my mother, and was part of the birth of anorexia/bulimia for me. My brothers could eat all the cereal they wanted for breakfast, but I was limited to one bowl. My mother forced me to eat everything on my plate, even if I didn’t like it. I was not allowed to leave the table until I did, and sometimes I fell asleep with my food. I would awaken to a dark house. I threw my food in the trash and went to bed myself. I don’t know what set my mother off on this day, but she threw all my food off my plate and onto the floor. She screamed at me “If you are going to eat like a pig, then you will be treated like a pig.” I had to eat all of the food she threw off the plate off the dirty farmhouse floor. She never did any of these things to my brothers. My mother controlled and humiliated me through food.
I learned about the yelling, verbal abuse and humiliation straight from my mother. My dad would yell at me, even humiliate me, but his rants were brief. My mother’s tirades would go on for hours, sometimes days at a time. Stupid and clumsy were some of her favorites, I have forgotten most of her rants. I remember bowing my head in shame when she would start them. I loved my mother and all I wanted to do was to please her, but I had failed again. I thought my mother was beautiful, and would sneak in and use her make-up, and play in her jewelry. Now I know this is a common thing for little girls to do, to try to dress up and be as beautiful as their mother. Unfortunately, when my mother caught me, the yelling, names and shaming would start, and my punishment went on for hours. My mother beat me physically less than my father before the divorce, but her extended punishments more than made up for it.
It was confusing being my mother’s daughter. We shared “secrets” and she talked to me like her best friend at night. She did not do this with my brothers. But during the daytime, I was not her friend at all. Every now and then, she would take me to auctions with her and my grandma, and I would feel special at those times because my brothers didn’t come very often. I would also get a dollar so I could bid on something I wanted. I always came home with a treasure. But my mother could turn on me in a heartbeat, so I treaded lightly when I was with her. Maybe she didn’t treat me badly at the auctions because my grandma and sometimes my aunts were around, and that is why I remember having a good time with her then.
I did not remember my mother’s betrayal of me about knowing and allowing my father to sexually assault me until well into my adulthood, but I did remember all the other stuff. This one betrayal I remember very well. When we were on the farm, we not only swam in the lake, but we bathed in it as well. I think I was around ten or so when my grandmother and grandfather came over for a visit. They owned a cottage down the road a ways. These were my father’s parents. I never liked “skinny” grandma, she was mean, but I idolized my grandfather. If I was ten or so, my brothers would have been nine and eight. We were all a year apart, and way past the time when we needed someone to bath us. My grandmother commented on how we were dirty children and she wanted to bathe us. We all screamed at the top of our lungs we did not want grandma to bathe us. My mother’s response? “She’s an old woman, if she wants to bathe you and it makes her happy, then just let her do it.” I think we all screamed so loudly, because we all knew what grandma bathing us meant. I remember how helpless I felt as I walked down to the lake to be “bathed” by my grandmother. It wasn’t a bath, it was a sexual assault. I suppose the term to use is fondling, but in my mind, any sexual touch of a child is an assault, the terms fondling and molestation just seem to make it more palatable to the public.
I remember my grandmother’s fingers lingering and playing with my vagina and private areas. I did not disassociate from this, I think because it was not as bad as all the other stuff my father was forcing me to do. I remember looking down into the water, and trying to ignore what my grandmother was doing. I was like a rag doll as she lifted my arms to wash them, and when she was done, I walked calmly to the sandy beach for my towel. I don’t think I talked the rest of the day, and this from a child who never stopped talking. This was one of those days when I went into my woods; looking for the entity I saw when I was six. I never found it, but I did build little shrines and meditation areas to connect with it. It was the only time my soul was at peace, and the only thing that allowed hope to endure. The betrayal I felt from my mother ran deep that day, not only was I screaming for her to help us, but my brothers were screaming just as loudly. My grandmother “bathed” us one by one. I have a pretty good idea of how she bathed them, and it seems to reason she made my father into the monster he became. She is the reason he hated women, but I doubt he knew it.