Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
When I wanted to help with something around the house, You won't do it right, said Mother.
Consequently, I didn't learn a lot of every day things that most people know. Plus, my older sisters hated me because they had to clean the house, while I seemed to get a free pass other than being required to put clean sheets on my bed––which I didn't do right––and when I was older, vacuum my bedroom, which I didn't do right.
When I was a teenager, I saw Mother getting out the decorations to put on the Christmas tree. I want to help, I said.
You won't do it right, said Mother.
I was never allowed to hang a single decoration on the Christmas tree.
Mother also made it her duty to ensure I had no confidence.
She often told me I was "thick-headed" and if I ever wanted to have any money, then I'd better marry a rich man. You don't have any friends, she often told me, because of the way you act. No one likes you.
I didn't know then and don't know now how I "acted." I also don't know why kids would come by the house to spend time with me. According to Mother, they were not my friends.
Along with the emotional abuse was the never-ending threat of physical abuse. She liked to beat my older sisters with a yardstick or a fly swatter, but me, for some reason, she liked to slap across the face. When I was as tall as she was and definitely stronger, I continued to cower before her raised hand.
Small things could send her into a rage. It didn't occur to me until much later that she was guilty of those small things. If I misplaced something or actually lost something, she became furious.
She lost things all the time, especially her keys. She got a huge key ring so maybe she'd be able to key track of the keys, but she couldn't. She laughed about it, but if I couldn't find something, it was the stuff of nightmares.
To this day I remain terrified of losing anything.
Mother was rather large, yet she went on and on about the size of some of my older sisters. She'd wave her hands in despair. They're big-boned, she'd say.
When I was in junior high and wore a pep club uniform that included a gray skirt, she told me my legs were too big for me to wear a short skirt. I think I weighed about 90 pounds. Probably not even that much.
The summer before I started high school, I gained a few pounds. Mother became apoplectic with rage. It didn't take long for me to lose the weight. Boy, that gym class sure took the weight off you, she said.
The gym class had 60 girls in it. By the time the teacher finished taking attendance, we had about 10 minutes to do whatever bullshit the teacher wanted us to do. I lost the weight because I ate only one meal a day. Mother would have been delighted if I had been anorexic.
A friend told me that every time she won a medal in forensics her mother sewed it to a piece of black velvet that went in a case hung on the wall. I won numerous medals. I don't think my parents ever looked at them or knew what I had done to win them.
During my senior year in high school, I won a substantial scholarship in a state-wide essay contest. If you really want to go to KU, maybe we could manage it, she whined.
I hung my head. I don't want to.
I knew what was expected of me. I took some classes at the university in town, where I remained other Mother's thumb.
Mother did like one thing about me. People often mentioned how pretty I was. Once when I played in a piano recital, she heard someone behind us say, She always looks so cute.
That put a smile on Mother's face, but it confused me. If I was so stupid and unworthy of friendship, then how could I possibly be pretty?
I think her belief in my looks furthered her determination to keep me from having a career. You will never be able to hold down a job. If something went wrong, you'd fall apart. You'd better get married or you'll never have anything.
I had a long-term boyfriend but he had turned out to be a jerk. I wanted to break up with him but didn't dare to do so because I knew Mother would say he broke up with me and then list the many reasons I wasn't worthy of him or anyone else.
My desperation to hold onto him because of Mother led me into a deep depression.
When I was finally free of him and starting to recover, I began dating someone else. As soon as it was feasible, I married him. I still had most of the money from the scholarship along with other money I'd saved. I used it for my husband's education.
Although she'd been desperate for me to marry, my performance as a wife did not please her. What are you fixing for dinner? tended to lead to That's not enough, so I invented large, substantial meals that were far beyond our means.
Even so, That nice boy will divorce you became one of her refrains.
That nice boy was not so nice.
We had an agreement that he would get his BA and then I would get mine. When he came home one day and announced he wanted to get his PhD, I didn't dare say a word.
The good part was that he got into graduate school in another state. I could escape Mother.
to be continued . . . and it's not all bad