Some comments left by Lady Grey on a few of the recent fiction chapters got me thinking more about things that have happened in my youth... well, to describe it more accurately, it feels like I discovered a hidden cache of repressed memories that decided the time was now to jump out and pay me a visit.
I have my hesitations on writing this, mostly from an "oh my god now everyone will see how pathetic and fucked up I am" place in my heart, but I've let it all hang out there, why stop now?
It's hard to sort these out as many of them are inter-related.
I have a sister. Like me, she was adopted. Unlike me, she was adopted while my parents still loved each other and she was the replacement "first born" which was given countless chances and opportunities to pave the way or block the path for me as I was growing up. I really have only been on good terms with my sister twice in my life: before I started elementary school and for a very brief period when we occasionally partied together in high school.
It's hard to really describe this relationship as I've never really been "resentful" of her. She was very average in a lot of ways while I excelled at the majority of what I set out to do. What frustrated me over the years was that apparently she held a lot of resentment towards me, which I found out years later because I was able to "figure things out" and didn't get "caught up in the game." She does still believe I was favored even though I was the one being punched and tossed around while they never laid a finger on her. I don't resent her for not being beaten, I resent her for not factoring child abuse into her evaluation of "favoritism."
The earliest negative feelings I can remember had nothing to do with her. While she had also experienced them on some level, young boys are way bigger fuckers than young girls. I can plainly recall my first suicidal impulse occurring at age 4 when I was being race bullied at my pre-school. "I wish I was dead" and "I wish I wasn't here" ran parallel to the voice saying "I wish I wasn't different." A pair of brothers decided to make my life hell because of the shape of my eyes, the shape of my nose, and that I wasn't circumcised (it's a bit disturbing to think they were actually stalking me while I pissed to get a look at my dick isn't it?).
I know that I couldn't deal with those feelings. I just absorbed this feeling of being some kind of fucking mutant that would be judged in those ways for the rest of my life. That's the thing about racism, there's not a fucking thing you can do about being born different, so there isn't really any way to come to peace with it. It just feels ugly in a bad way. The thing that followed is the theme of support... while I cried and didn't wish to return to that pre-school I was always forced to return... always shoved headfirst into the lion's mouth. There was no hand-holding... just sink or swim.
This next part will most likely come off as a whine... and maybe it is. It carries no resentment on my part, just acknowledging things that I had blocked from my memories for decades. During the phase where my parents were busy encouraging her with a violin, a piano, multiple bicycles, any sport she wanted, driving her wherever she wanted to go, I started feeling isolated. My mother's friends all had daughters around her age. If they had sons they were much older than me.
During this same stretch my parents bought my sister a rabbit fur coat. I wrote a bit about that first pelt in my reflections post. I was this lonely kid that like Lenny, just wanted to pet the fuzzies. When no one was around I would sometimes pet her coat. At some point, which I believe was her first year in elementary school, she caught me petting it. By this point she had become "socially aware" in regards to worrying about what other people thought. I hadn't reached that point... but I learned it that day when she shamed me for it until I was in tears and started to call me names about being girly because I liked the feel of fur and that everyone would think I was a freak.
When I went to my mother, still in tears, to tell on her, she responded that it was my sister's coat and I shouldn't have been touching it and if that was how she chose to punish me... that was fine.
As I reflect back that day impacted me greatly. In fact it was probably pivotal. Firstly, from then on I buried my feelings deep below the surface. Secondly, it brought me shame to appreciate anything of comfort from then on. I put on the tough guy facade. My true desires on that front became my best guarded secrets and I did not share them publicly for nearly 20 years.
The problem with shame of that sort is that it continuously reinforces curiosity... bordering on obsession, with no healthy outlet. I remember secretly looking through the Sunday paper's ads and if there was a woman in fur I would sometimes wait a few days until there were papers stacked up and then steal the ad and hide it in my room.
When M came along with her bondage games it was actually a liberating experience. The fact that I was her prisoner... helpless... and had to follow whatever she did allowed me to enjoy things without the guilt or shame. It also proved my sister wrong... M didn't think I was a freak. Once I reached the age of masturbating, my fantasies of M were often accompanied by looking at those ads that I kept hidden away. I always felt horribly ashamed after I came. Always. It made me want to die.
What I am about to write contains a series of events that I consider to be some of the most shameful moments of my life. At some point a cousin of ours came to visit and wore a pair of fur earmuffs. She wasn't all that organized or responsible for her things as she would just toss her coat, gloves, and earmuffs off into a corner when she came inside. I may have "accidentally" nudged them behind a chair leg a few inches away. They day after they left I checked the chair leg and they were there. I hid them under my shirt and sprinted to my room as fast as I could and locked the door. Guilt hit me in the chest like a truck... I was now indirectly a thief (I technically didn't take them, they were left behind, right?) but my shame of having this item made of fur secretly hidden away was the paramount of embarrassment. I was a freak.
A few years later, when my parents were supposed to be gone until late... and my sister was supposed to be gone until late, I used one of those precious times where I had the house to myself to watch TV in my parents room. I brought my collection of ads with me. I brought the earmuffs with me. I snuck out my grandmother's old mink scarf that I had found in one of my mother's drawers a year before and I watched TV with the scarf around my neck and the earmuffs on my ears while looking at my ads of fur Queens. I didn't lock the door. I still had at least three or four hours of alone time and I would make sure that everything was put back and hidden away with at least two hours to spare in case someone got home early. (and no, I wasn't masturbating or anything like that).
I don't know if the TV was too loud or if the earmuffs restricted my hearing that much but I noticed some motion in the mirror and turned around to see my sister standing there in the room staring at me with a puzzled look on her face. I immediately closed my eyes and shoved everything off the bed, tossing the fur off of me. I heard a laugh and then the door closed again and she was gone. I was so mortified that I honestly considered taking a razor blade to my wrists immediately afterward. I felt so fucked up and ashamed. The ache that I felt was no longer that I hated being different... I hated being me. This event was never spoken of again.
There were a couple of other things going on in my life at that time as well. I was skinny when I was young and would spend many days running around all over, biking wherever, etc. Around the age of 6 I started having problems with my lungs and it got progressively worse. I was soon diagnosed as being asthmatic and having a plethora of allergies. The available meds at that time were terrible compared to what is available today and were loaded with side effects (e.g. when I was 8 years old I had built up such a tolerance to benadryl that was having to take 5 pills at a time, 3 times a day... if you are familiar with how drowsy people get on benedryl). While I was still athletic, I was finding myself struggling for energy a lot of the time. I was taking 20-24 pills a day and two inhalers multiple times a day to manage the asthma/allergy combo. I also couldn't run for more than about a minute before my lungs would shut down. After about a year of this I started getting a little chubby.
Once I required husky sizes is when the body shaming started happening. I can understand that my mother didn't want a fat child, but I had built up a layer of fat that I couldn't shed. As my muscles began to develop the layer of fat remained. I was doing a LOT of sports... 4-6 nights a week of 2-3 hours of cardio. Also around that age, I became so lactose intolerant that eating cheese or drinking milk would make me vomit. I had never liked the taste, so my parents claimed I was faking it and would force me to eat/drink dairy. If you grew up in the mid-west and look at what traditionally constitutes "meals" here, you will know that nearly everything is served with cheese, cream sauce, etc. This had a horribly negative effect on the development of my palette and would affect my diet for the next decade. Not enough veggies. Too much meat and fat.
Even when I was in pristine shape... I still felt fat and disgusted with my bulky figure. It took me until today to realize just how deep my terrible self-image is rooted.
In sports while my coaches were (usually) supportive of my asthma, my father was less so. This led to me pushing myself to a point that was way beyond healthy... and a few times I collapsed due to lack of oxygen to my muscles.
My mother's disapproval of my appearance continues to this day. I'm still that disappointment.
My sister's words still linger with me. I'm still afraid everyone will think I'm a freak.
As much as I would have loved to have just grown out of these... they still haunt me, driven home in such a way that they left their mark. It does make total sense that I am the way that I am.