My parents are Conservatives. That in itself isn’t a moral death knell, but the contrast between how I was raised and how I am now is quite stark.
I have a habit of discrediting or downplaying my accomplishments so for now, just here on this blog, I’ll be uncharacteristically real and proud:
I’ve come a long way and grown. There were/are people that influenced this growth, but I alone decided to embrace the difficult changes and acknowledge my weaknesses rather than bury them. I am intelligent and capable and open-minded in ways that most people are not. I’m pretty fucking cool and those that know me are lucky to do so.
That’s hard to read back. It feels wrong. It feels arrogant and inaccurate and I can hear my anxiety fretting about if someone reads this, will they get upset that I didn’t acknowledge them by name? Will they look at me and go wow, bullshit, if not for x you wouldn’t be here? I want to immediately add a thousand apologies for my confidence in the form of casual, self-deprecating disclaimers.
I hate it. If it’s not in vogue to be proud of myself here, then where?
So I’m going to refine my statement from earlier, and state more directly: I did this on my own. Completely on my own. I stand on my own two feet all by myself.
That part is even more uncomfortable. Even now I feel my stomach twist and want to delete the entire post, but I’m not going to. I can’t. Not here.
So I’m going to be very honest, even though my mind is SCREAMING that it could be found by the very people I talk about. I already want to write I’m sorry, but but I will not. I am not sorry. This is my experience, this is my truth, and I’m NOT going to private this post.
It won’t be front and center, but if you end up reading it and taking offense, talk to me.
My mother has narcissistic tendencies. When I described how she’s treated me, that was the label that I cam to give her.
She is an amazingly hard worker and I admire her so much. I wish we were closer than where we are today, but EVERY time I spend time with her, I walk away feeling miserable. I’ve tried to talk to her about it my entire life and she never changes anything. She’ll sit there and sob about being a horrible mother, but she won’t actually fix her issues.
Whether she realizes it or not, it’s manipulative. She’ll cry and guilt you or she’ll ice you out. She’s never wrong. Or if she is, so are you. If she thinks something is wrong with you, she tells you over and over. It’s an onslaught and there’s no rest to it. I’ve been hearing about my weight, my bad skin, my social circle for thirty years. She is the reason I feel guilty every day for eating. If I feel full, my insecurities triple and tell me I’m fat and disgusting, even if I’ve only eaten one thing that day.
If you can’t cook, how will you get a husband? How will you take care of your family? Although my rational mind can combat this now, growing up it haunted me.
She didn’t help me. Her way of teaching me was Alanna, copy me and if you have questions I’ll treat you like you’re an idiot. Of course I stopped trying, but then I felt guilty about that, too. She asks why I haven’t had a relationship, and the reason is because I don’t feel like I deserve one. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not domestic enough to land a good man. I KNOW THAT’S NOT TRUE! But it plays on loop in the back of my head whenever I get the semblance of interest in a guy, and if things don’t work out perfectly (they never will!) my defense mechanism is to just give up.
My spirit is so broken because of her and if I tell her this tomorrow, in two weeks she’ll go you’re still mad at me over that? if I bring it up again. There is no winning with her. I’ve been forced to keep her at arm’s length in order to preserve my mental health and fight my depression. She’s so happy I was able to get off my anxiety/depression pills, but the only reason I could was because I’ve been staying away from her!
I want a mother so badly. So desperately. So much so that I even projected that need for female care and comfort onto my best friend, which contributed to an unhealthy co-dependent relationship. Every time I talk to my mother now, it’s to appease her. If I play her game and pretend to be her definition of happy, then she doesn’t try to dive deeper into how I’m feeling and she hangs up feeling like the Best Mom Ever! And that’s all she wants from me. She wants validation and reassurance that she did a good job. So now, in the emptiest and most loveless robotic way possible, I do.
And it hurts every time. I accept it, but it fucking hurts knowing Mom prefers this caricature of a silhouette of a daughter than someone raw and real and here. But this is what she chose and all I can do at this point is react to and around it.
Then there’s Dad. Dad, whom I’ve always been historically closer to. This is probably due to the fact that he was around more when I was growing up, plain and simple. Mom worked more because she had the higher paying job. Dad spent more time with me, shared his hobbies with me and my brother. He took the time to settle in with us and show it off.
I don’t even know what my mother’s hobbies are outside of reading dirty mini novels. I find that ironic because she always comes off as so aromantic. Clearly there’s SOME interest there, and goddamn, now that I think about it it’s hilarious. Because I watch and read and write a TON of pornography, and yet I know I could never talk about sex with her. Never ever. It feels like such a missed connection. Damn.
Anyway, back to Dad. He was classically the fun parent, right? And in recent years he had a break-through by going to therapy and growing his own self awareness, as well as getting his bad temper under control.
But he is such a morally disgusting human being. Mom, too, but he’s just so much worse. They honestly compliment each other in the sickest of ways and it makes my stomach churn to be around them, listening to the filth they spew out of their mouths. Racism, ignorance, sexism, dismissal of anyone who doesn’t look and act and think like them. Dad was the embodiment of I am the parent and you are the child and therefore I have more life experience, and you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.
He’s the reason that men terrify me.
Mom contributed to my inability to form romantic relationships by breaking down who I am, but my father’s temper and onslaught of verbal and emotional abuse made me fear all men’s “true nature.” I remember when my parents argued, my dad would call my mother a stupid bitch when talking to myself and my brother. It broke my heart because I thought to myself: I don’t want my husband to ever think of me like this.
But it was all I knew, so it would be inevitable, right? To avoid having my heart broken, I just wouldn’t allow myself to care for anyone who would badmouth me in front of our kids.
I’ve been called a Stupid Bitch so often in my life that it’s the first thing my Mental Illness calls me when it acts up. Stupid, ungrateful bitch. Just writing that right now is making me tear up because the pain associated with it is still so strong to this day. Stupid bitch. And I know even now that my Dad will call me that when I’m not around if he’s upset with me. If I don’t do what you want, I’m nothing but a Stupid Bitch.
And the verbal abuse was always over small things, things that he made so much worse because it exacerbated his insecurities or triggered his overprotectiveness.
I don’t even recall the details, but I was out longer than I should have been one afternoon — not even in the evening! — and my phone was off. My phone was off, and when I turned it back on and saw the REPEATED messages of where are you and why aren’t you answering I remember being afraid to go home.
The screaming. The swearing. The threatening to kill me. The audacity I had to be out anywhere and not be at his beck and call, and that his expectations were reasonable and I was an irresponsible piece of shit child for not meeting those expectations.
The screaming. The screaming. Whenever I hear a man raise his voice now — even if it’s not at me — I want to crawl into a ball and sob. It’s practically instinct. I am so afraid of the violence and turn-on-a-dime attitude I have of men and it’s all because of him.
And oh, let’s not forget the sexism.
My brother can do x, but Alanna can’t because she’s a woman and sorry that’s just how the world works.
Me, casually walking by in a tank top: Sorry Nan, you’ve got such a hairy back and it’s thanks to my genes, haha.
And then there was that one time — that one time at the Renaissance Festival where I realized that the sense of safety I had from being somewhere with my father was a lie.
I was sixteen or seventeen. I wanted to buy a fancy cloak at a stall, which was run by this rotund old man. Dad said to go ahead, and I was so excited! They stood by and watched as the old man got out his measuring tape and… got very close to me. In order to measure me, he stood front-to-front and basically hugged me. I was so uncomfortable and nervous, but I let it happen. I ended up saying I didn’t want a cloak. We walked away.
“Did he cop a feel?” My dad laughed as we headed off, utterly bemused at the thought.
I had thought my Dad hadn’t realized how uncomfortable I was. I knew my mother didn’t, even though she was standing right there. But he did notice and he didn’t stop it, didn’t say anything, and had the gall to laugh about it.
It hurts so much. I have so many other instances of abuse, of neglect, of tearing down my self-esteem and playing it off as a joke. Of teaching me poor and bullying habits (let’s go to church so we can make fun of how everyone looks) that when I realized they were wrong and stopped doing them, Dad called me no fun anymore.
My parents are emotionally and mentally fourteen years old. That is how I’ve always seen them and that is why I ended up developing into a Caretaker role for all of my friends for the longest of time. It was where I was comfortable, what I had been raised to do. My parents even now turn to me for advice and validation that I shouldn’t be responsible for giving them. They rely on me and my brother to be their vent partners, rather than communicate with each other or a professional. We are constantly used by our parents to soothe their own worries and anxieties.
I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be around them anymore. So I’m minimizing my interactions with them, because if I don’t I will end up outright hating them. It’s why my little brother ran off as soon as he had an opportunity to do so, too, but all they see is HE’S UNGRATEFUL and WE’RE NOT THAT BAD! and nothing beyond that.
I was born to Conservative parents. They emotionally and mentally abused me for years, all the while teaching me that everyone outside of our immediate family is expendable, and relying on me to be their caretaker in all ways. They are racist and sexist and morally bankrupt, judging and unable to comprehend the viewpoints of people they view to be lesser.
Today I am left-leaning, open-minded, and strive to be as aware and emotionally understanding as I possibly can be. But I also have been learning to set up boundaries and accept people where they are, even if it’s not my ideal situation. I have moved across the country on my own, and traveled outside of the country on my own. I’ve been financially independent for over ten years, and established myself in my career at age 30, making more than twice my age in my salary.
I am independent and have friends from all walks of life, and even if we don’t always agree or understand each other, am able to communicate with them without devolving into an argument. And any disagreements I do have do not necessarily mean the end of the world, or the end of that relationship. I have joined protests and donated to causes I care about, I have quit a shitty job in a badass way that made the CEO plead for me to stay, I have become an advocate for mental health and self-care.
I’m not perfect by any means, but damn it I have come a long way from the foundation I was planted in.