As third born of four children, I was pretty much invisible. My brother, 3 years older than me, would come home from school and we would play school and he would teach me everything he learned that day. I was five, he was eight. I idolized my big brother. I followed him everywhere.
When I was in the first grade, my brother died, my parents got a divorce, a new man moved into the family, and we all moved to another city. For a six year old, it was just too much for me. I became a total introvert. I seldom spoke at home….only when asked a direct question. My sisters…one four years older, one four years younger …. totally ignored me. Both my sisters were pretty and popular, but not very bright. (I was the exact opposite.) They both flunked a grade….older sister flunked 7th grade, younger sister flunked 3rd grade…..how does someone flunk 3rd grade? They went to 9 different schools, just like I did….but I had a hard time always being the new kid in class.
My only escape was school. Because of playing school with my brother, I absolutely loved school. I was fascinated about everything and truly enjoyed learning….until the 5th grade. That year….my teacher humiliated me twice. Once was my fault and I do know that…..but I was also only 10….the other was a perceived humiliation, but it was enough to silence me. After that, I rarely raised my hand in class. I became invisible at school. Oh, if the teacher called on me, I would answer, but I wouldn’t volunteer anymore. I still loved school and learning, I just never talked to anyone. Just like at home.
When I was 12, I was informed by my older sister that I was ugly. And when I tried to deny it, she would slap me. It was a hard lesson to learn, but no one has ever contradicted her. It was reinforced pretty much daily…there were days I thought I must be the ugliest person in the world. It was also made clear to me that no matter how hard I tried….no matter what I did…..I would never be special. Everyone else was special, but I was not. I had no choice but to accept it. I will spare you the examples, but trust me, there were many.
In the 9th grade, I became a DUFF. (I love the name of that movie…it finally gave a name to my role in life.) It only lasted two years. I thought they were my friends, but they really weren’t. I was just the comic relief.
In October of my senior year, I left home and got my own apartment. My apartment was $45 a month and my paychecks from the café I were I was a waitress was about $25 a week. I usually made enough in tips to buy my lunch at school the next day. I ate breakfast (a donut) and supper at the café every day but Sunday. I had about $100 in my checking account when I left home and it was pretty much gone after I bought sheets and towels and blankets, etc. I had a single place setting of china…from opening my bank account….and I borrowed one place setting of silverware from the café. I finished school…and I am the ONLY one in my family to graduate from high school. My mother only made one comment to me that day….and it sure wasn’t “Congratulations!” (It was….”Couldn’t you have done something with that hair?”)
Just a side note….I was molested by my father and grandfather and beaten by my mother….which also reinforced my withdrawal from life. One thing about being an abused child….you learn how to shut down and go to a safe place mentally. (I learned later it’s called transcendental meditation.) After I lost my virginity to my first love…..I was raped several times. I didn’t tell anyone….I knew no one would believe me. It would be my word against theirs, and no one would believe the ugly girl. I was just glad they didn’t hurt me physically and this is where the transcendental mediation really came in handy. I just zoned out…it was the only way I could cope. At one point, I got so low….one month I had sex with several men….and then I finally realized that if I got pregnant, I would have no clue who the father was. Fortunately, I didn’t get pregnant, and that behavior stopped and was never repeated.
My mother was very opinionated; a bigot; and would be nice and pleasant to your face and say horrible things about you behind your back; and she made us lie for her. I knew it was wrong and it was very disturbing to me and I tried very, very hard to be the opposite, but it wasn’t always easy when you are raised that way and it’s forced upon you.
One facet of my life that I have never been able to understand is apparently the expression on my face does not mirror what I am feeling. So many times I have been asked….”why are you mad”….and I am not mad at all! How my expression is not how I am feeling is beyond my comprehension. I have been told I look mad, or mean, or whatever….and those are not emotions I have at the time. All I know for sure….is when I am concentrating intently, it shows on my face as something else.
So I never had any friends….because I never talked and it was rare for anyone to talk to me. And I am lacking in the social graces because I was humiliated, ridiculed, laughed at or ignored first by my classmates and then by my co-workers. It almost seemed that to offer me a compliment….about anything….was something that was pretty much impossible for anyone to do. Would it have been the end of the world for someone to say, “Nice job”? Yes, I was proud of myself….but it was hard to feel good without any support. Some of my employers appreciated my intelligence; some only cared that I could type fast. Some of my employers were good, most were not and it seemed they were actually trying to keep me down. (My Annual Reviews would concentrate on one or two bad days….not the hundreds of days I did great work….but the couple I had a hard time.) But I kept my mouth shut as much as I could and kept my head down and did my work as well as I could because that’s all I knew how to do. And after all, it’s not like I am special or anything.