I did not appreciate the relationship between secretive/traumatizing events and my addictions until I got sober. In this vignette from my soon to be released memoir, you will read about a decision I made to keep a traumatizing event to myself.
I needed a hideaway to break free from my perfectionism. My best friend’s apartment was the perfect spot. Jill’s mother allowed us to do things my parents would never permit. If her apartment had a name, it would be Amsterdam. In it, I could explore the darker side of my personality. In it, I could color outside of the lines.
Her mother allowed us to have boys over the house and make out. After the boys were gone, her mother would ask, “Did they pet you?” Pet us? What are we, dogs?
“Petting is an old fashioned term for fondling breasts,” she explained.
“Ewwww,” we responded, “no wayyyyyyyyyyy! That’s gross.” We were thirteen years old. My eyelids flew open from her crude line of questioning.
“I bet you gave them blow jobs,” she added. “Come on, you can tell me.” Her grin was sinister. She had short, cropped white hair and even her mascara was promiscuous.
I wondered about the mental state of this woman. I wondered why a married man visited her every Friday night at their apartment. The only thing I knew about this man was that he managed the building. After several minutes of small talk, he followed Jill’s mother into her bedroom and slid the door shut. What are they doing in there? He’s been in there an hour and the door is locked.
When they reappeared, Jill’s mother was adorned in the building manager’s undershirt without a bra or panties. She had large breasts and I could see her nipples straight through the shirt. A Parliament 100 cigarette dangled from her lip as she picked up the wad of cash he left for her on the table and she escorted him to the front door.
She used a large percentage of the wad to buy expensive clothes for Jill. She had two other children, but neither of them enjoyed the lavish attention Jill did. Like Jill’s older sister, Sheila, I was jealous of Jill’s VIP treatment. My mother never spent a hundred dollars on a single pair of jeans for me.
My mother’s vocabulary included the word “no.” My parents had clear cut rules and expectations. My friend could ask her mother for whatever she wanted and get it. I was insanely jealous of Jill’s carte blanche status.
“Why can’t I have Fiorrucci jeans?” I asked.
“Because your rear end looks just as good in Levi jeans as it does in Fioruccis,” my mother replied. “Besides, you get plenty.”
What my mother said and what my ears heard were two different sentences. My mother said I made the jeans sexy. My ears heard I was not worthy of the jeans. I do not deserve top of the line. I am second rate.
No matter how many positive traits people found in me, my perfectionism filtered out the good. I constantly compared myself to the best in everyone around me. I never noticed their weaknesses or flaws. I only glared at my own.
Sheila questioned her value in the world just as I questioned my own. However, Sheila had real reason to question her significance. She had a mother who physically and verbally abused her.
“Why don’t you ever buy me anything?” Sheila cried. “Why does Jill get everything she wants?”
“Because YOU are a fat, disgusting slob!” her mother replied. “Look at you,” she screamed as she spit into her daughter’s hair. “You look like a man and you are fat and disgusting. You make me sick!”
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. My cheeks were ablaze. People walking past us in the mall stopped dead in their tracks to stare at the drama. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Sheila began to tear locks of hair straight from her head.
“I wish I was dead!” she screamed. “I wish I was never born!”
This was the most traumatic moment of my young life. I soaked the ugly experience in without a buffer and I resisted my urge to cry. I was both frightened and tongue tied. What kind of human being talks acts that way? What kind of mother tramples her child? Sheila is beautiful person. Sheila doesn’t deserve this.
I made a decision to keep the incident a secret. My mother would never permit me to visit Amsterdam again if I told her the truth. Jill’s mother was mentally ill, yet I guarded my ability to sleep at their house. Even if it was just for the weekend, I needed a place where I had zero rules to follow.