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It’s been years since I got my hair did. I was born with a full head of hair. Jet black hair at birth, then it lightened some to a brown that in the summer almost appeared dirty-blonde. My hair has been colored multiple times throughout the course of my adult life. I frosted it once, by adding streaks of blonde to my naturally brunette tresses. Wore my hair down a lot at that time, so it looked pretty good. It was also the trend; all the 90’s high school/college gals were doing it, so I followed suit. I know, I know. Thank goodness no one jumped off any bridges - I was naive enough as a teenager to believe that in order to fit in, you had to follow the leader and do exactly what they were doing. You had to wear whatever they were wearing, smoke whatever they were smoking, drive whatever they drove, and so on…tough trend to break, but I managed. Then, I went all-red. That was a big hit. When done right, I can get away with red hair. Matches skin tone and eye color nicely, if I may say so. I went purple, accidentally. Purple is my favorite color, let me tell you…I have tons of purple clothes, purple sneakers I hardly wear, purple walls in my bedroom, if I could paint my car purple, I would. But hair? I don’t think so…see, it was SUPPOSED to be the color of Lauren Holly’s hair in ‘Picket Fences.’ Unfortunately, the stylist who colored it was either color blind or simply too clueless to effectively lighten my hair before re-coloring it….either way, I rocked the purple for a few weeks before letting it fade back into my natural color. Then, I stopped trying to find the best hairstyle and color for myself and started wearing my hair the same way, every day, for over fifteen years. Those who know me, also know this look. I pull it all back and fasten it with a messy bun in the back. At one point, I had bangs, to better frame my face, but lately, my bangs have been pulled back, too. It got comfortable. J wears her hair the same way. We’re often mistaken for siblings. I’ll add that I’m still mad at some dude at the bowling alley who asked J if I was her mother. What the holy hell, dude? I’m only a year older than her. NOT cool. Next time we bowl against your team, I’m schooling your ass, JUST for that! Hmmph. A haircut consisted basically of me pulling it all back into a low ponytail and handing J the scissors. One snip and voila, it’s a few inches shorter. But it was always long enough to continue to wear the same hairstyle. And for years, that was good for me, because my hair is the only part of me that is THIN. It was thick when I was younger. I lost a great deal of it when I was pregnant with my son. Now that I’ve had my daughter and it’s even thinner, I’m fearful of inheriting my mother’s Oompa-Loompa haircut…HER hair is so thin that it’s the only style that covers the bald spot in the back. I lie through my teeth whenever she came from the salon… “Do I look any different?” (She’ll smile at me while she’s patting her hair…and those eyes tell me that I better have noticed that it was not only cut but it was also dyed…I better have the right answer or else she’ll cut me out of her will.) “Oh, absolutely, Mom. It looks fantastic. You look like you’re twenty years younger. I hope I can rock that look one day, too.” LIES. Lies, I tell you. So I went online the other day and asked for some feedback on Facebook. Everyone I’ve spoken to on this topic has told me that they think I should just go for it. Get a new ‘do. My hair is ALWAYS pulled back, and even so, it’s very obviously thin and it shows. One darling friend posted a photo of the beautiful Halle Berry. Her hair is longer on top and one side, the back and other side are long-buzzed. Kinda shaved but not to the point where the hair is so short, you can see the scalp. It’s longer on top and kind of spills over to the side that is longer. I suppose the best way to describe it is punky, but adorable at the same time. I like the idea of hacking off all my garbage hair and starting over with new, thicker hair. Unfortunately, my hair is too thin, too fine to even donate to Locks of Love, so the trash is where it’ll all end up once cut and swept off the floor…I further like the idea of maybe adding some streaks of red to the longer, top part. I feel that constantly pulling back my hair, day after day, is probably a sign that having short hair is not going to make too much of a difference. If anything, it’d be less maintenance. If I take the leap and ultimately hate it, I have plenty of hats that I can wear throughout the winter. Hopefully in the spring, it’ll be thicker and my hacking it off in the fall won’t have been a total waste. Then I’ll be googling different hairstyles and blogging about it. Anyway, after careful deliberation, I did whatever I normally do before making any hasty decisions and texted the Oompa Loompa earlier today when we were on the way home from our weekly shopping excursion, and shared the picture with her. “I don’t know, it looks a little butch.” She replies in the text back. For added effect, feel free to add Doris Roberts’ classic Marie Barone voice. Then she says, “Why don’t I get you a makeover for Christmas? We can do some research and find another one that doesn’t look so…manly?” Mind you, my mother has seen me shop for my tee-shirts in the mens’ department for as long as I could remember. She knows that getting me to wear a dress is like trying to peel the white off of rice. She knows that I find shopping for shoes, purses, bras, anything ‘feminine’ to be about as much fun as a root canal. She knows that I loathe parties or being invited to parties because it usually means I have to plan for those aforementioned ‘root canals.’ My dress-donning days are over, though. Both of my sisters got married a few years ago and I was bridesmaid to both. One dress has been donated to Goodwill and the other one narrowly escaped the burn pile, only because I’d buried it so far back in my closet and couldn’t find it when it came time to make these abominations a distant memory. I still have the shoes, though, shoes that I never will wear again and only save so my godchild can use them when she plays dress-up. I’m just amazed at how much my mother, even though she’s accepted my lifestyle and has accepted J as my same-sex partner, is still a little too concerned about my image or what I wear, or that I don’t wear make-up. Too often I’ve heard that I had to look “pretty” or dress up because someone was having a 90th birthday party next month and it wouldn’t be appropriate to wear ‘those ugly shoes’ or ‘those pants that make you look like a man’ or the same shirt you wore to Aunt Bertha’s funeral. bit*h, please. If they’re lucky enough to make it to 90, they aren’t going to give too many shits about what I’m wearing! But you kind of see where I’m going with this…it’s always the same with her. If I look or act like an idiot, it reflects badly on her and we can’t have that, now, can we? Back to the picture I showed her of Halle Berry…it is by no means masculine…at least, not to me. It’s sleek, neat, elegant almost. It’s gorgeous. A given - I do not look like her in any way. In fact, I am the complete opposite of Halle Berry. She’s tall, I’m short. She’s thin, I’m not. I can add to this list, but the gist of what I’m getting from my mother’s comment - the hair may look good on Halle Berry but on me, it looks ‘butchy.’ I almost instantly got annoyed as soon as that text came in and had to refrain from throwing my phone through the windshield. J was driving and listening to music and at the same time, me swearing. If only my mother knew how many times she has been the cause of my random swearing outbursts and my poor wife has had to listen to me come up with creative new ways to cuss out my mother. Ay yi yi yi yi… Eventually J asked why I cared so much about what my mother thought and why her opinion mattered so much. I don’t even know the answer to that. See, if you ask me, she cares too much about what HER friends think. I’m pretty sure she will tell everyone the success stories of her other two ‘normal’ daughters, before she talks about the one who was married at 21, divorced at 29, with a new partner at 30, oh, and let’s not forget that her new partner is the same sex, too. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been wonderful around J and fully supports my decision to hop on over to the ‘dark side’ but I can’t help but suspect she doesn’t worry about the images of her other two daughters as much as she does mine. I mean, one sister married an alcoholic three-year-old (says on his birth certificate that he’s thirty-something, but he often throws tantrums and acts as if he’s three) that looks like the title character of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with this ridiculous ponytail we all envision cutting off one day, just because. They already have one kid (who really is three) that was diagnosed with autism. You’d think my sister would have enough sense to give up her theater days but she feels more comfortable dumping my autistic nephew into my mother’s care while she continues to pursue her dreams of someday becoming a Broadway star. She got started with her crooning and performing when she was about four or five years old and no one has had the heart to tell her that she has about as much natural talent as a drunk banshee. And even better - she’s currently pregnant with her second kid, another child that my mother will likely have to raise because she’s too busy running lines instead of a household. She doesn’t cook. She doesn’t clean. She just sings badly. My brother-in-law will pick up most of the slack at home, but even he’s annoyed and I’ve had to come to the conclusion that she is the main cause of his childish tantrums. That just isn’t a stable situation at ALL. Now, let’s talk about Sister number two. This is the sister that I feel closer to, even though she’s further away in age from me than sister number one. One, unfortunately has no filter on her mouth and often comes across as an overly critical piece of work. This results in a lot of family tension and dirty looks from my children. Two is more soft-spoken and knows when to hold her tongue. So, naturally, Sister number two is an overall better person and a more enjoyable person to be around. She did marry a much nicer, better-looking, sweeter man. They welcomed a daughter last month. Both are medical professionals. They have a nice house that they paid way too much for. About a week after the birth of their daughter, he had to return to work, so Sister number two calls up Mama, who, in turn, drops everything and rushes over there to help her care for the baby. And this, I understand….we ALL need a little extra help when a new baby arrives. But, man, oh, man she milks it. Just like for years before she got married, she milked it. She lived at home until the day she was married, even though she and her husband had an apartment already. She spent most of her time at Mom’s house, eating Mom’s food and letting Mom take care of her laundry, pack her lunches for work, etc. Her reasoning was, ‘Mom’s house was closer to her job,’ but I know that it’s simply because my mother enables her ‘let Mommy take care of it’ behavior. I wanted to go and see the little one last week and Mom texted me the day before to ask what I was bringing. “Say what?” I ask. Mom proceeds in telling me that Sister number two doesn’t cook, either. Apparently, for the last month, my mother, as well as any visitors who have gone to see her has brought some kind of prepared-to-heat meal for her. And it would be most helpful if I could throw together a lasagna or something that she could pop in the oven for dinner one night. “Mom,” I said, “She’s thirty years old. She’s not the first woman on the planet to reproduce.” My mother made as many excuses as possible. She’s tired, she just had a baby, her husband is working all the time, she’s overwhelmed, she’s a first-time mother, baby won’t let her do anything.… Meanwhile I’m not buying that because well, isn’t my mother also there, every single damn day? Can’t she hold the baby while my sister cooks her own dinner??? Then she starts with, “Your other sister brought her a pot pie the other day from Costco…because you know she doesn’t cook.” “Neither does this one, obviously!” “Out of the three, you’re the cook. So maybe you can bring her something yummy.” I probably would have, because I’m nice. But, I ended up not going to see my niece because both J and I came down with a stomach bug. I’ve got plans to see her on Thanksgiving weekend, though. But I got to thinking about how much she enables those two for things that are far more serious than a dress or a haircut. Look…when I had my son at 21, I took care of him. My then-husband went to work every day and I was alone with a colicky child all day. I shopped, did laundry for and prepared dinner for a family of five. (Husband and his two older children in addition to me and an infant = 5) I took the baby as well as his older two children to doctor appointments, took them to school, picked them up. It wasn’t a paying job but it was a job. I didn’t have a singing hobby on the side. I think I called my mother to babysit only a handful of times when hubby and I would have our bowling night but as far as hobbies go, that’s about all I did with that three hours of freedom per week. She used to complain that she didn’t see my children enough. Now her biggest complaint is my having moved 2 hours away from her, from both sisters, and she feels even less needed by me. They, and their children consume so much of her time and she often expresses anger at my moving so far away because I’m not there to help her help them. Of course, she masks it all by saying she misses me. I’m sure she does, but I think she’s just bitten off more than she could chew and spread herself too thin, simply because she is trying to uphold her idea of what the image of a perfect mother and grandmother is like. She delights in hearing what other people have to say about her, it’s her way of making sure she’s successful. “What did your friend think of me?” She’ll ask me after she’s met one of my friends. I usually have to lie because any one of my friends already knows my mother before they meet her in person. “They want a mother just like you.” “I’m the best.” She’ll say. “Absolutely.” The best enabler, maybe. The best whiner. The best pain in my ass. Meanwhile, what kind of an image have I provided for these two sisters of mine? There’s me who is so used to dealing with things my own damn self…and then there’s these two who, because they allowed her to take over and be such a dominant figure in their married lives, have proven themselves useless and far too reliant on my mother. And in turn, my mother meddles just enough within their lives to make herself look good in the process. I’m pretty sure that in her world, there’s a lot of “Oh, would you look at that? Look at Vee’s daughter, such a talented singer…and she’s got children at home, too!” Or, “Look at this one, just had a baby, can you imagine how rough she has it, she juggles a newborn, long hours and prescriptions!” Then of course when it comes to me, she’s afraid of hearing, “Oh…that one…she doesn’t have a job. She’s home all day, she’s a bit of a hermit…and she’s just got a butch haircut. Sssh. I think she’s a lesbian.” Well…guess what? I don’t care. I don’t give a shit. I don’t care what image my having short hair puts forth. If it makes me look like the son she never had, then so be it. I don’t care if I end up hating it because the sight of a pissed off Oompa Loompa will look funnier than me, any day. Plus, hair grows back, so it’s not a life sentence. At the end of the day, I care only what J thinks. And she already has the image of me that she wants. Hair isn’t something that matters to her. Looks don’t matter to her. (If they did, she would have chosen Halle Berry, hands-down.) I already have the image of myself that I need. I’m Vee’s daughter, but I’m also me. I’ve worked hard to be the highly perceptive person I am today. My sisters may be the ones with careers, but life-wise, I can safely say I’m smarter. Aside from being the oldest, I’m sure a lot of life experiences have contributed to my being the way I am, and I’ve accepted that a long time ago. From the time I got married too young, I’ve marched to the beat of my own drum. I think the outcome you see in me today is truly a result of having broken away from Mama’s clutches before she could do any further damage. It didn’t take too much longer than the drive home from Walmart, but I’ve decided that by the end of this week, I’ll have a new ‘do. I’ll be sure to post whether Mama survives the heart attack she’s likely to have when I Face-Time her to show her my new haircut. Maybe she’ll surprise me and say she loves it. (I do have to keep in mind, I’ve lied to her about liking her haircuts for years.) Maybe she can do the same for me. I wouldn’t even care if she lied. I just need her to stop trying to mold me into a person that I’m not. Just like you simply can’t shape clay that’s already hardened into its permanent form. Until next time, - Capulet
Let it be known that we have five adopted pets that I adore with all of my heart. All of them are currently of the feline species, but contrary to the title of this blog entry, none are named ‘Peeves.’ I think though, that in the future, I’ll consider calling a kitten by the name of Peeves, simply because the term ‘pet peeves’ is not only a humorous play on words, it’s my favorite way to describe those itty bitty details that annoy me to no end. Not to say that a kitten would add to my level of annoyance. Not at all. I am a complete sucker for kittens. They’re cute, they’re playful and I’m proud to say I’ve bottle-fed my share of kittens and rescued and still have a couple others. I just think it’ll be kind of cool to refer to an actual pet as ‘Peeves.’ I like to think I’m creative that way. On a serious note, let it also be known that cats are the most blunt little assholes you’ll ever come to know and love. They don’t sugar coat anything. They let you know when they’re pissed off. They knock shit off of the countertops while looking you in the face at the same time. They challenge you. They take chances. They turn any room in the house into their own personal playground, regardless of how many times you’ve tried to offer them alternatives. They take turns playing ‘chase me!’ in the middle of the night when everyone else is trying to sleep. By now we know that any random crashing or shattering of objects during the wee hours is the likely result of having five nocturnal children who have no idea the difference between a dollar-store figurine or that vase passed down by your great grandmother from Italy. Buy them a thirty to fifty dollar scratching post only to find they prefer to scratch the side of the $1200 couch, instead. Order them a fancy-schmancy cat toy, they’ll show you gratitude by demonstrating that they prefer the plain old cardboard box it arrived in, instead. Cats are highly intelligent little shits that KNOW it annoys you when they do these little things, and frankly, they don’t give a damn. You can holler all you want at a cat and in return, you get a view of their behind when they walk away from you. They simply don’t care. I think these little jerks are onto something, though. One male cat we have is highly temperamental about his back paws being touched. We can pet him anywhere and he will purr like there is no tomorrow, but when we get anywhere near the back paws, he’ll give us that look that tells us that if we proceed, we WILL require stitches. Another cat we have is very apprehensive in general about any new people he encounters, but absolutely loathes my ex-husband. Which, of course, we don’t blame him for. He’s not our favorite person, either. My ex has tried to pet him, only to be rewarded with the full-on, ears-back hiss that would make even the lion tamers at the circus think twice. Then we have three female cats that each have their own specific quirks of their own. One of them, a rescue, doesn’t like to be touched at ALL. She will however allow you to pet her for no more than two seconds before she decides that she’s had enough of the likes of you and she’ll saunter off. There’s one who will sit at the table thinking we will give her food (and she’s usually right, we end up tossing her some scraps) and there’s our oldest girl, that doesn’t care if you have had a hard day or are simply too tired to pay her any extra attention…when she wants affection from you, she will demand it by plopping herself on whatever pillow she wants, even if your head is already on it. I think, basically, what I’m trying to say is - a cat will effectively let you know when it’s time to back off, and they have no fear of making you aware when something bothers them. They don’t care if they offend you in the process. It is after all, not about you at all. I think this is something I need to teach myself. I never want to offend anyone, especially when I know that to be bothersome is not the initial intent. I’ve done a lot of apologizing over the years for times I’ve reacted unfavorably to something done by someone else. I’m also of the belief that some of these little peeves are as a result of my history, leading me to the creation of this entry/post. Here’s an example of one of my personal peeves… My lovely wifey, J, and I go bowling twice a week. When we go bowling, it’s mostly just to get out and have fun…but at the same time, it’s a league so there is the competitive element behind it all. However, it’s not that competitive that we can’t show decency, respect and sportsmanship. When someone from the opposing team throws a strike, the nice, sportsman-like thing to do would be to hold your hand out for them to ‘five;’ it’s a league thing and simply a nice thing to do. Every league I’ve been on has this unwritten rule, or a code, for lack of a better word. Anyway, I’m fine with showing sportsmanship even if my team isn’t doing well at that time. So, that being said, let’s rewind to last Friday’s bowling night. We were getting slaughtered. Not only was the other team bowling WAY higher than their averages, we, in turn, had forgotten that the purpose of bowling was to knock down all ten pins. None of us were marking (getting a strike or spare = 'mark') and we were all kind of thinking to ourselves why we sucked so badly. Anyway…I hold my hand out next time one of the guys on the opposing team throws a pocket shot. He comes back and instead of the traditional quick hand tap, his ‘five’ seemed more like a ten or a fifteen. His hand kind of lingered on top of mine. Now, I know that’s not something that would normally bother someone (or is it?) but I didn’t like that at all. Still, I’m certain the guy didn’t mean anything by it. If anything, he was being overly friendly. If I was a cat, though, I probably would have hissed and let them know with a unexpected swat that that didn’t please me. But then that would have raised the question of my sanity above all. Instead, the next time he threw a strike, I decided to change things up a little. I still held my hand out, but decided that I was going to call the shots. A five is a five. Not a ten or a fifteen. Not a caress. Not a palm reading. Not a let’s-hold-hands-now moment. Nope. A five is a five. And that’s IT. So my hand is out. He goes to tap it. As soon as his fingers touched the palm of my hand, I pulled it back and did not afford him the opportunity to make it last any longer than the second of contact. Done. I am all done, sir, and so are you. I am entirely comfortable with sharing little pet peeves with J. In fact, she does this thing with cutting her nails with the little metal clipper we have in our end tables. The noise it makes…I don’t know. I guess while some have issues with nails on a chalkboard, the clipping of nails has the same effect on me. No idea why. Being avid bowlers, we aren’t long-nail type ladies, so we both trim regularly. I’m not bothered when I cut my own; maybe because mine aren’t as thick as hers. I don’t even hear it when I do cut my own fingernails. But when she does hers and I’m nearby enough to hear it, I literally want to break something. She’s gotten around to apologizing when she cuts her nails. I’m sure it’s because she knows I’m trying to suppress the urge to walk away. She knows I love her with every fiber of my being though, and if this is the only thing she does that annoys me, then I can live with that. But this is even more important to take note of - this little peeve is something she thoroughly knows about as opposed to the days where I’d say nothing whenever something bothered me. It should be always okay to share what bothers you. I also feel that now, I am able to share without fear of offending her. I know that because she has made me aware of things that I do that irk her, too. Even if they’re not things that cause her discomfort, she can find the humor in the situation and we can laugh comfortably about it. For example, my obsession with having TOTAL, PITCH BLACK darkness when it’s time to go to sleep. Huh? Okay, let me tell you about that, too. I’ve NO idea where this even came from. My mother knows about this, as it’s been a thing of mine for as long as I can remember. She refers to it as light-sensitivity. I don’t know if that’s even a thing. Is Count Dracula my father? Because when it comes to light, even the littlest dot of light (like the power button to the cable box that even when the cable box is off, remains illuminated) I need to NOT see it when I’m trying to fall asleep. I need to see nothing. NOTHING at all. It’s gotten to the point that sleeping somewhere else where I cannot control where any/all light may be coming from, is a nightmare. I will go to lengths to avoid sleeping anywhere other than my own bed. A visit to my mother’s house or even to the in-laws’ house is always dreaded, even if I have two or three weeks’ advance notice. I’d sooner stay in a hotel, I think partially because I always feel nothing short of complete and total embarrassment having to do this nightly darkening ritual on someone else’s turf. You can ask J about the time we went to Disneyland and I had to stand on a chair to cover the light on the smoke alarm. It didn’t matter then because I wasn’t in someone’s home and I didn’t have to worry about them waking up to discover a well-placed sock on top of their DVD player. Even at home before bedtime, I’m going around the room, draping t-shirts or other items of clothing over the cable box, over the clock, over any little teeny tiny red or green dot that I can find. This is of course, in addition to the drapes being closed, the blinds shut, any and all lights in the hallway turned off. In the event that a hallway light is left on for whatever reason (a guest, kids still being up, etc) I will resort to blocking the light from underneath the door by laying a pair of pants across the floor at the foot of the door. J will sit in bed and wait patiently while I do all of these things. There are times when I’ll THINK I got them all and ten minutes after crawling into bed I’ll realize, NOPE! There’s a little light on my cell phone flashing and I’ll get up and cover that, too. I know she laughs at me, but that’s okay. Is there anyone else who is like this? I mean, I know there are some who prefer a little night light but this? I don’t like bright lights. I kinda feel like that cute, but skittish little Mogwai dude from Gremlins. Bright lights! Bright lights! No bueno. I prefer the soft ambient lights to those damn brights, any day. Sunlight is not my friend, either. I’m known to chain-sneeze whenever I step outside after being inside/unexposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time. That’s not a peeve, though, that’s a fact. It’s called Achoo Syndrome. And believe it or not, it’s actually a thing and it’s supposedly genetic. My son and nephew are also sufferers of such a syndrome. Mmm…I am also reminded that somewhere in Long Island, there is a nail salon that employs an Asian woman who was accidentally kicked in the face because she made the mistake of trying to massage my feet and toes during a pedicure. I think it was one of the first times I’d ever gotten around to getting my feet done and it would also be the last for a very long while. And fortunately for this poor woman, it was the last time I ever showed up at that particular establishment. I did leave her an extra tip for her troubles, though. I guess I don’t like my back paws touched, either. Let’s add that to the list, while we’re at it. I purposely avoid pedicures now, to protect other manicurists from suffering the same fate. As I write this, my cats are asleep at the foot of my bed. They’re such fascinating little creatures. So full of personality. So honest. You know when they’re happy. You know when they’re sad, scared, nervous. You certainly know when they’re hungry or thirsty. And you damn well know when they’re pissed off. I admire how these cats fully grasp the concept of conveying their feelings. I wish it was that simple for the human race. Ever think about how much more simple life would be if we were all masters of that thing called communication? How do you guys reckon a peeve is even born? How does it develop? How do you work through them? (That is, assuming you don’t hiss, bite or scratch. If that’s your way, then my cats have already explained that part to me.) Just a few things to ponder for tonight. Hope everybody’s doing well. Time for me to go cover some lights. - Capulet
*Trigger warning - this very lengthy post discusses some of my broken up/fragmented memories and behaviors as a child. No actual CSA details are shared, simply because I can’t remember any. But some of these memories may be triggersome and I ask you all to please take gentle care while proceeding. Today, I want to talk about something called validation. Or the lack of, when it’s otherwise referred to as its counterpart - invalidation. This is a term known all too well by survivors of sexual abuse and the many ugly forms it takes. Validation is something we seek more than we do most other things. It’s that priceless feeling of being given air when we’ve been deprived underwater for long enough that we feel close to drowning. It’s a form of relief that doesn’t come easily and I don’t know if I’m divulging a huge secret here - but it’s what we, as survivors, want more than anything else as we heal from the emotional turmoil that we now recognize as a permanent stain in the fabric of our lives. Looking back at myself when I was a child saddens me. Not only did I have the worst haircuts and a wicked overbite, I also had secrets that although I knew they were very real for me, they wouldn’t be considered normal if I were to be compared to my peers. It wasn’t as easy as comparing stickers in an album or whose Barbie doll had nicer clothes or who had more charms on those 80’s plastic charm necklaces (remember those?). My questions for them were ones that I knew even as a child that it was inappropriate to ask. And so, I didn’t. I said nothing, I went on thinking that I was different, I was crazy, I was the weird one. You see, as an adult, I now have too many thoughts, too many contributing factors, too many suspicions preventing me from throwing up my arms and walking away from it all. Especially since I cannot remember the possibility of certain events or occurrences that would have caused me to react in certain ways. But even I can’t lie to myself anymore and say that there’s nothing there. If I don’t have memories, then there’s nothing to remember, right? Wrong, wrong, WRONG on so many levels. I do not remember the circumstances nor the order of events, but I know now that something was truly off in the early years. That’s the only explanation I can give for my subsequent behaviors as a young child. There was something wrong with me. Something happened, and I can’t say what the cause was for every effect, but overall, I know this…children don’t behave in an unnatural manner unless this behavior is learned or otherwise adopted as a means of self-preservation or coping. Children do not come equipped with the knowledge or understanding or even the correct words to explain or describe their feelings. No, that comes much later on in adulthood, and usually not before they are able to identify that what happened to them was likely a result of sexual abuse. And now, I’ll talk about the things and behaviors I do recall, now that I’m at least thirty years older and wiser. I’m sure many people wonder why I dredge it up, why now, after so many years have gone by and nothing is going to be done about it? Why not just forget it? I’ll answer that, first. Partially it is because I still feel like I personally, for my own peace of mind, need to make sense of it all. It’s part of the fine-toothed comb method of analyzing myself as an individual, identifying my past and present behaviors and trying to make sense of them so that I can finally move on, only this time with a wealth of information that will enable me to accept things that I can now recognize as facts. Another part of me wants to be heard, to be believed, and to be validated. I guess it all falls within the whole theme of this post. One day, when I was a child, I remember being asked by an adult (unsure of what role she played…Was she a teacher? A counselor or therapist?) why, during playtime, I made the Ken doll inappropriately touch the Skipper doll. When asked who Ken was supposed to be, I said, “my uncle.” I remember my mother being called. And then, I never saw that lady again. I do remember soon after that, two different ladies showing up at my house with questions. One of them pointed between her legs and asked me if I knew the name of that body part. There was an investigation, not sure if it was official or unofficial, as no one ever took the time to explain to me why they were asking me such questions. I do not know what went on behind-the-scenes, I was never made privy to any of that information, not back then and certainly never after it was all over. I do recall my mother feeling the need to speak for me, though, possibly because as an individual, she is constantly trying to keep the peace, even if it means sweeping things under the rug. I don’t know whether she fully understood the seriousness of the situation, or chose to turn a blind eye because it was something she couldn’t handle properly. Either way, she convinced me, and quite possibly herself, that I, at the age of six, had miscommunicated the situation. Had he only “smacked” my rear end because I didn’t behave? To that, I answered yes. Because my genitals/behind were in the same general area, that seemed an acceptable answer to these investigators. Then, I remember nothing further, after I eventually told the ‘investigators’ myself, from my six-year-old mouth, that it had all been a horrible mistake. I do believe that whatever had been going on prior to this, ended here. Nothing more was done. I maintained a relationship with my uncle. I saw him at family gatherings, I saw him at holidays. A lot of time was spent together. He used to take me to movies. I remembered NOTHING from before the investigations, even though I would have been more likely to remember things back then, being only a few years away from the actual time frame where this would have occurred. I’d remember more back then, wouldn’t I? Certainly I couldn’t make more sense of it now that so many years have passed? Time has repeatedly proven that theory incorrect. Even though I had no concrete memories of the possible causes, the ‘abnormal’ behaviors continued in the background. And this is where it used to be embarrassing or shameful to share. I mean, who would? It’s private, personal stuff that would have been the exact reasons my classmates picked on me or made fun of me when I was a child and that would have been my worst nightmare. And so, I said nothing, I held on to my secret behaviors, I hid them from every living soul. I, however, am now at a point in my life where I want to console, and also, validate that younger version of myself and tell her that I now understand why. I understand why she repeatedly soiled herself, mostly during the elementary school years. I understand why her hands wandered, mostly in the bathtub. I understand why she craved the feeling a climax/orgasm provided, craved it enough to bring it on herself when she was as young as eight years old. And I understand why this behavior continued all the way until she was in high school. I understand now why I was brought to my first therapist when I was also around eight. What I DON’T understand is why the therapy ended so abruptly a couple years after that. I can only assume that since a resolution was never presented, that perhaps she was getting too close and it was nipped in the bud before any more ‘damage’ could be done. I suppose that’s laughable considering how much had already been done. The days, months, years that followed made me further question myself and who I was as a child. For the most part, I knew that I was me. But I also knew there was something very wrong with me. Something that I didn’t have the tools to explain, and wouldn’t otherwise recognize until I was much older, much smarter and much more aware of the sick and twisted world we live in. It all came to a head when my son was just under a year old. My Grandmother’s death played a very strange role in my coming to terms with what very possibly happened to me at the hands of my uncle. Let me explain. When she was alive, she lived in a 2-family house, he resided in the apartment upstairs from her. They had every meal together. She took care of him. He never married, he never had a family of his own. He basically had his mother prepare every meal for him, he would come downstairs only to eat, or whenever we came over, but for the most part, he was a hermit living the better part of his days in that shit-sty he called home. He was/is a priest, for crying out loud…a priest. *insert the bright red flags here!* He was never a ‘real’ priest to me. He didn’t get paid to do what he did, he had a small chapel in his apartment upstairs. He said mass daily, in his chapel, to a congregation of statues. I am remembering he had the Blessed Mother, Jesus, Joseph, other saints in statue form, and more often than not, those made up the audience he preached to. He didn’t belong to any church we could have visited him at. If you ask me, he was entirely full of shit, he was a fake, he wasn’t a good person, and I could tell this of him without any of the past examples that still fester in the darkest corners of my mind today. But regardless, he was my uncle and a part of me loved him even if only for that reason. His faults and shortcomings were overlooked, because a child’s affections are unconditional. (And now that I think of it, this is probably where most of my issues with religion and faith come from! But, that’s a topic for another time.) Anyway, Grandma fell ill when I was in my very early twenties. It was ultimately complications from her osteoporosis that she passed away from, and devastated us all. I was married to my (now ex) husband and we had our son, who was just under a year old. The time came for us to go through her belongings, so I went to the house she shared with him to sort through what I might want to keep of hers. As soon as we walked in, it was like, a flip had been switched. From off to ON. The workings of the mind have always been fascinating to me, but this was by far the most intriguing self-realization that I’d ever experienced. All of my Grandmother’s belongings were gone. The room that used to be her bedroom was now empty and he had transferred those stupid statues from his chapel upstairs to downstairs, and there they all were, where my Grandma used to sleep, not even a week prior. There was Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. John the Apostle, other people from the Bible I didn’t know the names of nor did I ever want to know their names, having always experienced a sort of a mental block whenever it came to learning religion. That wasn’t even what did it, though. I looked at him and listened to him as he shared his plans to expand his chapel and to make the entire downstairs his own personal space. All this when my Grandma hadn’t been dead a week, yet. At this moment, an overwhelming, freezing feeling came over me. It hit me like a speeding train. What was once dark was now bright and was staring me in the face. Everything in me tightened, even the muscles in my brain. It’s so difficult to explain but perhaps that was the part of my brain that held onto what I only knew and still know as only possibilities. Either way, thoughts were coming at me from multiple directions, almost comparable to the image of a stuffed animal, tied to a post and arrows being shot at it from every available angle. None of these arrows caused me (if we’re using the stuffed animal analogy, then that would be me) any pain, but to remove them all would have left behind multiple holes. Holes, that I know can be patched up in time but never will this stuffed animal be the same. No, not when now, this stuffed animal, this wounded creature, now sees these holes. I realized at that moment that I loathed this man. My uncle, the priest. The man I spent so much time with when I was a very young child. The man who used to walk over at night and tuck me in before bedtime. FYI, I attribute this time frame to be from when I was about three to four years old, because I remember my mother to have been single at that time. He was the default babysitter/caretaker while she worked or was otherwise busy, which was easy, considering we lived in a tiny little studio apartment around the corner. He’d have made comments about how he used to come tuck me in at night, and when asked about it now, I don’t remember. I don’t remember him coming over at night AT ALL. So what else was there that I didn’t remember? That, along with other things, flooded my memories and I found myself having to sit down while I processed these new thoughts. I hated him, I hated how he looked, I hated how he SMELLED. He has a birthmark on his hand. I hate that birthmark, too, it makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel uneasy, sick to my stomach. My feelings of hatred were joined by feelings of nausea and I had to keep myself from vomiting all over St. Anthony’s porcelain sandals. I left there that afternoon and in the weeks that followed, I found myself questioning all of the behaviors I’ve talked about so far. Was this the reason? Was this why I was taken to therapy? Why can’t I remember if he did anything to me to cause this overpowering feeling of hatred? It’s not something I enjoy admitting that I feel about another human being but there’s no alternative word that fits. So here’s the dilemma. At this point, I can’t remember details. I don’t know what he did to me. I’m fairly certain something happened but have absolutely no evidence to support it. So I kept a distance. I began to decline his invitations to go for lunch, to come for a visit. It was progressive, but it was made clear to him that now that my Grandmother was no longer living, there was absolutely no reason for me to go to the house anymore. And so, I saw very, very little of him in the few years following her death. Aside from the epiphany I experienced at my late Grandmother’s house, there have been very minimal “telling” moments, one of which came at a time the sonofabitch got sick, himself. He was hospitalized, and my mother called to strong-arm me into going to see him. Out of respect for her, and because he was her last living relative, I agreed to go and see him. I told my husband to leave the car running and went up by myself. I went to his room, where I found him laying in the bed alone. He wore a gown. He looked like the most pathetic excuse for a human being I’d ever seen in my life. I sat in a chair, saying nothing. I think I managed a weak “hello, how do you feel?” It might have come out as one word. “Hellohowyafeelin’?” Either way, I was not there for him or for myself. I was there for my mother, because I knew it would have made HER happy that I was there. He started sobbing. His shoulders heaved. He blubbered something about how sorry he was that we were enemies. He then says in between tears that he didn’t mean it. I didn't know what the hell to do with that. I told him that M had the car running because there was no parking. I had to go. I couldn’t sit there any longer. And so, I got up and left. I didn’t look back. I did the next best thing that I could do for myself. I cut him out of my life, completely this time. I refused to visit him anymore. I did not respond to any of his emails, his phone calls, his letters. There was a point in time where he sought me out on Facebook and tried to initiate a conversation. I deleted it without answering. He may be still living on this Earth, but to me, he’s dead. I wasn’t and still am not ready to share with my mother my reasons for losing my shit whenever I hear that he’s going to be present at a family function such as a wedding or a funeral, these things cannot always be helped, but I’m ALWAYS requesting that he be seated as far across the room from me as possible. She has asked why I’m so angry with him and I admittedly hide behind my Grandmother’s death and tell her that I have a hard time dealing with how he was able to move on so quickly and so disrespectfully, I didn’t like how he treated her when she was alive. Of course, there’s a whole lot more than that, more reasons that I don’t dare share with her. For now, that quells her and she knows now that I want nothing to do with him. Additionally, if I can’t help the situation, (him being at the same family gathering as me) I do not allow him near my children, even though they are past the age where most damage can be done. Still. I don’t want him looking at me, I don’t want him looking at them, telling THEM how much they look like me. I want none of that, as much as I want answers, I want the truth, I want validation! Here’s the tricky thing about validation, though. When you have no concrete memories, how do you know the validation you receive is of the truth? Just because it’s your own truth, doesn’t make it one hundred percent accurate. And that is one of my fears. I don’t know that I want validation for something that I question, something I have doubts about. I need to be sure. I need my truth to BE the truth. I’ve asked myself that if he were to confess, would that be enough for me? Was what he said in the hospital the closest thing I would ever get to a confession? As of today, it is. So I’m going with that. In closing, I can’t help but wonder what a difference it would have made if I’d had the validation I didn’t know I needed when I was a little girl. Validation from my mother, who instead of being the number one protector in my life, became my first invalidator. Validation from the stupid-ass therapist I saw for two years, who obviously didn’t know how to do her job correctly. (And I say this knowing that I don’t have the full story. She may have said or attempted to say something that resulted in the subsequent pull from therapy.) Either way, I have no answers there. And so, I shall remain forever invalidated by my mother. I will maintain the not-too-close, not-too-estranged relationship I have with her, because let’s face it…she’s my mother and I do love her. She does a lot for me and for my children (perhaps out of guilt she’ll never admit to) and continues to do a lot for us today. She did not physically harm me. She did what she felt needed to be done at the time for my own protection, not necessarily the best course of action, but I accept it as the ONLY thing she felt she could do. I imagine it got too overwhelming for her, so she threw up the blinders and hoped for the best. I know that, now. I can safely say that not only because of childhood, but because of other contributing factors, my trust has to be earned, and her actions have made it very difficult for me to trust her. And so, given she did not effectively protect me as a child, I continue to refuse to share with her other things that have happened, things unrelated to my uncle and his suspected abuse. Thinking back, I believe it’s a tit-for-tat kind of thing. She had one job, one chance to do the right thing. She didn’t, for whatever reason, or at least, she didn’t do it properly. So, in turn, I will not share with her parts of my life that I feel are important enough for a mother to have input in. For example, the first time I had sex. I’ve had sex with multiple people and to this day, I tell her that I’ve only been with my ex-husband and my current partner. It just saddens me that she is not someone I want to share with, these little things/first experiences that a daughter would ideally go to her mother for. But I think all this mother stuff may be better reserved for a future post because there’s more that lies under the surface there; more that I need to fully comprehend in order to put it all into words. Anyway. That’s my take on validation/invalidation for now. I know a lot of other stuff seeped through, but it all goes hand-in-hand with the topic of validation. I’m always, always thinking. My eyes are wide open, as is my mind. Please bear with me while I try and make sense of all of this. I thank you all for listening and reading, if you’ve made it this far. I welcome any thoughts and/or comments. Like so many others, I’m trying to figure it all out and I know no one can do this alone. - Capulet