There is something about myself I have never discussed with anyone (not even my therapists) or allowed myself to think about, not until now. Not the entire chain of events, not from beginning to end. Not how I allowed my desperation of being accepted by someone I believed to be “better than me” and who I thought had all the answers, turn me into a life-long, boot-licking victim.
I’ve been forced to face these memories because of a recent misunderstanding that caused me to blow up at someone I care about. I realized that I am incapable of sharing my intimate thoughts with anyone because I never learned how. I am not even capable of letting someone I am interested in think that I might like him. I stay frosty and keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.
And if I start sleeping with a man; even worse. My voice seems to literally become muted. I start searching his every word for hints of betrayal and deception.
I was taught that love is just a word and that sex is something that men just do to women, and many of us give it away like it was nothing, because nothing is what we feel that we are
And I learned that if you give people access to your true thoughts and feelings, they’ll use that information to fuck with your soul.
I became an easy target because of:
*the withholding of information regarding sex, love, and my body by my parents; they would not discuss my fears about heaven and hell and they drove my faith right out of me. They would not discuss what a girl could do with her life if she didn’t want to get married and I got myself into “trouble.” They robbed me of my passion for life; they made me despise myself and always feel that I was somehow bad, or dirty or just plain evil,
*the severe emotional abuse by my father. I was desperate for love and acceptance, and it was written on my face,
*my other guardian, my extremely strict ballet teacher, made me despise my body and my “attitude.” I spent at least an hour and a half with Miss Barker each evening (5 days a week by the age of 12, up to 7 days a week by 14); her criticism was served with that downward-looking, English sneer she reserved especially for me. She admittedly didn’t like me, and she made me ashamed of my disgusting belly and “bad” arms and shoulders and feet, beginning at around age 12; the same time my father started being especially cruel to me. I was never strong enough or thin enough or fast enough or high enough, and I never understood that her jabs were a reflection of her frustration about my lack of effort, for always arriving late for class (because of my mother), and for the look I always got on my face when she made corrections. Inside, I was ashamed and I wanted to hide, to disappear, to die. The “sullen look” I always got on my face was my trying not to burst into tears in front of people. I had no joy in living: that is what my problem was. But Barker insisted I had a “bad attitude” and my mother agreed with her, one hundred per cent,
*and, most importantly, the inability, for whatever reason, whether it was weakness of character or laziness (or perhaps something worse) on the part of my emotionally disconnected mother to give me unconditional love, support or guidance. She made me want to die. I felt like I was drifting alone, with no safety net or any safe place to turn.
I was an extremely sensitive child, an empath, whose sensitivity was scolded and used against her. I didn’t learn how to protect my innocent, trusting nature, not until too late, and not in a good way. My openness and passion to help other people, mixed with my overly-revealing clothing, desperate loneliness, and a great thirst for alcohol made me a magnet for those who prey on socially clueless geeks. Just like me.
Let’s face it, I was a geek, a nerd. I was the loser who let people use her and bully her around. I was desperate for acceptance, and it showed. Others though, those who felt even worse about themselves than I did, hated me for my posture or my clothes or some other superficial thing, and they would taunt me and call me snob or lesbian or whatever made them feel better for not being able to talk to me.
The fact that I wore my mother’s old silk-lined suits from the 50’s to school, properly accessorized, of course, with nylons, makeup and my grandmother’s vintage purse, high heels and costume jewelry probably didn’t help me look any more approachable. I guess I separated myself intentionally, beginning in junior high.
I usually walked from class to class alone.
Still, no one knew how terrified I was of absolutely everything, because I walked with the grace and arrogance of a ballerina. A part of me was arrogant, because I felt that I had talent. No one else seemed to know it, however, and I starting losing faith that I was anything special at all. I never had confidence to begin with in my worthiness to be alive.
I had always felt that I was unique in some way, but my parents always reminded me that I wasn’t, that I was no different from anyone else. “Who the hell did I think I was?” my father would ask me if I got any “big ideas.”
By high school, I was wearing snakeskin platforms with seamed nylons to school, along with my tacky rabbit fur coats. And I had no modesty from ballet, and felt completely comfortable revealing cleavage, legs, form. I was used to being naked in groups of people, in the dressing room, back-stage . . . I liked my clothes back then, but when I look back at photographs now, I looked like I was going to a Girls Gone Wild Reunion party.
If I had been my mother, I would have never allowed me to leave the house in those suggestive, trashy rags, much less buy them for me. She might as well have slapped a giant note on my ass that said,
I’M A STUPID, ALCOHOLIC SLUT WITH DADDY ISSUES!
I was Carol from the Walking Dead; completely alone, armed with only my overwhelming emotional pain to battle a world of zombies, and so accustomed to abuse that I was unable to tap into my own power to speak up for myself. My voice had been silenced. I felt gagged, choked; I was incapable of defending myself from my violent, abusive father, much less the world, as hard as I tried. I was made to feel that I had no value and that I somehow deserved to be treated the way that he treated me, and as long as I existed in the world that saw me as that powerless victim, I continued to believe it myself. I didn’t feel that I had the right just to make the simple request to be not to be ridiculed and laughed at or told that I was “overly emotional,” or that I’d “better snap out of it, or else” or that I was a “drag to be around.”
I certainly never entertained the notion that I deserved to wish for something more than they saw me as. Even though I knew I had something Special inside of me. A power, a calling, a gift; I began to doubt myself. So I put that feeling away somewhere safe where they couldn’t find it and finish destroying it, only it took me a very long time to find it again.
Too bad, that ‘gift’ was quite literally my soul.
I hate it when I do that: I hide things so well, I can’t even find them myself.
I finally realize, after 40 years, why I’ve been distrustful and suspicious of men who are interested in me (lordy I’m exhausted). I have firmly believed, until only just recently, that men were inherently Bad and that they had no emotions except for anger and aggression; that they only cared about controlling me and using me, and that beside a handful of them, they were all against me. That they saw me as nothing more than a Plaything, a Joke, a Piece of Ass or worse, often quite literally a Receptacle. I used to hear the term “mindless gash.” That pretty much describes how I’ve been feeling about myself for some 40 years, from the way I’ve been treated by men, as well as by many of my women friends, especially by the women in my family.
And my self-hatred and my belief that I deserved to be abused drew me to the to very men, as well as women, who were very likely to treat me exactly the way I was afraid of being treated.
I was as drawn to psychopathic narcissists as they were drawn to mirrors.
I was a willing target. I practically begged to be used. And used I was.
My father viewed women as either Good or Sinful. Both he and my mother, maybe in their sick attempts to bring me “back” to Christianity, seemed to enjoy road-blocking me and sucker-punching me and watching me fail at life, but dad’s taunting and fear-and-ignorance fueled cruelty and my mother’s hurtful, thoughtless reactions made me hate god and Christianity even more fervently.
“Oh no, not again, Chris! What did you do this time?”
She said it every time I “failed.” Which I did often.
And my dad:
“Goddamn it, Chris. I guess I’ll have to bail you out again!” He was incapable of offering me a loan, or helping me get out of my financial “fuck-ups” on my own, I mean, no one ever taught me a thing, and everyday things like money and finance make me want to vomit to begin with. Dad would toss me just enough to “get me on my feet,” but my ground was at a 75 degree angle and covered with nails.
And the money always had about a thousand strings attached. And future reminders, in case I ever forget what a Fuckup I am.
Once, when I was a teenager, and crazy with emotional pain, I lashed out about my father, and my mother hit me. She had never spanked me, or punished me in any way whatsoever, not ever, and I was not expecting that reaction.
Just at the time when my father’s abuse had me feeling especially powerless, attacked, worthless, hopeless, and unloved, my mother proved where her loyalty lies, once and for all, just in case I hadn’t already figured it out.
In between racking sobs I screamed, “I hate him! He’s a fucking asshole!”
She slapped me across my face so hard it turned my head. I never realized she had it in her. I was shocked and stunned.
She glared at me, like one of the mean, super-popular girls, who didn’t need to be nice to anybody.
“That’s my husband you’re talking about!” she sneered, and she turned on her heel and stormed out of the kitchen.
It was the most devastating kind of betrayal that I have ever felt, before or since.
I clearly saw the line in the sand. It was deep and I was standing all alone one side after she stepped across and stood behind my father. And she erased that line behind her.
Mom often warned that I should be more understanding of my father, after all, “he had had a very difficult childhood.”
Dear Linda Belmont,
Words will never describe how sorry I am for dropping you like a hot potato the moment that Dawn Chaney lit up my dark, emotionally damaged world.
You were right about her. You were right about me. And I was ignorant to your pain when I turned my back on you. You did not deserve that, you were sweet and simple but that wasn’t good enough for me. Not when she made me decide between the two of you.
I made a very bad decision.
You were real and I thought that meant weak. Because I had been real, and my parents had shamed me for being that way. I learned that I needed to hide my real feelings and real desires and honest emotions from the world. I was learning that I had no power over anything that happened in my life.
When Dawn found me and took me under her wing (under her foot), and made me her Best Friend Forever, I felt like I was the Center of the Universe. She was a magnet. And yes, I was a walking cliché.
Dawn had been popular since junior high. Every year, there she was again in the school annual, posing with the football jock at prom, or doing back-flips at a gymnastics tournament (which her team naturally won). She sang and acted in all the musicals, dated the most popular boys, performed on stage during lunchtime in the cafeteria . . . she was Golden, but the things that she touched didn’t seem to have much longevity . . .
and I had no idea that she was filled with nothing but BLACK on the inside.
She was my friend. And she was a Prima Donna, a Diva; a Super Nova that lit up my world so brightly, I would do anything to stay basking in her light.
From day one, she had me wrapped around her little finger, with her baby-talk and cute little love notes to me during class, my otherwise mind-numbing, soul-sucking classes; and her wanting to share clothes and shoes with me, even though she was much larger and stretched out everything I owned, made me feel like her Specialness would somehow rub off on me.
She introduced me to music and people and places I didn’t know and I ate up her empty flattery and glittery charm with a spoon while I ignored the fact that I had become her personal assistant, chauffeur and emotional play-thing.
I would fix her tuna sandwiches with Constant Comment tea after school while she napped on our family room couch; she always seemed exhausted, and I didn’t know why and I never bothered to ask.
To me, we were “best friends,” because that’s what she told me. But she said whatever I wanted to hear. And she could read my mind.
I was a virgin when I met Dawn. I had made out with a lot of boys, but touching is as far as I’d gone. On one hand, I thought about sex probably about as much as most boys, yet I still wanted to wait for someone I at least liked and trusted.
I have no idea when Dawn popped her cherry, but I’m certain that she had gotten around all of Redmond and most of Bellevue well before we ever met. But she put on a fabulous show to convince me otherwise; for whatever reason I have no idea. I doubt that anything she ever said to me was the truth.
I don’t know how she kept it all straight.
She convinced me to go out on a “double date” with her and her “boyfriend” and his friend, who I had met before, I don’t really remember. His head was tiny and he was bald and he had empty, beady little eyes. He was thin and sinewy and he towered over me. He reminded me of a tall, dark, ugly serpent.
I was just 16 and never had any “cool” friends (I didn’t have any other friends), and I’d never been on a double date. I was deathly shy around the male gender, and barely spoke. I mainly just answered their questions and hoped they liked me.
It was Christmas day, or right around there, of 1976, and I vividly remember waiting by the front door for them to pick me up. I was looking at the lights on the Christmas tree. I could see my reflection in the faux stained “glass” in our entrance way; my milk-chocolate colored, skin-tight, platform leather boots with four or five-inch heals and my brand new rabbit fur coat.
Kind of like the ones that hookers wear.
It was dark and snowing, but it hadn’t started sticking. I was excited. The memories are spotty . . . I don’t remember saying a word while we drove south on I-5, which was dark and deserted. Dawn and her boyfriend and his friend were all talking about something . . . but I had my head tilted up and I was looking out the back window at the black sky and the flashes of snow that were lit up by the “passing” streetlights. Fly Like an Eagle came on the radio. I felt happy.
I had only been to a handful of parties in my life. And only with a girlfriend, not with an actual date.
But all I remember is going into the basement of a house, and then I was in a tiny, darkened bedroom with a twin sized bed. I kept giving excuses why I wasn’t ready . . .
He got up and walked across the small, dark room. I could barely see him, his skin and clothes were so dark. I heard rustling, then he came back toward me. He was towering over me, completely naked, with a glowing green condom stretched out over his enormous erection.
Maybe it was just average, but I had never seen one like that; I had never even been near a naked man and it scared me because I had never seen a naked man before (except for my father), and it was obvious what he was going to do, even though I had told him I didn’t want to . . .
I was terrified about what he was going to do to me. I was scared about what I’d gotten myself into. I was unable to utter a word; any word other than a soft, barely audible, “no.”
It is impossible to describe that kind of helplessness, that physical reminder of vulnerability that all women share just because we were born with something that men have turned into something else; something we are to be ashamed of and embarrassed about; something they want and some feel entitled to.
All I could see from the gleam of the nightlight was that glowing green hard-on, pointing right at my face, threatening me. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
I didn’t do anything, except to repeat the word “no” again and again . . . but he didn’t listen. I cried when it happened, even though it didn’t last long, thank god. We got dressed and left that stuffy little room.
The first thing I saw was Dawn, standing next to her boyfriend, both of them laughing at what a baby I was. They had heard my “nos” and my crying. I was humiliated.
The fucking rapist was laughing, too.
I don’t remember any other details about that night. I couldn’t tell you if there was actually a party or not. I don’t remember going home. I do know that I allowed myself to be emotionally raped that night as well as physically raped, because I kept my mouth shut, and never said a word about it, not to anyone, not until now.
And still, I remained “friends” with Dawn.
And she hadn’t even gotten started with me yet.
I wanted to call you and talk to you about that fucked up night when it first happened, but how could I? I had abandoned you, and I had felt badly about it as soon as I did it.
I kept that shame and embarrassment to myself. I mean, who the hell could I tell?
I don’t know how I could possibly trust Dawn after what she did to me, but I did, and when she introduced me to my first boyfriend, Seth, I didn’t have the first clue that she was doing him, too. Or, maybe she waited until after I stated dating him . . .
I didn’t have a clue what kind of nasty, disgusting girl she was until she showed me photos of a the enormous erect phallus of a pimp she was doing;
But this was much later on.
Seth was as wounded as I was, and he loved to cry on girl’s shoulders about how badly his ex-girlfriends all treated him and how broken up he was about it. He found that he could get a car-load of pussy that way. I fell right into his back seat, with all my ignorance and gullibility and desperation to feel loved.
His mother lived in a mental institution and his father had children with all of his mother’s sisters, so his cousins were also his brothers and sisters. He slept on his shared-father’s living room couch in a dilapidated old house near Woodland Park Zoo.
We consumed racks of “malt liquor” while I listened to his stories about how the world was against him, and I felt the same way and it bonded us; our shared loneliness and confusion and abandonment and terror.
But he was also the best teacher I had in the art of sex,
which apparently, all the girls at my high school were privy to as well
even though he was only two years older than I, because he had read The Joy of Sex as a teenager and had studied and mastered it and he was very apt student. At least in the arena of sex. But that’s as far as his studies went, I’m afraid.
Seth is another tome of a story which I don’t want to face at this particular time, so maybe another letter, but suffice it to say, I was clearly not paying enough attention to Seth when Dawn was around. And vice versa.
I was always much too trusting. And blind to the truth.
Here are the facts:
- Occasionally I would run into Seth (back in the 70s, Bellevue and Redmond were very small) at the beach or at the mall and Dawn would be with him. I never asked her a thing about it, but I would grill him for hours, sometimes days, and it would hurt me but I’d always accept his lies and never even discuss the issue with that evil, damaged she-devil. Because to my face, she was sweetness and Light, and her words were carefully devised to get me to do what she wanted me to do. I just kept on letting it slide.
- I once skipped a morning class and went to this party apartment, a place where we’d all go get drunk and hang out and sometimes have sex, and there among the dozen or so passed-out bodies sprawled across the living room floor lay my boyfriend and my best friend, nearly spooning, fully clothed, but side-by-side. When Dawn hadn’t arrived at school, I had gotten suspicious, knowing that there had been a party the night before . . . but because their clothes were on, I let it slide. I was never able to even bring it up; or more likely I was twisting the facts in my head so that I wouldn’t see the truth. Makelas are excellent at not seeing what we don’t want to see.
- My ignorance must have been amusing to Dawn, because she played me like a broken fiddle. I was so blind that I still kept my eyes shut for several days after she fucked my boyfriend in her parent’s bed . . . I even helped her change the sheets while she laughed.
She had told me that she was having a party one Friday night when her parents were out of town. She managed to make me believe that there would be someone there that didn’t want to see me and that I didn’t want to see; but the truth was that “my boyfriend” had spent the night with her.
She called me the next morning, and I didn’t have wheels, so I got a ride over to her house right away like a good little doggie (did I see his car driving down the hill as I was heading up?), and I helped her clean up and strip the bed (was it still warm?) and she was happy and laughing and joking around.
I kept my blinders on just a little bit longer, long enough to get home and fall down into a million pieces on my bedroom floor (thank god I could lock myself in and my parents never bothered to check on me), until I could finally face the fact that Dawn had used me and played with me like a dying mouse, since the very beginning.
I wanted to hurt her. I wanted revenge, but I never learned how to strike back. I wanted her to think about what she had done to me, how devastated she made me feel, but I didn’t know how.
Several days later when Dawn and I were sitting in Mr Green’s biology class, after I had been acting perfectly normal, or as normal as I possibly could act, she passed me one of her stupid, baby-talk notes, that said something like,
“Boo boo, I miss you so much! I haven’t talked to you for so long! Can we go to McDonalds’s after school? My mom and sisters won’t be home, but if you drive, I can give you a dollar for gas . . .”
I looked at her and I let her see the real me, the enraged me, backed up by the beginnings of Jessica, my alter ego. I glared at her, straight into her blackened soul, and told her that I knew about everything; that I had just been waiting for the right time, and that time was now, and that I saw what she truly was.
She actually cried. She acted as if I had punched her or something. All I did was to calmly let her know that I could really see her, and I knew that she was ugly inside. She got up and stormed away and from then on, she avoided me in the hallways at school. And she wrote a message to me in our high school annual that said,
God’ll get you, CM.
I never did understand what she could have possibly meant by that sad, pointless threat.
But that is the ONLY thing I ever did about it.
I had finally seen the pattern, only after having the wool drawn across my stupid eyes again and again and again.
It is truly astonishing, how we can make ourselves blind to obvious truths when we don’t want to see them.
I don’t remember if I ever even faced Seth with that humiliating, soul-crushing blow.
I thought you’d find it entertaining to learn that I ran into Dawn last week.
And I am truly shocked at what happened when I went to meet her.
Yes, I know. I never learn. But she seemed like she had really changed, and she was acting so nice, and let’s face it: she still has the Light, and I am merely a moth.
She was babysitting at a condo near 156th. She invited me to go swimming at the pool there.
I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t say much at all. She prattled on about her singing and other things about herself. We were floating on air mattresses in our bikinis. The sun was scorching, so while Dawn was becoming even more golden brown, my skin was beginning to burn.
Then, she asked, with all the sincerity of a child,
“Remember that time that I had Seth over to spend the night, and you came over and made the bed? That was sooooo funny!”
The world stopped spinning. I stared at her, trying to detect some trace of life, some sign of humanity in her eyes, but there was absolutely nothing. She had a huge grin on her beaming face, but her eyes were as dead as the dogfish’s eyes that I caught in the Puget Sound when I was ten.
I picked up my things and left. It took me that much to realize that she was truly incapable of feeling anything at all, and that she was capable of doing just about anything. I went home and I don’t think I talked to anyone, not for a very long time.
I kept my blinders on with my “boyfriend” for another several years. I still didn’t understand that love is not supposed to be apathetic, distrustful, and cruel.
He wasn’t a bad guy, not really. He was just as weak and injured as I was. Besides his problem with infidelity, he actually treated me very well, in his extremely limited way. I lived with him in three different apartments, at which he covered all of my expenses. I don’t recall ever making dinner or cleaning or washing clothes; he did everything, I think. I never paid a bill or wrote a check until I was nearly 23, which caused a completely new set of problems for me.
Seth brought us to Jack-in-the-Box every night, and we’d sit in the car at a park or wherever and eat our cheeseburgers and listen to Earth, Wind & Fire or Parliament on his 8-track while we drank beer and we’d joke and laugh and it was fun when we were alone.
But then we started getting those fast food orders to-go, and we’d sit in front of the TV and re-watch Moonraker or the Hot and Saucy Pizza Girls, and he and his ever-increasing entourage of groupies would howl and drool and I became just a symbol of a human being; I was never taken seriously even when I did join in conversations at the every-night-all-night poker games. I just tried keep up with their drinking and smoking and raunchy jokes.
I was the token girl. I was once again daddy’s second-best son, the unwilling tom-boy, the butt of all sexist jokes; listening to their legends of sexual conquest and whose dick is bigger than whose and other fishing stories, nightly embellished by the background noise of belching and fart-lighting.
I nagged at my boyfriend to go to school. I believed that he was intelligent, but it never occurred to me that maybe I could benefit from an education myself. It never crossed my mind that I could even make it into college. And he didn’t think he was capable of much, either, because he never did do anything with his life.
But look who’s talking.
I let people use me the way they did because I was taught that I deserved it.
It crushes my soul when I witness mothers talking to their daughters the way my mother communicated with me. The way my sisters communicate with their daughters. They’re not listening. They hear only what they want to hear; they are only listening for tidbits of information that they can use to somehow manipulate them further down the line.
They only want to control their children, to own them, to corral them into thinking that their parents are their “best friends” so they’ll buy a house just down the road, then mommy will ALWAYS have a drinking buddy when daddy goes on his huntin’ trips.
I hope that my nieces and nephews all RUN as fast as they can, away from the people who share that fucked up mentality that drives the lies and manipulation and fear that they seem to feel that we somehow need in order to be just like them.
You and I were friends for just a short time, Linda, but I can’t tell you how many times I wished and prayed that I had never rejected you. My life ended the day I met the Beast named Dawn Chaney.
I paid dearly for that bad decision, and it was just the first of 40 years worth of mistakes, many with consequences that made me want to die.