Monday, 11 August 2014

This is kind of embarrassing but...

I was listening to This American Life and one of the episodes mentioned someone who saw a photograph of herself as a teenager and was surprised because she thought she was actually quite pretty (though she didn't think so at the time).

This reminded me of yearbooks from grade school. I went to a nice primary school in a fairly well-to-do neighbourhood. The teachers were nice and (I think) the students probably were too (it's hard to say as I had little social interaction with them). But these were pretty messed up times because my parents sent me there to live with my extended family (along with my brother). On top of not speaking English, I was missing home terribly and feeling quite isolated. Also, around the same time (though I'm never sure exactly when), the uncle I was living with started to sexually abuse me.

I think I spent a lot of school recesses lying under a tree at the edge of the school's park, far away from the playground, staring up at the (unbelievably) blue sky, watching clouds go by between the branches. I can't recall any internal monologue during these hour-long meditations, or ever being bored.

Some years after that (not sure when) I found the yearbooks from my primary school. There were photographs of all the kids I had gone to primary school with. I think we were mostly in the same junior high school then (I must have been about 13 or so). I took a knife and a thick black sharpie and carved up the faces of my classmates and scrawled profanity all over the pages (mostly personal attacks of the one-word variety directed at them).

I suppose in part it was because I was a social outcast. A few people even bullied me, but not many (especially not after I beat the living daylights out of one of them). Mostly I was ignored and/or feared. I remember one classmate asking me (in genuine confusion) why I am nice sometimes and mean sometimes. I didn't know how to explain that my worldview and my thoughts were different from his - that I was in a very different place mentally, and that I couldn't tell enough of my story to make him understand why I was the way I was. It felt like we'd never meet in the middle.

Another part of me was just angry because my peers didn't appear to be miserable. Then (as now), I had a strong impulse to be the person I envisioned in my head. I wanted to have blue hair. I wanted to wear corsets and garters. I wanted to stab myself repeatedly in public and bloody up the lunchroom so that everyone would know I was emphatically not ok (I had blue hair, and wore corsets and garters, but I didn't self-mutilate in public). I resented them because they seemed normal and happy, when I wasn't either of these things (whether by inclination, or by circumstance, it seemed).

In retrospect I realize that it's just as likely that they were dealing with their own crocks of shit. But that wasn't really something I had access to at the time (even now, I don't know for sure. I just imagine that it is a possibility). Mostly I've given up being angry at myself and everyone else, especially after my uncle died and I realized that I'd never be able to bring about the sort of justice I'd spent years and years gearing up for (I tried though, even though it was the hardest thing ever).

The other night as I was cooking dinner with Julian he was teasing me, pretending that I am young and naïve, that I wouldn't know what to do if I was kissed. I had to tell him that this is one thing you can't tease me about, because I will cry. I was young and naive once, but the first man who kissed me was a predatory pedophile extended family member, and I still lament the fact that I will never know what it's like to be kissed for the first time by a boy I like.

Sometimes the things I think are both mortifyingly embarrassing (like mutilating those yearbooks), and really just quite sad. But this is kind of where I talk to myself and to anyone else who cares to listen, so there's no point in pulling any punches.