I can’t believe this is only occurring to me now, but I had no expectation of privacy as a kid. In general, I could be alone in my room, but my parents would just come in if they decided it was important enough. But physical privacy isn’t really what I’m talking about.
I wasn’t entitled to private thoughts. I remember cleaning my room once. My mom and I were both doing it, presumably because I was refusing to do it any other way. So that part’s normal, standard parenting: if you won’t do it on your own, I’ll stand here while you do it, and if you don’t like it, do the thing sooner next time. But I had a notebook I’d been writing song lyrics in. It said “Lyrics” on the cover. I was maybe 10? 9? 11? In there. And she picks it up, doesn’t know what it is, and standing right the fuck in front of me, looks at it like it’s the weirdest thing she’s ever seen in her life, just opens it up and starts reading. Like, seriously. I was RIGHT there, so she wasn’t trying to read it without me knowing. It just did not fucking occur to her that it didn’t belong to her to just read whenever she wanted. I walked over and took it from her and said “that’s personal” and felt fucking ridiculous and I was this bizarre combination of angry, and humiliated, and what I guess I now realize was also violated and stupefied. I really couldn’t believe at the time she just opened it. I have remembered it vaguely a couple of times, but man tonight it finally came back with full clarity and .. she just did it like I wasn’t in the damn room. There was absolutely no consideration of whether or not I would want her to read what I’d written. (They were terrible, by the way, and I kind of knew it, and there was stuff where I was playing around with different voices and I didn’t want her to go freak out because I said some word or had some attitude about something when I was writing it because “I hear people say that, and I got an idea, and the rhymes were easy so I wrote it”.) So I really really REALLY didn’t want to show this to anyone. And the fact that I took it and said it was personal: she was absolutely bewildered. I don’t know if she even STILL thinks I’m a different person than her. Fuck. FUCKETY FUCK. Man my childhood was way more messed up than I ever realized. So much of this stuff I don’t remember. Nobody beat me or manipulated me to the point that I was afraid … wait no… more on that later. Fuck. I just realized more shit. Fuck.
Okay so thing number two. I don’t know if this was before or after. We had a wood-burning PC and for a little while I was writing a journal on it. We each had our own directory on the hard drive, or floppy disk for our stuff, or a combination of those things at different times … anyway the point is I thought my shit was MY SHIT. I thought we all didn’t look at each other’s stuff. And maybe we did, maybe we didn’t. I never caught anyone opening my files when I wasn’t looking. So I was in Cub Scouts at the time, and I was writing in this journal about the last night’s meeting, and I specifically remember this sentence, and you’ll understand why in a minute. I wrote “I felt sick at the meeting, but I didn’t call home.” Unbeknownst to me for however long (thanks ADHD, you rock) my mom was behind me reading over my shoulder. Like… again… the fuck? And how did I realize it? She says in this totally mocking and condescending tone (and she thought she was being cute, but I was FUCKING EIGHT AND HAD NO FRIENDS so surprise I didn’t find that fucking cute!) “aaawwww, you felt sick at the meeting but you didn’t call home?” In a whole pouty, poor baby intonation. You can probably imagine it. Like, holy crap!
What the hell was wrong with her!?!?
Okay so that’s when I’m 8, and when I’m 10/11, or something like that. Next one I can remember, I’m in my third year of university. Yes. I was 20 or 21. I was in a super joke class that I had to take, and the prof was ridiculous, but anyway it’s all airy fairy feel good mumbo jumbo. The prof did not have a graduate degree, and had never taught a class before, and here she was teaching a 300 level course, presumably because they were expanding the program and scrambling. Well that happens. Anyway so she based her whole syllabus more or less on a self help book she’d read and liked. Not a text book on emotional health or anything. I mean there’s real science, and legitimate academic work on emotional things, and there was then, too. But no, some book that she read and made her feel good, and no other perspectives. It was an utter and complete joke. A lot of us actually talked before the instructor evaluation at the end of the semester encouraging others to be brutally honest on the evaluations. I mean, we totally were not respectful to her, because we were 20 years old, and she was shitty at her job, and had only 2 more years of education than us – 1.5 years by the end of the course. But we shouldn’t have been dicks to her the way we were, but we were 20 and arrogant. BUT it was a genuine “no … there are profs I hate, and profs I think are dumbasses, but I actually try to be more fair to them on evals than the ones I like. She has no damn business teaching, and we should make sure they don’t keep her on. So please don’t be stopped from telling the truth because you feel mean, because legitimately she should not be teaching.” Yeah she didn’t teach again, and it was the correct decision. We still should have treated her with more respect in general, but I digress.
All of this is a tangent kind of sort of meant to explain the nature of the course, and why it had an assignment along the lines of an essay on “how have you applied what you’ve learned this semester to improve your own overall wellness.” It actually wouldn’t be a totally stupid assignment if the course had any meat. Again I digress. So there’s stuff in there that’s like “well I don’t care if the prof who I have no particular personal relationship with reads this, but in social/personal relationships this is a private thought/thing.” And it was embellished and made little extra gushy because I thought that would get me a better grade. I don’t remember if it did. So anyway this has stuff in it like “we learned about how important hugs are, and so I’ve tried to hug people more” (which is true, and is a good thing I got out of that course – there were a couple bits and pieces). Well fuck, 20 year old athlete me doesn’t want anyone reading that. And ESPECIALLY not my mom. But there’s this paper on the table, the day I’m leaving to hand it in. She just waltzes up to it, and lifts the cover page and starts reading. Like what the actual fuck!? And she didn’t do that with most stuff; it had a title on it that was pretty clear what was in this paper, so she opened it up and read it – again RIGHT THE FUCK IN FRONT OF ME – to find out this personal shit. First, if I wanted you to know, I’d tell you. Second, if you want to know and think I should tell you, ask me. And then, you know what? I still get to decide NOT to tell you if I don’t want to. But it didn’t even fucking occur to her, again, when I was TWENTY YEARS OLD that my feelings and thoughts were not just hers to know if she had a way to figure it out. I don’t think she ever tried to read stuff behind my back. Honestly that would have been better in a way. At least that would show she knows she’s not supposed to read it. I mean this makes her less conniving but more … something else I don’t know.
So I’ve got no damn idea what all this has messed up in me, but I bet a fucking ton. I seem to be strong with the f-bombs tonight; sorry. I’m really mad. I’ve never vented about this before. Ever. So… sorry.
Okay so the “more on that later.” I was fucking manipulated into not having my own thoughts. And it carries on until now, dammit. Like, holy shit. Totally part of what made me a in many ways a shitty abusive husband. I can’t pinpoint the abusive behavior on this, but here’s an example of the results. My wife’s got a favorite Christmas movie. I don’t like it at all. Except the things is, I do like it. I always liked it. I know I like it. I know I’ve always liked it. My mom hates it. And she said that one year and that was it. That was my opinion. That was the opinion I shared with everyone. That was the opinion I acted on. Like, when I lived alone, and that movie would come on TV in December, I would not watch it because I didn’t like it. Except I liked it. I knew I liked it. I knew that the reason I said I didn’t and acted like I didn’t like it was because my mom didn’t like it. There’s other shit like that, that I’m only recently purging. There were a couple of years, I guess when I was away at grad school, and then when I lived with my parents again for a couple of years after, where I had stopped taking that shit from myself. But you know fucking what? I was going to church. My faith was alive and part of my life. Then it died off when I was at home, because everyone else was lazy about it, and I gave in to the entropy. Then I don’t know maybe that’s just relation and not causation. But when I think about it, the more connected I was to God, probably the healthier I was with all this stuff.
So this is REALLY fucked right up. This is as fucked up as how I gave my dad a key to my car so when he borrowed it I wouldn’t have to give him my key – he borrowed it fairly often, so it was easier. But then one day I walked out to the driveway to go to work, and the car wasn’t there. Seriously. Just took it. Thought having a key meant it was his for the taking. Called him, told him I had to leave and he had to come back. He was like “okay yeah I’ll finish up my errand and come right back.” He thought it was no big deal. I had to yell at him “NO! YOU PUT DOWN WHATEVER YOU’RE BUYING AND LEAVE THE STORE AND COME BACK RIGHT NOW!” He could not understand why. Couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal if I was 10 or 15 or 20 minutes late – so you understand, I was on my way to see a client, at a facility where I’d rented space for an hour, to deliver a service, so if I was 10 minutes late, my client got 10 minutes less of that service, because the facility wasn’t going to adjust their whole day’s schedule because my dad screwed me over. Thing is his things are giant and obvious like this. The ways he can be an asshole stare you in the face. But all this privacy shit my mom pulled for … who the fuck knows how long. OH! She did it when I was home from grad school and had a computer set up on the dining room table going over my data, and wants to look something up, and I adopted an awkward posture because I was uncomfortable with MY MOM TYPING SHIT IN MY BROWSER’S ADDRESS BAR WHEN I’M A 25 YEAR OLD GUY! And I was a porn addict. No actually; that’s not hyperbole. I only finally really accepted that and quit a year and a half ago. So yeah I really didn’t fucking want her to see whatever it might suggest as she started typing. And I was like “just wait” like I said “hang on give me a minute” and she just reached across me and started typing shit in my computer saying “I’ll just be a second.” MY OBJECTION WASN’T YOU WOULD TAKE ALL DAY! (Although it was part of it, because we all know it’s way faster to ask a baby boomer what they want to search for and do it ourselves than let them sit down at our computers) but actually it was “that’s my computer and I want you not to be touching it, and I don’t have to explain why because it’s NOT YOURS. But … nope … shit man. The last couple of weeks I’ve been starting to get a grasp on a lot of ways my mom messed me up, but wow. There was no privacy and no respect of other people in my house. It also explains how she can’t recognize a change in relative positions of knowledge on a topic. Let’s say she reads a couple books about bullfrogs, and tells me some interesting stuff, and I then get interested in bullfrogs, and read tons of books, take a couple of courses on them, watch documentaries, go to lectures by bullfrog specialized zoologists, and become something of an amateur expert on bullfrogs. She cannot adjust her world construct to accommodate my now knowing more about bullfrogs than her. In her head she always knows more about bullfrogs, because when we first interacted about bullfrogs, that was true.
I can see how this leads to a lot ways I am messed up, and a lot of shitty ways I treat people (that I am getting better at … way way way better!) and how it made me an addict. Well fuck. This should feel better than it does, shouldn’t it? It doesn’t feel cathartic. It just makes me feel impotent. I guess because now I see it, and I also know (and have always known) that I saw it all along, but just … I guess it was normal. Whatever happened in my family/life was normal. And … wow it is exceptionally clear how a direct line can be drawn from the people don’t have privacy or autonomy etc. to being an addict, and especially a porn addict where the drug is dehumanized people on the internet doing whatever you want whenever you want. Wow. This still doesn’t feel cathartic. Usually I feel good at the end of rants like this but I feel worse.
Here’s one more just because I remembered it while I was wriring. I might have written it before I don’t know. But here we go: from like 15-19 or something we’d always eat dinner in the family room, which had a pass-through counter to the kitchen. No one ever got drinks. So every night at dinner when I realized I had no drink or glass, I would get up and go to the kitchen to get one. Every night. EVERY night I would stand in the pass-through and say “what do people want to drink.” Never once did I say it fewer than three times before getting any kind of response. So I stood up from amongst everyone, where they could all see me, walked out of the room and into the kitchen and into the window overlooking the room they were in and … literally (not figuratively; I literally mean literally) not one time did anyone hear me the first time. I did this for years. They’d apologize that they didn’t see and hear me but I don’t think one person in my family ever noticed that this happened over and over and over. That they ignored me and were rude to me as I offered to get them beverages. I mean, it’s not like I’m a hero getting other people in the family drinks when I was getting up for one. It’s just common courtesy; normal shit. But still, it’s me being nice, and being courteous. I don’t need a pat on the head, but the contrast is mind blowing, now that I think of it. I’m not kidding. No one ever noticed that this kept happening every night. If I told them now, they’d say “well I think you’re maybe exaggerating how much it happened” or some other blow off. EVERY NIGHT. FOR YEARS. Still can’t believe it. Still angry. Still hurt. Thought venting this one would help me feel better but it doesn’t.
I love my parents. They’re not bad people. They’re just bad at being people with other people, I guess.
Addendum, about two minutes later: Starting to feel better now. Maybe it’s just too intense and far reaching to have that instant catharsis. Anyway I am feeling better now for having written this.
Addendum #2: As much of a boob as I feel for saying this, some comments on this post would really help me out, even if they’re nothing. I don’t know if they’d have any real therapeutic value, but they’d make me feel a little better for a couple of minutes, lol. Also, I’m really doing okay. Still doing better than I’ve ever been. This is not the beginning of an implosion. 🙂