How I Lost 12.5 Pounds & Regained My Soul

Naked, as in truth, and uncensored, I share my daily quest to survive as a woman and artist, while dealing with the complications of a full life, meddling in politics, loving my children to excess, totally permanently married and on a never-ending diet. While my soul is in constant need of repair and redemption, I struggle to do the right thing. In the meantime, let's all double the love. (Love, not sex, you fool). All posts are copyrighted material.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

When Mom and Dad are misbehavin'... in front of their kid... do they set the bar?

Good afternoon, my precious little emeralds~

There are certain things I imagine someone would immediately notice about me. I have a nice complexion. I wear glasses. I am overweight. I dress well for my size. I am usually smiling. I find conversation and socializing to be easy and comfortable activities. Luckily I am generally well-liked, and I reciprocate those feelings by generally liking other people as well.

Reading about autism in girls this morning gave me a lot to think about today. The appearance of an autistic girl or woman is generally much less noticeable than her struggle with social anxiety, if not phobia, and seeming lack of desire to connect. Sadly, this is not the case, as studies show that girls with autism do want to connect, but often find the intricate social networking of girls from middle school up completely overwhelming and impossible to maneuver.

Hell, who doesn't? I cannot imagine how much more difficult society is to navigate for those with disabilities or cognitive impairment. Let's face it. Being different is enough to get most of us rejected by the pack. If we are girls.

All parents who have experienced boys and girls in a family, no matter the reality, will generally think that the boys were 'easier' to raise. Why? Girls are much more concerned about their social acceptance than boys, and generally seem to suffer more emotionally in this regard if acceptance is not forthcoming. My four-year-old granddaughter describes any other girl at school with whom she has a current conflict as 'She's not my friend because she doesn't like me'.

Oh, yes, to be politically correct I should state that boys care about friendships too, but in the male world the pecking order allows even the lowest of the low to at least carry water for the team. In our world, we exclude and we are mean. We can't seem to be able to control this rejection mechanism in junior high, when it would be the most painful to anyone, never mind a high-functioning girl who suffers from autism.

But we've all been cruel in our lives, haven't we? No matter how we justified it then or now, all of us have excluded somebody else for good or bad reasons, but also because of fear of our own social standing by 'association'.

I still feel shame when I think about a girl named Susan from my childhood. Granted, I didn't like her as her parents were from the 'swinger' set and mine were frigidly New Englanders above and below the belt. When her father developed encephalitis and became permanently paralyzed as a quadraplegic, my mother (with her own disabled husband) befriended Susan's mother.

As their friendship blossomed so did that of their husbands. My father taught Steve to paint with a pencil held between his teeth and took him out twice a week to lovely ocean or woodside settings where they would paint together until Steve tired. My father was a rather non-verbal man, unless he'd had a highball which was rare, so he enjoyed the quiet companionship of a man with a pencil between his teeth.

While our parents were forging relationships, my mother decided to help Lucille with her biggest problem. Her daughter's ostracism in the 'girlfriend' community of junior high. Okay, so she forced me to befriend Susan out of compassion for the daughter of her new best friend and that can't be criticized can it? I mean, my mother didn't have to do anything but threaten me with bodily harm, while I had to actually hang out with the kid, to the exclusion of my other friends.

You see, Susan was not someone you could invite over to be one of your sleepover buddies. She was deaf, read lips and also wore a large, unattractive .hearing aid which allowed her to hear vibrations only. She spoke approximately the way the actress Marla Matson speaks, as when someone is profoundly death at birth there is little that can be done on certain pronounciations, even if hearing is later restored in adulthood. Those speech centers close in the brain - foreign languages learned after 2 to 5 years of age will always have some sort of accent for this reason.

Anyway, even though Susan was a beautiful, smart, sexy girl, she was different and this made her an outcast in junior high school. An additional complication was that her father had attempted to warn her about men taking advantage of her and give her his strategies for survival. One of them was his suggestion that in a pinch, she offer oral sex to a boy/man if she thought he was too aroused and possibly going to try to rape her. In those days it wasn't the 'rape' that was the problem, it was the loss of innocence (aka future marketability of one's virginity) and any resulting pregnancy.

Now I don't fault her father for trying to find ways to protect her at fourteen, but at the age of twelve I had never heard of oral sex. Yes, I know that is unbelievable for this generation of children who learned about Clinton's affair with the 'little blue dress', but I had just learned what 'menstruation' meant from Susan. When she dropped that O.S. bomb on me, I was disgusted beyond description. Remember, I was just in the seventh grade and had no life experience and had been particularly sheltered from the facts of life. 'Good girls' you see, didn't need the information, right?

Well one day my very best friend and her mother were driving by and saw me. They stopped the car to offer me a ride home. That day my mother had insisted I go over to Susan's house and invite her to go for a walk with me. Of course, I had to refuse the ride home, as although I was walking five feet ahead and ignoring her - the way my older sister did to me - Susan was actually with me.

I made a face and rolled my eyes and whispered I had to walk home with her then I stuck my tongue out to indicate disgust about my situation.

My friend's mother gave me a disappointed look, but my childish ego and social status was at stake. I knew it was un-Christian to behave in such a way, but how could I face the shame of people thinking I wanted to hang around with Susan? I wasn't big enough or kind enough for that.

My back was turned to Susan as I behaved so badly, as I would never hurt someone intentionally that way, but I realized something much too late. She had been watching my reflection in the car window and not only seeing my mean facial expressions but also reading my lips.

The hurt on her face would have shamed even Dick Cheney. I felt like the creepiest, meanest girl on the planet and knew in that moment I was probably too evil to just go to hell.

How did such a nice girl like me have such a mean, cruel moment? I was popular with the kids in my classes - we were the intellectual elite of our school and were tracked as 'gifted', thereby avoiding classes like 'shop' and 'home economics - and I didn't want my friends thinking I liked a creepy (different) person. After all, like all girls from my era, I was not in the habit of leading the pack. I was also learning valuable things in life, one of which was that it didn't feel 'nice' to be 'cruel'. I don't think I was ever that awful again.

I could make lots of excuses and admit that I was also very unhappy at home, but I was still so mean I can't even relate to that person being me.

Here's some of the excuses anyway: My older sister was an abusive one, my mother had begun her slide into alcoholism, she neglected and abused us as children... blah blah blah. Complicate that with the announcement by my parents that if any of us wanted to go to college we would have to work from that day on and save every dime, as since my father's disabling heart attack and development of chronic emphysema, we could no longer plan on any help from them?

My own personality had not developed enough for me to feel secure about what other people thought of me. The shame of my father's poor health, and all the adults' comments about it, were demoralizing. I think it probably took me until I was 21 (and some therapy), to think for the first time, I'm a good person. If someone else doesn't appreciate that, why should I care what they think?

Eventually I began to see my compact with being a good person was with a Higher Power, whom I call various things like 'the Universe' or even 'God'. Human beings could not be expected to really know my true heart; therefore, it was useless to try to get 'approval' or please other people all the time. They had their own issues, if you get my drift.

My mother later discovered that her 'friend' Lucille was making passes at my father, and the punishment of Susan's friendship immediately ended in my life, but not that buried shame.

Who told my mother about the inappropriateness? Why, I did. I saw my father and Lucille sitting across from each other at our breakfast table one afternoon when I'd unexpectedly come home from school an hour and a half early. She had her cleavage exposed with her hand fondling it, as if it was too hot in the room, and my father's eyes were glued to her hands. It might not have registered, truthfully, except both of them jumped back in their chairs as if they were teenagers caught fondling each other on the couch.

I can remember three times when I really felt ashamed of my father, and this was one of them. Candidly, they weren't doing anything, but their guilty thoughts were obvious to a twelve-year-old.:)

Okay, so the woman's husband was a quadraplegic and she was only about 33 or 34 herself, but that was my father. Of course with his heart disease he was a poor choice as a boy toy anyway, but fantasy can be as invigorating as anything, can't it?

I mean, if not, why has there always been such a HUGE porno industry?

Anyway, I digress. I guess my message this morning is tolerance, kindness and compassion. In our personal narcissistic approach to life we assume everybody out there is just like ourselves and has the same motives and body language. Let's expand our thinking a bit and remember that sometimes other people are just trying to survive. Let's give them a break.

Oh! And I hope I don't catch you still feeling like a guilty school girl over something you did forty-six years ago, but here it is anyway.

Susan? Hey, I'm sorry, okay? I was a little twit and I feel terrible about it. Don't worry, I got cancer a few years ago and I've been more than sufficiently punished. I hope you had a good life in spite of that miserable junior high school experience. Sic, mea culpa.

Clark County Diva



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