CW references to rapist
My first memory was a triumph, a victory over my cult leader. I deceived her, tricked her, cheated at potty training and made her believe I’d tinkled by pouring a stream of water from a cup down the toilet. Stifling a giggle while I flushed, I opened the door to retrieve my candy reward. I hadn’t yet learned to feel ashamed of lying.
I am abused. I do not want to describe it. The lawyers make me. Doctors touch me. The prosecutor tells me I am a bad victim, that I dressed like a slut, that I wanted it, that I didn’t fight back, that I returned to the scene of the crime, that I was too friendly with the rapist. That the jury will blame me. He refuses to try the rapist. I am 8 years old. I told the truth.
I told tall tales, fish stories, and whoppers. I took after my grandma and great grandpa in the Southern storytelling tradition, which is a polite phrase for lying. My mom had me come up with a hand signal like a campirefire crackling for when I was telling a story that had no basis in truth, so it could be considered narration and not sin.
When I was bullied in school and had what was in retrospect severe depression, I would call it a stomach ache or a cold to get out of school. Pressed by the demands of work my mother saw this as obstinacy, and more and more often called me a liar and told me she could not trust me. That if I kept on this way, she could never trust me again. This begins a lifelong panic that I will not be believed when it counts, that people will think I’m a liar.
I change my name. I change my hair. Again and again and again. Every time we move I hope I can shed the eternal dork of awkward weirdness and shame that is me. I get a new makeover and a new look. Punk, beach, raver, goth, alternative, emo. I even tried preppy for all of two days before dramatically hacking my hair off in the parking lot with a friend’s borrowed katana. This was pre Colombine, when that kind of thing didn’t seem so weird or scary. I wanted to fit in. I wasn’t trying to lie, I just didn’t know my truth.
When I became a young adult I joined Al-Anon, a cult centered around regular public confession. Naturally that appealed to me, someone who wanted not just to be honest but to be seen to be honest. And of course since then I have been blogging. Of course I want to write a memoir. I have been raised to confess all since my birth, and I have known that monsters are free in secrets. It just feels a tad narcissistic, there’s no denying it.