Friday, February 21, 2014

Cheated Out of Childhood: Chapter 1 - Only the Beginning (The Letter "A")

Was I that mistaken? Deserving of such a brutal punishment for such an innocent mistake?

Before I delve into this post, I would like to start by making two separate shout-outs:

The first goes to my girl Kaleef Starks (AKA Kaleef Marcille) who is so strong, stylish, and brave in telling her story of how she is transitioning into the beautiful woman that she is. She’s actually the inspiration behind my blog, especially since I’ve always been working on my autobiography and looking for an outlet to share it. I think it’s important I give credit where it’s due, so if you’re interested in learning more about her fabulous self, check out her tumblr and blog here: and

The second goes to one of my closest friends, Maribel, for always supporting my work and promoting me in her very own blog:  Thanks for always being there for me! Check her out too!

Now, I want to begin this one on a positive note (or a few, at that):

^^^So as you can see in my recent Facebook posts above, I’m pretty darn happy and things are going pretty good. But let me tell you, it was not always this way.   .   .

I feel like in all the talking I’ve done so far on this blog, I’ve done a whole lot of telling but not enough showing. Like any good ‘ole English teacher will tell you, in order to make any paper good (or acceptable, really) you have to use imagery and describe your examples well, grounding them in solid evidence. You can’t just make a bunch of claims and have nothing to back them up. So it’s time I start providing you with the substance.

Ladies and gentleman, like I said previously in my Gender Studies course on Race, Class, Gender and Work before presenting my autobiographical Johari Window Project, This is where S*@% gets REAL.

They say you can only remember so far back, like perhaps up until 3 years old. Some people even report remembering things as far back as living in their mother’s uterus, but for me, it’s definitely since the age of 3. The initial instances of child abuse I’ve experienced were very violent and physical. From the very early age of 3 and onward, I can remember my Grandmother Esther pushing, punching, and pinching me along with the occasional cigarette butt she would die out on my arm or the picking me up directly from the hairs on my scalp she used to do to carry me around. I can remember her picking me up by the hairs on my head because I would hide from her under the dinner table when I was very little, and she was still strong enough herself to grab me by my unruly, thick, long, dark, curly hair, carry me to the living room, and throw me on the floor. I can recall one time where I was hiding under the table from her, and she found me, so I ran away to the living room before she could get to me, and when she did, I hid behind a puffy, blue rocking chair we had which swiveled around, thus making it very convenient to use as a shield to protect me from her as I could just swivel it away from her and use the front of it to block her. Well, when I did that, I somehow got attached to the chair and couldn’t get up. I looked down to realize that one of the metal rods which held the fabric down had penetrated my knee and was stuck in my skin. I had to yank it out the way a person impaled by an arrow or stabbed by a knife would, and when I did, the wound gushed out a trail of blood that ran down my entire leg. I went to show my mother in the bathroom and she just told me to clean it with soap and running water while applying pressure to stop the bleeding. Yep, that’s about the kind of neglect I faced. My own Grandma would chase me around the house and threaten me with her fists while my own mother wouldn’t even take me to the hospital to stitch an open wound gushing blood from my knee. I still have the scar on my right kneecap to prove it. (And speak of the devil, my mother’s birthday just passed, 2/19, making her 66. Yep, she’s THAT old with only one kid she tortured, SMH)
I can remember the cigarette burning especially because Grandma did it to me once when I was wearing my favorite pair of shorts. I had to be 6 or 7 at the time, and I had a pair of white and blue, silky short-shorts on that were made of light, luminescent jersey fabric. They fit me well and were really comfortable, which made them great for playing outside in. I just remember my Grandma calling me to get something for her or to put some sheets away I was making a tent with, and when I didn’t listen or politely turned her down, she smashed the lit cigarette into my forearm, which caused the fiery ash to fall onto my shorts and burn a hole through them. I had the shorts for many weeks after that until I grew out of them, and I remember always looking at the black rimmed hole that left a trace of my punishment, and I knew not to disobey Grandma ever again, until I was older of course, and she was older herself and no longer a threat to me.

But one incident I remember very vividly has to do with my mother and with The Letter “A”.

I was 5 years old. I hadn’t started school yet as my mom didn’t allow me go to pre-school or kindergarten. I don’t know why, perhaps she was just too lazy to enroll me, take me, or didn’t trust the teachers. Her paranoia probably led her to believe everyone in those industries were pedophiles or rapists who would “greatly endanger” me, as usual. (and as everyone else in the neighborhood and world, go figure) But she decided to home-school me instead, prep me for first grade, which was a living nightmare. I think she’s the reason why I’m always too nervous to ask for help. I mean, I’ve dealt with this problem several times in the past, and it’s receded much in present days, thank God, but it was most likely caused by her. (as all of my problems. Everything is her fault, what’s new?) It was horrible. I would try so hard to write/draw my ABCs correctly, and I always made a lopsided A. It looked pretty bad, I’ll admit it. It was never perfectly pointed and always ended up looking like a falling bridge, an uneven arc that was misshapen and hopelessly crooked, but everything else came out fine and I tried my hardest. I tried! But it was never good enough for her! I would ask for her help and she would demand I draw it again. Repeatedly, encouraging me to get it right. Her idea of encouragement was a persistent “Do it again!”, first stated calmly and sweetly until it eventually became a palpitating scream that rendered me inanimate. (NOTE TO SELF: Yep, this is probably the reason I’m a perfectionist nowadays)  I kept trying, and kept struggling, and kept failing, and instead of supporting me and letting me move on, or even acknowledging how nice my other letters were (or even congratulating me for trying so hard and doing a good job), she just leapt into my face and yelled at me. The pores on her nose and cheeks enlarging, her skin becoming flushed red with profound anger, her lips protruding so harshly to shape every, single word and belching out drops of spit to spray all over mine. It was horrendous. I was so frightened. All I wanted was some help so that I could perfectly draw the letter A. But it was never good enough, ever. I tried so hard. I remember shifting the pencil between my fingers to attempt different techniques. “Maybe I would get it right this time. Maybe if I hold it this way, it would work better,” I remember thinking to myself. But she was never satisfied. Her level of irritation just kept elevating even higher and higher until it became gushing out like broken water pipes bursting and her temper exploded into fits of slapping my cheeks repeatedly and pinching thick grasps of my skin. I was thoroughly traumatized.
            I practiced every day. I still wanted to draw the perfect A. “She would see it and be so proud of me!” I think I spent hours re-writing it, erasing it, and writing it again until my method was perfected and my written alphabet looked flawless. I was so happy! I had finally replicated the “perfect A”! “Mommy would be so happy! All I have to do is find some paper,” I thought to myself. I looked all around until I found an envelope. My mother was always into doing those stupid mailing scams. Like Publishing’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, Australian “lotteries”, “Work-In Home” applications, you know, pyramid scheme type establishments because she was gullible enough (and dumb enough) to believe them. I think I actually comprehended this at that age, but I didn’t consider it because I was so relieved to have finally discovered the way to make the perfect A and I wanted to show her! I was so eager. I took the envelope because it was the first piece of paper I saw and wrote down my entire alphabet with that “perfect A” I was so proud of. I overheard her talking with Uncle Frank in the next room and jumped to run over to her. I begged and begged her to look, trying to get one minute of her attention. I must have called out “mommy” a hundred times until she looked down to notice the line of ABC’s written crookedly on her precious envelope. She looked down in contempt, driven with rage and snatched the envelope from my hand. My smile turned into a flustered frown and she began viciously slapping me, recurrently. I felt like each word she uttered came out individually, unattached to the others. “YOU. STUPID. LITTLE. IGNORANT. PIECE. OF. SHIT! HOW. COULD. YOU. DESTROY. THIS. ENVELOPE. FOR. MY. WORK. AT. HOME. POSITION? THIS. WAS. MINE. AND. YOUR. UNCLE’S. ONLY. HOPE. FOR. AN. INCOME. YOU. STUPID. LITTLE. FUCKING. BITCH. HOW. COULD. YOU?”  Every word followed by a slap to the cheek. I felt my face redden as the blood forcefully flowed to the pigments of my cheeks and they swelled as my eyes did with tears. I was so confused. I didn’t know I had done anything wrong! I didn’t mean to! I just wanted to show her the beautiful letters I worked so hard to write! To make her proud of my improvement! To make her proud of my effort! She slapped the shit out of me, and I stayed there, perplexed and shocked. At disbelief of what she had just done to me. I was scared out of my wits and after being stunned for a minute, I ran away to the old, musky roll up bed she kept for my father and cried myself to sleep. I don’t know if my gauge of time was accurate as a kid, but it felt like I cried for hours before I fell asleep. I just felt so hurt that she would jump at me like that. That she would become so angry over a stupid envelope when I didn’t mean to ruin anything for her and just wanted to show her what I worked so hard on. I just lied there, face smushed into the dirty, brown, itchy, coarse fabric that was bound into a bundle on the carpet. I dug my face into it, red and wet from my tears that it soaked, and cried until I fell asleep. I remember feeling so bad. I blamed myself for it! I was beating myself up about it. I kept thinking, “I should have waited until she wasn’t busy with Uncle! I should have gotten a different piece of paper! I’m so stupid!” Perhaps my actual thoughts weren’t so concise, predictable, or grammatically correct, but that was the idea of what I thought. I didn’t at all consider her actions to be unwarranted. I thought I deserved what I had gotten. How horrible is that? And sadly, readers, this is quite common. This is what little kids all around the world, as I once was, think when they get abused a majority of the time. They blame themselves and internalize it as if they deserved it. Sad, but true. It’s a sick case of Stockholm syndrome and the way we interpret reality.
According to ethnomethodologists Mehan and Wood[1], there are five features of reality, which include reflexivity, coherence, interaction, fragility, and permeability. I’m not going to go on a long spiel and give you an entire Sociology lesson, but the essential point is that our notion of reality exists with incorrigible propositions which are reflexive. This means that we have certain beliefs that are set in stone and everything we perceive in the world is used to build the foundation for these beliefs and prove they are true. However, if we interact with others or come into contact with counterevidence, our entire belief system can collapse and become rebuilt for potential change. Like Karren Warren argues, “severe abuse in the family continues because the family members learn to regard it ‘normal.’ A victim of abuse may come to see that her abuse is not ‘normal’ when she has contact with less abusive families.” (Smith, 17)[2] This is why so many young children are fooled into thinking that their parents’ extreme disciplinary actions are acceptable and that they are at fault for the dysfunctional behaviors of their family. Especially since they are so young, their judgment is very clouded. Until they grow older, mature, and interact with other people outside of their home, they will continue to blame themselves for the abuse their parents dole out onto them. And just like every other kid who deals with a messed up family, it took me years to realize mine was nowhere near “normal.”

            So folks, this is just the beginning of it all. There is much more to come, but I think that’s enough depressing stuff for now.

[1] O'Brien, Jodi, Hugh Mehan, and Houston Wood. "Five Features of Reality." The production of reality: essays and readings on social interaction. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press, 2006. 379-395. Print.
[2] Smith, Andrea. "Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide." Conquest: sexual violence and American Indian genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005. 7-33. Print.

 To lift the mood, I’ll leave this little gem of a pharmacy mishap for laughs. It’s hilarious!

Thanks for reading. : )

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