An Online Sea, No Fish for ME


Your online dating Profile ends with “Any other questions?” Golly! I’ve got LOTS! Don’t you?

1. Why does life gotta be so tough?

2. When are the boffins gonna come up with a cure for allergies so I can get a dog?

3. Why is it that people are snobby when it comes to foods? Like Jello: Many would never consider bringing a Jello dish to a potluck. Or spaghetti: So what that I cut instead of twirl–call the Pasta Police!

_______________________________________

I just know y’all have been a-wonderin’ how my online fishin’ has been goin’.

Womans Animated Gif of Disgust

Not Swimmingly. But You Have It Wrong: That’s THEM, Looking At ME.

Here are some of the letters I’ve been sending out. Maybe you can help me analyze what I’m doing wrong.

_______________________________________

Excellent profile, sir. But you live way east, and I’m way west…

It’s moot, anyhow. Per “Oh, Hey, Stupid!”®, you are both messier AND more logical than I–an off-putting combination. Even my supposedly-lesser logic can dope out that disorder is illogical. And I, sir, am logical to a perfectly logical degree ;) .

If you are truly even MORE logical than I, you are anal as sh#t. (See what I did there?)

Dis was fun, doe.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

(His interests: Flamenco, Belly Dancing)

So you belly dance AND do Flamenco? At the same time? That would be something to see. ;)

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

(His Ad:)

I like excellent Merlot,
And to walk in the rain;
I’m a member of MENSA,
I’ve a pretty smart brain.

Let’s make love in the mornings,
In the dunes of the cape;
I’m the love that you’ve looked for,
Write to me, and escape.

(My Response:)

I like cheap Mogen David,
And I’d rather stay dry,
Why does someone need MENSA,
To say “You’re a smart guy”?

At first light, I am achy,
I like sex in a bed, [usually ;) ]
We’re not matched well as lovers:
Choose a teen girl instead.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Not a flirt–don’t think we’re suited. Just wanted to stop to say that I am assuming those are your parents in that one photo, and really like that you included them here. You are a good boy :) .

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

We are a no-go (for one, I am deadly allergic to dogs, though I love ‘em–so stinkin’ unfair!–and what decent guy doesn’t own a dog, anyway?

D#mn, and you enjoy Scrabble, too. Can’t get ANYbody to play that any more…).

But enjoyed your Profile. Am betting you will get someone smart and fun, no prob. After all, I liked what you had to say ;).

Oh–how did I fall across you on “Tons o’ Tuna“®? Because even though my Profile says “No Pets”, the muckety-muck “Best Catches for YOU!” keeps showing me dog owners–just to rub my face in my petless pariah status.

Good luck fishing!

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

“…I can’t be with a religious person, please don’t bother contacting me if you believe in the tooth fairy, etc.”

Wow. What is it with many atheists today, going out of their way to slam those who believe in God? I just don’t get it.

I mean, it’s your Profile, and you get to say whatever you want–I’m a big believer in free speech.

I have no antipathy to atheists–used to be one myself–but I don’t understand taking an extra-big step to slam someone who believes differently than I do unless they are persecuting me–and definitely not all God-believers are persecuting all atheists–only a small minority appear to be obnoxious on the topic. Just saying.

Shall I pass this on to the Muslim community in case they want to issue a fatwah on your fanny for disrespecting Allah?

Or should I just tell the tooth fairy, so that none of your grandkids ever get any more under-the-pillow handouts? ; )

_______________________________________

Evil Tooth Fairy Drawing

You Don’t Want to Be On THAT Fairy’s Bad Side

_______________________________________

For a first date, you chose “Lunch”. WAY too much of a commitment.

What if you both decide in the first ten minutes you can’t stand the sight of each other? Sit silently through the meal? ?Yell “Doggie bags, STAT!”? Start flinging sushi rolls? Awk-ward…

I say, stick to Starbucks.

–O. Babe

P.S. You said there should be CAT parks?

Dogs are cool. It is cats that drool, figuratively speaking. Cats would not deign to stay within park boundaries if there were any children’s sandboxes nearby to cr#p in instead.

But of course you WOULD think cats cool. Isn’t that a cool-cat soul patch I see in your picture?

_______________________________________

Wow. What a wonderful writer you are, sir. And a lovely Profile you put together.

I was sailing along, thinking that, perhaps, this might be the first person on these tedious sites I’d be willing to meet, if the feeling were mutual–and then, I bumped up against your next-to-last sentence:

“You must have NEVER polluted your body with drugs.”

Wouldn’t you know it.

Haven’t touched an illegal substance since highschool until my last boyfriend offered me a toke.

Yup. I have inhaled on each on four separate occasions in the last year (although, who knows? My drug-addled brain may have clouded my tally memory).

So. I am crossed off your list.

You’ve definitely harshed my buzz(cut), Mr. Ex-Military.

_______________________________________

Not a flirt, just a comment–Yours is the first Profile I’ve seen that listed God as an interest. Nicely done, sir.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

You don’t match all my criteria, but what the heck. At least you read… And at least one of us is perfect.
(yes…she’s kidding.)

And schizophrenic.
(yes…she really is kidding. again. just ignore the woman behind the lowercase.)

How ’bout, if you have any interest, you send me something that indicates there’s a hint of humor in you?
(but…he lives too d#mn far away.)

Shhh. When fishing in poor waters, one must cast one’s net wide. He READS.
(but.. but… what’s with the tiny picture?)

Yeah. What IS with only one tiny picture of you, and in Italy?

Are you trying to woo women by buying us with a trip to Italy? Exactly what kind of women are you fishing for, anyhow?
(psst: don’t tell him it will totally work for you)

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Not a flirt–we two aren’t suited–just stopping by to say that, so far, you have the BEST main pic of any guy on this site.

All these dudes saying how they enjoy life, or have a great sense of humor, but there you are, SHOWING us, laughing at a friend (or yourself), totally relaxed and looking like someone a good woman would want to be with. Yeah…THAT “with”.

The best of fishing luck to you!

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Your Profile says only what your job is and that you spend at least two hours a day at the gym.

THAT’s your Profile? Dude, you didn’t even TRY.

–O. Babe

lol uhh why should I try, its pretty simple I work and I work out

(O…kay, then.)

_______________________________________

Dear Groucho,

A tie for funniest Profile I’ve ever read, and the other guy gets paid to write comedy.

I haven’t yet agreed to meet anyone, and was tempted in your case just to see if you could clip along like that, live. But that would be unfair–to tempt you with my own rapid-fire wit and stellar beauty–when you and I are doomed from ever attaining the perfect comic counterpoint.

For you, sir, have a CAT.

Blech. Blech blech.

Plus, I am damned allergic to the blech-y things.

Okay, there are one or two that aren’t QUITE so blech-y.

There was one Siamese I quite fell in love with, I’m gaining some fondness for Cornish Rexes, and, from an aesthetic viewpoint alone, I am enchanted by Russian Blues. (I can’t say how the cats feel about me. Most likely how they feel about all people: “Food? No? Next person…Food? No? Next person…”

Dogs, on the other hand, are entirely blech-less. (Other than Chihuahuas, a successful cross between rodents and insects.)

Huge fan of many dogs. Have even dated some (Ba-DUM-dum!).

Hope you find the kitty-kissin’ quick-quippin’ lovin’-lippin’ (that last one was an awful stretch, huh?) lady of your dreams.

–O-Babe

 
THAT dude wrote back! Too bad about his furry death-dealer.

 
ADDENDUM: REJECTIONS!!

Even with my more “straight” messages, ALL of my own overtures so far have been rejected. Men I was excited about writing to–those who are funny or witty, don’t own pets, and don’t live too far away–have rejected me. Even when the sites claimed those same men liked ME!

What the Heck Woman

Huh??

Their responses to my messages? Cold, dead silence–Except in two cases. Here is one of them:

Dear O. Babe,

Thanks for the kind words. No offense, but I didn’t see much humor in your blog–but to each his/her own, right?
Good luck in your search (and with your blogging, keep working on it).

 
ADDENDUM–IN ALL FAIRNESS

A few lovely men have written to ME. My simple criteria have not been met, or we were otherwise incompatible. A current possibility thinks me paranoid for not handing out my phone number until after I meet him. (Home address can be gotten with phone. There are nutters out there. Call me nuts, but I’d rather meet them before inviting them home.)
 

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Filed under love, memoir, memoir-funny

Epitaph For Mean


Life was mean to Bernadine.

Bernadine on Lake Michigan

Bernadine’s mom did not understand children, nor, I think, like them.

 
Bernadines Mom
 

When she left for work each day, she locked little Bernadine into a room with the maid.

Happily, the maid had a skeleton key. Bernie and she would head for the shore of Lake Michigan and spend contented days there, returning before my grandmother.

At the age of nine, Bernadine was given the maid’s duties: She had to come home from school, dust every surface–including over doorframes–and then start dinner. When Grandma came home, she would run one white-gloved finger over a doorframe chosen at random.

Bernadine’s father hit my grandmother while she was pregnant with Bernie. My grandmother divorced him immediately and would never speak of him again. Bernie was frustrated ever afterward that she could learn no more about her father.

I liked Grandma’s second husband because he allowed me to pick out “boys” toys (a fun toy car and boat instead of stupid toy high heels), but Bernie said about him once “He was a real bastard.” She wouldn’t answer any questions about that comment.

I got the feeling something had happened with my grandfather that Bernie couldn’t talk about–or not talk about to her daughter. This may have been at least partly why, when Bernie turned fourteen years old, she secretly applied for, and studied hard for, a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in a different state. When she won it, she moved away from house with no regrets.

Up through college, Bernadine had good and close girlfriends. She married a man she was crazy about.

Bernadine Marriage Photo

They seemed to be very happy, wed six years before having children.

Her old friendships dropped away, somehow.

And she, an only child, wound up with four children under the age of eight and a husband who was gone sunup to sundown, or months overseas.

She moved from a single-culture neighborhood where everyone shared the same values (and raised each other’s children) to a multi-culture one where everyone got along–but HER family’s culture was seen as different.

Yet on her first day, all her new neighbors did come to welcome her:

“What kind of mother DOES that?! We’re going to call the POLICE!”

While busy unpacking, Bernie had put her toddler in the shaded front yard wearing a safety harness. It was looped to a clothesline run, like a dog’s.

That’s what moms did in her old neighborhood.

***

Bernie’s husband was an expert in the bully’s trick of chip-chip-chipping away at every sensitive issue repeatedly until it reaches the point that the victim snaps–for no reason, to anyone not in the know.

Bernie grew defensive and paranoid and full of temper at him and the world. She became an expert chipper in her own right.

Warren also interrupted Bernie constantly, and jumped to correct her in front of family and guests.

This is accepted (or not noticed) by listeners more when men do it to women than the reverse. Over the years, Bernie became frustrated by her lack of voice.

She sought an audience and temporary society among strangers, striking up conversations while out shopping. With Bernadine so reluctant to give up the floor she so rarely had, these brief exchanges evolved over time to monologues. Until her eyesight went, and Bernie gave up pleasure-trips, one could locate her in stores by looking in corners for her trapped, glazed-eyed prey.

Poor Bernadine had lupus, and an undiagnosed parathyroid problem that made her bad temper worse. I also believe that in the worst years of her yelling, menopause was a major contributor.

So, basically, the woman was working against a stacked deck.

Does that entirely excuse the abuse she inflicted? No.

***

This past week, Bernie was admitted to the E/R due to high potassium levels–an indicator of kidney failure–and died less than 12 hours later.

She was very good at Scrabble. When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with her.
She taught me the basic back-stitch in embroidery. We made a little teddy bear.
She told me once a new dress didn’t look bad on me like I thought it did. She said “I think it looks nice.”
She was an excellent cook. She made cookies for us.

You would not do that for children you only hated. Would you?

I have always been an orphan. If I cry at some point, it will be because my life and Bernadine’s life intersected in such a sad way. I do feel love for her–because the anger is gone about this: That she didn’t move past her hurt child to take adequate care of the children she was hurting. I hope she is healed at long last.

 
Now I Lay Me Embroidery SectionIf I Should Die Before I Wake
 

Epitaph For Mean

Life was mean to Bernadine,
So she began to pout;
And when she grew,
Although she knew,
She should not take it out,

By doing unto others,
What had been done to her,
She didn’t care;
It wasn’t fair;
(So few things in life were).

To her own children, Bernadine,
Herself became the child;
She falsely blamed;
She often shamed;
She yelled like someone wild.

Her own four tried to kill her;
(They thought they would be freed);
And yet at times,
Despite her crimes,
She’d give you what you’d need:

You’d be surprised by kindness,
She’d shock you with a smile,
(It shouldn’t be:
We all agree:
That these were rare was vile.)

No point; no point in poems;
For no more Bernadine;
She had we four,
To love… Adore–
Instead, she chose the mean.
 
Mommy Jekyll and Babe
 
Part 7 of a 7-part series that was posted daily. Following this, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
ADDENDUM ON MENOPAUSE AND YELLING

I think my mom’s yelling was caused by the ‘pause because it happened to me. Once I got a hormone patch, my yelling ended. My own was never constant, and it lasted only a couple of years, but the harm had already been done. If you find yourself post-40 and screaming: 1. check hormones; 2. take drugs.
 

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Joyful Mommy Jekyll–Part 6

Every summer he was home, my male parent, Warren, would wake us all up at 4:00 AM and tell us we had ten minutes to get into the car. Getting in a car to go on vacation with Warren was hell.

Sometimes, though, he was away on business, and mom would drive us. Then, it was a whole different story. Every time one of us kids would go “Oooo, what’s that? I want to go there!” Mommy Jekyll would stop the car and let us.

White and Black Face Fuscia Border

We visited Jesse James town, Silver Dollar City, you name it. Every tourist trap that dotted the side of the road, our mom let us stop at. This was back in the day, before any of these places were built up and all looked alike. People would take their time and chat with children and answer all our questions.

We saw a man wrestle an alligator, a snake pop balloons with its pointy fangs, and a talking minah bird that had its tongue split because the owner thought that would help it to talk.

Alligator Wrestling

We bought little toy monkeys made out of real fur, that got real bugs in it after the monkeys sat in the hot car for days. We went inside a real mine that had an old, blind donkey for hauling, and we all got real quartz crystals.

One time, we spread our picnic blanket by the side of the highway and started eating our lunch. Then, we heard a sound I’d never heard before.

“What’s that?” we all asked mom.

Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake Ready to Strike

“Pick up your things quickly and come back over this way.” she answered, as she bundled our picnic up into the blanket. After we had backed up, she explained that it was a rattlesnake that didn’t like us being there. (Then we wanted to go back and see it, of course!)

Another time, it was raining so hard that no one could see the front hood of the car. Mom pulled over by the side of the road. The rain turned into hail bigger than Paul’s goggling eyes.

Hail and Rain While Driving

The balls made big crashing sounds on the car windshield. Our mom turned around over the front seat and smilingly asked “Isn’t this exciting?”

What a mom.

Mommy Jekyll was adventurous at home, too. Often, after church on Sunday, she would let us steer her. We’d tell her “Turn left here”, or “Go straight and then turn right up there”, and so forth, until we all wound up somewhere none of us had been before. Then, she’d slowly wend our way back along a different route, poking along to see if there was anything interesting to see.

Because we lived close to the border of northern New Jersey, farm country then, a lot of times these Sunday detours would take us next to a roadside fruit stand. Then we’d have the extra treat of eating fresh strawberries, or a perfect watermelon.

Roadside Fruit Stand

Ah, THOSE were the good old days.

Macy Girl recently pointed out that this aspect of our mom which I so enjoyed and viewed as something she did for our benefit may not have been done with us in mind at all. For when she was younger and in better shape, mom would take off on an annual solo road trip and wander at will, taking great pleasure in this.

Lone Woman Road Trip

(It is interesting and, to a degree, disconcerting to me, that I take after Mommy Jekyll in her wanderlust and lack of concern over travelling sans partner.)

It wasn’t only during travel that Mommy Jekyll appeared. For some unknown reason, mom would occasionally awaken in a jolly mood–a mood which she was willing to share with just one of us.

Good Day Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Don’t ask me how we four children sensed this, but sense it we did. We would gather in the front foyer for a hurried, hushed conference:

“It’s one of mom’s good days–whose turn is it?”
“It’s mine!”
“No it isn’t! You just had her time before last!”
“Oh yeah…I think it’s Paul’s turn.”

We were cutthroat, vicious beasts to each other much of the time, but we were scrupulously fair to each other on these occasions. The winning child would subtly ease her or his way toward mom whilst the others surreptitiously faded into various quiet corners, leaving mom with only one child upon whom to rain her rare bounty. Off the two of would go, shopping, exploring, to the the movies, or whatever they chose.

None of us were jealous, for our turns would come. The favored child of the day would return and regale us with the details of the treats and endearments they had experienced, and the vicarious pleasure would sustain us until then.
 

Every Dog Has Its Day

For Every Dog Has Its Day


 
ADDENDUM ON JOY AND PAIN AND TRUTH

Initial vacation paragraphs are a little inexact, as well as the 4:00 departure. I just wanted to give an overall impression. Those story parts alone may slightly vary from literal truth.

There were times of happiness in our household I didn’t include. We children did play together sometimes, and had fun sometimes. Mommy and Mr. Jekyll acted almost like normal parents sometimes. We even had family jokes. I’ll post about some of the good times someday.

There were evils I didn’t include. One I mentioned in a comment response: Mommy Hyde stopped buying me clothes at age 16. Another: My first term at college, Mommy Hyde packed up and gave away everything I owned. (Macy Girl’s things were kept for years.) Yet another: Shortly after she sat by my side while I was diagnosed diabetic, Mommy Hyde showed up at my college dorm bearing gifts: A grocery bag full of candies, sugar cereals, and cookies.

Enough.
 
Part 6 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 5

As I grew, I tried to please her, but it was not possible to please an unhappy woman who resented her own children. And some more than others.

Black and White Face Blue Border

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

I surprised her one day.

I cleaned the entire house: Tub, showers, sinks, toilets, dusted (even below eye-level!), vaccuumed, washed floors…

A three-level four-bedroom house (plus dining, den, and finished basement). A lot of work for a pre-teen to do in a day. For anyone.

When she arrived home, my mom said nothing for hours. Until, finally: “You forgot to empty the trash in the downstairs bathroom.”

Being autistic, I didn’t learn from my experience. Years later, when mom went into the hospital for a week, I took over her duties thinking how pleased and surprised she would be. To my great pride, I performed like a pro.

I had never before cooked anything but macaroni and cheese, but I’d sat and watched her plenty of times. I simply did what I’d seen her do (autism ROCKS! :) ). I was delighted that every meal turned out perfectly.

The fried chicken was crisp and delicious, the pork chops were well-cooked but tender and tasty, the spaghetti’s meatballs were firm and yummy (if we’d had Josh then, he may have deigned to eat one or two along with his pasta). The laundry got done, the kitchen got cleaned.

When I was taken by my father to visit my mom at the hospital, what a feather in my cap to hear him describe what I had been doing, and sound pleased about it.

My face was still in mid-beam when my eyes turned to my mom, expecting to see her smiling at me. Instead, I saw daggers being thrown. She was furious!

I remember being surprised not only by her fury, but also that I could tell so exactly what she was thinking, because it was a very big thought for someone my age to realize (I think I was thirteen years old at that point):

“How dare you make my husband happy in my absence!?”

My memory tells me that when mom came home from hospital, she barely spoke to me or looked at me for some time as a result of my invasion of her wifely territory. But it is possible that she treated me no differently than she ever had. I may simply have had a new awareness of the everyday treatment she gave to her dimestore daughters.

***

Mom was an expert at bait-and-switch (the illegal practice when a store advertises an appealing item they know they do not have, only to offer you a cheaper item when you arrive).

I got all excited when it was my turn to become a Girl Scout. You start by becoming a “Brownie”. Mom took me for the uniform and took me to my first meeting at the elementary school a mile away. The next week, I donned my uniform and ran downstairs. I couldn’t wait to see my friends and sing the Brownie song. But mom wouldn’t take me that day. Nor ever again.

All the other girls in school went through Scouting. They learned knot-tying, orienteering, emergency skills, and songs that they sang when I was around. I didn’t know those things. I felt…

Mom didn’t work outside the home, and had her own car. She took Macy Girl (my older sister) to Brownie and Scout meetings.

I learned from Meg recently (my younger sister) that mom twisted her through the same Brownie-no-Brownie bit.

***

Beyond actions and inactions, Mommy Hyde’s real forte was her mouth. She excelled at making belittling comments.

She had demeaning nicknames for each one of her children, using them herself, and encouraging us to use them against each other. (Is it any wonder the four of us did not grow up the closest of siblings?) She referred to me as “Skinny Belink, the Boneyard Dancer”, and a phrase that meant “slob”. Her nickname for Paul referred to feces. She accused me, and even Macy Girl (!) several times of being sluts, before I had even kissed a boy.

Macy Girl WAS totally a slut, though. (Kidding. Couldn’t resist.)

One of Mommy Hyde’s favorite expressions she used with me was “For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, you sure are dumb.”

When I was two years old, Mommy Hyde and my male parent were told they should send me to a gifted school. They declined. When I was in 3rd grade, it was recommended I be skipped a grade. They declined. I am sure they felt they could better nurture my God-given potential through their own home enrichment program–illustrated partly by these posts.

I was embarrassed once to discover in mom’s old papers a letter sent by one of my former Art teachers commending my talent and work, and recommending me for special Art instruction. I’m sure he was disappointed that I never said “Thank you” to him for his (unknown) kindness.

***

What I hated more than anything else Mommy Hyde did was the yelling. She yelled at us so much.

How much? One of my friends back then called me four or five times a day for a while. He said one day “Every single time I call, your parents are yelling.” “No way”, said I. So we kept track.

He was right. And since his calls were random, that meant they yelled all day, every day.

Sometimes when mom yelled at us, we weren’t following her rules, but often we were. Her yelling was so very terrible to me. I hated, hated, hated it.

Two decades later, I found myself doing it with my own then-spouse and children.
 
Part 5 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 4

Like our father, but not as often, Mommy Hyde slapped me across the mouth when she didn’t like what I said or how I said it, and did so into my teen years.

But when I was a very little girl, she also sometimes hit me with a belt on my bare rear end–sometimes, the buckle end. And sometimes, she hit me with her mother’s beautiful metal hairbrush–even the stiff boar bristle side. I can tell you that it hurts a lot and turns your bottom very pink.

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

I used to pretend these hurt more than they did so that she wouldn’t swing harder. I thought that was smart.

I was afraid of the belt–not so much of the hairbrush–but given a choice (As if! Good one, Babe! :) ), I would have taken any hits to the bottom from objects if it would have ended the hits to my mouth from my parents’ fore- and backhands.

One time, mom sent Meg flying across the kitchen: WHACK! into the corner of the counter with her head. I could tell that scared her. (I don’t think she was scared because she was worried for Meg–she was scared she’d be in trouble.) Another time, my brother Paul was too fast for her. He ducked, and her speeding hand connected with the wall behind him. She screamed out and started crying.

It was the first time I had ever seen her cry. I was shaken. But more than that, I was ecstatic! SHE had gotten hurt! SHE, instead of Paul! How great was THAT!! I had to fight to hide the happiness and not jump up cheering.

My male parent, Warren, came running to comfort her. Neither one gave any of us a glance, or felt any shame that Mommy Hyde had been swinging so hard at a small child that when she missed it caused serious hurt to her wrist.

It turned out her wrist was sprained, poor thing. She had to wear a brace.

No guilt over “What if it had instead been little Paul’s neck?”

***

Mommy Hyde added her own twist to rinsing the mouth out with soap. With the water running, she stoppered the pink bathroom sink and held my face down under the water while she rubbed the soap against my teeth, forcing me to breathe in soapy water through my mouth and nose.

I still remember how very scared I was. I thought I was going to drown. I inhaled a lot of soapy water, and came up coughing and crying when she finally let me up.

***

When my bedsheets became bloody from my nighttime scratching in my sleep due to my allergic eczema, she made me carry them down to the basement laundry tub in the mornings and hand-scrub them in cold water using Lava soap (rough with ground-up pumice stone) to get the blood out—thus guaranteeing increased irritation of the skin on my hands, thus guaranteeing worse nights of eczema and scratching to come. I often bled fresh blood even while I was scrubbing away.

Mom, this was truly sick, sick behavior. Do you know how this made me feel? Let me tell you. I felt sad, and very small and helpless, and hopeless.

While I was scrubbing, standing on a chair, my hands would hurt and sting from the sores where new blood was coming out, and I would be crying, because I was sad, but also because I was mad at myself for scratching in my sleep and not being able to stop.

What a terrible thing to do to a young child.
 
Part 4 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 3


When my dimestore sister Meg and I were…oh, I don’t know how old, but maybe 6 and 7–we began getting terrible, terrible leg pains at night. So terrible that we cried and cried, and couldn’t go to sleep.

The pain was so bad that I would bicycle my legs on the mattress to make friction against the sheets, because the heat that was generated would distract me just the slightest bit from the nightmarish pain, and any distraction, no matter how tiny, was worth it. But then my legs would begin to hurt too much to move them, and I’d have to stop, until they hurt too much not to move them, so I’d start up again.

This is what I remember:

My mom coming to the door of the room Meg and I shared, and giving each of us one tiny orange St. Joseph’s aspirin for children, with a small sip of water to wash it down after we chewed it. Then, my mom walking out the door, leaving us behind to cry.

That’s all she did. If she did more, or said a sympathetic word, I don’t remember it.

This is also what I remember:

My dad coming in sometimes to rub our legs, which made the pain lessen while he was rubbing. It came back as soon as he stopped, but oh, the bliss of having that relief while he rubbed them!

I would look on impatiently in envious agony while Meg had her turn. I imagine she would do the same while I had mine.

Once, mom asked our pediatrician what was causing the pain. He said “Growing pains. Don’t worry about it. They’ll grow out of it.”

It took some years, but we did.

My first son also suffered from “growing pains”. I, being a parent who loved him, did everything I could. My hands had such awful lupus arthritis at times when my boys were young, and sometimes it hurt me so much at the end of the day to massage his legs and knees…but of course, I did it.

Since I had suffered myself, I knew the techniques and places that I had learned as an adult worked on me–under and around the kneecaps, especially–and they worked on him, as well.

With his doctor’s okay, I also gave him an anti-inflammatory at a dose appropriate to his weight. If he’d had a particular bad night, I gave him another the next morning, and one on days before he was going to be highly active, to ward off that night’s pains.

Because I knew now that what he had merely a brush of, and what Meg and I had suffered from, was juvenile arthritis.

A few years back, I was at my mom’s house, and saw for the first time a photo of her as a little girl. She was a highly-attractive four-year-old, with an older girl’s self-presence, very artfully posed.

“Mom! You were so beautiful! You look like an actress!”
“I remember that day. I hated it. The doctor had just left, and they made me get out of bed for that picture.”

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

What do you mean, ‘the doctor just left’? What was he there for?”
“For my treatments.”

“WHAT ‘treatments’?”
“He used to come to the house twice a week and give me my medicine for my legs. I had J.A.”

“MOM! You KNEW you had juvenile arthritis? You never said a thing when Meg and I were suffering when we were young!”

Dead silence from Mrs. Hyde.

Dear Mom: If you didn’t hate us both, someone outside the family might say you did a very good job of acting like you did.

(If Macy Girl had gotten leg cramps each night so bad they made her cry, would it have been the same?)
 
Episode 3 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 2


I was born ill, with a rash, and swollen face and eyelids. My eyes were a bit Asian to start with, so my mom figured me for “a Mongoloid baby!” as she put it then, or Downs syndrome. No such luck. Couldn’t rid herself of me that easily (for back then, upper-middle-class white women could, and sometimes magically did, rid themselves of such babies at the hospital).

Black and White Face

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

She was stuck with a sickly baby, and she never failed to resent it and me equally. Each time she talked about how I was sick as a child, the anger would rise in her all over again. How dare life saddle her with such unfairness?

I was allergic to all milks and formulas and all grains but rice. (Mom had chosen not to breastfeed me. Learned her lesson on that one, and breastfed my younger siblings!) Even after limiting my diet, I was still wheezy and rashy. That may be why they put me on toddler steroids. (Dumb question for any endocrinologists in the audience: Could that be why I’m so naturally buff today?)

I had my first trip to the E/R before the age of two, when I stopped breathing. Mom gave me mouth-to-mouth holding me with one hand while she dialed for the fire truck with the other. Our small town didn’t have an ambulance.

At my first celebrated birthday, age three, I couldn’t have a regular birthday cake. That would require regular wheat flour, eggs, baking powder (which has cornstarch)–all things I was deadly (literally) allergic to. So mom made me a cake-shaped mass by molding a cylinder out of Rice Krispie Treat goop.

According to her, I came into the room, took one look at that obviously-p#ss-poor substitute for a birthday cake, and angrily piped out (in my teeny toddler tones):

“Dat’s not a cake! And if dat’s not a cake, dis isn’t a birthday!”
and huffed out of the room.

My mom responded by deciding that she would never again throw me another birthday party. That sounds fair. One moment of toddler disappointment and tantrum repaid by a lifetime of parental spite.

My sisters and brother had parties at home, with mom-written invitations going out to their friends or classmates, but not I. I never questioned this, growing up. If you are raised as the lowest dog of the pack, you accept your place.
 
Not nice, but no death-camp, by any means.
 
Episode 2 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
ADDENDUM

The first time I realized that my not ever having a birthday party was not normal, I was eighteen, in my second semester of college. The marvelous Maria and I were sitting around the campus lounge eating subs with a couple of friends and the topic of birthdays came up. “What a coincidence,” said I. “It happens to be mine today.” In the conversation that followed, it came out about no parties, and my friends reacted with tremendous surprise, followed by pity and embarrassment for me. I sat there, overwhelmed by shame at their pity, and the sudden realization that the way I’d been treated hadn’t been normal. I struggled to hide that I was trying not to cry.

Then, Maria spilled her entire 16-ounce ice-cold bright-red Hawaiian Punch right down the crotch of my white pants. (They had to be white.)

When I left the bathroom after abandoning all hope of rescuing the pants or my dignity–I looked like I had both incontinence and the most fluorescent bladder infection ever–I came back to the table to find a birthday candle poking out of my sub sandwich and my friends singing “Happy Birthday”. Now realizing that Maria had spilled her punch on purpose in order to get me away so that she could scout up that candle, and wanting to wring her beautiful brown neck for this, I instead had to stand there with a pasted-on smile of pleasure while the icy red punch of loving friendship continued to drip down the insides of my thighs.

THAT was my first-ever birthday party. (It is still the only one I have ever had, but, based on the experience, I think one birthday party was enough :) )
 

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