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Scarred but not scared
When you grow up in a family of beautiful women and a beautiful mom at the helm of it, you definitely develop a complex, especially when you yourself, are not deemed so. Most of the adult figures in my life assured me I was ‘adorable’ and or ‘cute’ but that was of little comfort to me and for me when it came to my peers. I was often mistaken for a boy growing up, not just by my peers, although, they were the ones that taunted me with it. Making matters worse, teachers, and other adults often mistook me for a boy as well, giving my abusers/bullies even more ammunition with which to hurt me.
I recall being on the school bus and the bus driver decided to separate and seat the boys and girls, since quite often the less attractive or appealing looking students were often singled out-no one wanted to be seated next to ‘us.’ Unfortunately, she mistook me for a boy and seated me with the boys, even when I insisted and informed her I was in fact a girl. Only when the bus full of students began giggling and taunting me, did she realize her mistake, but by then, it was too late. This was nothing new to me of course, but it was extremely embarrassing each time it happened. I remember going into the girl’s bathroom and the noon-duty supervisor grabbing me by the arm and yanking me out. I thought I had done something wrong, but as it turned out, she had assumed I was a boy trying to sneak into the girl’s bathroom. The adults were always embarrassed and apologetic; most were anyway, but some would just laugh at their mistake, which only added to my humiliation.
Being a younger sibling, bullying was not exactly unfamiliar to me, but I assumed that over the years and or as time went on, and we matured, that the bullying would stop. I’d be wrong of course, for in my experience, certain members of my family, seemed to hone in on my sensitivity and viewing it as a weakness, exploited it. This is quite often the case with bullies, whether they are related or unrelated, they recognize and or sense vulnerability in others, target those individuals, and torment them, sometimes endlessly-relentlessly.
Confronting them is often pointless, for most bullies, at least in my experience, either deny they are bullies, or relish in the role of being a bully. Of course, when it comes or came to some family members, they do not/did not view what they say or do as bullying, but merely a means of ‘toughening’ me up. They excuse/mask their cruelty as ‘speaking their mind,’ ‘being honest,’ and or ‘voicing their opinion.’ Being that I was raised to respect my elders, I was not permitted to speak my mind or ‘disrespect’ them in any way, which left me indefensible.
Perhaps that is why when it came to the bullies I encountered outside my family, I was so intolerant, and began to physically fight back. I found myself fighting not only for myself, but also for my friends that were targeted by bullies, which led to my reputation of being a hard ass bitch, hence the nickname, ‘Rocky.’ The nickname seemed fitting and stuck with me over the years, but only perpetuated the stigma of being labeled as, ‘one of the boys.’ This unfortunately, was not exactly helpful when it came to pursuing relationships with boys. After all, not many boys are interested in dating or being with a girl that could kick their ass. Even if I couldn’t/wouldn’t have, I found that many boys were intimidated or turned off by it, and by me. I wound up being the girl many men/boys wanted to be with but not be seen with, which only perpetuated my insecurities further.
The bullying I encountered and endured from certain members of my family, my peers, in combination with the sexual abuse I suffered and endured, left me with very little, if any, self esteem. Not wanting to appear more vulnerable to others that deemed me weak, or might, I disguised my insecurities by using my fists and or by making or poking fun at myself.
This seemed to work, for the most part, that is until I learned my husband of almost 18 years was in fact gay. Suddenly, all the insecurities and pains of being bullied and abused resurfaced. Once again, I became the target of many jokes, I was a laughing stock, and for many, nothing more than a punch line. I found myself making jokes at my expense, laughing along with those that made cruel, hurtful, thoughtless, comments, in an effort to disguise my pain, just as I had when I was a child. I quickly learned to detach and put up walls just as I had done all my life-laughing on the outside as I desperately sought to hide the deep-rooted pain on the inside.
I realized that I had buried the pains of the past but had never really dealt with them, which is why they came back to haunt me. Obviously as an adult, I no longer use my fists as a means to defend myself, but instead use humor and sarcasm to mask my pain-anything so as not to deal with the reality of just how damaged I am/was. I fooled myself, convinced myself, that I had dealt with and buried my past and had moved on and or ‘got over it.’ When in fact, I had not; I had merely left myself open for further abuse. My inability to face the truth about the abuse I had incurred over the years left me even more vulnerable, and perhaps made me the perfect patsy for a gay man to hide behind. His lack of interest in me sexually was in my mind, due to my inferiorities, not his sexuality.
I had been with him since we were 15 years old, so he was well aware of my past abuse as well as my insecurities. In fact, during the course of our relationship in high school, we frequently broke up and got back together; one day he would be with me, and the next, he would act as though he did not even know me, something I had become accustomed to when it came to the opposite sex. My lack of self-esteem and or self-worth, made it easy for him and for other boys/men to mistreat me, take advantage of me, and toy with my emotions. There were many that couldn’t grasp what he saw in me, his family did not approve of me-his father, who upon meeting my younger sister, said he had married the wrong sister, and his mother said I was too ugly for him. Even some members of my own family couldn’t see what it was that he saw in me. Thus, when he asked me to marry him at the age of 19, I felt privileged, and while I knew, I may not have been as pretty as some of the girls/women he could have chosen, I took great pride in the fact that he had for whatever reason, chosen me.
Finding out he was gay after 23 years together, seemed for many, the perfect explanation for why he had in fact chosen someone like me. Many remarked that they ‘knew all along’ while others seemed almost pleased and or smug when they learned my marriage was a fraud, stating that they knew something was amiss-‘why else would a man as good looking as him have opted/chosen to be with someone like her.’ That he had chosen me over all others, made me feel special and the fact that women throughout the course of our relationship, would come onto him in front of me as though I were not even there or nonexistent never bothered me in the least, because he would dismiss their advances entirely. I took this as a sign that he saw in me something special that went beyond my appearance-for the first time in my life, I felt secure about my relationship and myself. I had a wonderful, devoted, husband, that loved me, and while our sex life may not have been as fulfilling as I would have liked, I never once questioned his love or fidelity. After all, he could have had any woman he wanted, and he chose me, that had to mean something…and it did, to me. Unfortunately, as it turned out, it did not mean or have the same meaning to him as it had to me-for me. That he lied/hid his sexuality was bad enough, but that coupled with the fact that he cheated on me with a male member of my family only further added to my pain and humiliation. That certain family members disowned me entirely, because of it, left me convinced that I was, as I had always feared, unworthy.
Perhaps my bullies/abusers are or were unaware of the damage they had inflicted or the extent of which their abuse had impacted and or affected my life, because I laughed or was laughing, in an effort to mask my true feelings. Whatever the reason or intention, the truth is, I used humor and sarcasm as a defense. Laughing and making jokes at my expense just seemed easier than coping and or dealing with the pain, and for me, laughing seemed to be a better alternative than crying. Besides, showing and or allowing my abusers/bullies the satisfaction of knowing they were hurting me and had hurt me would only make me appear or seem weaker, and weakness is/was something I could ill afford to show. After all, I was not known for my weaknesses-at least amongst my peers, my family on the other hand, has and may always view me as weak.
In my family, talking and or sharing my feelings about my past was/is viewed as dwelling or wanting others to feel sorry or take pity on me. They see/saw no sense in drudging up the past and were/are of the opinion that I should be over it, get over it, and move on, which is precisely what I have been trying to do. I am not seeking pity from them, from anyone; I am simply dealing, healing, and coping, in the only way I know how-my way. As for how they treat me, have treated me, and their treatment of me, in their minds, was not and is not bullying, it was merely their way/is their way of ‘toughening me up.’ Disowning me, being told to leave my dying father’s bedside so other members of my family could say goodbye, being told that my family had/have merely tolerated me for all these years, and that no one wants/wanted me around, admittedly, does have its way of ‘toughening’ one up.
I realize that by sharing my story and the pains of my past, I am quite possibly leaving myself open to even more scrutiny and abuse, after all, as I tell my friends, my story might be downright tragic, if it weren’t so damn funny…laughable. For I while I may have lost my husband, as well as any self-respect I may have had or have, I have not lost my sense of humor, or my ability to laugh at myself. I have made my peace and am far enough into my therapy/healing and am secure enough with who I am and with what has happened that it is hard not to see the humor in it all.
My intention however, in sharing my story, is done in the hope that others may find the strength to open up, share, and or talk about their own experiences and pain. My therapist encouraged me and assured/assures me that talking, sharing, and or writing about my experiences and pain, is not only healthy, but according to her, does not make me weak, but shows/proves just how strong I really am/was, because I lived through it and have overcome it.
I am hopeful, I am optimistic, about the future, and whatever lies ahead. I am moving forward, and looking forward, good or bad, to whatever life has in store. I know I have the strength and the faith to endure and overcome. Turns out there is still plenty of fight left in this old woman, figuratively speaking, of course. While I cannot say I always feel or felt strong, I can say I no longer see myself as weak, but I am only human after all, so I do have my moments. Nevertheless, I am no longer anyone’s victim-I do not fear my future because I have finally faced my past. I may be damaged, I may be scarred, but I’m not scared, I have my ‘big girl panties’ on now, and I am the strong, confident, woman, I was meant to become-time to separate the men from the boys, or in my case, time to separate the woman from the girl.