A child who is not loved by her parents will always assume herself to be unlovable rather than see the parents as deficient in their capacity of love. –Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
My sense of not belonging to my family continues to grow. From puberty to when I leave home at age nineteen, whenever Mother gets frustrated with me, she says, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be like everyone else?” So many incidents rattle her sensibilities and evoke her chant that it’s hard to remember them all. At the time, I don’t understand what she means. I think of myself as a good girl. I am obedient, do my chores, work hard in school, and never talk back.
My feelings of not belonging are reinforced by my father. I have clear memories, before I reached puberty, of trying to crawl onto his lap and being pushed away, not with malice, but definitely rejecting. Unlovable. If I close my eyes, I can still see him sitting in his chair, feet propped up on the footstool, even smell the smoke from his cigarette smoldering in the ashtray on the end table, mingled with the faint odor of beer.
Later, when I would ask Mother if I could do something, go somewhere, buy an item, she’d say, “Go ask your dad.” This was her always-thwarted attempt at drawing him into the parenting role, because each time I’d ask him, he responded with a resounding “No.”
“But why, Daddy?”
“Because I say so, that’s why.” My needs, requests, wishes—all—not wanted.
Over and over, I think, and sometimes say, “Excuse me for taking up space,” or “Pardon me for living,” turning my existence into a walking cliché.
What I’ve come to realize is that:
- My mother lived in an era when girls didn’t have many choices, especially farm girls without goals or aspirations. I don’t think she saw me as a threat, but rather, a reminder of what was unattainable for her.
- My father wasn’t rejecting me but rather the feminine. He’d had a cold mother, a wife who nagged him, and a daughter who wanted something he couldn’t give.
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Stay tuned. Next episode: “Unchurched.”