Someone threw me for a loop recently. I showed them my baby book. It’s filled with all the minutia of my least interesting years, zero-two. It lists who came to visit me at the hospital and what they brought as gifts (no gold or myrrh or frankincense). It catalogs the date of every baby tooth that came in. It holds a lock of my hair from my first haircut (my hair was medium brown, in case you were wondering).
The person I showed the album to said that it helped him realize just how much my mother loved me. It was all her doing.
“Yeah, I said. I just wish it had been enough.” It sounded ungrateful, even to me. I started to wonder what kind of a shitty specimen I was to say that. Of course, she loved me. Of course, she loved me. No, of course! Right?
I’ve racked myself for an answer and all I can say at this point is, I don’t know.
I found this picture on my laptop just now.
I’m five in this picture. You see the beautiful dress and elaborate costume details. You say, “Wow, that mother really went all out for her daughter!”
I’m here to tell you it looks like love from the outside, but there was no love to this costume. And none of that is for my benefit.
First of all, I acknowledge how cute the costume is. I look absolutely darling. I would wear that costume today…for maybe an hour. But I remember how I felt and that was miserable. My ears and hands are completely covered. My nose is covered in paint. That means that I couldn’t scratch my nose or hear well and my hands were probably sweaty. I’m wearing adult eyelashes glued to my eyelids. I can’t ask you to imagine how horrible they felt, but I can tell you that Jim Carey had to be trained by a Navy Seal to deal with the pain of wearing contacts in The Grinch. It was that level of uncomfortableness.
Second of all, my mother didn’t care. I could have registered my reservations and complaints and she would have told me to shut up. By the age of five, I probably knew better than to say anything.
Third, any picture of me as a child wearing makeup marks an event that was preceded with my mother applying the makeup and threatening me about messing it up or making it more difficult for her to apply. Any picture of me as a child in makeup or a costume or hairdo involved threats, comments about my weight or other inadequacies and sometimes actual violence. She will deny this. She will tell you I am a liar. I will tell you that as a child I had a red resin Hello Kitty Brush with white bristles that was used as a weapon one out of three times my hair was combed with it. Later it was a purple and clear Goody brush with black bristles. I remember everything. I keep receipts.
That’s the only way you get a five-year old child to go out in a costume with painful eyelashes, itchy makeup, oversized white gloves and come back pristine. I became a model child because I was so terrified of my mother.
None of it was for me. I was just the vehicle for her to show off. I see how people could think it was love from the outside. But I wish someone could have seen me and rescued me. I was so trapped and scared and alone.
I’m ok. Really, I am. But the damage done in those early years is so deep inside of me that surgeons wouldn’t dare extract it for fear of taking every part of my soul with it. They are so intertwined that, at times, I don’t know which is which…or, maybe, they’re the same thing. And sometimes I fear that I will be consumed by it and everyone around me will see the evil that’s inside of me. Because there was no room for anything else.