Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Too much for a comment box

So many posts are bouncing around my mind, clamouring to get out. The loudest, at the moment, is this, inspired by Mad's post. I knew it would be too long for just a comment at her place. So go read her post, because my stream of consciousness, rambling post will likely only make sense in light of hers.

I was first going to comment about my grandma, not the one I wrote about in October, but the one who is still alive and ice-skating and travelling and dancing and telling dirty jokes; my father's (step)mother, Grandma Helen.

I never liked her when I was a kid. She was mean and critical. She'd tell me to stop being a baby and sucking my thumb. I think she used to hide the blanket I sucked my thumb with and the bottle I had until I was something like four (yowsers oral fixation or what?). I don't remember ever hearing a kind word come out of her mouth.

I was quite ecstatic when my parents told me that I had another grandmother (Jo) when I was seven, even though she was sick and dying. (My father's parents married too young, and his mother had an affair while his father was stationed overseas during WWII. The army got involved in their divorce for some reason, and declared her an unfit mother, so my father lived with his grandmother until his father remarried. Does it matter that the Jo went on to marry the man she had an affair with and have four kids with him and was still married to him when she died? Grandma Jo's death, a short time after I first met her, sparked my first exploration of agnosticism and atheism. I had prayed for her to be well so we could do proper grandmotherly things together like I did with my Grandma Ruth. Although my mom tried to say my prayers were answered because she was no longer suffering, I disagreed heartily. No, I told my mom, I quite clearly prayed for her to live. I didn't really care about her suffering.)

More recently, I have gotten to know Grandma Helen as a person, adult to adult. And she has said kind words, or so I've heard from my mom. I laughed when, at my sister's wedding seven years ago (the first time I introduced Sugar Daddy to my entire family after dating for only a few weeks), she yelled at me, "Get that fag outta your mouth!" and later, as I drank my beer, "What are you doing drinking from the bottle? That's not ladylike at all. You'll lose your boyfriend if you keep that up." And the next day when she criticized my ripped, falling-apart, very-loved jeans, "your boyfriend's better dressed than you are. You better smarten up or you'll lose him."

Since I have gotten to know and love her, I have discovered that her life was far from easy. Not that she's shared details, but I have gotten the sense that she was a chubby girl and teen, and has held herself to strict dietary standards. The harsh light she shines on everybody else, shines even harsher on herself.

I was a chubby teen, although I don't think I was a particularly chubby child. My brother called me fat over one summer, probably the summer of puberty. He doesn't remember but I do. And I think it was after that, that I actually got fat. I wanted to say I was a chubby quiet child, but that's not strictly true. I believe I was quite precocious around the ages of 6 and 7. I remember seeing new people move into a house down the street, and the next day I just marched up to that house, knocked on the door, and asked if they had any kids my age. They did and we had a lot of fun together before I moved away.

It was when we moved in grade four that I think I got quiet. The kids teased me and I went home crying every day for three months. One day in grade five, a girl gave me a note that said, "Don't tell anyone but I like you," and I was over the moon. It didn't bother me that she didn't want anyone else to know. It didn't matter. Somebody liked me!! And I'm proud to say that I kept her secret. Grade six got a little easier, and grade seven easier still when we all went to a senior public school and I met five girls who were all as horse crazy as I was.

Puberty was hard, as I think it is for everyone. In grade ten I put on a lot of weight, which I think I lost in grade 11 after some pretty serious depression (of course Sugar Daddy says that's just adolescence, not a clinical depression). I got my first boyfriend in grade 12 and gradually started coming out of the shell that I'd been in for years. I really hit my stride in university, and became more of the person I believe I was meant to be: confident, outgoing, friendly... precocious. That said, I have never really considered myself all that feminine or demure, until I read Mad's definitions.

I have a very strong dignity/shame threshold which might not pass for demureness, but which often feels like it when I find myself in unfortunate or embarrassing situations. My husband knew he wasn't getting a shrinking violet but he also saw all those girly vulnerabilities that tend to only come out in romantic relationships.

Now that I can relate to. In those ways, I am very much feminine and demure


Mad Hatter said...

Thanks for this, Sin. Yours is a very moving post. Yes, I can relate to the critical relatives and to this day I don't understand how they couldn't see the impact that their comments would have on a young girl. I also have a brother (3 actually). The one in question is 2 1/2 years older than I am and he was ruthless in his teasing about my weight. He mostly called me Lardo.

I was fortunate in that I was raised in a single, stable, and mostly accepting community. I had read your post a while back about the bullying you suffered when you moved as a kid and it broke my heart. It cracked again tonight when you wrote about that girl giving you that note.

Beck said...

Good post! I was a skeletally skinny kid, and that wasn't fun either - I can really relate to the teasing that you talked about. My oldest daughter, just to make things confusing, is a very popular kid and I'm shocked by how ambivalent I am about that. I talk to her a LOT about being nice to other kids, and I hope that it sinks in.