As I grew up, I learned of a concept that’s probably not at all foreign, or new. In life, there’s a lot of things we see, live through and experience that while, yeah, that happened, we just don’t talk about it. Sometimes we have a good reason, other times we make up a reason and label it “good” but is it really? Who can say? Who should say? The thing is, most times, not talking about it only reinforces the design of the cage. Staying silent doesn’t break it, it doesn’t open it, and one day, someone else will have to live it long after we’re gone.
I think the best example I can use for this would be my father.
I don’t really have a relationship with him anymore. I drew the line, set that cage on fire and buried it the day he decided to shove me against the kitchen counter, but before that day? Oh, I would try to cover his behavior with a multitude of reasons and excuses, some of which had validity, or I thought they did at that point in time until a very good friend told me the following:
Blood is thicker than water, so is motor oil, and if you wouldn’t let a truck run you over, why would you let your bloodkin?
The sad thing is, what made my father the way he was, and maybe still is, is the fact that he never talked about how toxic his father was. No one did. It was the thing very few talked about (and I would only find out way later in life).
You see, my grandfather was a misogynistic asshat. The one story that will always stay with me is the story of my grandfather’s day at the beach with his mistress, and how my grandmother had decided to take her kids to the beach (without knowing that’s where my grandfather was – with his mistress). The moment all of it clicked into place (well, kind of hard to deny what’s right in front of you), my grandmother ran home because she knew my grandfather was about to unleash both emotional and physical abuse on her due to her having interrupted his day at the beach – with his fucking mistress.
That’s the kind of thing my father would have to witness and, in his opinion, that’s what should happen.
I realize some people may be able to see the behavior of their parents and go, “Nope, nooope, I’ll be the one to travel a different path, thank you,” but, raised in the small town that he was raised in, in an overall patriarchal society, well, I wonder if he ever realized a different path was possible. Maybe he didn’t want to. Maybe he didn’t talk about it or deemed it a regular occurrence because no one told him differently.
That’s often what can happen with things you don’t talk about.
I was extremely lucky to not be raised under his roof (and my mother was extremely lucky that he decided to let her go before I was even born), but I would visit every other weekend. My mom tried to do the right thing by never saying a single bad thing about him – she wanted me to form my own opinion – and in a way, I’m grateful, because as a kid, if you told me something was bad, I would see it as a reason to try and find out if it was bad, why it was bad, and why you think it’s bad (…kind of one of those “don’t jump” followed by me going, “WEEEEEEE” scenarios).
And I did form my own opinions. The more I saw, heard and experienced his small-minded mentality, the more I could see (and recognize) the path I didn’t want to walk on.
When he’d ask, “Am I right or am I right?” I’d have the balls to do what no one in his family had the balls to do, “Neither, ’cause you’re not giving me the option I want.” I paved my own path. To which he’d often respond, “You’re just like your mother.” (Which, duh, I took as a compliment.)
And I did talk about it, to close friends and my mom, mostly. Mom would help me think for myself or guide me as best she could. Whenever I encountered a situation, she’d tell me a story, as a way to explain why that was done and let me shape my own opinion. My mom is often good at not telling you what to do but instead telling you what things look like (she’s also the champion of doing things that people tell her not to do – who do you think I get it from?)
Fun fact: mom hated one of my then boyfriends because he reminded her of my father. She didn’t tell me this until I made the assessment on my own and closed that door. She didn’t tell me because she knew I would only see it as the opposite.
And yes, I was a typical teenager. I commend my mother for not throwing me out of a moving vehicle when she had the chance. You only think I’m kidding. That actually happened.
The car we had was pretty beat up. It was not fancy or had auto lock and I would sometimes forget to lock it. I lean on the car door a lot when I’m in the passenger seat. I leaned strongly and the door opened and the seatbelt held me somewhat in but not all the way. Mom’s arm reached out for my shirt and grabbed me. And there’s more than one incident like that because I am, no joke, accident prone. And I’m invisible so even someone backing out of a parking spot has the tendency to hit (nudge? At that speed, it’s kind of like a nudge) me.
But back on topic, talking about the unpleasantness, not just about my father, but life overall, it helped me realize when enough was enough, that it wasn’t right, that emotional abuse was just as bad as physical abuse. I bore the emotional abuse from my father for as long as I could in the hope that, one day, he would change.
Sadly, that never happened, and as I said, the day the abuse got physical, I made a choice. It’s a choice that brought me a lot of pain, probably brought him pain, too, because I don’t think he realized he could lose someone so completely, someone who had overlooked so much and borne previous pains and always came back.
That day, I didn’t come back, and still haven’t, and if I had…I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it would’ve gotten worse.
Talking about things, however painful or personal, helps you realize one of two things: is this something I can survive and overcome, or is this something that needs to be dealt with, in whatever manner is appropriate at the time? It’s a choice only you can make, but the best part about it…you don’t have to do it alone.
I know I didn’t. My mom was there every step of the way and the times I would tell her that certain things happened, you bet your ass she turned that car around and gave him what for. Amusingly enough, the only women I think my father is scared of is my grandmother and my mother. My mother almost hit him with a baseball bat after he threatened to attack her and my grandmother actually slapped him after she witnessed him mistreating my mom (fun fact: grandma is not tall. Grandma went to go get something to stand on JUST so she could slap him). I come from a long line of “wait, you think you’re going to do WHAT to me? HA” women.
You don’t fuck with my mum (or my grandma). And I like to think I’m better for it. I sure as heck don’t get pushed around or treated like I’m an idiot because of my gender so, yeah, good riddance for that. (I’m pretty sure I have dumb blonde moments but this has nooothing to do with my gender, or my hair for that matter.)
And let it be known, my father? He believed I’d grow up to become a prostitute because my mom opted to raise me on her own because, in his mind, a woman that isn’t dependent on a man can be only that.
That’s the man I made excuses for, empathized with, tried to see the good in – all because of how much I ignored the things I saw and heard, how I tried to cover it all up, but talking about it…sometimes just writing it down instead of saying it out loud…every little bit helps.