Well, I don't always have a "usual" kind of post. But I do "usually" post about canning or gardening or thrifting or being frugal. Or if not about that, it is about the kids and what we have been doing lately. This is NOT going to be any of those kind of posts.
This post is going to be about Me. I guess it sort of relates to my oldest daughter - who is going into middle school. Between that and a good friend posting lately about memories of the past from the city we both grew up in, I've been thinking about this a lot in the past month or so.
I will also warn you that, while this post isn't graphic or descriptive, it is of a very sensitive nature, and if you don't want to read any more, I won't be offended. At all.
I was born in 1966, and was a child of the 70s. But I didn't really notice it was the 70s. We were just kids doing things that kids have been doing forever. We just happened to be wearing a lot of plaid while we were doing it.
I was born in Michigan, and then spent a few years in Illinois, but moved to a large-ish city in Nebraska when I was young. When I was 11, everything started to change.
First, when I was 11 and when my dad was just 38, he had a major heart attack. By all accounts, he shouldn't have survived. Then, my parents decided to move across town. They wanted to have a bigger house with a bigger yard, and they wanted to have us go to junior high and high school at the "new" school (which is funny, since that school is now almost 50 years. I'm SO old.)
So in November of my sixth grade year, while my dad was still recovering from his heart attack, we moved across town. I had one friend from church that was at the new elementary school and so it just sort of naturally happened that I started to be friends with those kids too.
And then it started. It was just such a little thing at first. There were six of us girls and 3 boys in this "group." We had most of our classes together and we always spent all of recess together. We would hang out at each others houses. Just stuff that all 6th grade friends do. And then the boys started chasing us in the halls and trying to kick us in the shins. I told my mom about it and she smiled and said "Sometimes boys do silly things because they like you but they don't know how to actually say it."
[I, in NO way, blame either of my parents for anything that happened during my teenage years. One thing I've learned as a parent is that you do the best you can with the information that you have. And I have great parents who would have done anything to help me. If I have ever said anything about what happened after this.]
OK, so I had bruised shins. No big deal, really. And then the boys started taking one of the girls and kind of throwing/pushing her into the boys bathroom. Again, not that big of deal. Kids just being kids sort of thing.
And then we went to Jr. High.
And we picked up another couple guys to the group. And things calmed down for awhile. I mean, it wouldn't be "cool" for a 7th grader to be kicking a girl in the shins to show her that you liked her.
And then, in 8th grade, things started up again. Except it wasn't kicking. And it wasn't just shoving a girl into the boys bathroom. It involved one, two, three of the guys grabbing one of the girls and getting her into the bathroom. At first it was kind of a game. But then after a little while, it wasn't enough to just grab a girl and drag her into the bathroom and scare her a little. One of the boys would try and kiss you. And then it got to the point that they would turn off the lights and see if they could try and do a little more than kiss.
And so, at this point, I am sure you are thinking "So why didn't you/somebody tell SOMEONE? A teacher. A parent. Somebody."
OK, first of all, I was embarrassed. Second of all, I was afraid if I told somebody, that things would get worse. But the truth, the awful truth, was that I didn't say anything because I was afraid if I did, I wouldn't have any friends. And in 8th grade, I couldn't fathom that thought.
And then, suddenly, it stopped. And everybody started pairing off. And my friend from church, who hadn't been involved with the group for most of that year anyway, really truly left the group. I wasn't really interested in any of the guys in the group and so I started liking a couple boys from church. Things were almost "normal" again.
And then it was 9th grade. One of the boys in the group self-appointed himself as the "leader" of the group. He would decide what we could/couldn't do, who we could/couldn't talk to, what we could/couldn't wear. We, obviously, became very isolated from everyone else in our school. I had a boyfriend who went to a different school and he knew nothing of what most of my life was like. But he was the one who helped me get through the year and gave me a place to feel "normal." And then over the summer, he broke up with me.
10th grade started, and I had been "selected" to be the "leader's" girlfriend. I didn't really think he was cute or anything and I really didn't want to go out with him. I also knew that he would rather be going out with one of the other girls in the group. But I had NO self esteem either and he knew that my boyfriend had just broke up with me and that I would probably say Yes. And I did.
It was great. Really. For about a week. He told me how pretty I was. He told me that he loved me. He told me that he trusted me like no one before. And then he started hitting me. And calling me names. And telling me how he wished that he had picked someone else to go out with, but she was going out with one of the other guys. He would tell me that I was such a little girl because I only wanted to kiss him.
And why didn't I tell someone?? Same reasons as before, except now, I was even deeper in feeling so isolated and I couldn't see my way out. And I was even more embarrassed. And I felt like if I told my parents, or somebody from church, they would think that I was some awful person. And that he was physically abusing me never even came to my mind. That was stuff that happened to like, adult women. I was just a 15 year old girl.
And then one night, I had my friend - the one the leader wanted to go out with - over to my house. And then, he showed up, and her boyfriend from the group, showed up. We snuck out of the house and met them in my backyard. My very large, very dark backyard. They called to us from a far corner of the backyard, and things went very, very wrong.
He broke up with me shortly thereafter. And I started my eating disorder shortly thereafter. A month later, the leader and two other boys left the group. The rest of us limped along as friends the next year and a half but we weren't nearly as close. I got back together with my boyfriend. And I graduated from high school. And moved far away to go to college.
That boyfriend, by the way, is The Boy. And if you've read my blog for awhile, or know me, you also know that two weeks into my freshman year, he died.
So as my oldest child starts junior high next week, I have to do my best to not project all my fear onto her. I have tried my best to teach her to be her own person and not follow her friends if it seems wrong. I've tried my best to let her know that she can tell me anything and I will help her. I've tried to teach her that sometimes hormones and immaturity make you confused and that you may find yourself in situations that you don't know what to do, but that there are people that she can go to to help her. I've tried to help her learn to have bunches of different kinds of friends. I've also tried to teach her that it is o.k. to be alone sometimes too. I've also taught her that it is NEVER o.k. for someone make you feel bad for not doing things physically that you don't want to do. And it is NEVER o.k. for someone to hurt you in any of the ways that I and my friends were.
But still, as I sit here, 33 years after I moved across town, 33 years after I started sixth grade, 33 years later, still, I so wish that I could change, something, anything, so that all that bad stuff never would have happened. And I sit here, really, really, wishing that someone could promise me that nothing will ever happen like that to any of my children.
Postcards from Pennsylvania
23 hours ago