Boyfriends | Part 3 of 3
My father set out to attain one goal: to break my will. So did he? Back then I would have argued that he most certainly did NOT break my will! See how much spunk I still have in me? Just listen to the angry voices in my head! I might be sitting down on the outside, but I’M DEFINITELY STANDING UP ON THE INSIDE!
Was I standing up on the inside?
Based on Part 1 and Part 2, here are some results of my father’s strategies. I’m basing them on my junior high and high school years, age 9 through 16. What do you think? Did my father break my will or not?
- I go along with other people’s agendas for my life. It’s easier that way. Besides, the grass is probably parched on the other side of the fence.
- I’m passive in my dealings with boys and young men. Waiting for Mr. Right! Isn’t that what young women are supposed to do?
- I’m an über-responsible caretaker of others. The enabler, the helper—not the initiator or risk-taker. Clearly not my own caretaker, which would be selfish.
- Risk-taking? Definitely not for me. I don’t think there are any Good Girl Rules about risk-taking. I wouldn’t know what to do next.
- By the time I’m in junior high and high school I’m a docile, obedient, reliable conformist to rules even though they don’t always serve me well. The teachers love me and tell me so. A model student.
- I have weak or even nonexistent boundaries, even when my body is being misused or abused. Did you just say ‘boundaries’? What are they?
- I have no awareness that it is absolutely wrong for anyone to treat me like an object instead of a full human being. As though I were a plaything. A toy to make someone happy. This is confusing. Aren’t we girls supposed to be nice to boys and men? Take care of them? Make sure they’re happy? Daddy says we are.
- I have no voice about things directly related to me, and don’t even object when people make decisions without consulting me. I just roll with the punches. I’ve heard that’s a really good way to deal with difficult situations. A good life skill.
- I don’t make waves about anything; I just go along to get along with almost anyone in any situation. It would be rude to do anything else. Especially with authority figures.
- I have no dreams for my life except to get away from home. I actually run away on the inside. I ‘decide’ it’s too risky to run away on the outside.
- I care what people think about me more than I care about myself. Isn’t that what love is all about? You know. Not being selfish or self-centered or always focused on me, me, me.
- I don’t know how to say ‘No, I will not do that,’ or No, you will not do that.’ It doesn’t even enter my mind as an option. Except when doing ‘that’ would break one of the Good Girl Rules and get me in deep do-do with Daddy. But even then it’s tricky.
- My will isn’t broken! I still have one very active response that always works: numbing out. I can definitely will myself to numb out. In a heartbeat. Isn’t that great? It gets me through just about anything that makes me anxious, angry or disgusted.
Sadly, choosing to talk back to Daddy, Artie or Mrs. W aren’t options for me. It never even occurs to me that I might try that. Instead of speaking up and speaking out, I retreat into my head so my thoughts can make things OK when they are not. I have great faith in the power of my mind. My stomach doesn’t like it, but it will calm down. You’ll see.
I didn’t even have the will to break off with my army recruit ‘friend,’ much less to tell him the truth about why I was doing it. I’m ashamed of the way I behaved with him. But over time I’ll get over it. Isn’t that always the better way? Just let time heal all wounds. Sometimes they’ll fade away without even making a scar. It’s easy. You’ll forget him and he’ll forget you. Just try it. You’ll see.
Most of the time all of this felt perfectly normal. I wasn’t happy all the time, but who is? Things happen. They’ll pass. I have to admit, though, that sometimes my stomach believes what is happening to me isn’t normal. But I can’t be ruled by my stomach, can I?
Besides, if I complain about a stomach ache, Daddy will just tell me to get over it, and send me to my room without supper. I know because it happened. He said I was being a big baby and I’d better dry those tears while I’m in my room–or he’ll give me something to really cry about. It’s hard to numb out a stomach ache. Stomach aches are normal, too. It will pass.
So what went wrong?
Many things. Yet they all lead back to or are dependent upon my father’s strategies for me. I know that some of his strategies did NOT work for me. In fact, they worked against me. Actively against me. They rewired me in ways that messed me up, especially in my sexuality and the way I related to men.
- None of the Good Girl Rules prepares me to relate in principled ways with boys, girls, men or women
- Rituals of Submission do not prepare me to deal with authority figures or my sexuality
- The air I breathed does not prepare me to deal with my sexuality, much less that of boys or men
I was groomed to be a victim–which could only succeed if my will was broken, no matter what my father intended or did not intend for me. By the time I met The Shopkeeper at age 9 1/2, I was already just what he was looking for. I was not ready to deal with male predators. I was needy. I didn’t have a safe place for conversations with safe adults about life. Including life at home.
Here’s something I hadn’t expected to see when I wrote Part 1 of Boyfriends. My one and only designated boyfriend, Artie, at age 9 or 10, was also being groomed—perhaps to be a predator. His 7th-grade fascination with art books of nude women and with sketching them may have been an early warning sign. A sign that his young male mind may have already been imprinted and was being rewired for addiction to pornography, commercial sex or some other sexual addiction.
As for me, early warning signs show up in me by age 7. When I graduate from high school and leave home for college, my father’s curriculum comes to halt. Not because everything reverts to ‘normal,’ but because I’ve internalized enough of his plan for my life that I can carry on all by myself. As though I were a healthy young adult woman, ready to ‘meet the world’ as they say.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2014