Secrets II: The View from Outside

I have often wondered, just what my family and I looked like from the outside. I think I know. Then again, I thought I knew all those years ago, and then I found new information that changed my perceptions.

To the outside, from the right distance, my family seemed perfect to other people. My parents were in their first marriage. They were a middle-middle class family with a modest, but nice house, kept immaculately clean. They had one son, who was a good academic performer. The whole family went to church every week. The father has a nice, stable factory job, as did the mother. They weren't rich, but they clearly prioritized their son, and sent him to the best private school in the area.

My mother one random day in the grocery store, when I was 14, told me that my godmother, my mother's best-friend and the mother of a friend of mine, thought I was mean and selfish. This kind of hit me like a ton of bricks because I've never heard any opinions about me from her. Good or bad. This revelation was also apropos nothing.

I suppose I had become a little numb to criticism from my parents. It was expected, old hat. This was the first time I heard an over-all judgement of my person from someone who had known me my whole life. This was not a judgement on something I did, this was an assessment of who I was as a person. I hadn't even realized people even think about me. I felt and still do, largely invisible. Within a few weeks of learning this, I learned something else.

One classmate told me that his mom said he shouldn't hang around me. And then another classmate chimed in saying his mom had told him the same. And then a third said yeah, my mom too. To my classmates' credit, none of them avoided me, thanks guys. What was weird, was I had only met their parents in the briefest of passing. I didn't know them. They didn't know me. How could they pass judgement? I think it was a mix of naivete on my classmates' parts, relating stories of my shenanigans not realizing (or perhaps not caring) how that'll shape their parents' opinions of me. By middle school, I had been abused enough to know not to discuss my day-to-day with my parents; no need to give them fodder with which to judge or otherwise turn against me. And I also think it was sample bias--parents only saw me being caustically sarcastic, mocking the ridiculousness that is middle school. I was the stick-in-the-mud who had to ruin everyone else's fun.

And honestly, I was kind of an unrepentant asshole back then. I still hadn't figured out the whole, projecting the same abuse I received onto others thing. At the time, I didn't see it that way. I couldn't see it that way. As a parent now, I can see quite clearly how I and other parents, from a place of ignorance, would judge the seemingly arrogant and ill-tempered behavior of a malcontent tween. The kid who tears down everyone around, probably knows nothing but destructive words.

I speak the language of pain because it's my native tongue.

I did have one teacher, when I was around ten-years-old, pull me aside and check in on me. She asked if I were okay. I seemed to be having trouble. My training kicked in. I was trained that family-stuff is not for outsiders. Family business does not need to be broadcast around the community. So, I told a believable lie. I made up some great excuses. And she never checked back in.

But I have to say, to this day, I still value, that she even tried. I wish she had pried more, actually. She was a very caring person and I absolutely believe she always had the best interests of her students at heart. I wish others had tried, had made it clear that I wasn't alone, had made me feel like my struggle didn't have to be in isolation.

Once I was the same size as my mother, the physical abuse greatly tapered off. But so did interactions with my mother in general. I was largely ignored and in general was only noticed when I did something wrong. Yes, this is preferable to outright abuse, but also, it sucks to lose your mom. I'm so torn about it. I feel like my parents largely left me to my own devices. I feel like things could've been so much worse if they actually tried to be better parents. Because neither of them had the skills or experience to make for good parents; they blundered and bludgeoned their way through raising me pre-adolescence and then ignored me post-adolescence.

It was made abundantly clear to me, one of the worst possible things I could do is embarrass my parents. This reinforced my "be invisible" tactic. What actually happened didn't matter; only outsiders' perception of it. This mirrored my own experience at home. What I felt and wanted didn't matter, only how I acted and reacted. Despite my inability to see the obvious regarding the nature of my family, somethings were always clear. People would comment on how nice or friendly my mother was and I would marvel at their mis-perception. I got to see her being all smiles and friendly to their faces, and once they were gone, she would proceed to shit-talk them for hours afterwards. For the most inconsequential things, too.

When I was in second grade, I learned that my mother was a teacher in her homeland. She had taught second grade in the Philippines. Even at eight-years-old, I realized that sounded terrible. I distinctly remember thinking, "she's terrible with children, that must've been awful." Yet I couldn't apply that to myself. I couldn't see that she was terrible with me and that that was wrong. If I recall correctly, she quit because she couldn't handle the job.

Everything about my family seemed okay from the outside. My depression and moodiness leaked outward to my parents chagrin. They just blamed it on being a teenager. They didn't like it but only made the most pathetic attempts to deal with it.

When I was in 7th or 8th grade overheard a conversation between my father and my grandfather. My grandfather wanted me to date Nicole, the daughter of his proctologist (she and I were classmates). Or something like that. It may have been more wondering why I wasn't pursuing her. My father said he didn't think I was interested in girls yet. Talk about naive--I'd been interested in girls since basically forever. I definitely remember crushing on classmates in kindergarten. Just further proof of my parents not having a clue about my inner-world. As to why I wasn't interested in Nicole, she was an insufferable goody-goody who had a long history of tattling on me. I did not find her physically attractive and I'm sure she had nothing nice to say about me either.