One of my great joys as a child was twirling around in my Sunday dresses.
Especially if I was wearing ruffle-butt underwear.
(It just seemed to add to the “yee haw!” of the moment, you know?)
As I felt the wind whoosh my layers of taffeta and chiffon up around me in a twirling umbrella shape, I thought that, surely, EVERYONE thought that I was as wonderful as I felt in those moments.
I was wrong.
When I was little there was only one family on the street with a son my age, and the mom was the Primary President in our church.
And she did not like me.
Or any of my family, really.
We always played outside.
When I was finally invited over to his house to play, I was so excited. I remember putting on my favorite pink shirt and I went out and picked a bunch of lilacs off of our lilac bush and tied it with one of my hair ribbons to give to the mom as a present to say “thank you so much” for finally letting me come over to play with my friend. I remember standing there excitedly waiting for some comment of approval but she said nothing.
She left the flowers on the porch when we went inside. As an adult I realize they hit the trash the second I was downstairs but as a little kid, I shrugged it off and went on my blissfully ignorant way.
We had a BLAST playing and playing and playing.
Then I went home.
A few days later, I went back to play and my friend told me his mom was mad that I didn’t clean up the playroom before I left and that because of that I was never allowed back in the house again.
And I never was.
If we were running around outside in a group, they would go in to get drinks, but everyone knew I wasn’t allowed so I stayed outside.
We lived on that street until I went to college and I never stepped foot in that house again.
All these years later I remember the feeling when he told me that I was never allowed in his house again. I stood there with my head down, face burning as I concentrated hard on the grimy edge of a Sesame Street bandage on my knee so that I wouldn’t cry in front of him.
I remember the feelings of shame and embarrassment of her judging me and finding me lacking. And I remember my feelings of confusion the next Sunday I had to sit right in front of her and watch her leading us in Primary. She was the Primary Presdient so she was a good person, right? If she never wanted me in her house again…what was I?
I wanted to crawl into the biggest, darkest hole I could find.
I just wanted her to like me.
But it is very similar to my realizations about my Grandmother Bernice (rhymes with “furnace”).
She loved me in her perfunctory way, but that is not the same thing. (And my family was Mormon, which meant I would never be acceptable.)
She did not like me, either.
Kids can tell when an adult likes them or they don’t.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. I was a charming, lovely little girl and I tried my best to twirl, laugh, sing, tell funny stories and smile to get her affection.
I wanted her to like me.
It didn’t work.
My teen and college age came, along with boys, and hurt and damage, and weight problems (being morbidly obese as a young person can really screw with your head for a long time, people) and flat out CRAZY, and shame and loss. Those were not easy years. Not easy at all.
And again and again I kept trying to get approval from people that either wouldn’t or couldn’t give it to me.
It has created so many tears and holes all over me that I am still putting them back together.
And I am a shitty seamstress, y’all.
It seems to me, that this pattern kept repeating on one level or another with different people, even though I am a card-carrying adult now. I twirl and twirl for the one person in the room that who just isn’t buying what I am selling.
Getting that particular approval is so important.
The harder the rejection, the harder I try to get the gold star. 100 people can give me a nod and a thumbs up and I will still scan the room still looking for the one nod that means more than all of them put together.
And often it just doesn’t come.
Do not get me wrong, there is so much in my childhood, teen years and grown up life that was and is fabulous.
I have done so many amazing and wonderful things in my life.
Things I never in a million years dreamed I would.
I totally cop to the fact that can and do create quite the number of messes in my life, but…I am capable of truly magical things.
If you don’t know me well, you’ll probably just have to take my word for this, but it’s true.
Unbelievable things can (and do) happen around me, dudes.
And over all?
I didn’t turn out so bad. :)
While it has gotten better over the years, and mainly bites just me in the ass with people I have long history with, I carry around this damage with me that I seem to have great difficulty shaking.
Which is frustrating for me because most of the time I truly feel like I’ve let it all go and moved on.
I’ll think it’s dealt with and everything can be fine, dandy, and I will be working things through like an adult (most of the time) and then BAM! My face will start burning and I feel all that old shame and embarrassment and god-awful rejection and I feel right back at square one.
It’s a tired dance–one I am throughly sick of.
I’m too old for this bullshit, frankly.
I’m 36, not in ruffle-butt underwear. (Well, mostly. :) )
So, here I sit, feeling a little pathetic writing these less-than-flattering things, but I need to be honest with myself because I hate getting whacked over the head by my past. (Correction: I hate that getting whacked over the head by my past can still hurt me significantly.) Change never comes by glossing over or lying to yourself, you know?
I don’t want to CARE if someone gives me a pat, a hug, a thumbs up.
I don’t want it to matter if someone gives me approval.
I want to like and love them simply because I do.
I want to leave the little girl twirling on the playground with a grubby bunch of lilacs in her hand behind me.
And twirl just because I like it.