“You’re honest to a fault,” my father always used to tell me. Then he’d sit me down for one of his long-winded speeches, and pontificate ad nauseum about the many and varied circumstances that make lying the most respectable option available. “For example,” he said. “You always want to lie when you don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings,” followed by a very long story. Just so you know, I intentionally recorded my father’s words exactly. I didn’t edit the circular logic, or the redundancy. Both my parents learned, probably from my infancy, that the more words they were able cram into a sentence, the easier it was to confuse me. Since I needed to find my way in the world, somehow, I got very good a squeezing the essence out of the mass. So, for those of you accustomed to normal communication, I’ll translate my parents’ word soup. Deborah, don’t tell the truth!
These instructions left me in a bit of a quandary, because truth-teller was my assigned role. Let me explain a bit of the narcissistic family dynamic here. When mommie dearest gets pregnant, she assigns her child a role in her stage-play. “You will be a doctor,” she says. And “You will be a plumber.” And “You will be a good-for-nothing loser.” These roles are type-casted, and there’s no breaking free of them. Once a good-for-nothing loser, always a good-for-nothing loser. In psycho-babble, they call this role the scapegoat. And that’s the way my mother casted me.
Actually, the role of scapegoat is extremely important, to the narcissist anyway. The scapegoat is the repository for all the crap and garbage that mommie dearest doesn’t want see in herself. Mommie dearest doesn’t feel confident with math? Oh, that will never do! That would suggest she isn’t perfect. So she dumps said imperfections on an innocent child instead. She sends the child to school, and tells her “how hard math is.” Then she sabotages homework assignments by “helping.” I remember my mother sitting me down one evening, screaming at me for over an hour. The results were predictable. To this day, I am uncomfortable with math because the subject is so closely connected to that incident of severe abuse. But my mother didn’t care, as long as somebody else was feeling her inadequacy. Actually, she skipped off without a care in the world. And she got away with that horrible abuse by convincing teachers that she “just doesn’t know what else to do. I worked with her for over an hour.”
Actually, my mother got away with a lot when I was in school. I was one of those kids that went to school filthy. You know, hair in knotted mats. Dirty body and clothes. Reeking of urine. My mother always looked like a millionaire who just stepped out of one of those little shops on the Riviera, smelling like she took a bath in perfume. Actually, she did. Her perfume of choice was My Sin. It cost $90. when I was a child. In today’s money, that translates to $200. for those gift boxes that always sat on her dresser. And it included this foaming milk bath, in a circular glass bottle that I was never allowed to touch. So yes, my mother literally took a bath in My Sin perfume. I, on the other hand, went to school in filthy rags. When people questioned my condition, she explained that I threw a fit when she tried to comb my hair. It was so difficult, “just like combing cotton,” so she just gave up trying. And she did try to give me a bath, but I just wouldn’t take one. Once, when I was about three, she set two white jars next to the tub. One with cold cream, the other with shampoo. She sent me in alone to take a bath and wash my hair. I didn’t know which jar held the shampoo, and washed my hair with cold cream instead. To this day, she has great fun telling large crowds of people that I’m too stupid to know how to wash my hair. Oh, and then there was the attempted drowning when I was eight years old. I think I’ll save the details of that one for my therapist. He’s trained to hear evil things like that. I did mention it to the bishop because he needs to know why I’m not too keen on all this “families are forever” drivel I get in church. I don’t think I’ll be telling him very much more because well, that guy works in real estate. And he’s an extremely gentle soul. He wasn’t prepared to hear that mothers are capable of doing such things to their own children.
Yes, my mother has gotten away with a lot, because there are so few people willing to admit that someone who has given birth is capable of harming their child. So when people asked her why I was dirty and un-cared-for, she would tell them it was my fault. And, I don’t understand why, but they always believed her.
As I said, my mother cast me in the role of scapegoat. And scapegoats tell the truth. That’s one of the things they do. Google it. I did. I’ve found lots of interesting information that way. I was referred to some fascinating books. In one, I’ve learned that the truth is told in many ways. One way, that’s hidden so that you need to know what you’re looking for, is explained in the example above. At least one person in the family will be “different,” for unexplained reasons. All my life I have been jumping up and down, waving my arms, and screaming, “Something is wrong here! My mother is lying!” I know there’s a very good chance you don’t believe me. She’ll always have a huge flock of loyal flying monkeys shlumping around her like rabid baboons, ready to sink their teeth into me and defend her sainted honor to the death. Yeah, whatever. I also know that eighty years has given her plenty of time to practice her “nicey-nice” skills. Bottom line, her lies sound good. That makes them easy to believe. The truth doesn’t. I can’t compete with that sickly magnetic charm, and I am not going to get close enough to try. But really, I’m not too worried about any of that. Being a religious person, I know there’s somebody that’s seeing things straight. And I know my mother has a better shot of seeing him sooner than I do.
I’m guessing she might want to worry about that, just a little. Eighty years old ain’t a spring chicken anymore. Most people I know who are coming up on that age are starting to make peace with themselves, if they haven’t already. They know it won’t be long before they need to “balance the books” with their maker. What’s my mother gonna say to the Lord, about what she’s done to me? If she can’t think of anything, I certainly can.