We went to the cabin for the long weekend. (This is the cabin in Wyoming owned by parents of some friends of ours; we go up a couple of times a summer to get away from the city and enjoy just Being). I got Hulk’s cold that he had last week, so that made the experience not as fun as it could have been.
Anyhow, I took part of Thursday off to prepare for the trip – I had about 4 big errands to run and a lot of chores to do before our friend picked us up. On my way to Kaiser to get my BCPs refilled, I had a rather unpleasant experience. Walking the other way down the street were a man and a woman who were screaming, just utterly bellowing at each other. I could hear the man much better than the woman: “Bitch, you’d better shut your mouth! You’re making me angry, bitch! Shut the fuck up, bitch, I will slap you!” and similar lovely sentiments. The man looked enraged; the woman looked upset.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if it were just two people screaming at each other, though it was a little disconcerting to hear the absolute hatred and anger in the man’s voice. The bad part was that they had a two-year-old in a stroller between them, looking up at mom and dad in abject fear, cowering with tears in her eyes.
A storm was rolling in and I could feel the barometer shifts in my sinuses. The air felt charged, electric, and perhaps it just set off a negative reaction in this couple. I felt so sorry for the little girl, though – I wanted to take her away from them, I wanted to yell at them, I wanted to say “Don’t do this to your daughter!” Of course, I just walked around them as we passed on the sidewalk and I tried not to make eye contact. Because what could I really do?
I had a much nicer experience while waiting for my refil; a young-ish couple were in there with their two-month-old and Dad was playing with the baby while Mom talked to the pharmacist. Dad was very doting, very interactive, and the couple presented (at least publically) a very loving, stable relationship. The baby was doing all the things that two-month-olds do (wiggling, sticking his tongue out, focusing on the sunglasses on Dad’s head, smiling) and it seemed like Dad really knew what he was doing. It made me feel much better about the world and humanity to know that there are people out there who aren’t abusive to each other or their children.
I guess for all I know couple #2 could have been just as dramatic and their relationship as full of strife as couple #1, and for all I know my experience with couple #1 was an anomaly. There’s no way to judge, just seeing strangers once out in public. But it was such an amazing dichotomy to me.
This weekend, one of our friends planned a bunch of games for us to play together at the cabin but didn’t tell us what they were; one of them was flour tag (I’d never played it before). I helped fill the toes of panty hose legs with flour and tie them off; everyone put on black t-shirts. A couple of hours before we played, another friend playfully threatened me with one of the flour-filled pantyhose legs. Immediately, my mood shifted to one of fear and dismay; here was this friend who I trusted threatening me. I didn’t really notice how much it affected me until later, when we began to play the game and it was girls versus boys and here come four men, all of whom are my friends (one of whom was the Hulk), all of whom I trusted, stalking menacingly across a field wielding what seemed like weapons. I kind of snapped, and I think I scared all of my friends, but most of all the two that don’t know me as well.
I should never have participated.
I didn’t realize until later why I had gotten so upset at the game; why I have always gotten so upset when playing physical games like dodgeball and tag games, why I have always dreaded them and never wanted to play. It wasn’t until yesterday, two days after the game, that I realized how upset I had gotten (seriously, I kind of scared myself with how extreme my reaction was) when I was trying to explain to the organizer why I had acted the way I did in playing the game. I hadn’t told her before about my dad (Hulk and one of our other friends there did know my background and I think that they both understood why I reacted the way I did, even better than I had myself) and when I told her she looked surprised, and then said that that kind of explained things. I mean, part of it was that I was sick and part of it was that I’d had too much sugar which I only really eat at the cabin. But most of it was because I’d already felt threatened by one of our friends hours beforehand and I had dreaded the game once I knew what was coming and I was primed to go off like a rocket as soon as those guys started advancing on me, weilding these socks full of flour like Homey the clown, but since they were so long they could be projectiles or just painful weapons.
It’s amazing to me what kind of damage can be done to young children by their parents or caregivers, people who are supposed to love and protect their children. I’m flabbergasted at my own behavior with people who I trusted, who were my friends, when I was put into a situation with such a powerful trigger. I’d never imagined that my childhood experiences would lead to things like that, would lead to spending years trying to rid myself of a fear reaction and tears when Hulk swears or makes loud noises in the kitchen. I’d never suspected that my dislike of physical games where things are thrown or projected at me (especially by guys) stemmed from the same early childhood experiences.
My dad never hit me (that I remember), but I lived in constant fear that he would – or that he’d do SOMETHING to hurt me. There was no safe situation (at home anyway), nothing I could to to keep him from reacting in such a way that made me afraid. Sometimes I wish he had hit me; I think physical abuse would be easier to get over than the mental and emotional abuse that he probably never realized he was inflicting. Our other friend who was with us on the trip has quite a bit of experience in the mental health field as an LCSW and has mentioned to me before that she thinks I’d benefit from therapy to work through some of this stuff that seems to come out at the most bizarre times. And, though I hate to admit it (because doesn’t everyone hate to admit that there are certain things they might not be able to do alone? I sure do), I am starting to think she is right.