|Shirt: GFY Press; Shorts: Reitmans; Clutch and sunglasses: thrift|
Okay, Chris is punk, and I was going for more of a rocker look, but both looks have a rebel spirit to them. Besides, I was going for what I thought a rebel looked like when I was a kid in a tiny mill town. My scope was still pretty limited back then.
|Diamond ring: Birks; Dragon rings: a vendor where I work; Stackables: two bespoke, one boutique; Costume ring: vintage|
... but Chris will always look tougher than I do, no matter what he wears and no matter what I wear. Trust me: I've seen this guy in fuzzy slippers and you still wouldn't want to mess with him.
It's not just his tattoos and height that make him seem so different from me. It's about how we move. My mannerisms have always been extremely feminine, in an old-fashioned kind of a way. His? Not so much.
|Crystal rocks: found by Beau's son|
Looks can be deceiving.
By the time I was eleven, I had been subjected to sexual abuse so severe that my back was permanently injured, eventually leaving me disabled and in chronic pain as an adult.
Not to mention the inevitable PTSD.
I always wanted to be the obvious tough kid, the one who wore his pain and anger in his clothes, his face, his actions, and his mannerisms. Like John Bender in The Breakfast Club.
I sure as hell could relate to his emotions and I knew why he acted like he did. At the time, I thought I lacked the courage to be that way. Now I think I had a different kind of courage.
I was deeply drawn to such characters and I also wanted to be like them but it just wasn't me.
I looked like this, and I had the grades and even the personality to match.
The worst part is that I thought I looked tough and cool in this photo. See that curl over my left shoulder? "Tails," longer bits in shorter hair, were all the rage then. That cute little curl was my failed attempt at a tail. The mismatched earrings? Street, man, really street. The stripey shirt? I could have been in a rock video? Right?
Again, not so much.
I could just never could pull it off.
People were always shocked if they saw me do drugs or smoke a cigarette. "You?!" they'd say incredulously. They said I looked like the Ivory Girl or "the girl next door." They were right. I did. A Jewish Ivory Girl but, yeah, pretty squeaky clean.
My face and body did not betray anything I was going through, or any of my rebel spirit, even when I was being kind of wild.
And, yes, I sometimes was pretty wild at a very young age. I did drugs, I partied, I had sex too young. It all seemed normal to me and fine. It was going on in my home. Why shouldn't I do it too?
But I was always too sensible to really go crazy and behave as people thought rebels behaved. It wasn't really in my nature.
|See that little girl on the left? That's me at fifteen.|
Yet I sure did know how those more obvious rebels felt.
I wanted to be like Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings: angry, a little butch, scary, visibly old beyond my years. Watch the above video to about 1:20 and you'll see what I mean.
I did not want to look sweet and innocent. But I did.
I wanted to be like this.
|Me at about fifteen.|
In psychobabble talk, I was and am what they call "high functioning." There are a lot of kids and adults like that out there: we seem normal but we've lived through, or are still living through, hell.
In other words, you can't tell by looking.
The fact is that as much as I was tempted by the forms of rebellion I saw around me, I just couldn't bring myself to that level of self-destruction, no matter how much relief it would have brought me in the short term.
Some kinds of rebellion, some kinds of acting out, can destroy one's future and I just couldn't do that to myself.
|Believe it or not, this is actually a burn that I got from a flying popcorn kernel catapulting out of my popcorn maker. But it looked so much like a track mark, I just had to use it in a post.|
I just had plans for myself, I guess.
I wouldn't let my past defeat me. I wouldn't rebel in ways that would ultimately ruin me.
I couldn't look the part. But I couldn't be the part either. I wanted too much for my future. My rebellion just had to be more constructive.
The rebellions I'd seen in others ended up hurting them, not their abusers. I was damned if I'd destroy myself. That would be letting my abusers win and there was no way that was going to happen.
I think at some point I realized that my power was in my brain. I was smart, and I knew it from a very young age. I was arrogant about my intelligence but I think that arrogance helped me have both confidence and plans. I wanted to go to university. I wanted to write. I loved study and I did well in school.
All this, I thought, would take me somewhere I wanted to go. I didn't think so much about money or security, not then. Instead, I thought about the world of the mind and of learning, and of writing. That was the place I wanted to go.
Somewhere inside myself, I decided not to run away until I finished school. I graduated from high school with academic honours. Five days later, at seventeen, I left home.
It was not easy. I was very very poor. I worked my ass off for a good education, good grades, and a resume in writing and editing. I was an editor at my student paper and at a local gay newspaper. I was a good, if confrontational and opinionated student. I became an ESL teacher, and, then, after getting an MA in my thirties, I became a college English instructor.
Lately, I'm becoming a writer again, after a fashion.
I did all of this with PTSD.
I will admit that these days, as I realize that my disability is probably permanent, I do feel somewhat defeated. Because of callous pedophiles who used me when I was a child, my physical pain prevents me from reaping the full benefits of my achievements: I can't work full time so I'm again poor; and my active life is gone. Sometimes, I do feel like my abusers won.
Still, this doesn't change what I accomplished and what I may still accomplish in my future. Most of the people I work with and most of my students know nothing about my past, though I guess now some of them will. I think most people believe that those with pasts like mine can't achieve much, but we can, and we do.
You can't tell by looking -- at a face, or a lifestyle, or a resume.
Even Chris would agree that the street life and the junkie life aren't very constructive forms of rebellion. He was on the streets and doing hard drugs for years and years, but now, he too is a writer.
We can bang our drum with our words, not self-destruction.
So, oi, you nasty abusers! Take that!
I'll leave the final words to another tough chick whom I could never resemble: Pat Benatar, singing something of an anthem for me: "Hell is for Children."
(Since this post is all about being invisible, I'm posting it over at Visible Mondays.)