Monday, April 9, 2012

Boiling Frogs and Family.

flickr user DonkeyHotey
I spent the weekend with my family.  It was not a pleasant experience.  It was an experience that made me wonder: "How did I ever live with these people for twenty years?"

Because I thought it was normal, of course.

The "boiling frog" experiment goes like this: throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, and of course it'll panic and immediately jump out.  Put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the temperature, and the frog will boil to death while never noticing anything's wrong.  (This isn't actually true, by the way.  Frogs in real life will jump out when the water gets hot, no matter how slow you go, because frogs are sensible like that.  But it makes a great metaphor.)

And the "boiling family" experiment goes like this: visit a family where every mundane conversation is an emotionally charged battle of wills and passive-aggressive posturing is the only way to express emotions, and you'll think "these people are fucked up!"  Grow up in a family like that, and you'll think "I'm fucked up!"

For a long time, I thought I would never have any social skills.  I just wasn't good at people.  Couldn't make friends, couldn't figure out when or how to talk, kept creeping out or annoying people without understanding why.  Then this weekend I had a little mini-revelation: I was bad at social skills because I never learned any at home.  (I am naturally awkward, but nowhere near as much as I thought I was.)  I had to learn things like "how to make small talk that isn't grossly inappropriate references to suicide" and "how to say what you want instead of giving bizarre hints and then screaming when people don't read your mind" starting at about age eighteen.  No wonder I was in my twenties before I could have such a thing as a casual conversation.



When you're immersed in an environment, especially when you're immersed in it from childhood, it takes a lot of time and distance to realize it was an environment, and not "just life."

It sounds like a sad or angry discovery, but it's kind of a wonderful one, because when you're in the frog-boiler you honestly believe that you're never going to be any happier.  That every relationship you'll have as an adult will be like the ones you grew up with.  That every time, in your entire life, that you knock over a glass of water, you will be screamed at and sometimes slapped for it, and this is right and normal and the only way to avoid it is to never be clumsy ever.

Finding out that this isn't so, that in the real world most people just go "oh darn, I'll get a towel," is one of the giant ongoing joys in my life.  And reorienting myself so that I expect people to go "oh darn, I'll get a towel" is one of the giant challenges in my life.

It's work, and work I definitely have not finished, to shake the habits and ways of coping I learned growing up.  (I still have way too much of the "conflict means violence so hide or cower at the first hint of conflict" stuck in my head, and a little bit of "people only tell you what they want via secret signals so constantly evaluate everything as a signal.")  It's also a tremendous source of power and confidence when I get it right.



...Yeah, I can't really connect this post to sex.  I mean, it's got lots to do with sex, considering how much the shift from "people communicate by incomprehensible hints followed by hissyfits" to "people communicate with goddamn words" has improved my sex life.  But I don't think I can work "vagina" into this one.

My next post will be all about vagina.

113 comments:

  1. It took me a long time to figure out that fathers showing affection for daughters isn't necessarily abusive/fucked up, and that not all men are automatically creepy toward children. It's nice, though, because now I have a healthy relationship with a father figure for the first time in my life. Who'da thunk it?

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  2. Thanks for this. I agree that rewriting the patterns in one's brain to some approximation of normal is probably one of hardest and most rewarding processes. :-)

    And I don't mind the lack of vagina talk. I originally started reading your blog for the Cosmocking and I stayed for the insightful commentary.

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    1. seconded! holly, i love your brain.

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  3. I have never wanted to give you a hug so much as I do right now.

    I was not kidding earlier, by the way.

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  4. I also grew up in an abusive household, and it took until college before I had friends who could do normalcy translation for me. It's hard to parse what was okay in your upbringing and what wasn't when your only point of reference is the upbringing itself.

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  5. Respect for that openness, is as hard to rewire as it is to write about it or tell it to the world (being myself in that process now).

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  6. It seems like a very common thing that you apologize profusely whenever you make a non-sex post. While sexuality is an interesting, important and nuanced subject, expecting that to be the only interesting part of a person is unrealistic, and oppressive. Don't feel the need to pander to oppressive people that jump at the chance to restrict any woman that says anything about sex into the Sex Kitten, or if they're more generous about sexuality as a legitimate area of intellectual inquiry, the Sexpert (which is a cloying term I've never heard applied to a male sex educator). You are one of the best written communicators I have ever read. You're so efficient at expressing complex ideas with clarity and humour. Even people that hold sexuality to be a huge part of their identities, even kinky, liberated people still do laundry, have jobs and have families and other platonic relationships. It's totally legit to write about those things, and you still regularly bring your clarity and humour to those topics. Maybe you think of the sex posts as the fun posts, but people can and do take a lot of value (in the form of satisfaction, enjoyment, knowledge) in things that aren't as obviously "fun." (Also things other than sex are fun, but I don't think you'd argue against that.)

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    1. I'm guessing she has the same complex I do, where I'm afraid of upsetting anyone even the slightest bit, and constantly apologize for anything that I even think might cause discomfort of disappointment. I didn't realize how much I was doing it until I started dating locally again, about a month ago.

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  7. Thanks for this, Holly. So great to know someone else has the same experiences.

    I can't describe the profound impact a loving partner and solid social circle has had on my confidence and feelings of safety. My family loves me very much, but they have made it very clear on multiple occasions that there are some things about me they just aren't willing/ready to hear about.

    The double life just wouldn't be bearable without my partner and friends.

    Your writing is always great, Holly. I always look forward to it, no matter what it's about :). You could write about Rowdy's My Little Pony-themed fetishwear and I'd be on the edge of my seat with fascination.

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    1. ^ Well I know _I_ would be on the edge of _my_ seat.

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  8. So very very very very very timely, as I struggle to see which side of the dysfunction is the one "in the wrong" over the last few weeks. Still don't know, still wish I had friends who could translate me....but at least I'm not as alone as that feels.

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  9. Oh thank you for this, really, thank you. I honestly thought for the longest time that I was a major fuckup, that in spite of working constantly since my early teens and going through college and getting a degree and doing all of my chores and never getting into any trouble I was never worth anything because my parents told me so. Just, fucking, the glass of water thing? EXACT same thing at my house EVERY SINGLE TIME. If you spilled your drink at dinner, FUCK YOU you have ruined EVERYTHING, then it was time for the cone of silence. Still! But since finding your posts on this passive aggressive abuse I've been able to identify that I am not in fact the fucked up one, it's actually my parents and the way they deal with simple issues. I've been able to stop crying myself to sleep every night my father starts one of his cold shoulder treatments because I made a dismissive noise at something he said. I've been able to tell my mom to stop defending him because "he loves me so much and just wants what's best for me," because I see him treat her the same way. I've learned through you and the good people that read through and respond to the comments here that it's okay to love these out of whack people despite how they make me feel worthless sometimes, and that what I really need is some distance from them. I've learned that even though they've never hit me or really fucked me up mentally, the way I was brought up is certainly not the norm and I am allowed to lead my life in a different direction - one that I find reasonable and healthy.

    So don't ever apologize for a post like this! Don't get me wrong, the sex posts are great and help a lot with preparing myself for when I'm actually ready to have sex, but posts like this are so helpful and make me feel less screwed up for the first time in my life. So thank you.

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    1. omg we share the same life!
      I recently started seeing a psychologist because my upbringing and resulting negativity and self hatred has premeated every aspect of my life.

      The first think the therapist told me was to get out and get some perspective, see how normal families live. Its ok to not love your parents like you're "supposed" to. Its ok to want to get away from them. They don't deserve a cookie just because they never physically harmed you.

      Upon hearing these things I felt an enormous sigh of relief, it wasn't actually my fault!

      Thanks Holly for an excellent post that made me cry because it hit so close to home

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  10. "I had to learn things like "how to make small talk that isn't grossly inappropriate references to suicide" and "how to say what you want instead of giving bizarre hints and then screaming when people don't read your mind" starting at about age eighteen."

    Well. I.

    I think you might have triggered a personal revelation for me as well. Huh. I might have to think about this for a while.

    Thanks for this, Holly.

    Also, as was mentioned above, no need to apologize for no-sex posts--your stuff is interesting with or without vaginas. (Vaginae? Oh, whatever.)

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  11. "That every time, in your entire life, that you knock over a glass of water, you will be screamed at and sometimes slapped for it, and this is right and normal and the only way to avoid it is to never be clumsy ever."

    Judging by these comments, it seems that this is not so uncommon after all and your description of your home life growing up matches many of ours. It takes quite a bit of time and effort to get beyond it.

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  12. That analogy works for the abusive marriage I'm getting out of. Thank you, thank you.

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    1. Same here. Thank you for posting this, Holly.

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  13. My life. This is all about it. Just about all of the growth in my relationship with my husband has been in the "communication" category. Why does our relationship work so well? Communication, respect, and understanding. And love, of course.

    I'm still not done learning either. To this day, though my husband hasn't so much has raised his voice to me in the 5 years we've been together, every time I make a smart ass remark or joke, I flinch like I'm going to get hit. Because that's what I grew up with.

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    1. I sit with my back to the wall in restaurants whenever possible, and flinch whenever someone comes up behind me, even if it's a friend who's loudly approaching me (as in, not sneaking) to give me a hug.

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  14. I am STILL learning how to have conversations where I don't constantly make oblique references to my Deep Dark Secret Unhappiness. And I am supporting my sister through distancing herself from our emotionally abusive father. This post helps, Holly. Thanks.

    (And it also makes me feel SO HAPPY that I didn't go home for Easter/Passover this year.)

    (Eastover? Passter?)

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    1. Passter sounds too much like something you really can't eat during Passover :P

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  15. Oh my god. It's like you grew up in my household. It took me years to stop calling myself stupid whenever I did something accidentally. It's my father's voice over and over again. Thanks so much for putting in words what I couldn't explain.

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  16. I would use this metaphor as a great way of describing every single relationship I'd ever been in until now. I was with my first boyfriend/fiance for 6 years and my GOD, we were a mess! Neither of us had good social skills, we were both hopelessly shy and nerdy and had no coping or discussion skills at all. It dragged itself on and on and we were both so unhappy it was pathetic. After that, I just thought that's what a relationship was, and either looked for the polar opposite, or worse.

    Now, thanks to blogs like this, I know how to have discussions and conversations with my hus-boyfriend. We are both open and honest with each other, and even when we had out first argument the other night, we reconciled, kissed and made up and fell asleep loving each other more. I love knowing how to handle things now, and how to smooth out the wrinkles rather than repress or resent things until they become huge mountains.

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  17. That frog analogy was based on an actual experiment in which a scientist put a frog in a pot of cool water and slowly heated it to a full boil. The frog wouldn't jump out if the water was heated slowly enough, but most people neglect to mention that the frog was lobotomized. Typical frogs got right the fuck outta there.

    Anyways, great post!

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    1. I was so disappointed when I first read the truth behind the analogy. The problem is that it's such a great metaphor! Because the real meaning behind it seems to be true (and apply to all sorts of situations), even if the literal one isn't.

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    2. Even though it isn't as "vivid" or danger laden, I generally use the metaphor of hair growing and needing a haircut (probably 'cause this happens to me ALL the time). Each day your hair gets longer and it doesn't seem like *such* a big deal until you look at a photo of how short it was before.

      This one comes with no disappointment for being not true! (at least for me)

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    3. I can't help but wonder, what would be the point of measuring the pain-response of a labotomized animal? It's almost like measuring light response in the blind.

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  18. Oh, me too. I lived with my parents until I was twenty-one, and I'm so happy to be out of there now. My dad meant well, but he's really prone to blind rage, which resulted in me crying a lot. At least he only yelled. I think he might have lightly choked me once, but I might be thinking of something else.

    I mentioned a problem I was having with HTML while on a bike ride, and he yelled at me for always thinking about computer stuff. I asked my siblings whether they preferred Hitmonchan or Hitmonlee, and he yelled at me for bringing up Pokemon again. I wandered into the lounge room, and he yelled at me because I was eating a banana.

    The last one came right after I finally noticed that I was terrified of doing things wrong, and started wondering why. I recognised for the first time that he was being unreasonable, and actually found it kind of funny that I got the answer to my question so fast, but that didn't stop me from crying whenever he yelled. Just from feeling guilty and hating myself.

    Anyway, I definitely agree that realising that that kind of thing isn't okay is a positive discovery. I just wish that it didn't have to be made by so many people.

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  19. "people only tell you what they want via secret signals so constantly evaluate everything as a signal."

    THIS. I'm still fighting against this all the time.

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    1. Me three! It's taken me so long to get to the point of, "If they said they wanted to hang out with you or that you could come over any time, they probably meant it--what would they get out of saying it otherwise? If she said she liked your body hair, she probably wasn't secretly telling you to shave it--even if your mom said that people only compliment you because you stand out so much that they have to say something."

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    2. Me too! Learning to take what people say at face value and assume that they are being honest has been a huge struggle for me, one that will take me a long long time to overcome. And of course talking in code. I waste so much energy getting upset that my boyfriend doesn't understand my subtle hinting when instead I could just say what I am thinking!

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    3. I blame our pop-medical and pop-psych media for that one! For years we've absorbed the idea that two-thirds of what we communicate is done so non-verbally. Every time I read that, I can't help but think how that idea has caused a lot of us to completely discount the importance of verbal communication. After all, if the words are going to be outshined by our demeanor, tone, etc. does talking matter at all?

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  20. sounds very much like living with my dad. he was verbally/physically/emotionally abusive to me, my mom, and my siblings. he never took my learning disablities seriously, insted he would yell at me for being lazy and stupid. now, because i have a TBI due to a car wreck, he yells at me for being lazy and "mooching off of the government". he is racist, classist, and homophobic. thank god that my mom was able to teach me that i was loved and that my father's hateful and violent actions were due to his lack of an upbringing. it's sad to think that i could be miss america, cure cancer, bring about world peace, and make sure everyone in the world had a puppy, and he still would find something wrong with me. however, the TBI did free me a bit, thanks to having my "speach filter" not working. i was able to snap back at him when he called me a "commie-pinko" for suporting the 99%. i told him that he should be there too, after being forced into early retirement due to downsizing and now he's working a crappy job, making 1/4 of what he was before. it wasn't in person, but i'm just getting to the point where i'm starting not to give a flying fuck about his bad attutude.

    as for not hearing from your vagina, don't worry about it. sometimes, other things must be dealt with. and once they are dealt with, then the wild animal sex can begin and will be enjoyable...

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  21. You struck a great nerve with this one. I appreciate your wisdom no matter whether it's about sex or family or whatever. Thank you!

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  22. Comments are working again! Like the others say, please don't apologise for the non sex posts. The sex posts are all about life as much as this one is anyway.

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  23. "That every time, in your entire life, that you knock over a glass of water, you will be screamed at and sometimes slapped for it, and this is right and normal and the only way to avoid it is to never be clumsy ever."

    ...I always thought that "spill a glass of water and you'll get either shouted at or told that you're a clumsy disappointment who always knocks things over" was normal parent behavior. It's NOT?

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    1. Apparently this water-glass thing is really common. Huh.

      In my family I think it was a tension thing. Everyone was wound so tight all the time that it just took one tiny disruption to set off a complete explosion. I'd knock over an empty glass and my mom would've gasped theatrically and grabbed my wrist before she realized there was no spill. I don't think it was about the mess half so much as it was about "oh no, one of the eggshells we walk on just cracked."

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    2. My dad was always the one with the short fuse. Mom had been emotionally abused by her ex, so she was too much of a "why can't we all get along"/"don't make your father angry" type person.

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    3. In my house, it was "drop glass on floor near feet so it sends glass shards everywhere, get yelled at for not picking it up quickly enough." I'm only slowly realizing that this isn't normal.

      Of course, this realization isn't helped along whenever I visit friends who have eggshell families, too.

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  24. Sounds a lot like my experience with my first relationship.

    We were together six years (from the ages of 14 to 20 for me) and even over a year after breaking up, I still half expect my (utterly wonderful) boyfriend to fly into a rage if I don't want to have sex, walk out on me until I learn my lesson if I ever disagree with him, and call me stupid and embarrassing to be with if I don't know/understand something. When you grow up with something (which I basically did with this, at fourteen you're still a child,) you come to think it's normal, and it takes a HELL of a lot of reprogramming to start realising it isn't.

    Realising I could do better - that I deserved better - was a beautiful thing.

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    1. Oh wow, there's actually somebody else out there who had a very long lived (and thoroughly unhealthy) first relationship. Mine was from ages 15 to 20, and when it was finally over it took seven years before I was ready to have another serious relationship. Part of that was definitely how my first relationship mirrored my parents' marriage - I thought that grudgingly tolerating living together and fighting all the time was just what a relationship was. No wonder I wanted no part of one for so long.

      Isn't seeing someone who actually likes you and treats you well just the strangest thing? My boyfriend is nice to me all the time, and then he's nice to me some more. It's creepy! I kid, I kid, but it is sort of unsettling compared to my first boyfriend's conviction that everything I did, said, thought, or felt was stupid.

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  25. "Then this weekend I had a little mini-revelation: I was bad at social skills because I never learned any at home."

    Hi-five! I thought I had some inherent inability to have friendships, for roughly 20 years. Then I realised, my parents have no friends! and it dawned on me that I probably never had anyone to model myself on. Children learn by imitating adults, and I had no one to copy friendship paradigms from.

    Hell, but it's hard to learn as a grownup what most people do instinctively as very young children. Posts like this make me feel less alone in my efforts, so thanks.

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    1. "I thought I had some inherent inability to have friendships, for roughly 20 years. Then I realised, my parents have no friends! and it dawned on me that I probably never had anyone to model myself on. Children learn by imitating adults, and I had no one to copy friendship paradigms from."

      ...I've just re-read this four or five times.

      It's true for me, as well - my mum stayed at home with me and my sister, and all of her friendships happened 'off-screen' while me and my sister where doing something else. I don't think I've ever seen my dad interact with someone that he wasn't related to and hasn't employed. I've been living in a different city for nearly six years now, and I think I'm getting the basics - through looking at things analytically and thinking 'what do I want?' rather than trying to 'act normal' without having any idea how to do that.

      TJ_Rowe

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    2. Me too! For years I was convinced I was just kind of broken and that normal people just magically new how to make frinds. Or, you know, maybe unlike me they learned how from their parents. My mother basically had no friends (if she let people in, they might notice she was mentally ill and try to get her some help, and we just can't have that), and refused to ever let anyone come to our house.

      "Hell, but it's hard to learn as a grownup what most people do instinctively as very young children."

      Isn't it, though. Like learning a language, it's just harder when your brain is mature, and there's the added bonus of feeling stupid for just now learning stuff that other people learned as children.

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  26. ME TOO!

    My family loves me and does want the best for me... but is emotionally unhealthy. There is lots of deceit and denial because things that should be minor problems easily blow up into huge ugly fights, so it's easier if we just don't talk about things. This leaves everyone on edge and eventually the blow-ups come, at seemingly bizarre moments and for no good reason at least in connection with the actual event that set them off. There is also a lot of mild (but constant) emotional abuse... guilt-trips over things that should not cause guilt, gaslighting (as in I'm-going-to-do/say-this-terrible-thing-and-then-try-to-convince-you-it-never-happened, sometimes by getting other people who were present to take my side), cruel, cutting remarks disguised as friendly teasing...

    Sadly, I was SO convinced my family was normal and happy that I sought out a similar environment in my first relationship. He didn't have the exact same problems as my family, but he was emotionally abusive / manipulative, and I took it as normal for a long time.

    I've been out of that relationship for a year and fully independent from my family for a bit longer than that. I STILL often break down in tears of joy when something that would have been a Huge Fucking Deal with my ex or my parents blows over like the nothing it is with my friends or my girlfriend. You mean, people can really make minor mistakes and then move on from them without having a huge fight or blame-fest? You mean every forgetful or careless thing I do ISN'T proof that I'm a terrible person?

    Imagine that.

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  27. Oh, my. Whenever I hear somebody tell such a thing I realize how infinetly privileged I am to have grown up in a supportive and loving environment.
    Internet hugs, if you want them, and never forget how awesome you are.
    Lu

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  28. I had a similar upbringing, only with less hitting and even more screaming. My dad used to lash out at me over the littlest things. I still apologize way more than I should (to hear my boyfriends, I should never apologize for anything at all).

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  29. I grew up in an extremely emotionally and physically abusive household. I've basically been functioning all of my life on "how would my mother do this?" and then doing the opposite. It wasn't until two months ago when I was talking to my bf it that I realized how not normal that is. I also suffer from let me apologize for everything so that way everyone knows that I'm not a horrible maniacal person. It's so hard trying to fix all of the neuroses that our parents leave us with. I think it's why so many people in our circles are so reluctant to have children. I think we're better at realizing and admitting to the abuse that we went through, and since we actually deal with it we realize what causes our own behavior and we don't want our children to have those same problems. Being pregnant has had my own upbringing on my mind and how I can make it all better.

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    1. That sounds like me. I've always loved children, and since I have so many cousins, I've been around children for most of my life. My goal when I eventually get around to kids is to NOT be like my father. I don't mind being like my mother--she enabled him, but she wasn't doing any harm in and of herself. But I refuse to spend hours screaming at my children over every little thing. I know it'll be hard since I didn't have good models of this growing up, but I want to try to be calm, fair, and authoritative without being authoritarian.

      Then I remember that as much as I love children, I can't stand being around babies for long. I may just adopt.

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  30. Yes, yes, all of this. You really hit the nail on the head. I grew up in an abusive household too, and I relate so much to everything in this post. It's SO nice to realize that life doesn't have to be like that! And it kind of frightens me to think what my life would be like right now if my dad hadn't been completely sliced out of my life 5 years ago. I just have to look back at my saved AIM conversations with him to remember how determined he was to tear me down while claiming he was actually just looking out for me. But it thrills me so much to know that I'm free! Thank you so much for writing about this. (And to echo everyone else, I really don't mind when you write about non-sexy things. EVERYTHING you write is wonderful, sexy and non-sexy alike.)

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  31. I was just thinking about this recently. My dad (I've recently realized) has Asperger's; he's also kind of an abusive asshole who went to great lengths to keep my mom from making friends. Also, my mom is clinically depressed and probably has social anxiety. I lived with my parents until I was 19 years old and we had houseguests maybe five times during that time. I'm not exaggerating. Also, they would screen phone calls and literally hide when anyone knocked on the door.

    So it's weird...I'm actually very sensitive to people's moods and body language (I didn't inherit the Aspergers), but social conventions go right the fuck over my head. I avoid having people over because I feel like there's all this stuff hosts are supposed to do that I have no idea about, and I'm afraid I'll inadvertently alienate my friends.

    And also, I can't imagine what a non-creepy father/daughter relationship would even look like. But that's a separate issue.

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  32. "[P]eople only tell you what they want via secret signals so constantly evaluate everything as a signal."

    Yeah, the thing about fucked uppe people like my family is also that they more generally assume that everyone in the entire world parses the world and is motivated in the same way they are. So because they are malicious greedy selfish manipulative assholes who are always operating with a hidden nefarious agenda and are always doing harmful things intentionally, whenever something bad happens to them, they always attribute it to the nefarious motives of other people. As one can imagine, this has captured them in a positive feedback loop of bad shit happening to them and them never getting what they want out of life and never figuring out that all the bad shit happens because they are delusional assholes.

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    1. Which is why the Republican party is able to say some of the ridiculous garbage it's spouted over the past few months and still have my father's support.

      Seriously, they used to at least try not to sound like sociopaths. (Apologies if I end up derailing the comment thread.)

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    2. I'm always afraid that bad things are happening to me *because* I am a delusional asshole, and I just can't see it. I mean, why else would I be where I am, and why else would I have such a hard time with people? When I confide in anyone, they tell me I'm not a horrible person, but I can't trust that because hey, look at the heaps of evidence to the contrary! It makes me really tired, not being able to trust in anything, but I'm so terrified of being anything like either of my parents that I can't stop.

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  33. I really don't want to talk about parental stuff right now.

    I do have a question to just double-check with the people here. Teenaged boys don't USUALLY flash their siblings and fake sexual acts with their stuffed animals, right? So far, my husband and my friends have responded with WTF but I still can't shake the feeling that this is normal adolescent cisboy behavior.

    --Rogan

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    1. Oh, and PS: I always knew the "boiling frog" myth as the "boiling lobster" myth. Anyone else familiar with that rendition?

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    2. Flashing people is kind of dickish, but isn't that weird. A lot of boys "moon" people.

      The stuffed animal thing, though? Either he's got some really bizarre fetishes, or he needs psychological help.

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    3. I think flashing siblings is abusive, full stop, and a Really Bad Sign. That's not behavior I'd give a pass to, ever, in anyone over about eight. The stuffed animal thing at first sounded much less weird to me, but then I started thinking about it, and if others know about the practice, maybe that's also a way of purposely creeping people out, and hence pretty problematic, especially in the context of the other behavior. (Wait, I just realized I might be thinking of something different -- I was picturing arranging the stuffed animals so that they appeared to be having sex together. Is he instead actually rubbing stuffed animals on himself in public? Because ew.)

      Mooning tends to be a group-goofiness kind of thing. I don't think it's in the same category. It's usually nastier than streaking (which I think of as pretty much entirely benign), but not necessarily a hideous thing to do.

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    4. um. well. my brother got up to some antics that made me (a couple years older) very uncomfortable when he was about twelve or so, and seriously strained our previously close relationship. but he's just about to turn eighteen, we have a great relationship now, and he appears to have long outgrown whatever confusion about boundaries, or whatever was going on, that caused the problems - I talked to a counselor about it once I was no longer a minor, and they said that it was a somewhat common thing (though usually happened at a younger age) for people in close sibling relationships to be feel confused about how to integrate their new knowledge / feelings about sexuality into their relationships (ideally with a great deal of distance in this case!).

      anyway, I was extremely upset about it at the time, and remained so for many years afterward. I feel much better now - not like what happened was okay, but that I have healed and can move on. talking to the counselor really helped, as did telling a friend all the details, instead of a rough outline, in preparing for my appointment.

      hope this is helpful. I really like your comments, LBT folks : )

      Delete
    5. Normal? No idea; I hope not. Because acceptable? Hell no. It's a violation, especially if the siblings are younger or about the same age as him.

      If it were I one-time thing I wouldn't be too worried. Repeatedly? Reacts badly to being told to knock it off? Bad sign.

      Delete
    6. Thanks for the perspective, all commenters. And Irene, no, we're talking humping the stuffed animals while moaning, pretending to 69 them, and taking any reaction as encouragement. I learned to just ignore him, because it was the only response really allowed me.

      Also, he was younger than me by almost two years, but by that point, he was also quite a bit taller and stronger, and he was not afraid to tell me. Ignoring him was kinda all I had on him at that point, because it wasn't like I could physically do anything.

      I haven't spoken to him in years now, due to his douchery when I came out. More and more, I'm starting to think that maybe he wasn't an entirely nice person. Oddly, I am not particularly hurt by this, maybe because I never had that high of expectations of closeness with him to begin with.

      Delete
    7. Okay, that sounds definitely abnormal to me. Probably just as well to have a more mentionable excuse not to be speaking to him.

      Delete
    8. Sounds to me like he was having trouble processing the social pressure that said his role (as Cis Guy) was to be nonconsensually sexually aggressive, and scary, to all females his age or younger.

      Does he, in general, have trouble with social stuff?

      Delete
    9. RE: Irene

      Yes, yes, that's pretty much how I feel about it right now.

      RE: Nila Jones

      My brother is king of the social life. Also, we were older than him by a couple years, just smaller. He's... just kinda a douche.

      Delete
    10. LBT:

      'Listen, you're my brother and I love you, but you're a great big bag of dicks.'

      An SPN quote for every douche-y brother out there.

      Delete
  34. '...Grow up in a family like that, and you'll think "I'm fucked up!"'

    Yes, this. It's taken a long time for me to realise that. I still apologise for everything (including things I don't need to apologise for) and always asume that people don't like me, because that's what I've been programmed to think.

    I'm convinced my father has some sort of narcissistic personality disorder. He's always right, everyone else is wrong, and there's never any two-way communication. There are no accidents- when a towel is left after falling on the floor, that's a deliberate and personal attack against him. It's lead to me checking, double-checking then triple-checking everything (Is the tap turned off properly? Did I put that glass away? etc) Add to that a mother in total denial who thinks feelings don't exist, and you get a recipe for one "I'm fucked-up" child.

    I was always amazed when I went to friends houses that they felt comfortable just lounging around, feet on the sofa... that they'd dare to ask their parent to change tv channels... it was so alien to me. Most things that happened in my house had a negative consequence, so I'd learnt never to ask for anything and remain as compliant andd passive as possible.

    It's difficult to switch off that 'everything I do is wrong so I must try to be invisible' mentality, but recognising that I grew up in (& unfortunately am still living) in an abusive family is a massive step in moving forward. My father has never hit me, and he doesn't verbally abuse me everyday. But I've realised what I've experienced is still abuse. Insidious, slow-creeping abuse. It's taken a long time for me to truly accept that. The boiling-frog metaphor is apt. You don't have the luxury of being an independent party who can simply walk away because you feel separate from the situation. You're part of it and it's part of you.

    I can't wait for the day when I'm finally 'free', but I know that I'm probably going to be battling against all this learned thinking/behaviour for the rest of my life. So thanks for this Holly, reading this post and comments makes me realise I'm not the only one going through this battle.

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    1. He's always right, everyone else is wrong, and there's never any two-way communication. There are no accidents- when a towel is left after falling on the floor, that's a deliberate and personal attack against him.

      My dad, too! Apparently this is related to his Asperger's - he wants everything to be in particular order and if it's not, he can't. fucking. let. it. go. Think Rain Man - if he was a bit more functional and a lot more of an asshole. He doesn't appear to understand that they're his fixations - that other people don't go against them just to piss him off, they do it because they have no idea these complicated imaginary rules even exist.

      Is your dad also really awkward with people? Will he drone on and on about shit without noticing that his audience is bored to tears? If so, I'm betting we're looking at some kind of autism spectrum disorder.

      But I'm sure there are other things that could cause a person to act like that.

      Delete
    2. Yes he is awkward with people and pretty socially inept, droning on far longer than is appropriate! But afterwards he will often analyse what he's said & look for reassurance that he hasn't said the wrong thing (even though no one could ever tell him if he had), so I don't know... He wants people to listen to him, thinks his word is law and hates to be disagreed with, but at the same time he's very insecure.

      It would be great if I could actually talk to him about all this but it's IMPOSSIBLE. He doesn't think he has problem. Its infuriating!!!

      Delete
    3. I'm uncomfortable with the Internet Telediagnosis here--lots of people are awkward and self-centered without having Asperger's. Let's leave diagnosis to clinicians and just talk about how to deal with people, okay?

      Delete
    4. Jesus, the towel thing! When I was eight or nine, the house we lived in had a particularly slippery towel bar, and then I was eight or nine, and about as careful as your average kid. The towel would slip off sometimes, and I'd put it back, but it was a major transgression. One day, it happened and my mom came into the kitchen, yelled at me, and punched me in the face hard enough that I fell down and knocked my head on the counter. Over a towel. My dad hasn't said anything about it to this day. My mom only said it was my fault that I couldn't go to my summer art class the next few days. I think, looking back, that hearing that was what set in motion my eventual realization that it was all their fault for being that way. It took years and I still have struggles, but getting away started there.

      Delete
    5. I second Holly's reluctance on the Internet Diagnosis. For this reason: often awkwardness happens because people want to impress, or get all the facts, or they love a story or a point of view so much they don't want to let it go just because those around them might be bored.

      Most of the times I have talked longer than what was appropriate (we all have, disordered or not) was because I wanted to tell the whole story. Or because I feared leaving out any information, and thus spoiling the whole meaning of what I was trying to communicate.
      Hell, it happened just the other day with my hairdresser-- I called to ask her why my hair was so rough and coarse anymore, and whether that was a sign of a chronic disease in the making. Her call-back message said that yes, hair falling out can be a sign of a low thyroid etc. What? When did I say anything about my hair falling out? I had to call her back and leave another message-- twice, because the phone died in the middle-- saying that no, in fact my biggest problem was not hair falling out, but bad hair texture. It was so frustrating; what should have been an easy and quick communication. But I wasn't about to let that crucial piece of information slide by her. I did this knowing full well how awkward I must have come off, how "sweating the small stuff" I sounded. I figured it was worth it, for her to get the true facts. But through this all, she still may not have fully absorbed them.

      There's an unspoken message in interpersonal communication that good speech is quick speech, and the instant you perceive your audience to be drifting away when you speak, STOP. It's more important to abide by this convention than to get the whole of your story out-- this is one thing I have never been able to stand. It points to a deeper problem in, to begin with, our political conversations that some brains being liberal and others being conservative. How many crucial pieces of communication do we miss out on every day simply because we lack the time or patience to hear them all... and because the communicator not wanting you to miss any of it is considered to be committing a grave social error?

      Delete
  35. The boiling frog thing hasn't actually been disproven- no modern day scientist has been fucked up enough to do it properly, that's all!

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  36. Whoa, doing things wrong is okay, and life goes on? You mean, every time I make a mistake I don't have to dwell on it internally for weeks? But, I'm trying to make people happy and comfortable! Every mistake ruins that! Good people don't make mistakes.
    Oh dear.
    Holly, thank you for this. It's really helping me realize "how hot the water was".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Good people don't make mistakes"... I still deal with echoes of, "socially skilled people don't make mistakes". For years, I thought asking someone how they felt about a situation was cheating, like I wasn't truly showing empathy unless I could correctly guess how they felt without asking.

      Now that one does come from my parents. Who would tell me I hadn't listened, frequently at times when I had. I was about seven or eight years old when I figured out that their definition of "listening" was "the other person feels listened to". And then my cynicism about human interaction began...

      Delete
  37. Oh, me too me too me too. I second everything everyone said. Gaining the courage to label what happened as abuse even if it didn't look like it overtly, and to accept that just because I label part of my interaction with my dad as abusive that doesn't have to mean I'm trying to be a "victim," and being okay with saying it and strong enough to say "that wasn't okay"...

    It's all so important. Sometimes I'm still shocked when I realize that I'm the one who's acting more like the adult than he is, or probably ever will. Also complicated by wanting to protect my daughter from the same things I grew up with while still living with my parents...but will be getting out soon...

    Thank you. I was about to apologize for the incoherence of my comment, but I stopped myself. :) Just, thank you.

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  38. It's interesting to me how many people here have mentioned "constantly apologizing" as a problem they've picked up. I do that (not with everyone, but with close friends and with my boyfriend in particular) and I'm surprised and oddly comforted to hear how common it is in people coming out of similar family situations.

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    Replies
    1. You do it here sometimes too :). For me it helps to have people point out when I'm doing it so that I stop apologizing for every little thing that I do. Does that help you too or would you rather people just not talk about it?

      Delete
    2. Yeah, we know a lot of folks who do the constant apologizing. I can go into constant, almost comical chains of it when I crack up; I apologize for cracking up, then apologize for apologizing, then apologize for being unable to stop apologizing, and it turns into almost a pathetic comedy of me unable to stop.

      So far, the only way my husband has found to shut this down is to say the one thing I can't use to fuel it: "I love you." And wait for me to calm down. Thankfully, these days it passes in a few minutes.

      Delete
    3. Briget - I'd rather not have it pointed out, because that just sends me into the "I'm sorry I apologize too much" infinite loop. :/

      Delete
    4. I understand that one too. Sorry if I made you feel bad by talking about it :/

      Delete
    5. I do this too, and I don't know why. My family wasn't this way, but yet I still seem to expect punishment for so many things.

      Delete
    6. I'm actually in the midst of writing a blog post about this - I think the "stop apologising!" response is invalidating, really unhelpful for someone who's caught in a pattern of self-invalidating.

      My intent, when I notice someone with that pattern apologising for something they don't need to apologise for, is to, in an offhand and light manner, reply "you don't need to apologise for that". Then, when they inevitably apologise for that, say (in the same, light, casual, "I've barely noticed that anything's happened here" way) "it's cool". Try to make a safe space for the where apologising when it's unnecessary is Not A Big Deal.

      The more I think about it, the more "Stop Apologising All The Time!" sounds like a telling-off - and if someone's telling you off for doing something, then apologising for doing it is *not* a crazy-person behaviour.

      Delete
    7. I had a girlfriend give me grief for apologising too much once. I remember being genuinely annoyed, because (a) I'm British, that's what we do, so deal with it, and (b) the instances she cited were all things that I apologised for because I genuinely thought it right to do so.

      It pretty much came down to "Fuck you, I'll apologise for whatever I bloody well like", which is kind of a good route out of that whole mindset in terms of confidence and validation.

      Delete
    8. Sure, you don't want to bring it up in an aggressive way, as it compounds the problem. But I just don't think women should have to apologize for being insufficiently sexy-fun on their personal blogs. It's probably better to attack the cultural forces that exert this pressure on women rather than the women themselves, though.

      Delete
    9. As alluded by the British writer, behaviour has a strong cultural dimension - apologising, being overly modest and showing deference can be a cultural matter for Asian people and misread by Westerners. And yes, the British are often pleasingly polite as well! :-) Sure, we have to learn to fit in with the dominant culture, but its useful to recognise the cultural ettiquette and not make someone feel like they are broken because they genuinely feel they are doing the right thing.

      It is really hard to have to think about your every word and behaviour and whether or not its going to offend because you are automatically doing what is considered polite in your home culture. Similarly, if you are used to being attacked for making small mistakes, well-meaning people constantly getting at you for apologising etc can just about paralyse you with fear and worry about making mistakes. Now just imagine both effects combined - with people questioning your capability because you are too paralysed to think properly and argue with your scary colleagues!

      My concluding point is that Holly and other writers have made some exceptionally good points. We should treat others gently AND with respect and support. They may be clumsy in a particular social situation - but why does that have to be a reason to attack them? Mostly it's because they were born that way, brought up that way or are from a different culture. None of that is their fault. Can't we all just help and support each other?

      Delete
  39. Non-boily metaphor I usually use:

    the frog says "Water's cold today," and the fish says "What's water?"


    ...this is why I do think it "takes a village," and even think that my Broken Home [TM] was healthier than a lot of the not-divorced families in my friend-circle; because we had someone outside the bell jar to go "hey, not everyone is like that." Can be life-saving info.

    hugs,
    flightless

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  40. The spilling water thing reminded me of when we'd be eating supper when I was a kid and if I did something my dad didn't want me to do, like making a clinking sound against my teeth with a fork while eating, he'd smack me in the face with no warning. Those sure were some fun meals around the family table! It's been interesting, as I get older, slowly realizing that the reason the potential of conflict terrifies me and makes me sick to my stomach is that on some gut level, I expect to be hit.

    I actually come here for the non-sex posts mainly, although I read the sex ones as well because usually they're interesting too.

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  41. Adding myself to the list: I really appreciate it when you write about this stuff, because you're able to articulate things that I feel and don't have the words for. I only moved away from my parents recently, and every day that I'm able to just go about my business without being attacked for it and without having something Sudden and Dramatic happen is a wonderful surprise.

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  42. Reading this, I find myself very confused as to what has, or possibly hasn't, happened to me. All my painful little quirks - the apologising for everything, the calling myself stupid and useless when I don't get things 100% right first time, the fear of violent reprisal for minor incidents, the feeling like I need to be invisible, the feeling I'm a horrible person despite evidence to the contrary - are being echoed time and time again in this post and thread.

    But... I don't remember my family being anything like that. I think my dad got a bit snappy when he was quitting smoking when I was 8 or so, but nothing major and it passed. Otherwise they've been kind, loving and forgiving. I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship as an adult, but I was doing all of the above before that. So where the hell did it come from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. School, possibly? I too recognise most of those traits, but my home life was fine. For me, school and society were the problems (and yes, societal prejudices can have a far bigger impact on individuals than many people think).

      Delete
    2. Church?... I know that's possibly a thorny issue, but that's right where many of my issues come from.

      Delete
    3. Perhaps there is a tad of personality in this in terms of being very sensitive to the feelings of others, high attention to detail and setting high standards for oneself?

      On the other hand, you seem so like me in some ways (I have the personality traits I listed) and I did have an abusive childhood being brought up partly in a culture where girls were (if necessary) beaten into submission.

      If someone told me they had your issues, including an abusive adult relationship, I'd be looking for the situation in which they learned to act like a victim (as I did). Perhaps if you think on it you can work it out? For years I too thought I was the broken one - then I realised everyone was broken ...

      Delete
    4. Anonymous the first - it being school-related makes sense, I think I'd sort of discounted that as 'not family, so doesn't matter'. We moved around a lot when I was little, so I was the new kid every year until I was 12 or so. It was often in little provincial schools that weren't keen on outsiders, and (I don't mean this as a brag) being considerably above average intelligence I don't think the teachers knew what to do with me. Between the two factors, I got bullied horrendously by pupils and faculty alike. Thank you for the lightbulb :)

      Anonymous the second - I don't think that I've buried memories of familial abuse, if that's what you're getting at. I think you may have a point about personality, though. I'm a Myers-Briggs INFJ and sensitive as hell, so if there's even a sniff of negative reaction from someone I'll notice it.

      Delete
    5. Thank you for the response-- I think a lot of us are off the mark when we overemphasize family as a shaper of our emotional lives, or even make the ONLY explanation for why we do what we do. The greatest change in my own personality did not come in the so-called
      "formative years" of childhood... it came after I went away to college. My particular school, I was to discover, did not suit me socially. I got a decent education but I had very few friends or memorable experiences, and no romances. I was in a crisis during those years, finding out that just about every value I held dear, every idea I'd grown up with, was being questioned... or even overturned.

      Ironically (for Holly), it was messages about social skills that brought this self-recrimination on. It was my awareness of how I came across that made me so miserable. It was my concern for how I interacted with others that gave me a lot of lingering hang-ups... especially the one about getting everything right the first time, and feeling like a failure if I didn't. Because one of the biggest unspoken messages I got was, "people with good people skills DO get everything right the first time."
      Oh, and on top of that, I had to be relaxed and fun. Because truly socially skilled people never take things too seriously. They just shrug it off, even learn to laugh at it; no matter the height of the stakes of failing whatever it was. I just couldn't take the simultaneous messages of "the consequences of failure are dire" and "don't let it bother you".

      I think that social environment plays a much bigger role in our behavior than genetics... and not only that, taking that approach, I believe, helps us treat people better. We are more likely to actually reach out in solidarity to a person and treat them as an equal when we see people as emotionally plastic well into adulthood, rather than seeing them through an essentialist lens, with fixed personalities and capabilities.

      Delete
    6. I'm late joining the comments but.... I too read this post, and thought, 'hey, I do some of that' (avoid conflict at all costs, expect verbal conflict to become physical violence) and yet.... I don't think it came from my family. Maybe partly from family, partly from school, partly, as one anonymous said down to personality.

      Either way, thank you, Holly, for giving me a lightbulb recognition moment - I knew I did some of this already, but I will now think about it, rather than just carrying on. improved self awareness is win!

      Delete
  43. Hey this is Emily, the "fan girl" from the party last night. I debated telling you this when you asked if I'd ever commented but I wasn't sure and then the moment had passed. I've read pretty much your whole archive, all the way to the first entry. So now you know! :)

    I especially enjoy the Cosmocking because not only is it hilarious, it helps me keep in perspective how ridiculous these messages are of how women are supposed to be. I've spent a lot of time worrying that I'm not feminine mystiquey enough because I do not play hard to get. Sometimes I've tried to hide how I feel but I just can't do it and it feels worse than any rejection. But then I read Cosmocking and that helps remind me that there's nothing wrong with that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emily! It was nice to meet you!

      Haha, now I do know. :p

      I also feel the need to inform you that I am not usually quite that, um, gregarious... garrulous... completely fucking drunk.

      Delete
    2. It was nice to meet you too!

      Noted. Nothing wrong with that though. :)

      Delete
  44. Thank you for this post. I grew up in a severe neglect situation. I would spend holidays alone or if I felt like it with friends (chosen family). My favorite thing about adulthood is that I have control. If I am hungry I can get food etc. I tend to think of holidays as a time to spend alone or time to spend with people whose company I really enjoy. It had been difficult to have partners around the holiday's because they assume that the holidays must be spent with genetic relations. Given that this not what I do on the holidays they always presume that this means the default is that we both go to their family gathering. When their family is like the boiling pot I start feeling like I jumped out of one boiling pot into another. If their family is not like the boiling pot it still doesn't mean that I don't have "family" that I want to spend time with. It is only recently that I have realized that I hadn't been saying out loud "why don't we do _____ for the holiday or spend the holiday apart". I think part of why this didn't occur to me is because growing up voicing your needs didn't make a difference. It is like an onion...so many layers to this stuff.

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  45. Thank you so much for this post, and for your blog as a whole :). And add me to the list of people who grew up with something similar.

    The comment about friends -- my parents don't have friends. And I am in my mid-40s and it never occurred to me to connect that fact to my own friend-oddities. D'oy!

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  46. Like so many others, thank you for this post - I've been handing it around to all my friends in their teens & 20s, to pretty universal identification. Thanks, so much, for giving them a hopeful viewpoint.

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  47. Wow. This post, like the coffee one a while back, just. It gives me so much...I hesitate to say 'hope', but it does, to have someone who's gone through all the same stuff down to the freaking T. I'm still living this, right now as an 18 nearly 19 year old. And God. It's a strange thing when you realise that the reason you're so messed up is because of how your family has treated you. It's a relief but one of the saddest things. The people who are ~~supposed to be the most supportive and loving being emotionally abusive which results in you having many many many issues with the way you interact with the world and people in it, ranging from the apologizing syndrome to anxiety/depressive symptoms to my constant skittishness and fear of people looking over my shoulder and be being nervous all the time and feeling like i'm being watched, which makes me even more likely to drop things.

    I was continually knocking over things when I was a child, i've always been clumsy, and my parents would always yell at me that I 'break/ruin everything and that I'm so stupid/careless' and I still have a phobia about using non-plastic crockery to this day. But there was a period of about a year when I was 11/12 when I was banned from drinking anything sitting down. I had to stand over the kitchen sink and my parents would watch me and just. Yeah. It creeped me out and it still creeps me out how they have the need to know where I am all the time/who i'm with/why i'm going out (One time mom literally said to me "I decide if you have friends or not") god. I can't wait to get out of here, but I have to.

    I'd like to finish by saying that I'm seeking help and this thursday will be my first appointment. I'm scared, but hopeful. And this blog has helped me along the way, so, thanks.

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  48. Hi,
    I have a question for you people around here, but first the situation: My bf and I spent a deal of time last night lying in the bed and hearing the woman from the upper floor scream at her child and the child crying. Loudly. I think I heard a slapping sound once, too, but I'm not sure.
    We figured if we thump the ceiling for them to stop, she'd put it out on the little one again, so we didn't, but this is not the first time we noticed this (we haven't been living in the house for long).
    Should I call the police the next time something like this happens?
    Sincerely,
    Lu

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    Replies
    1. I sure as shit would. You can do it anonymously, if that's something that worries you. We had a neighbor in a similar situation-- we heard her screaming at the kid at the top of her lungs, the kid was crying (like he/she was in pain, not just a whiny cry), and we heard a slapping sound. We called the police, they arrived, and it hasn't happened since. As far as I can tell, no one in that house has any idea who called. Personally, I wouldn't care if they did know, but then I'm willing to go to the mat with anyone who thinks they can treat their kids that way. If you're wrong, you won't be in trouble because it's better to be safe than sorry. If you're right, then you've taken steps to really help a kid and probably the parent as well.

      Delete
  49. Girl, update your blog already! I'm dying here.

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  50. holly, i'm only a very infrequent visitor to your blog...which is definitely MY loss. i happened upon this article today, and i just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart: thank you. i was emotionally abused by my parents for many, many years and i'm still dealing w/accepting that it wasn't me, it was them...and then to struggle w/stopping the cycle of abuse and to not pass it on to my partners and our daughter. you are very correct: you don't know that your family is different until you enter the world and wind up throwing a chair across a room in front of your then girlfriend, and realise that you just did something beyond comprehension to everyone outside of your birth family. it's always so very helpful to be reminded that i'm not the only person who has had similar experiences. thank you for sharing your story.

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  51. Relationship education *is* sex education, so the vagina is implied! ;)

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  52. Rather late to the party, but I felt like adding a bit too. My family situation started out sort of normal (I think; we're talking up to around age 5 here, so my memory might not be reliable) but over time it devolved into anarchy. We're talking along the lines of "I'm going to do whatever I want and not tell anyone about it and I don't care how it affects anyone else because seriously, fuck you" to each other 24/7. Even the kids were that way to the parents, because it's not like behaving would have significantly lessened the frequent punishment for failing to comply with random rules that changed constantly, seemed to have no purpose beyond their own personal comfort, and oh yeah, not something they ever told us about until it was violated. Not that most of the punishments would have been effective anyway even if it were fair - for example, "you're grounded for a week" isn't much of a threat when you already spend most of your free time in your room by choice and everyone forgets about it tomorrow anyway. Interacting with each other largely meant preparing for the fact that the others would randomly but inevitably get in our way and possibly retaliating against them if they stayed in our way.

    What was probably really unusual was that, despite the fact that the situation could hardly be classified as anything other than abusive, is that we did not fear our parents for the most part and even threatened them with the police a few times when they went way over the line. And also, while like most kids in abusive family situations I thought that this was normal to some degree, for some reason I thought it was a cultural thing rather than a universal one - my dream for when I grew up was to move to France.

    Eventually I figured out the reason - my parents were, and in some ways still are, about six years old. They could function sort of like adults when their own parents were still alive and still able to take care of them to some degree, but when the grandparents died one by one, their ability to keep things together just fell apart. It wasn't until us kids grew up and were able to sometimes take care of them that they were able to function sort of like adults again.

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  53. Y'know, I always wondered about that story.

    Also...yeah, that whole 'get into an argument and you either lose or get screamed at or hit' is super goddamn sucky. I'm lucky I have two families; I actually saw that while one of my mothers' was doing psycho shit like that, my other mom...was actually mostly normal. It was frankly -bizzare-. (It still kind of is, to be honest.)

    I guess all I wanted to say was that I'm glad I know I'm not in that socially-awkward boat by myself, Cliff.

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  54. Hi Cliff. Thank you so much for posting this. Last week, I literally collapsed into a ball of fear and tears for spilling two glasses of water near my partner. I grew up in a frog boiler too, and reading someone else talking about this made me feel so much more normal. My partner comforted me and just cleaned it up and listened to how my family made me feel and didn't get mad at me. But still, it is such a challenge to reorient myself to expect everything to be ok, instead of everything being dangerous. Thank you so much.

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  55. I lived in a frog boiler...it's not the same make as yours, my boiling was different, but still...I lived in a frog boiler.

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