i got more memories yesterday while standing in the shower. i said before that the recent ones were not traumatic. i will go a step further and say that though the memories seem neutral, they are actually quite comforting, because they add weight and substance to memories that sometimes seemed vague and somewhat unreal. the mundane nature of these details make the memories concrete and believable. it is almost like proof that the more bizarre stuff that i didn't want to accept really happened. but they also provide windows that open onto bigger views...
yesterday, i was just starting to lather up the shampoo in my hair and i got a sudden flash of something that happened when i was in 5th grade. my "best friend" was "Pete" - the first i had ever had. we walked home from school together and he was the source of most of my sex ed. some of it was incomplete or distorted - but it was much more detailed and more generally factual than anything i got from my parents.
but the memory that returned yesterday was triggered by the shampoo. Pete was merciless in pointing out my faults and nagging me about them. i had forgotten that. he would find and identify and helpfully bring to my attention some flaw in my appearance or behavior and hammer away at me about it. this time it was dandruff. he told me i had it and then kept up a daily barrage of questions and suggestions about why i didn't do something to get rid of it. i don't know why that was such a big deal. it was as if he thought it was some kind of moral failure or serious character defect. i don't know why he was such a perfectionist - or maybe he just loved to torment me and this was an easy pretext. with my low self-esteem, i was an easy sucker for that kind of attack.
now that i think of it, we never used to hang out together at school - only on the way home. i am beginning to think that i was just his project - and that though i thought of him as my best friend, he did not feel the same. at the time, i was desperately lonely but this was before the worst of the abuse began. i was already being abused at home by the step-dad but not yet at school by my peers. he was the one who introduced that phase of my miserable life. and i now - as of yesterday, realize that he was bullying me too - undercutting my already fragile self-image with constant and relentless criticisms and pointing out and magnifying all my flaws - real or imaginary. i was a nerdy but clueless and relatively content kid who didn't yet worry that much about popularity or social acceptance. he was no prize, either. we both wore glasses and he was smaller than me and not a gifted athlete either. i was like his entrance ticket to the "in crowd." by selling me out to them, he gained status. as the naive early bloomer who was physically mature but socially infantile and pliable, i was like a coveted sex toy or prized piece of porn that he owned and shared with them - producing instant access for himself into the inner circle of popular jock pervs.
back to the memory trigger - in the shower, i was looking at a blue flattish plastic bottle with a streamlined flip-top, but suddenly saw a much larger, round/cylindrical orangish-brown bottle with a white swivel nipple type top. the label was typewritten with a faded ribbon and attached with clear tape that was buckling from the moisture. i could even smell the tarry scent of the contents - slightly gritty and not as thick as commercial shampoos.
somehow, goaded by Pete's nit-picking, i had convinced my mom to get a prescription for this anti-dandruff shampoo. this was unusual, since i did not like going to doctors and the step-dad would have thought it was foolishness and my mom would not have done it without his permission. it must have been as part of another required visit for inoculations or something. and ironic that i was able to express this sudden need for help with my dandruff problem - when i couldn't express the much greater need for relief from the abuse that had been ongoing for 5 years or so. anyway, i got this special prescription shampoo and i don't even remember if it helped.
the thing i took away from this is that i had not realized how abusive my "best friend" was - or how deeply he had hurt me by betraying me. i had not remembered how obsessive he was about tearing me down - and how successful he was - or how seriously this had affected all my other later attempts at friendship - which were sabotaged by fear, distrust and self-doubts.
i think his abandonment and falseness was just as harmful in its own way - though in a different way - as the overt sexual abuse.but - of course - his deceptive "friendship" led to and fueled the group groping and gang molestation and other forms of sexualized bullying that quickly followed at the hands of others. it is hard for me to separate all of it. now i can see that this is why there is an edge of sexual tension and fear - combined with both a desire for acceptance, affection and closeness - as well as a fight-or-flight wariness and self-sabotaging refusal to trust or reveal too much of myself or my feelings - in most of my friendships now. those elements were fused together at an early age. and i am the rope stuck in a tug-of-war deadlock - torn between longing for friendship and acceptance - and fear and avoidance of anyone who gets too close.
who knew a simple shower could reveal so much?!
Edited by traveler (02/20/14 10:36 AM)
Edit Reason: clarification
A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense to not himself.
Or just as mad.
So there you are.
Stark raving sane.
- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead