June 28, 2010

Storyteller...troublemaker... candlestick maker

Ask anyone in my family and they will say I'm a troublemaker. They'll probably have a wonderfully long list of so-called crimes I've committed and be all too willing to engage in some offenses that I don't even know about. But that's my family for you. That is how I am seen. I don't have a name. I don't have status. I have a rap-sheet. So what has been my worse crime, people ask?

Top of the list would have to be "telling" a friend I was sexually abused back in the god-forsaken 70's. A time when sexual abuse wasn't as prevalently public as it is today but happening none the less. I didn't tell my girlfriend cause I was bored or wanted to be a drama queen or, as has been suggested by family members, just wanting to "be like the others." I told because someone else mentioned it first. And because of the supportive reaction she got, I assumed, perhaps naively, that I would get the same in return.

I've since learned never to assume anything. In fact, my new word when I was in my teens was cynality - a mix of cynicism and reality. To me, they meant the same thing.

In 1984, I did the most heinous thing to my family - I went to the Police and reported my offender. It was like watching a nuclear fallout with family members all trampling over each other to deny my accusations whilst still trying to appear, on the surface at least, supportive of my cause. What they didn't know was that I was privy to all their statements.

I didn't bother to read the ones that I knew were already anti-me. I went straight to my mother's statement because she consistently claimed to support and help me. To this day she still thinks I thought she was "on my side" but her statement said she regarded me as  "an imaginative storyteller." 

Funny how a few words like that can anchor a person in life. I like writing. I'd like to, one day, write about something imaginative and fun, perhaps some thing for kids? But you see, when I saw those words "imaginative" it made me think that meant unreal, made-up, magical. Certainly not truthful. I couldn't afford for people to think I'd made the sexual abuse up so best I stay away from writing like that. From that day on, I refused to accept anything imaginative. Even when I went to University to study English Literature, I struggled with the concept of make-believe, so much so, I was called into the lecturer's office and given a one-on-one about 'magic realism.' I pulled out of that paper and went straight into tackling the contradiction of 'creative non-fiction' instead, claiming there was no such thing. Oddly enough, I passed that paper. 

Not so odd was the outcome of the Police investigation - with no supporting witnesses and lack of any "obvious" physical evidence, the case was dropped. My entire family rejected me from that day on, labeling me 'the troublemaker,' and refusing to even acknowledge my existence. My mother, I dumped. Not in the true sense of the word, but in an emotional one. I kept my guard up around her, never let her in, and certainly never trusted her again. 

In order to distance myself from the constant ridicule, I jumped on a plane and headed for the UK. I told everyone it was just one of those random Kiwi OE things that just needed to be done when in reality, it was an escape. I was running away. I am not unlike most people. I wanted a family, a group of blood related people that loved me but I just didn't fit in. I was an outsider looking in and the only way I could stop punishing myself for creating a wedge was to leave the country and go as far away as possible. I never told anyone where I was going or where I was staying. That way, if I never heard from them I could tell myself it was because they didn't know where I was. Better that than have them know where I was and never bother to write or ring, which I was sure would happen - self preservation.

I went to England on a one-way ticket and six hundred pounds cash. I knew no one, had no idea where I'd stay or what I would do. All I knew was that I couldn't come back. I didn't have enough funds. I made sure of that. I must have been desperate. I couldn't imagine doing that now.  Within a week of arriving, I called my ex-boyfriend in New Zealand and promised to return home, marry him like a good girl, and give him the babies he wanted if he would just send me money to fly home. Bless his heart, he said he would but only if I called him in a month's time with the same request. I never did. I'd found my feet by then and recovered from the fear of being incredible alone in a big wide world. 

I'd found a job and a place to live and every two weeks, I'd jump on a plane to some island and have a holiday. On the surface of it, I was doing what everyone dreamed of - tiki touring around the world but I was really just moving out of fear of staying still. 

My desire to belong to a family (any family) grew so much that I ended up marrying a French guy and for a while (about a year), it really looked as though I'd "pulled it off." Everything I did always had another motive, always seemed "unreal", always appeared to be false - this marriage, in my mind's eye, was no different - a means to an end; security. We were semi-happy. We moved to Paris, lived with his mother for a while until we set up 'home' in Strasbourg. Unable to speak the language or get a job while he worked, I became increasingly isolated and more dependent on hubby until I'd squeezed the life out of him and he all but dried up. Our marriage, to this day, remains secret to his family. We never told anyone. He had his reasons, I swallowed mine. I so wanted to be a part of his family, a daughter in law to some of the nicest people I'd met, but I went along with hiding our marriage knowing his family would never have approved. It's one thing to like me, it's quite another to accept me as a family member. I, on the other hand, always sold myself short - happy enough to just "belong" to/with him and not be seen as "ungrateful" or wanting more. A family trait I'd learned over the years. Unsurprisingly, it didn't last. We split on a return trip to England and never saw each other again. 

... to be continued. 

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