I wasn’t always the one on the outside looking in. When I was in my early teens I had confidence. I didn’t have a weight problem and my skin was clear. I had a really cute boyfriend who was the captain of the basketball team and I was head cheerleader and together the two of us were hot property in our small sphere of Catholic school where I went for 8 years of my life with the same 32 kids who I played with and had my first Communion with and went to birthday parties with and laughed with and cried with and fought with and made up with. And in this little universe I felt as comfortable as I could be and sometimes popular and sometimes not. Because when you live in a home where secrets are held close to the chest one must lie to keep those secrets inside and when you do that you become known as a liar because its hard to keep all those stories straight and you are not completely trusted and you don’t even trust yourself because that is what lies do to a kid. The undercurrent of truth is held below the surface never to be brought to the light of day...keep it hidden, keep it underwraps, keep reality in a place where no one including yourself can find it. bury who you are. be a fake. and maybe then no one will ever find out the truth. But I had this boyfriend. And we were together from sixth grade to eighth grade. And that seemed to be alright with my parents because I was a good girl and I didn’t know anything anyway and times were innocent and I was innocent and how can you be bad if you don’t even know what bad is. So I thought that me and this boy would last forever and get married and I would live happily ever after because he made me feel special and loved and I dreamt of the day we would have our own house and be like The Cleavers or The Andersons. normal. And I kissed this boy, but never went any farther because I didn’t even know how far it could go. I was never told anything but instinctly being the good Catholic girl that I was, I knew that touching wasn’t allowed and so I didn’t allow that. I didn’t even know where babies came from..I thought it had something to do with my bellybutton but wasn’t sure. Catholics in the 60’s just didn’t talk about that stuff. The nuns sure didn’t talk about it.
They told us things were a sin but we didn’t exactly know what those sins were. At least I didn’t. When I got my period I thought I was dying. My mom told me I was a woman now but I said I didn’t want to be a woman whatever that meant. Was I going to start having babies? How were things going to change? No one ever really explained it to me. I was only 14. I still wanted to be a kid.
Me and this boy then went to Junior High. Public School. We went from a small insulated world
into one in which I was totally unprepared for. We were no longer in the safe and familar confines of Immaculate Conception School but were put out into the big wide world of all the other schools combined and I was no longer the big fish in the little sea and I was gobbled up and spun around and got lost in that shuffle of pretty girls who knew a lot more and did a lot more and went a lot farther..and I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, and I didn’t get a part in the play and my good looking boy looked pretty good to all these other girls too so he dumped me faster than a hot rock and I was left alone with a fragile heart that was
broken in two and a feeling of tremendous loss and unbearable loneliness and dealing with emotions that a girl so young should not be dealing with. I would see him in the halls with one girl after another and my heart was shattered and it was way more than my already delicate self could bear. I shouldn’t have had a serious boyfriend at such a young age because now the pain of losing him was way way way too much for me to handle. And all I wanted was to have him back. And all I dreamed about was getting him back. And those dreams were not gonna happen this time and I was no longer the bright outgoing girl, but a speck of dirt, lost in the hallways of junior high, trampled on by girls with prettier clothes and more money and better families and so I went deeper and deeper in my room with my records and with my candy and chips and sodas ...and this is where i stayed. And I was squashed down into nothingness. and I didn’t join school clubs, or have any activities and I didn’t go driving around town with that handsome grade school boyfriend that I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life because that is what we talked about for hours on the phone and that was our plan together. And I was dreaming about this and waiting for it and waiting for high school when we could drive in a car and our world would be our oyster but this dream died in a blink of an eye with me standing alone in a river of tears in the hallways of Farnsworth Junior High.
My room was on the upper floor of a white with black shutters CapeCod on the South Side of town. It was a room that I shared not only with my older brother but with my father. It was a source of deep shame and embarrassment for me to have my father in the same room as me. I didn’t know anyone else who had this and my guess was that it wasn’t too common of an occurrence. When girlfriends came over they asked who slept in those other two beds so I lied and said they were for guests but of course those guests never came and girlfriends never slept over because then one of the big secrets would be revealed. I always came up with a reason why they couldn’t spend the night at my house. My mom was sick was a good one because I certainly used that one a lot and people got use to it. This was a secret that no one knew about and that no one ever will because I would have died had anyone found out. But I wondered... what were my parents thinking...? Couldn’t they have come up with something better than this? This was a big room. My father could have built some sort of wall to let me have my own little space, private and separate from them. It would have been tiny but it would have been mine. A wall. Thats all I needed. So I could have a little bed with a nightlight and a little closet to put my clothes in rather than a washpole hanging from the ceiling.. And all the pictures in the Sears catalog or the magazines that I saw in the drugstore did not fit the image of this room that I had. The pink and white bedrooms where little girls slept with canopy beds and ruffles and lace. And my room didn’t look like the rooms of my girlfriends who shared rooms with their sisters with matching twin beds and frilly curtains and chenille bedspreads just so. My father didn’t even finish this room. He just left it with the insulation showing and I would read the instructions on that insulation..."paper goes toward living space'... because I couldn’t sleep with all that snoring or the screaming and cursing or the smashing of dishes or the thunding of bodies being pushed against a wall. And I would cover my head with a pillow or rock violently back and forth in my bed to drown out the noise. So my mother, who had to have her own room because she couldn’t stand him , sent her husband, my father to share a room with his young teenaged daughter, who was already sharing a room with her brother, so her sister and her could have rooms of their own. While this bright spot of a once shining and capable little girl was sent to her room forever. lost in this room not of her own. An ugly, brown paper walled room, to lie awake fantasizing of a better future that was nowhere in sight.