The Author of my Being. Part 4

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…The continuing story of the trauma that threaded its way into my life when I reached puberty. Click on the links to read Part 1, Part two and Part 3.

WARNING! ADULT CONTENT

I recently turned eleven. Thanks to my mother’s gentle tact, I’ve bathed by myself since the start of pubescence. Now both my sister and I have more space to splash.

I lock the door against invaders,
but the peace of security evades me.
I imagine prying eyes, spying through the frosted window,
dribbling at my prematurely curved body.
I hide my breasts and genitals beneath clean flannels
that my she-devil nipples and the wilful triangle of hair
are concealed from peeping-toms,
and also from me.

I could soak and scrub all day,
but it won’t change the way I’ve become.
It won’t make me clean.
I can never be Me again.
It’s a cruel error,
this forced, false femininity;
this stealing of self.
It’s the end of everything.
Please Lord, if indeed God you be,
let me be a boy.
Let me be me.

I want to wake up free from this monstrous body, throw off my vest and run in the fields
unencumbered by the trials of Eve, but I don’t know how to strike a deal. In my panic, it doesn’t occur to me that a boy must eventually morph into a man. Recent events have made me less sure than ever of whether I like men.

Smashing up against all of this angst and agony, is the worst secret of all, one that often creeps up on me when I see my father’s photographs, and whenever I am alone in the bath. It’s a  humiliation that I try to press down, but I can’t. It thrums in time to the pulsing of my blood, a tantalising tickle way below the belt, lurking low in the belly, beneath budding flesh.

A flimsy flannel may cover up the sight of that rebellious part of me, but it cannot desensitise the site.

The beat is taking me, strumming deep inside,
I try to block advice from some devilish guide
plagueing me with vile and wicked temptation
to stroke and to probe the inner inflammation.
Apalling visions are swishing in my head
of naked women kissing in a sweat soaked bed.
I abhor the excitement which billows within,
insisting that I execute a dark, exquisite sin.

The thrills explode, but as the water grows chill,
I’m chagrined and angered by my weak lack of will.
I wallow in disgrace and I’m sure of one fact
It can’t be normal to commit such an act.
I’ve a nasty suspicion that I’m to blame,
For my father’s iniquitous act of shame,
and not only that, but the juvenile attack
is starting to feel like an earned comeback.

More ignominy awaits. My mother, with her kind sensitivity, has left it as long as is practicable, but one evening she brings the subject up, in as casual a manner as she can muster:

“When we go to town tomorrow, I’ll buy you a couple of bras.”

Heat presses against me, insinuating itself beneath my skin. My heart is hammering. I taste metal, a flavour that’s becoming familiar to me. I knew there could be no remission, but this feels like proof; the final nail, hammering into the coffin of childhood..

“I don’t… I can’t… I… All right,” I reply.

Her eyes slide in my direction, assessing the situation, then look quickly away. She knows I’ll shut shut down or hide my agony behind a mask of anger if she shows too much kindness or empathy. A brief sentence is all I’ll allow. I deal with unpleasantness in my own way. I don’t like soppy stuff, it’s for weedy girls, who burst into tears and let mum cuddle them and make it all better. My problem can’t be resolved, and expecially not in that way. I mustn’t show weakness.

If I was a weedy girl, I would probably be pleased to have reached this landmark. I no longer know what I am, but I’m not like the sissies in the village nearby, with their busty Barbies, frilly skirts, and pink hairslides.

“You’ll be more comfortable in a bra,” she murmers.

It’s evening, so I can’t run off to my world at the bottom of the field below my house, but when I go to bed I can plan how my first conversation with Paul will go. I see him, sprinting through the field towards me, his hair bouncing. In a moment I’ll reveal myself…

The next day, mum and I go into a low-key shop, a shop that’s not brazen about its bra display. I can’t look at the bras. To me, choosing one would be like selecting which type of lethal poison to take when you have no wish to kill yourself. Mum rummages around, then picks one up and asks me if I like it. I’m several feet away, trying not to look like someone who’s being bought a bra, so I mutter that it’s fine. I’m too embarrassed to try it on, so she guesses the size, gets two, and says that if they don’t fit she’ll bring them back and get a different size.

At home, I obediently go to my bedroom and try on one of the bras. It’s a horrible white pointy thing – this is 1966, and horrible white pointy things are fashionable. It feels uncomfortable, but I was expecting that. I can’t bear to look at myself, so I don’t know whether or not it fits. I take it off. I only plan to wear it for school. I go downstairs, where mum is trying to look indifferent.
bra1
“Do they fit?” she asks.

“Yeah, thanks mum, they’re lovely” I say, attempting to sound keen.

As it turns out, they don’t fit. Anywhere. I endure months of increasing itching and chafing before mum risks suggesting that I may have grown out of my first bras. We go through a slightly different routine, with a marginally less painful result. My mother, without fail, does her best for her strange, repressed boy-daughter. She has many difficulties in her life, and, however it may seem, I do my best not to be one of them, perhaps with less success than I would hope. Wanting to please me, she asks me if I like the style of my current bras. I don’t want to her to feel she’s failed in any way, so I say yes, thereby precipitating the purchase of exactly the same ugly, uncomfortable style. The fit is little better. I come to the conclusion that the mistake of my birth is worse than I thought. Not only have I inadvertantly been made into a girl, but my shape has been inaccurately designed.

Still, I think, at least this time I didn’t have to go through the discomfiture of being present when my mum bought the bras.

My father has taken to covering up his disgrace with fake jollity, adopting a hail-fellow-well-met attitude whenever I’m present. This is an in-between time in our relationship; it could go either way. He could apologise, and make whatever dumb excuse he may please. All my life he’s been a hero to me, so I’d be eager to forgive him, but in addition to being sexually driven, he is proud, arrogant, and selfish, so there’s little hope for real repair, and anyway, maybe I’m in the wrong, too. I’m the one who’s turning into a filthy monster. What he did could be partly my fault.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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27 thoughts on “The Author of my Being. Part 4

  1. Children are so forgiving of their parents’ sins and often try to cover up on their behalf or take on blame for things that are none of their doing. Such unconditional love should be treasured and nurtured, not sullied and taken advantage of. Your mother tried to do her best without being invasive. What a pity the bras were so awful.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Tha’s the funny thing – I didn’t know I blamed myself until I wrote this. My feelings of shame for what I was becoming must have caused me to bury the feelings of blame way down deep.
      I feel very strange after today’s outpouring. Am I a closeted lesbian?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. A closeted lesbian? I don’t know Jane, only you can answer that 🙂 I would say that you have been scarred and tainted by the experiences. It’s not surprising you feel strange. That’s quite an outpouring. Have sent you an email. Did that before I read this, otherwise I would have more to say 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t really think I’m a lesbian. Lesbians tend to like me, and I generally like them, but I don’t feel any physical attraction. When a lesbian friend tried to set me up with another woman (I don’t know what possessed her), the idea left me cold.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. My femininity felt alien to me long before that. Maybe someday I’ll try to pimpoint when it began, but there’s no hurry.
      I don’t think I’m a lesbian, though I’ve never been able to fully dismiss the thought. However I’ve never been physically attracted to a flesh-and-blood woman.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep… I’ve heard that homosexuality is somethign which a child may be born with, or it may be the result of family dynamics.
          No, I’m not a lesbian, though I’ve often wished I was. I generally prefer female company, and I trust women more.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I worked for Wal-Mart. The last 2 years were in Men’s/Boy’s wear. It was expected for to cover the Ladies’ area at times. Standing at the fitting rooms. I was expected to survey the users, making sure they were not trying to take in more than allowed by management. Then to tidy up the clothes after. When a woman wanted to try on a bra, I had to take them out of the box, before they entered the fitting room. After I had to rebox the ones not being bought. To begin I was nervous. After a while it was easier. Trying not look at her chest. Yet we all have them. Chests. Nipples.

    A child is conceived. The first thing to develop in the womb, is the anus. Then a female, lastly a boy at around 12 weeks. I find the teeth are most intriguing. When born the teeth are already there waiting to descend. The second lot behind the first. Now I’m older and retired. The slow hair loss and teeth decline. That’s what life is for us. Being born, growing, then decay. I have my feminine side and embrace it, yet I will never feel like a closet homosexual. I do not see it as the end of the world, if I were. Society now seems to try and confuse us, about our sexuality. Boys are now encouraged to wear skirts in one school, I have read? To be called feminine names? I went to a mixed Secondary school, in London. A school run by the Cof E church. I hated it all. Yet I still enjoy learning. Funny how it goes? I actually became good at guessing a woman’s bra size without looking. Once called brassieres now bras. Funny how it goes?

    Like

    1. Yes – all my poetry. Sometimes the only way I can record something is through poetry. I wouldn’t have the courage to share it in prose. The second poem is on a subject of which I have never spoken to anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading it back, I think I should have had the courage to write about this long ago. The more people write about those embarassing secrets, the less shame other young people will feel at having acted on normal impulses.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You can only deal with wounds when the time is right. And, although it is true that talking about trauma can help others, the most important thing is to help yourself deal with the results of abuse.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with the others, Jane – such honest writing that many women will identify with. It feels as if your birth into womanhood was a painful process made more difficult by your father’s actions. Wonderful writing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lynn. I pledged to myself that I would be totally open and honest on this blog. Sometimes it’s scary, like when I published, but it’s always rewarding. I’m having a great adventure in the comfort of my own home 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Although we don’t know how awful the results may be… my eldest daughter once suggested that what we had at that time may be the best possible result – that if we changed the slightest detail it could have precipitated some cruel disaster… 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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