Recently the article ‘Was My Mother A Cougar?‘ (yes!) took me to a very uncomfortable place, back to the beginning of my current arc. Because the way I uncovered my first substantial flashback of incest last June was by starting to list all the times when my mother had acted inappropriately to me and my brother in my late teen years. That led me to remember being sexually abused as a toddler. But this time I received a horrifying and vivid image of her trying to sexually assault me when I was 18. One night she had knocked on my door, drunk, and when I opened it she shoved her hands up my shirt and into my underwear, jerking my penis, trying to smother me with her body. I had to physically push her off of me with all of my force, because she was just this dense, hideous blob standing there, not looking at my face or responding to any word I said, only caring about her own sick motives.
Despite the fact that I had repressed this memory, I was shocked by how familiar it was; as if the memory had just been sitting on the tip of my tongue, before it finally popped. Another time in that period, my mother knocked on the bathroom door and asked if she could come in. I answered in the clear negative, but she picked the lock and came in anyway, claiming that she thought I was my father. I remember coming out into the living room and finding her doing some disgusting half-naked dance in front of my father. And it’s even more disturbing because I know when I was a child she made me dance naked in front of them too, as part of the sick and perverse games she imposed upon me. One night I was sixteen and sleeping in bed, naked when my mother suddenly started knocking on my door and shouting that she was coming in, she wanted to “look at me” to see what I was hiding by staying in my room. As she picked the lock I wearily got up and had to put my body against the door while I put on clothes, because she was refusing to wait.
When I asked her to buy me some clothing at 17 (as I was down to one wearable outfit after losing over one hundred pounds) she replied that “your father and I wouldn’t care if you walked around the house naked.” I bet they wouldn’t. But I would care, I had boundaries not to mention social needs, such as acceptable clothing to wear outside the house. It strikes me how my needs as a child were entirely superseded by her disgusting sexual desires. Though she did buy me one more outfit, it didn’t help much. The irony isn’t lost that she would on the one hand shame and pressure me to ‘get out of the house’ and leave, while on the other she limited my ability to do so. She was covetous, she wanted me for herself. She would make a show of crying when I talked about moving out, or transferring colleges, and then claim that it was “just allergies.”
This new memory of course upsets the timeline I’ve been trying to construct, not least of all because I don’t want to have been sexually abused in the time I thought of as the best in my life. But it was such a good time because I was no longer overweight as I was between roughly 11-16 years old. Ever since the first summer of my eating disorder, where I spent every day uncontrollably binging to escape the trauma of the sexual abuse I suffered at home. Finally losing that weight didn’t only help my self-esteem though, it made me physically attractive, which reignited the predatory interest from at least one of the abusers in my family. My mother made many comments about how good-looking I was, then she attempted to sexually assault me, and sabotaged my attempts to move out and differentiate myself, become independent.
But all of that ended when I relapsed hard at 19, and spent months binging, purging, fasting…and I gained forty pounds as a result. After that my mother focused all of her sexual attention on my brother, trying to set him up with her boss at work, talking about how “sexy” he was to all of her friends, embracing him from behind in a really disturbing way… And she didn’t want me anymore, then she asked me to move out. This was likely a repeat of what had happened the first time I had gained weight and hit puberty; I was no longer of any use to them.
My mother, (and by extension the rest of my family,) was extremely judgmental when it came to physical appearance. Besides what she said directly to me, I heard my mother talk about other people all the time, and I felt the sting of those judgments too. She was always making random comments about how this or that person was ‘chubby’ ‘fat,’ ‘too gay’ etc. When I once walked in on my brother’s girlfriend in her underwear (she was in the kitchen of our house and thought she was alone) my mother commented later that “you must not have gotten such a thrill, since she’s so flat-chested.” A disgusting, presumptuous comment to make to her teenage son, but also a really insane way of ‘sizing up’ her other son’s girlfriend. My mother couldn’t handle the fact that girls did not give me a “thrill” at all, because she was so involved as to see my homosexuality as a rejection of her. Thus she once claimed that I only “thought I was gay” because my ex-girlfriend was “so dumpy” and thus I just had to find the “right woman for me.” So disgusting, so insulting…
I internalized these judgments via the insane body image I kept all throughout my 20’s, so sure that no one would even want to talk to me unless as I was as thin as was humanly possible. But I couldn’t lose any more weight because I couldn’t stop my eating disorder or get over the guilt of having destroyed myself in order to protect myself from her. I remember at the end of that summer when I was 19 and had begun my eating disorder, my mother rubbed it in my face. I walked through the house when she was sitting with my brother on the deck. They heard me, and so she said to him “Do you beleive that Caden was eating cupcakes and stuff that whole time?” and they both laughed and laughed. My sister had gossiped to her about my eating disorder, and supplied the ridiculous detail (as I never ate cupcakes and I certainly wasn’t doing anything the ‘whole time.’) But they laughed, they gloated about the fact that I had an eating disorder, that I gained some weight back, that I couldn’t control myself.
The level of intrusion that my mother inflicted on my body and emotional health is practically immeasurable. I paid for it over and over and over again; I paid with years, with time of my life that I can’t ever regain. She has not paid, yet. I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment for having been manipulated like this. Especially because when I was 18, the only people I had in my life were those who told me it was all my fault, and my mother was blameless no matter what. My sister was at the top of that list, who only heard my mother’s side but was nonetheless sure that there were no mixed messages and was ready to put herself in my mother’s shoes and never look down at the dry, cracking, rotted skin it gave her. But they were wrong, after all that I survived in my early life, I was trying so, so hard start a different life for myself. But she couldn’t keep her hands to herself, respect my boundaries or provide me with the barest assistance in what I wanted to do. Of course I was retraumatized by that and regressed. My potential was hanging by a thread, and she fucking cut it. It’s taken me so long to re-hang with firmer support, but I’m getting there, one link at a time.