I often watch how other women act, react, and interact, and I wonder why I’m not that way. Feeling like an alien with my own kind. It’s been years since I’ve been told I’m anything other than stoic, robotic or cold. I most often sit back and observe, think before I speak. All with an expressionless face. I’ve tried to figure out why I’m like that – my mom isn’t. My grandmothers weren’t and my aunts aren’t.
A few weeks ago I was reminded of when that started – the day I turned to stone. At Ellie’s 7th birthday party we wandered a few blocks to the park with her 6 little guests, and as I observed them from a neighboring bench, I heard one of the girls shout “Move it FATTY!” to another little girl. It caught me by such surprise that I couldn’t react to it. The girls didn’t react, they kept on playing, indicating that this was common vernacular among them. It terrified me. Was my daughter already in the “mean girls” phase of school, before second grade? We weren’t like that, were we?
Then I remembered that we were, in fact, just like that. When I was in 5th grade there was series of letters. The first hand-delivered on a school field trip by the class dreamboat, simply addressed to “the bitch.” The first time I ever saw or heard the word cunt was in that letter, meant for me. And they all watched, my closest friends worked together at the front of the bus to draw up their masterpiece, and then studied me reading it to myself, 8 seats away. As my skin was fusing to the 90 degree leather bus seat, I sat staring at that letter. I could feel them watching, waiting for my reaction, and I decided that they didn’t get to see my face, not my real face. Not the face that showed any emotion. There were more letters throughout the year, most of them slipped through the cracks of my locker, but I had already turned to stone. They didn’t get what they wanted from me so they turned their attention elsewhere.
After the birthday party Ellie and I had a long discussion about how to talk to people, how we want to be treated, and how to react when a person treats you badly. She sat, listening, absorbing what I said, and told me that she would never call someone that because it’s not a “good friend thing to do.” I can’t help but wonder though, if there will be a day in the not-so-distant future when she’ll turn to stone.