The first, longest lasting, and most redundant misery my was frizzy, old lady perms. Mother did this so my sister and I would be social outcasts. Vastly overestimating our sexual attractiveness, from the time we went into puberty until we got old enough to fight her off, she maliciously inflicted home perms on us.
She bought our underwear at the Dollar Store or the cheapest thrift store or fire sale around, should Grandma lag in keeping us rigged out in home-made torture underwear. Long after pointy bras were unavailable in normal circulation, Mother managed to ferret out pointy padded bras in the cheapest stores known to mankind, never mind the fact that the stiff cups caved in if they were bumped. I’d have loved some not-too badly-worn cast-offs from the lucky, poor kids down the street, but they laughed when they caught me going through their trash. I tried to hide when changing in gym to keep anyone from seeing my Grandma’s home-made drawers. They were made without benefit of elastic in the waist and tended to lengthen your legs by several inches as the day went on. Grandma didn’t worry a lot about soft, cotton fabric. Coarse, woven prints were good for the soul.
I was stuck in saddle-shoes for years because they were durable and Mother had loved them in high school. Never-mind the fact that no other kid would have been caught dead in saddle shoes. Best of all, I was a total slob, not the kind of kid who would ever voluntarily polish a shoe. Most of the time, I didn’t even remember I had shoes till the school bus driver was honking the horn outside our door and I was simultaneously looking for my books, trying to get a note signed (bad news) and looking for lost shoes. My shoes were inevitably, wet, filthy, and most likely stinking from ripping through the barnyard. Not a good look for black and white shoes. A more forward-thinking mother would have dressed me every day in a slicker and rain boots, so she could have hosed me off.
Though I tell these stories in jest, the following story still angers me.
I think my greatest humiliation stems from the fact that Mother tortured me by hooking a ride for me with a boy I despised and was mutually despised by, not informing me until it was time for me to go. The boy’s mother was a friend of my mother’s. He was a bully, tormenting me daily. I’d never confided this humiliation to my mother. I was forbidden to register more than a minor protest, cancel my plans, or refuse to go since that would first, “embarrass her.” Had I pressed further “disputing her word,” I would have committed the worst possible sin a kid could commit. Ashamed to voice the humiliating truth, I was enraged and ashamed as I got into the car with the equally furious bully, riding unspeaking and miserably in the back seat as he rode in the front with his mother. I asked her to let me out on the opposite parking lot, so we wouldn’t have to walk together. My feelings for him have not changed all these years later, though I do believe I may share this story with him. Perhaps he doesn’t know this is important to someone.