Get good grades but I will never look at or ask about your homework. I will however beat you with a belt and tell you a monkey could do what you obviously cannot, when your grades are C’s and D’s. I will never read you a book or tell you a story. I will NOT play any games with you, although I will buy Risk and expect you girls to make heads or tails out of it. I do not care what school activities you belong to, but do not ask for money for uniforms. You can sew it yourself (7th grade band uniform).
We were dressed up like dolls (out of my normal tomboy filth) and taken to see operas. I was six, maybe seven years old. Had never head an operatic aria. We were never told the romantic stories, never given a frame of reference for this event – the tickets must have been purchased months in advance and yet we found out the day of the event. We would be shoved into dress-up clothes and fancy shoes. Piled into the station wagon, taken to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles (possibly another venue OH the Shrine Auditorium) to see oh, what – La Traviata and Madam Butterfly, the internet assures me. These performances started at – again, what – 7:30 PM? We lived at least two hours away from the venues, not to mention getting there on the 5-freeway in time to find our seats and get settled. These performances ended at about 9:30 or 10:00 PM – two more hours at least home (once dad was collected from the bar where he went to watch the entire performance on the closed circuit TV, as his “legs are too long for the seats” - once the crush of people inside and in the parking area dispersed) so home by midnight? 1:00 am? A 9-hour marathon. And afterwards, we were sometimes treated (!?) to dinner or desert at dad’s insistence – we were good little dancing monkeys, brought out to be shown. BUT NOT HEARD. There were possibly Crêpe Suzettes at some fussy French restaurant
Or perhaps Peking Duck at some obscure crazy Chinese restaurant. Always it was food I didn’t know, didn’t want to eat. Always it came after an exhausting day of being ‘on guard’ because we were out with the narcs in public. Always it came LATE when my childish internal clock vehemently had begun requesting food at about 6:00 pm. (probably earlier, there was no lunch unless you remembered it yourself) Always I was near faint from hunger and exhaustion – due to lifelong undiagnosed hypoglycemia. Always we could not enjoy the meal we DID get, as dad would go into a narcissistic rage at a waiter or water person for some infraction. ALWAYS.
(Chez Cary (pronounced shay ka'ree' – was on Main Street in Orange, Ca).
No discussion the following day around a cozy scene, reliving the story and the costumes, the gorgeous sets, and handsome leading men – nope, it was over and done. Except the punishment for whatever infraction I had committed during the event – wiggling too much, asking too many questions, knocking over a water glass, getting lost in the lobby… to this day opera and ballet mean nothing to me, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see any performance. These excursions (and the Christmas trips to Saks Fifth Avenue, another story) happened more than 4 times. Enough to learn, after the first, to dread them. Certainly not to enjoy and appreciate them! No, not even to understand them.
Here are clothes for you to wear. But we will not check the fit. Once very six months we will go through all hand-me-downs from all 5 older sisters and do an all-day torture session of trying on ALL THE CLOTHES. We do not care HOW you wear them, so you will be made fun of all of your life (but will not know why). We will never help you put your clothes away so you will never learn that perhaps socks have a place, pants have a place. In turn, you will never be able to find anything. We will never help you by EVER suggesting that you learn about outfits, that we have play fashion shows or sessions to show you what pants go with what shirt, that you don’t wear a long sleeved sweater with shorts, that underpants should USUALLY be clean… that perhaps you and your hair and your etc should be washed once or twice a week. But we will point at you and laugh at you for doing such things. You will be bullied at home and at school. Items will not be helpfully sorted to ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ piles. Red corduroy and blue cotton flowers and plaid jumpers and yellow tank tops all live in a pile. OH BUT, if you do declare one outfit to be ‘ugly’, we will be certain that you will be forced to wear that outfit every Tuesday (swear!) no matter what. Which in turn taught me how to change my clothes at the gas station bathroom next to Fairhaven Elementary School.
Here are books, tons of books (thank god, something good finally) here in the living room. Your sister, (one of 5 sisters) who is 9-years older, is in college and she has fiction books in her room too. Go ahead and read them all! Read Alice in Wonderland, read Hemmingway, read Richard Brautigan. We are glad to see you so interested in reading! Read them all, expand your brain. Read about abortion and war and time travel, you are 7! 8! But we will not discuss these with you. We in NO WAY will make any effort to pre-screen them, to audit your reading selections. We will not approve or disapprove. We barely notice your existence. This then, is how I found myself reading ‘The Story of O’ in a grocery store (Satellite Market in Orange, Ca), and one of the ladies had to yank it from my hand. It is quite the graphic S&M novel, and I was um… still riding my banana seat bike, so 8? 9? Huh. It took me a lot of my life to UNlearn what my little brain taught me about life and sex and death. We also give you no real credit for your incredible reading abilities, until we want to turn on you for the bad grades we don’t help you with and then we talk about your wasted ‘POTENTIAL’. I can’t imagine living to 10. You want to talk potential. God.
Go to college. You graduated high school, we didn’t go to the ceremony, but great. We have no idea what classes you took in high school, or if you liked any of them. Now go to college. But we won’t discuss what ‘college’ even means. We won’t tell you about professors or classes, or take you to the campus to walk around. Also – here is an ancient brown 10-speed bicycle.
(like this, but shit-brown. And more used.)
This is your transportation to go to college. Go register, go figure out the campus, figure out how and where to buy and haul your books, find and get to class on time, with this bike. From La Veta avenue in Orange, to the Santa Ana college campus – miles and miles of extremely busy 4-lane roads. Rain or shine. Show up at college sweaty or wet or worn the fuck out with the stress of dodging trucks and cars. Looking like hot hell while everyone else STILL looks like someone cared, someone washed clothes, someone bought them conditioner – so college is even worse than high school, and you thought that was going to be impossible!! HAHAHA. Shyeah, I quit. QUIT. How (not) odd for me – another failure. Again, they gave me a rock, told me to swim, and pushed me in. *blub* And then mocked me for YEARS because I didn’t go to college. The other sisters? Went to Cal State Fullerton. Graduated with degrees. One went to hair school (which is harder than you would think) and graduated that. Masters degrees in English or Dance. AA degrees in Finance etc. One had a Volkswagon bug. Three of them had Pintos that dad bought new for them. I had a used bike. Much like Charlie Brown and the rock in his trick-or-treat bag. How sad for that girl I was.