Growing Up with Hugh Hefner and Playboy

News of Hugh Hefner’s passing this week has brought me back to a time in my childhood I had long forgotten. A time when sex, and bodies, and love started to dominate my thoughts and I was no longer that carefree child but a confused teenager trying to understand my sexuality.

Hugh Hefner and his controversial and prolific media empire played a big part in that. I don’t think there is a person who hasn’t been shaped in some way by his work, but it’s important to examine how we have been shaped and how we might do more and do better going forward.

Growing up my father kept crates of Playboys around.  He had Penthouse, and Hustler, and more, and worse, lying around too, but it was the Playboy’s I flipped through most days after school, trying to take in all the pictures and commit them to memory before he was due to return home from work.

He never tried to hide them, and he never told me not to look at them. That was his parenting style, there were no rules until I got caught, and then I was in trouble, and there was a new rule.

Once I flipped through one while eating a bag of Cheetos as my after-school snake. At 4:30 I returned the magazine to its place in the pile and moved on with the rest of my evening. Sometime later, I can remember anymore how many hours or days passed, he called me to the living room and pointed to my little orange fingerprints he’d found marking the lower outside corner of each page and asked me bluntly if I’d been reading them.

I denied it, of course. This happened during my “lying years” when I never admitted to anything, no matter the evidence presented. He asked me again, and I denied it again, and he only stared at me for a long time and sent me to my room. My father still made no effort to hide his magazines, and neither of us ever mentioned the incident again.

I’ve only told that story to a few close friends because I’ve been a little ashamed of it. Not because I was looking at those magazines. I’m ashamed because my father might have gotten the wrong idea about why I was looking at them.

“Sex is the driving force on the planet. We should embrace it, not see it as the enemy.”

—Hugh Hefner

See, I wasn’t flipping through those pictures because they excited me. I was a teenager, and I was attracted to other teenagers, and while the men and women gracing Playboy’s pages were certainly attractive, they were also old. What playboy was for me was a kind of education, and compared to the sources I’d had back then, it was the best I could get.I learned what sex could be. I saw it could be enjoyable, exciting, and, well, sexy.

I never got a proper “talk” from my parents. They seemed to just understand that one day I knew what sex was, but they never asked where I had learned what I knew, and they never offered to clarify anything. The Sex Education class that school taught was nothing but the mechanics of sex. They talked about it the way you explain to a toddler how using the “big kid potty” works. You do it when you are old enough to handle it. You do it behind closed doors. You wash your hands after doing it, and you do not talk about it in mixed company. It’s something we all do, but it’s dirty.

Playboy taught me that sex isn’t dirty, and people aren’t dirty for wanting it, thinking about it, or doing it. It’s natural. It’s something people like to do, and if you do it the way that works for you, with someone, or maybe even someones, that you like and that like what you like, you might like doing it too.

Playboy taught me that sex isn’t something you have to hide either. You can talk about it, share stories, share knowledge! And it taught me that no matter what you are into, there are plenty of other people who are into that too. Not much is out of the norm anymore, and no one needs to feel weird or different.

The women in Playboy seemed classy, cool, and in control of what was happening to them. Whether they were or not, I never got any other idea. The men never looked mean or angry, and they women looked eager to engage. Other porn I’d seen, especially videos played at friends houses when their parents were at work, the women were either bored or overdoing it to fool the viewer. They were objects. They were there to give, and no one cared how they felt about it. Those videos gave me a dirty feeling, like I needed to wash my hands after.

But when I flipped through those Playboys memorizing those details it was because this was the kind of sex I wanted to have one day. I wanted to remember how it was done. I wanted to know what I needed to do to feel classy, cool, and in control when it was my time to grow up and do it too.

As much as I Playboy may have helped me understand sex and sexuality, Hugh Hefner’s use of women and sex to get rich is a messy moral predicament. There’s no doubt of his immense contribution to pop culture and the sexual revolution. Playboy wasn’t just sexy pictures and “I never thought it would happen to me” letters. The articles really were groundbreaking and informative, and some of the best interviews include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fidel Castro, Miles Davis, John Lennon, and many, many more.

His work for LGBTQ and abortion rights helped move this country forward and his belief that women own their sexuality, embrace and express it, shaped me, and I am willing to bet, many other women. He changed the world forever, and I am grateful for his work and his voice, but there are issues too, big issues. I can be grateful for the man, and still, find his methods and his media problematic. It’s sex, after all, and sex is never simple.

I’ve never heard that Hugh treated the women in his employment badly, but his mansion, and all the women, and the sacred place he held in everyone’s hearts and minds felt cult-like and creepy. For the women around him, there was clearly a standard to met and expectations to fulfill. There was an illusion to keep up one that so we were all so eager to be a part of we never really questioned it. Its only been after the news of his death that even I have looked back and wondered if the man and his work were really such a positive force for everyone?

What we failed to see was that in his glamorous world of fantasy, men were men, and women no matter how well they were treated, were still only valued by the pleasure they could bring. In Hugh’s world, masculinity still reigned supreme. Women enjoyed only an illusion of control. They were encouraged to embrace their sexuality, to own and express it, to the benefit of the male eye and libido.

Hugh Hefner, to me, was the kind of man who realizes slut shaming results in less sex for men and so encourages the women around him to be free to get what he wants. It’s manipulation instead of force. I can’t be sure that was his intention, but I can be sure that is the message many men got.

So, progress was made but some of that progress was just dressing up old ideas and ways of seeing gender and sexuality in new exciting clothes. It’s important to be clear and honest about that. One man can’t have changed the world all by himself, he was no God despite the pedestal he was placed on. Recognizing his failures is not a denial of his greatness. It’s the best way we can honor him, by doing better.

Hugh was a man, a big, important, influential, historical man, but he was a man. A man of privilege and ignorance. A man made of half good intentions and half bad methods, just like the rest of us. I can see all of that, but there is also something else too. Something more personal, outside of good and bad. It’s in the ways Hugh and his magazine touched our own private lives and shaped our private pleasures. He shined a light into the dark corners and showed us, or at least me, that there’s was nothing dirty in those corners after all.

Just good clean fun to be had by all.

“In my own words, I played some significant part in changing the social-sexual values of our time. I had a lot of fun in the process.”

— Hugh Hefner

***

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Featured image is by Mark Vessey

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Monday Motivation // Remember What It Was Like

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I know, I know, no one likes Mondays. No one likes to leave the freedom and comfort of the weekend behind to be thrust unprepared into the monotony and boredom of the work week. But life is short and to spend our whole lives hating one entire day of the week seems like a big waste of what little time we have on this Earth. Let’s try to think about Monday’s a little differently, shall we?

I say Mondays are a time for new beginnings. I say Mondays are full of new possibilities and an exciting chance to do it all over again, and this time, get it right.

This Monday I am struggling to take my own advice. I was up early, and I was getting stuff done but only because I was having so much trouble sleeping, which means I am tired now. I got into work and shit was already hitting the fan. I’m also struggling to maintain a positive attitude.

“All of us were once children, but only some of us remember that”

// Steven Aitchison

For the past few weeks, I have been listening to the Radio Headspace podcast. I was very sad to find out that I had discovered it after it had already ended but there are some excellent stories and bits of information in the archives. One that stuck with me was episode #9 Reconnecting With Ourselves. We often forget what it was like to be a kid and in this episode the mission is to remind us what it was like and how to back to it.

What was fascinating was the different answers children, and adults gave to the same questions:

  • Did you learn anything new today?
  • Were you bored today?
  • What do you do with your friends?
  • What do you like about your friends?
  • What do/did you want to be when you grow up?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • What does it mean to be stressed out?

Some of the answers were very different. The children are eager to answer. They don’t need time to think, they don’t hesitate, they just start rambling on, telling you exactly what they are excited about.

Some of the adults had more somber answers; some had no answers at all. The adults sounded a bit sadder, or maybe it was just the way we lose that innocence and simplistic view of the world that is sad. There just wasn’t the same excitement or eagerness. Some of them had forgotten what it was like to be a kid.

Some of us have forgotten what it was like to be a kid.

I never got to be much of a kid. Between us being poor, moving a lot, and me having to care for my siblings, I grew up way to fast. I never felt very innocent or undoubting. This week I think I will explore the child-like side of myself.

I want to give the little girl in me a little bit more freedom, a little bit more of a say in how we spend our days. The world shouldn’t be bleak and boring. We shouldn’t be so worried and stressed all the time. When you think about the way that kids see and experience the world and the way adults see and experience the would it would seem that being an adult it the lesser of the two.

Oh, we have great things. We have love, we get to make our own families, we get to follow our dreams, but the daily cost is beginning to outweigh the benefits.

But what if we took all those things that make being an adult great and look at the through the eyes of the child inside of each of us. What if we learned all we could from every situation? What if we taught each other and played together? What if had big impossible dreams for the future? What if we colored with crayons and made time for recess? How much more fun might life be then?

So this week, let a child teach you, teach someone else, learn something, do something fun, be messy, dream big and then draw pictures of your dreams with crayons or colored pencils.

This week remember what it was like to be a child and find a way to make that childlike enthusiasm and a part of your adult life.

“Everything seemed possible, when I looked through they eyes of a child.
And every once in a while; I remember,
I still have the chance to be that wild.”

// Nikki Rowe

Featured image via Unsplash

Written in response to The Daily Posts Prtompt: Playful

Growing Up and Kissing Girls

Based on a true story.

***

At the end of my 8th-grade year, a new girl came to our school. By lunchtime, on her first day, we all agreed she was the new “prettiest girl” in school. Over the next few months, she became something of a legend. She was at a level of cool that most of us could never dream of attaining.

I never spoke to her. I knew I wasn’t cool enough to be her friend, but we did travel in the same groups. I liked that, knowing that through friends of friends, we were connected. I did want to talk to her, though, and over those months, I slowly worked up the courage to try. I decided that after school when I saw her walking home, I would strike up a conversation.

I looked for her to cut through the field behind the school. She was there, but she was with a boy, the cutest in the school, and they were kissing. I didn’t understand it then, but I was really hurt by that. No, I was jealous.

But I wasn’t jealous of her, I was jealous of him.

I spent the rest of 8th grade feeling very confused.

***

A lot of us were there, maybe 10 or so. The ratio of girls to boys not quite even but close. There were more of us girls than them, and we sat awkwardly grouped, all on one couch. We were like herd animals, not wanting to be separated, or caught singled out. The wolves were looking to pick one or two of us off.

One boy, the one whose home this was, goes to the back of the house and returns with a few Playboy magazines. This wasn’t the first time I had seen one, but I remember we spent a lot of time on a spread of two girls kissing. They were both nude, but the photos didn’t show them doing anything more than kissing. On the last few pages, a man enters, and things get more interesting.

The boys forgot us and talked only of those two women and their own fantasies of the same scenario.

***

A girl who lives in the same apartment complex as me invites a few of us over while her parents work late. The girl to boy ratio is exact this time, three girls, three boys. We act cool and calm, but mentally we are all weighing the pros and cons of each of the opposite sex. You want to make up your mind who you like better in case any kissing games break out.

A game of spin the bottle is suggested, but I knew this would never work out in my favor. I hated the boys that were there and instead wanted the girl with the red hair and a beautiful name, Alice. I knew that even if the bottle landed on her, they would just make me spin again. The point is for the girls to kiss the boys.

I was frustrated and angry. I didn’t want to kiss the boys, so I made up an excuse and went home. I was once again feeling very confused.

I never did get over that red hair.

***

My friend and I are the last ones in the school’s locker room after gym. She wears a lot of make-up, so she always takes forever to get ready. I am her best friend, so it is my duty to wait however long it takes so she doesn’t have to walk to class alone.

I look at her and pretend I’m not looking at her. She is very pretty. I wish I could be closer to her but getting to wait for her while she does her make-up is the closest I’ll ever get. I remember feeling hopeless.

She sees me watching her put on lip gloss, and she stops, looks away from the mirror…and asks me to kiss her.

I freeze, paranoid that this is all some trick. I imagine that if I agree she will flip out and call me a dyke, or something. She’ll say she knew I was gay all along. She’ll laugh as she tells everyone else in school that I am a gross lesbian.

So, instead of saying yes, like I wanted to, I laugh and say no. She shrugs it off, and we walk to our next class.

I regretted that decision for a long time.

***

I end up dropping out of school, but I have met the girl of my dreams, so nothing else matters. We talk every day, and we go to the movies every weekend. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and I am madly in love.

My work schedule changes to overnight, so I start visiting her at her high school for lunch. We meet outside the cafeteria doors, and we walk to Burger King or Subway. We eat, we talk, and I walk her back.

Once there I offer to walk her to her next class before I leave. I am trying to squeeze as many minutes out of this visit as I can. We walk to the locker room of her school, and she tells me she has gym class.

I say my goodbyes, and I lean in to kiss her. She stops me and reminds me that she has gym class. She cannot kiss me before going into the locker room! She says this as if it were obvious.

She says other girls will definitely have something to say about a lesbian in the locker room. I am hurt, but I do understand.

I never walk her to the locker room again.

***

We have been together for many years now. We are young, and we want to go out but whenever we do the men around us lose their shit.

They stare and make vulgar noises when we kiss. It makes us feel uncomfortable. On the bad nights, the ask if they can kiss us too. I wish I had a dollar for every request for a “three-way kiss.” We could move to a remote island where these creeps couldn’t reach us.

On the really, really bad nights, the guys follow us, or they get too touchy-feely. They say we just haven’t met the right man yet. They don’t think women can have relationships, or even sex, without a male involved.

I remember that Playboy magazine and I think they must have gotten the idea from there. They must all have looked at that same spread. They must all think women only kiss until a man comes along to make it more interesting.

We stop going out so much. We choose to stay home where we can kiss in peace.

***

Things are different now. We aren’t scared, or ashamed, or confused anymore. We no longer feel the pain of loving women who will never love us back. We have each other now.

We have learned that we are entitled to be in love in public without it being about anyone else. We have learned that other people are learning it too. If they don’t, we educate them.

We kiss whenever and wherever we want now, and we don’t entertain anyone else’s thoughts on it.

***

My little sister, 15 years younger than me, texts me to say she had something to tell me. She says she likes a girl at school, and the girl at school likes her back. She tells me that because I am a lesbian she felt it wasn’t important to tell me. I tell her it’s okay and I’m happy for her.

She tells me not to make a big deal out of it.

It had been years since I thought about all those little incidents and my feeling for other girls. When I was her age, when I liked the new girl in school and ended up jealous and confused, things were so different. I barely understood my own feelings at that age, and I couldn’t fathom telling an adult about it, let alone telling the girl I liked that I did!

I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I am proud of my sister’s courage. I am happy that she can kiss the girls, or the boys, she wants right out in the open, without judgment, without fear, and with a lot less confusion.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

The Story of Me and My Dad: Part 1

I have always been, and probably always will be, a daddy’s girl.

My mom tells me that from the moment her and my father brought me home, me and my dad were close. She says I would cry all day until he got home and she says he took me with him everywhere he could.

My father came from a very chaotic and abusive home but he wanted to do better. He stuck with my mom, in the beginning, and helped raise me but neither of them really knew how to be parents. They didn’t even know how to be in a marriage.

Although my dad was good to me, he wasn’t so good to my mother. I remember they fought all the time, really bad. When I was young I didn’t understand what was happening and I thought it was normal. I thought all parents yelled and screamed at each other.

I think my father was hard on my mother. I know he cheated, I know he left her, and I know he was not much help to her after he left. When I was an adult he told me he just didn’t know how to be a husband. He also said that he wished he had treated my mother better. I think he will always love her a little.

After the divorce I would see my dad whenever he decided he wanted to see me, which didn’t seem to be all that often. Or at least it didn’t feel often enough. I missed him a lot and I was angry that he was gone. I didn’t understand why he had left and I blamed my mother for running him off. She never told me any different until I was much older and could take the truth.

Whenever, I did see my father we had a great time. He took us out a lot, especially around his friends. I remember thinking my dad must be so cool. He had so many friends and he was always going to these bars and parties. He was also always bringing home another woman.

He would eventually start getting serious about a few of these women and I have a couple of siblings from two of his other relationships. Neither of my step-mothers liked me and my sister much then since we were nothing but living reminders of my dads old life. I always felt like they hated to have us around and couldn’t wait for Sunday evening when we had to go back to our mother.

We didn’t even see him every weekend. I’m not sure exactly how often we did but even he admits now that he wasn’t there as much as he should have been. The sad part was as little as I saw him my other siblings saw him even less. I feel really bad about that.

It’s weird how as sad as I was that my dad wasn’t around, for some reason my young mind never thought to be mad at him about it. I still loved him very much and looked forward to seeing him whenever I could. I always secretly hoped he would come get me when things got bad between me and my mom. I wanted him to come save me from my mom who I thought hated me. I did end up living with him but not the way I had hoped.

You see, as I got older the effects of coming from a broken home became more apparent. I began to act out. When my mother got tired of me (the first time) she sent me to live with my father. I was about 14 years old.

I think this is about when my father’s alcoholism started to take hold. He had so many friends and I remember he was always going out, and leaving me home alone to fend for myself.

I remember that he never called to let me know he’d be late and I worried about him a lot.

I remember once he was gone for two days. When he came home I told him I had been worried. I told him he would’ve been dead in a ditch somewhere and I wouldn’t have known.

He told me I didn’t have to worry about him because he was an adult.

I remember once I woke up in the morning and there was a strange woman he had left on our couch and he was already gone.

I don’t know what my mom expected to happen but I continued to act out while living with my father. Looking back I don’t know how they expected I would ever do better with even less supervision and direction than I had had before. I guess it wasn’t completely his fault, he didn’t know much about raising a daughter, let alone one that was going through puberty and acting out.

So of course he sent me back to my mother. He said he had tried everything and didn’t know what else to do. He even asked me what he should do. I didn’t want to go back to my moms but I didn’t know how to be be better either. I’m not sure he really tried everything though.

I remember feeling bad that neither of my parents seemed to want me.

Years later, when I was 18, I lived with my father again. This time wasn’t much different than the time before, except he was drinking even more.

I didn’t really know what alcoholism was or how it effected a person’s health. I just remembered that day when I was 14 and my father told me not to worry about him because he was an adult. So I didn’t.

Then I remember vodka bottles in the trash every morning.

Then he got a DUI. Then another.

Then he lost his job.

Then we lost our apartment.

Then he was in the hospital and the doctors were saying he had to stop drinking or he would die.

He didn’t stop drinking and over the next several years my father went to jail, got into a good rehab program, graduated, and has been sober ever since.

There a lot I’m angry about and I’m not sure if any of it is worth bringing up anymore. He’s doing good, I’m doing good, and the past can never be changed. All we can do now is try to move forward and build a better relationship.

I still love my father very much and I think he knows this.

I just hope he also knows how proud I am of all of the progress he has made too.

Image: A photo of my father from February 1986. I would’ve been just shy of 1 years old.

The Complex and Fragile Relationship of Mother and Daughter – Pt. II

You can read Part I here.

I love my mother but Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday for me. I have so many feelings about her and us and us back then and us right now….We didn’t always have the best relationship. I don’t think we were ever close when I was a kid, not since the day I was born, and as an adult, even though things are better, I can’t forget the way that made me feel growing up.

I moved out/was kicked out just after my 17th birthday. Admittedly I had been a pretty (read:very) bad teenager but I don’t think that was entirely my fault. I was young and I had grown up in a broken and chaotic environment and I didn’t know how to cope with any of it. I was fucked up.

My mother didn’t know how to deal with a daughter who just wouldn’t do as she was told. Well, not beyond hitting me and that eventually stopped working. So she thought it best that since I didn’t want to be there and I imagine she no longer wanted me there, that I ought to go. I was shocked but I agreed and I packed up whatever I could carry and I left.

Looking back now I’m not sure how I felt about it. I want to say I missed my mother but it’s not like we ever got along anyway. It’s not like I was missing out on her hugs and motherly advice. To be honest moving out only meant she couldn’t yell at me anymore. I was lost without my mother but I had never really had her in the first place. Not that I can remember anyway.

It wasn’t until a couple of years after moving out that I began to feel real anger at my mother. Before that I had just been sad. Sad that I couldn’t be the daughter she wanted and sad the I had messed things up so much. I thought my mother hated me and I assumed she regretted ever giving birth to me. I mean, what else could explain the lack of hugs and “I love yous”? Why didn’t my mom ask me about myself? Why didn’t she do fun things with me? Why did she yell at me so much?

She must have hated me….

After moving out I lived with two cousins and their mother, my aunt. She wasn’t the best example of a mother either but she was genuinely interested in how I was doing and where my life was headed. Maybe my own mother had been too but she hadn’t let me know in a nice way at all. She only seemed concerned with me after I had already made the wrong choices.

A little after I moved out my mother moved to Missouri with my step-dad and my siblings. That is when I got mad. She hadn’t really been there for me but now she was leaving the state? Now I was really on my own. Now I started to think about how alone I had felt my whole life. Now I thought about what a mother is supposed to be. Now I thought about how the actions of the adults in my life had made me who I was and I had been the one to receive the punishment. Now I thought about my mother’s role in my current situation.

My heart became hard and I figured if my family didn’t want me I didn’t want them, and I set out to make my own family. My cousins became like sisters to me and I had met my lovely girlfriend and I felt like that was all I needed.

Me and my mother still talked every once in awhile, and slowly, without me really noticing, something changed. She visited me here and I went to visit her there and then she moved back and she wanted to see me. I don’t know how or why but while my feelings about her hadn’t changed we acted like none of it had ever happened. I was willing to pretend, I was happy to be a part of the family again….or maybe for the first time.

One day, me and my sister were joking about our rough upbringing in front of our mother and she loudly blurted out that she was sorry. She said she did her best but that she didn’t have a clue how to raise us. She said she was sorry. In that moment I forgave my mother. I don’t excuse what happened to me but it happened and there wasn’t much that could have been done. Most of the events of my childhood were effects from causes that occurred before my birth. I don’t think my parents ever had a chance.

I love my mother and I forgive her for not being the loving mother I so desperately needed, the mother she didn’t know how to be. Today we are close. We talk at least once a week and many times more often than that. We laugh together and I think she might even be proud of the woman I have become. That has meant a lot to me, but there will always be that little part of me, that girl-child Lisa, who wishes things could have been different, who wishes her mother had shown her love.

So this mother’s day I want to thank my mother. I thank her for keeping me alive and I thank her for teaching me that people aren’t perfect, not even mothers. I also want to thank her for not denying the fact that she made mistakes as a mother, that goes long way in both my ability to forgive and to heal. And I want to thank her for being here for me now. Despite our past I am happy to have her in my life now and I hope that our relationship will continue to grow.

Despite our past, I do love my mother.

****************************************

I want to say very quickly that these are my views and feelings of my past from my own perspective and not intended to hurt anyone. I love my family very much and only want to be honest about my experience. 

The image is of me and my mother when I was a baby.

The Complex and Fragile Relationship of Mother and Daughter – Pt. I

I love my mother.

There are times when I think about the relationship between me and my mother and get lost in my own feelings of anger and sadness of everything that happened and I feel….well, angry and sad. My feelings aren’t black and white but I do love my mother.

You see, my mother had me when she was young, and so much of what happened later was because of what happened before and…..maybe I ought to start at the beginning.

From what I have been told of my mother’s childhood it was a rough one. I don’t know much about her mother, but I do know her father was not a very nice man. He was hard on his kids and showed them no love or affection. I think her mother may have tried but I imagine being married to a man like that left her feeling like she was walking on eggshells.

My mother’s father was also a racist man who basically believed that black people were not even in the same species as white people. You can imagine his reaction to finding out his daughter was dating a black man and later became pregnant with his child at the age of 18.

I do not know if my mother was kicked out of her home, or if she chose to leave, but I do know at some point she thought it was best to give me up for adoption. She had even chosen a family to adopt me, a family she would later tell me was well off financially. It would become a joke among my siblings that I had almost gotten out.

Just after my birth the nurse announced to my mother that I was a girl, which I think she wasn’t supposed to do, and my mother changed her mind and decided to keep me. My father’s mother had offered to take her in whether my father wanted to help raise me or not.

I had been born a bit early, by at least 2 weeks, I think, I had an umbilical hernia, and I was jaundice so I had to be kept in an incubator for a bit.

After that things are aren’t clear.  At some point my parents did get married but I don’t know exactly how their relationship was after my birth, or whether or not my father wanted me. I do know that later things would get bad though. My father was not a very good husband. He grew up in a bad situation too and had no reference point for how to be the head of his new family.

My mother says I was a hard baby. She says I cried a lot with her but not with my father. She says she would be home with me all day and I would cry and then my father would come home from work and I would be happy. That, coupled with the fact that my father wasn’t a good husband probably made her feel left out. She says she felt the need to have another child, one she could connect with, a baby for her. Four years after I was born, I had a baby sister.

I remember being about 4 or 5 years old and living in Virginia. We had moved there from Colorado but I don’t know exactly why. My mom says by then I had calmed down and become a good child. I learned things easily and potty trained early and rarely did anything “bad”.

I remember my parents fighting all the time, and I remember the fights were bad. I don’t know how I felt about the fighting, I may have just been used to it. I imagine they had probably been fighting like that since my birth.

Then one day my dad was gone. My mother says I blamed her but I don’t remember that. I feel bad as an adult knowing that I did that and knowing now that it was not my mother’s fault. It must have hurt her deeply to hear that and see the sadness in me that my dad, who I had been so close to, had left. My memory jumps forward then and we are back in Colorado.

I remember knowing that we didn’t have money for a lot of things, and I remember that my mom was angry all the time. I remember that I had to help out a lot and I had to help take care of my sister. I remember that my dad didn’t send money sometimes and I remember that he didn’t call or come pick us up much. I remember that I was sad and I felt lost. I remember that my mom worked and slept a lot and I remember that her and my sister were closer than she was with me.

I was never angry at my mother, I just felt frustrated. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t do anything to help and that I couldn’t get out of the situation I was in. I was frustrated that whatever I did do wasn’t right, or enough, and I was frustrated that there was no hope of anything changing.

I also didn’t understand why things had to be so hard. I didn’t understand why my father left and I didn’t understand why my mother was angry. I understand now and that is why despite everything that happened I love my mother. She made tough choices and she did the best she could with me without any guidance and without a support system.

I remember that my mother always worked hard. I remember we always had enough food, I remember we always had clothes, and I remember we always had a roof over our heads. I remember we had school supplies, I remember we had gifts for Christmas, and I remember we had each other.

And for all of that I love my mother and I always will no matter what.

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Today is my mother’s birthday and I wanted to write something about her and I realized that there has been so much between us, so much that I haven’t said, so much that I want to say that this will have to be a two part post. Look for the second part on May 10th, Mother’s Day.

I also want to say very quickly that these are my views and feelings of my past from my own perspective and not intended to hurt anyone. I love my family very much and only want to be honest about my experience. 

The image is of me and my mother when I was a baby.