I think it may be pretty obvious that I have issues with being liked. It's all a bit twisty in my head but I really want people to like me and then I don't believe the ones who actually do like me actually like me. Crazy, isn't it.
I've said it before and I will say it again, I blame my father. I think the experiences we have as young children (all the way up to our teen years even) can really shape our perspective and view of the world around us. I blame my father for my lack of confidence in building relationships because he left. Sadly that isn't an unfamiliar tune and in my case, not only did he leave but he left me, my mother and my brother. My sister, he took with him as he and his new lady friend needed a babysitter. If you were to ask him he would say my sister chose to go with him but you would have to understand the horrifying experience she had just before the big fallout (being bribed with a pony didn't hurt either). While I was too young to truly understand that my father had abandoned the family and in fact kidnapped my older sister (who really did the bulk of caring for me as our mother was suffering a depressive episode at the time) I did know on some sort of visceral level that I was left behind and in a matter of formulating it all in my mind I determined that I was simply not good enough.
This idea that people who should care for us can up and leave at any time and do just that put a damper on my social skills. I remember spending much of my childhood running home in tears and experiencing some sort of melt-down or another because I felt unliked. It probably was not true, at least not in the way I perceived (young children CAN be fickle at times, it is their wont). But either way I built up this flight response to friendships.
Leave them first, don't become attached and they can't hurt you.
That was my unspoken mantra. It also turned me into a super shy teenager. A super dorky, vintage clothes-wearing, bespecktacled, crooked toothed wallflower. I was so fearful of interacting with my peers I became known as the pale stuck-up girl. My first year in highschool, I developed a reputation for being a narc. Yup, that's me, just add me to the cast of 21 Jump Street.
All wasn't too awful. I stepped out to make friends my final year in junior high and have even managed to keep one or two of them. My first year in highschool was all kinds of awkward but I found a solid core group of other wallflowery types and we created our own gang of sorts. But this post isn't about that, it's about how I grew up without a father who, by the way is most definitely alive and kicking and that my friends, kills me. He left my brother and I with a very sick woman. Don't get me wrong, I loved my mother immensely. It still makes me weepy to think of her gone. It's making me weepy as I type right now but truthfully she was sick. She was physically ill with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and mentally crippled through depression both inborn and as a result of our father's leaving (they were junior high school sweethearts). She self medicated with alcohol (Kalua and vodka from my early years, wine in a box for my later years) and often could be heard crying herself to sleep. What kind of foundation do you think that gave me?
So, when I was three, my father left. He placed my mother in a mental facility and stole away in the night with my sister and his new family. He left us with a mortgage payment that could not be covered and an empty bank account. Up until that moment he took care of my mother, he took charge as a man should as this was the early 70s. He left and he never paid child support or alimony and so I grew up on welfare and food stamps. My crooked teeth probably could have been fixed but my mother was defeated by life, my asthma probably could have been helped but she didn't know how make things happen. Her medications were so awful she was prone to blackouts and so having a drivers license was out of the question. We walked or took the bus everywhere and we survived on the kindness of neighbors, family and strangers (it made high school an uncomfortable embarrassment for me always having to decline or allow my friends to pay for my Taco Bell).
Whatever you make of this, what I am trying to articulate is that I know I always whine and poke fun at myself as being socially inept but the truth is I am. When I was young I played by myself much of the time so didn't really get a lot of practice in the social circles of my youth. So now, I'm kinda always a little bit on the outside, not quite getting the joke, saying things that may be considered thoughtless or rude and well, I'm just happier muddling by myself yet so ridiculously wanting of good friends I'm a constant contradiction.
With a capital "C'.
I can engage and people seem to like me but it doesn't stop that underlying fear that I'm mucking things up left and right and so, I blame my father. He was the first domino that tipped and well, we all know how that goes.
The crazier thing is that I "ran" into my stepmother online. Pinterest of all places and well, that's a rabbit hole I'm not ready to fall down just yet. But I ask how can people proclaim that family is the most important thing to them when they took a man away from his own. Okay, took isn't the right word, he left of his own accord but, BUT he also took us away from my mother calling her unfit and kept us for all of six weeks before the great abandonment happened and THAT my friends, was because of this woman. This woman whose face leers in my memory as she yelled at and slapped my three year old self...constantly. I can still feel her fingers, sharp and pointy as they dug into my arm with a yank this way or that way and she claims that family is the most important thing and I suppose she is right but it has to be HER family. See? I kinda slipped down that hole and believe me it doesn't go to wonderland.
And now I am trying, trying, trying to wrap this all up in a positive note so what can I say? Oh, I know. So, if all of this wonky upbringing, wonky bits and all, deadbeat dad and all, bad abusive boyfriend included, I guess I wouldn't be the me that I am. I might still be quirky of sorts but I wonder how much empathy and compassion (and angst and off-humor) would define who I was because in a nutshell, all these not-so-great experiences have pushed me to think of the underlying reason for our behavior both good and not-so-good. It is what propelled me to study children and their development and it is what moved me past simply applying all those theories to the young child and laying them atop people of all ages. I can bitch and moan about people and actions that I do not like but ultimately, while I am bitching and moaning, I'm stepping back to view a wider picture to see if I can find that domino that toppled over and pushed them into the direction they are going. If I had not experienced so much chaos and confusion in my earlier years, I do not think I would be the observer I am and sometimes the best view at the dance is the one that holds up the wall.