I don’t know what it is about me. Maybe it’s my face. Maybe it’s the desperation in my tone. But my entire life I’ve been treated as a liar. Denied, dismissed, pushed aside, flat-out told I am lying.
It’s likely a combination of those first two. People, consciously or unconsciously, think less of you when you don’t have a pleasant face, or pleasant hair, or pleasant entire body. No way to get around that, the animal side must be appeased before someone can like you as a person. And sometimes that never happens.
The desperation in my tone? It never used to be there. I was never a liar, even as a child. I was, to my parent’s chagrin, exceedingly honest just because I didn’t know not to be. Especially to strangers in restaurants who looked different from me.
The babysitter changed that.
Let’s go back in time. I’m about 7 years old and my divorced mother was very poor. Still is, but that’s another story. She worked a minimum wage job despite her higher education, and needed to find an equally low-cost child care solution for me. In stepped the Meyers, a Pentecostal family who lived across the poor, working-class town we lived in.
Mother Meyers wore blue-jean skirts, and had long, long hair she wore up in a bun. A stone-faced woman who ruled her children with an iron fist. Father Meyers was some sort of blue-collar repair man, who I never saw much of. The children were as children were. All except for Hannah, the oldest daughter.
I’ll never forget her thin pinched face, straw-like hair, slitted blue eyes, and instant psychotic dislike of me.
And when I say instant, I mean it. I was made to clean the house on more than one occasion, and to please them I always tried to do a very good job. I sat in the living room while the family ate dinner and my stomach rumbled. But that paled in comparison, though, because Hannah didn’t like me. Didn’t want me around. Even now I wonder if she was abused, to have such an unnatural loathing of another girl who just wanted to play.
It started small. Hannah told her mother I did bad things, when I hadn’t. I wouldn’t even know what had set her off. All I know is that I’d get called to the front porch to be interrogated, to my bafflement. I’d insist, over and over, I had not done this thing. And I would not be believed. It was her daughter’s word over mine.
The Meyers believed in corporal punishment. After my fruitless begging to be believed, Mother Meyers would slap me. Both hands, alternating on the sides of my face, until my cheeks were red and tingling.
After time, months, I believe, Hannah fully realized her power over me and began to escalate. On the return trip from shopping, the youngest Meyer daughter, a toddler, tripped while going up the steps behind her mother. Hannah instantly seized the moment, as her sister began to wail about her bloody, busted lip.
“She did it! She pushed Leah down!”
They couldn’t even ask the little one what happened, as she was so young. And so Hannah won again.
That earned me the hardest, longest slap-fest I’d had yet.
There was only one time when the mother (almost) listened to me. I had the fleeting chance of Hannah being outed for the little sadist that she was.
Another time, another front-porch interrogation. I told the mother, through my sobs, that Hannah was lying, that she wanted my spark-creating rollerblading Barbie and unless I gave it to her, she would tell her Mother I had committed some offense.
Mother Meyers called her daughter over and asked if it were true.
And I was on the train to Slaps-ville yet again, because the mother couldn’t comprehend that her awful daughter could be lying.
I was babysat by these miserable people for several months. Day in and day out, the same thing. I couldn’t stand going there. I hated it. I begged my mother not to take me. But she had no clue of the true situation, just that I had been “misbehaving” according to Mother Meyers. I lacked the communication skills to make my mother understand that Hannah was evil.
The physical punishment and Hannah’s whoppers escalated over time, to culminate in the Biting Incident.
How sad that I don’t remember what it was that set Hannah off that day. Most likely nothing. I just remember watching in bewilderment as she suddenly bit hard into her own arm, then wrenched open the screen door and went crying to her mother. “She bit me! She bit me!”
The truth will set you free. I was a small child, and what an idiot I was to believe it. As always I insisted that I hadn’t done it, and I had watched her bite her own arm.
Not that it mattered. Mother Meyers was incensed, how dare I bite her precious daughter? She grabbed my wrist in her big meaty hands and bit my arm, leaving tooth marks in my skin.
A bite for a bite, how appropriately Biblical.
My mother arrived to pick me up soon after, and sobbing, I told her Mother Meyers had bit me.
And for once, my mother tried to protect me. She angrily berated the babysitter, and we walked off to the police station, since we didn’t have a car.
By the time we had gotten half-way there, the bite had faded. And so nothing came of a child being maliciously bitten by an adult.
Though, happily, I never had to be around that family ever again.
What did this experience teach me? That no matter what I said I would not be believed. It engrained me with a sense of desperation that leaks through even in normal conversations. “Believe me, please believe me, I am telling the truth, why won’t you believe me!” is what I am always unconsciously saying to other people. And they hear it and do the opposite. So the cycle of disbelief and desperation continues, unabated.
If I was a smart person, I’d have learned my lesson. I would have just realized that if no one would ever believe anything I had to say, why not just lie? Why not lie, and lie, and lie. But instead I teeter-tottered the opposite way, becoming so truthful to the point of oversharing. How stupid I am, to think being excessively honest will make people like me.
I’m trying to overcome this. I’m trying to find a middle way. That is what this blog is really about. Talking through my problems, which are many. The desperation to be believed, however, is perhaps the first and heart of many of my issues.
I’ll also be using this space to vent, as needed.