This is from the email I sent after my mom said I made her feel bullied because I took a stand against her continuing to ignore my boundaries around talking to or about my brother:
I have told you repeatedly that I don’t want to talk about/argue about [brother.] I have real and significant trauma because of [brother.] Ever since I cut him out of my life, I’ve felt that you don’t respect my decision, that you don’t think I have good reasons for that decision. I know it makes you sad that your kids don’t talk, but I’m not willing to consent to be abused by him any longer. It is very painful for me to have to keep drawing this line with you, it keeps the trauma alive.
I sent that on February 24th, 2020. Again, what the fuck is unclear about that?
Also, the title is from the song “Hero” by Regina Spektor. It’s a really good song!
The artist formerly known as “my husband” will still be known as “my husband,” but we’ve agreed that his new nickname here is Tall Glass of Bourbon, or TGB. I may also just call him T, as I have in the past.
I am writing this on Wednesday, June 16th, 2021. I will not post it today. I want to edit it, I want to sleep on it, I want to think about it. I only got four hours of sleep last night, which is even worse for me than usual because I have this damn head injury. But I might very well post it.
I’m probably going to post it.
[Trigger warnings, although I never do these: Child neglect and sexual abuse, rape, violence… maybe don’t read this first thing in the morning or last thing at night.]
The reason I only got four hours of sleep last night is that I woke myself up from a dream by yelling out loud. I woke my husband up, too. According to my husband, what I shouted was “Remember that time you found me sitting next to the bathtub? I’d tried to kill myself with pills, and you justput me to bed.“
He knew who I was yelling at. I was yelling at my mother.
When I came back from grabbing an ice cream sandwich [I often half-sleepwalk to the freezer,] he asked, “did that really happen?”
Yes. It did.
Since this past Saturday, I’ve had to come to terms with some truths I’d been trying to avoid for a long time. Followers of my Twitter have probably seen me posting vague things about boundaries and bad dreams and family drama. It comes from wanting to share, but not being sure how much to call out or indict other people’s behavior. Because I’ve spent most of my life trying to protect the people who’ve neglected and abused me.
My mom is the kind of person who makes friends wherever she goes. She’s gregarious, fun, generous, and knows how to have a good time. She’s good at distracting herself from negativity and can make a home practically anywhere. She always let me know that I am loved. We had a lot of books around when I was a kid, and I was always treated like I was intelligent. She tried to give me a good life. These are some of the things I like about my mother. There are a lot of things to like about my mother.
What I don’t like is that my mother is that, as I mentioned above, she’s just so good at distracting herself from negativity. So much so that when I finally broke down and told her, in separate, difficult conversations…
that I’d tried to kill myself
that I had done hard drugs
…she forgot. And then when I mentioned these facts again some time later, she said “you never told me that!”
Yes, Mom. I did.
I have often said about myself that I will overreact to a stubbed toe, but barely mention a sprained ankle, walking on it for months before I get it checked out. When I was 20, I did exactly that. I fell down a flight of stairs in London, flew home the next day, and then walked around on a sprained ankle for months because I didn’t want to make a fuss or seem melodramatic. I couldn’t even wear the gorgeous boots I had bought in London because it hurt to put pressure on the ankle. I mentioned it to my doctor at an appointment for something else, and that’s when it was diagnosed. She asked “Why didn’t you come in six months ago?” Well, I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Duh.
Those who know me in real life know that I’m not shy about expressing myself. But I use that as a shield so people assume they already know everything important. I’ll tell you about the minor annoyances but spare you the worst of it. So I’ll bitch and moan about my bad day at work, but I won’t tell you that it only reinforced my sense that the world is cruel and there’s no reason to keep living.
Because the small hurts get treated, or they don’t, and it doesn’t really matter. But if the small hurts don’t get treated, well, how could I ever trust you with the big ones?
I’m not saying this is healthy. It’s one of the terrible life skills one picks up as a product of neglect and abuse.
When I was 13, in my gi and getting ready for jiujitsu class, another kid, just goofing off, did something that caused me to flip over backwards onto my left shoulder. I heard a crack. I heard a crunch. I knew with 100% certainty that I had just broken… something. My neck seized up and my head was pulled to the left side. I could barely move my arm. The jiujitsu instructors went to get my mom, who was outside in the car, and they assured her that it was just a muscle strain.
I heard it crack. I heard it crunch. I told them that. I told her that. I think those were the two loudest noises I’ve ever heard.
My mother, taking her cue from the not-medically-trained marital arts teachers instead of the daughter who had heard her own bone break, took me home instead of to the hospital. She bitched at me when I couldn’t buckle my seatbelt. But at home, while I was trying to eat dinner, she noticed that my left arm was turning purple. Now she was concerned. So off we went to the urgent care clinic, where the doctor said I had a displaced fracture of my left clavicle.
I mean, it was really, really broken. Very much like in the picture above. Not cracked. Not a hairline fracture. Fucking broken, and to this day I have a crooked collarbone, and my left shoulder is lower than my right.
I had to insist on the x-ray, but I knew it was broken before they verified it. I heard it break.
I was molested by my brother for years when I was a young child. He was older than me, but not so old that it felt like the sort of CRIME that all the afterschool specials told us to tell a trusted adult about. They tell you to watch for guys in trench coats and creepy friends of your dad, not your brother whom you love. When I was a teenager, I heard that it’s fairly normal for kids to experiment, and so I tried to forgive and put it out of my mind. But he was was bigger and stronger and older than me, and he was violent toward me, and what had happened filled me with shame that, to be perfectly honest, fucked me up forever.
Mom knew about one incident. Oddly enough, my brother told her after I confronted him. Her response, I’m told, was underwhelming. I guess she never thought to extrapolate that if it had happened once, it might have happened before. Or that it could happen again. Not to her little girl, not because of her little boy. That wouldn’t fit the narrative. I honestly don’t know if it ever made it into her permanent memory. So many things didn’t.
I didn’t ever come right out and say that I was being molested, but there were signs that something was wrong. And as a teenager, a certain… shall we say “precociousness” was pretty evident. Oh, I was terrified of sex, but I often dressed like an underage hooker, was desperate for attention, and begged to be in therapy. I was clearly very unhappy. It was clear to most everyone, except my parents. My dad was mostly disengaged, when he wasn’t shouting. I was pretty close with my mother, but a depressed daughter didn’t fit into her world view. “You’re too pretty to be depressed!” she told me. “You sing all the time!”
I was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance at 15, and it took me months to finally get up the nerve to tell my parents. Actually, I never got the courage– it came to light because, at Planned Parenthood, I checked the “yes” box on a form that asked “Have you ever felt coerced into sexual activity?” Nurses are mandatory reporters, so it got reported. And a detective came to my school and was asking a bunch of questions about whether I was sexually active, what I was wearing when it happened, and threatening to interrogate/accuse my (very nice, not-a-rapist) boyfriend if I didn’t tell this shitty asshole cop who’d done it. So I told him. After that interview, which felt more like an inquisition, I told my parents what had happened to me the previous summer. The detective was coming by later and I wanted them to hear it from me.
My mother’s response was “I had to play fight-the-rapist when I was your age, too.”
I think some part of me has been screaming ever since.
Despite what happened when we were kids, I tried to have a good sibling relationship with my brother. I was willing, at great cost to myself, to chalk it up to youthful weirdness, and to not hold it against him. We had times when we hated each other and didn’t talk, we had times when we were quite close. We grew up in the same house, after all. We have a lot in common. He and his second wife moved to Portland because I was here, and the three of us lived together in an apartment for awhile. That ended badly, but when Wife #2 left him, I tried to be a good sister. By the time he left Portland in 2017, though, I was very relieved to see him go. He was espousing some ignorant and scary beliefs. He wasn’t very nice to my husband. He made me uncomfortable.
A few months after he moved away, my brother posted a stream of horrible rants on Facebook blaming the Charlottesville counter-protesters (the ones without tiki torches and swastikas) for the death of Heather Heyer, I decided I’d had enough of him for a while. I blocked him and didn’t tell him why. For a few months, he didn’t notice. But eventually he asked my mom if I’d left Facebook or something. She didn’t know what to tell him. She asked me to explain my reasoning to him.
So I did. And he responded as well as could be hoped. He said he understood! But I didn’t feel better. I agonized about the fact that I didn’t feel better. And then I realized why– my brother is a terrifying, abusive person, and I could no longer be in denial about that.
So I made the estrangement permanent. I didn’t tell him what I’d decided or why. My brother, as far as I know, has not tried to contact me since.
And here’s where we get into the really terrible shit.
In 2011, almost seven years before I decided to make the cut permanent, I was turning 30. I invited my brother and his then-girlfriend (the future Wife #2) to come to a kink event in San Francisco. It was a monthly party that I had been volunteering at for the previous nine months, and at which I had some special privileges. One of those privileges was a private, invitation-only room for my birthday. These events were more about community to me than whips and chains, and I invited them with the understanding that they would leave my room if I asked them to. I thought I could keep stuff PG and that if they wanted to do anything R-rated, they could go to another room at the party. But when I asked them to leave my special birthday room, my brother’s girlfriend dug in her heels, and I had to get really pissed off and insistent to get them to go. There was the whole rest of the party to enjoy! They finally left when I made it excruciatingly clear that they weren’t welcome in my space anymore.
A few days later, they told me how much they’d loved the event and wanted to go again. I said that they’d made me uncomfortable and I did not want them there. Boundaries and consent are all-important in that environment, and they’d made me feel unsafe. I told them that the space hosted similar events that they were welcome to go to, but this one monthly party was mine. They said I couldn’t keep them out. I told them I was a trusted volunteer who worked the door, and I was pretty sure that I could have them banned not only from that party but from the space itself if I had to.
She started crying. He came at me like he was going to hit me, and screamed in my face, so loud and so close that I felt his spittle hit me, “You fucking bitch.” He screamed at me with such intensity that his girlfriend almost broke up with him that night. And maybe the reason she didn’t leave him that night was that I begged her not to. I thought that if she left there was a chance that he would kill me.
I found out a few months later that his partner had an “incest fetish” because the two of them asked for advice about how to seduce her 18-year-old sister into a threesome. I told them they should absolutely not try to seduce her 18-year-old sister into a threesome. I don’t know if they did.
I tried to put that in the past, like I tried to put everything in the past, and I didn’t really consider the implications of all the facts put together. He had anger issues, and he yelled at me. Same old same old.
But almost seven years later, after I stopped speaking to him for other reasons, it finally came together for me.
I was screamed at in a very threatening way for not letting my brother and his partner indulge their incest fetish with me.
I knew all the components:
screamed at for not letting them go to a party
because they violated boundaries
someone has an incest fetish
scary, angry, brother who threatens and yells when he doesn’t get his way
and who “was inappropriate with me” me when I was a kid
But I never put them all together before. Because who the fuck wants to think that about someone in their family?
I was trying to protect and be a good sister to my brother, who once tried to spit in my face during an argument when I was 18 or 20. He missed and hit himself.
My brother, who used to beat me up when we were kids, but I was told by my parents that “you gave as good as you got,” even though I was less than half his weight.
My brother who once held me down while I was choking on my own snot and tears and told me that no one would believe what he was doing to me because I was crazy.
My brother, who had obvious, terrifying anger issues that my parents simply didn’t address. The anger did not improve as he aged. It got worse, more entrenched, more self-righteous. And he took it out on me.
He got therapy because he was being bullied at the public middle school and his new, private school demanded it. I don’t know what he talked about, but he certainly didn’t seem to get better.
I did not get therapy for another three and a half years, even though I begged. When they finally agreed, it was because a friend was concerned enough about my cutting myself that she told my mom, who didn’t say a word about it until, in the middle of Walgreens, she grabbed my wrist and yanked up my sleeve and yelled something like WHAT DID YOU DO? My sleeve had slipped up my arm, and she’d seen. I guess that it wasn’t real to her when she was just hearing about it.
So I got sent to a therapist who asked me to draw what kind of tree I’d be if I were a tree. And the matter was mostly considered settled.
Until this past weekend, I never blamed my later sexual misadventures on being molested as a kid. I would not have used the word “molested” in relation to what happened to me. I never traced my trauma to its root, which is that I believed from a very young age that no one would care– so I never dealt with it.
I thought that no would care, because they had shown that they didn’t.
I also believed that a lot of my value was in being pretty, and being desirable, so I got myself into situations that were destined to end badly. That’s not me blaming myself, it’s just a fact. I would not have been in those situations had I not wanted so badly to be wanted. Or if I thought my very real trauma was valid. I’d been told over and over that it wasn’t.
When I was little, my family used to say “Kate remembers everything, whether it happened or not.”
Do you know what that does to a kid?
So I stopped talking to my brother almost four years ago.
My brother seems to have accepted this.
But my mother couldn’t let it go. Of course, I never told her the real reason. I was trying to protect her.
Every six months or so, she has brought it up in a way I’m sure she thinks is subtle and gentle. She’d tell me how he was doing even when I told her I didn’t care to know. She sent an email to both of us about how much she loves her kids, and got pretty upset when I told her to never do that again. She kept searching for an opening.
When I visited her, she’d needle me about it. When we talked on the phone, she’d hint or try to change my mind. She didn’t understand. She kept acting as if my decision to stop having anything to do with my brother was silly, temporary, invalid. Not every time we talked, but often enough that I told her repeatedly to back off.
When my husband and I eloped in January, 2020, and were planning to have a reception in the summer, she asked “Are you going to invite your brother?”
I responded pretty emphatically:
Asking about [brother] and whether I plan to invite him to my wedding celebration makes me feel like my boundaries are being stomped all over. I have told you that I have my reasons for not wanting to be in touch with him, and I know that “I have my reasons” might leave you with a lot of questions, but… tough. I don’t want to have a relationship with my brother, I have solid reasons, and those reasons are not something I’m choosing to share with you at this time. You should take it as a kindness that I’m not trying to affect your feelings about him or make you pick sides. I am at peace with my decision not to let [brother] be a part of my life anymore, and no amount of passive-aggressive questions or hints is going to change that. Neither is propriety or concern for appearances; you should know by now that I don’t care about those things. I am just not interested in having [brother] in my life anymore, and I really don’t want to argue about it.
For years I kept reaching out to him, and in a lot of ways it was because you did your best to remind us that we only had each other and we needed to get along. I believed that for a long time, but I don’t anymore.
I love you and I want you at my wedding celebration, but I don’t need any more stress about it. I’m sorry that your kids don’t talk. I’m sorry that your daughter is nuts, but I think your son is a bully, and so does my husband, and we do not want him anywhere near our “special day.”
Don’t be a boundary-stomper. Be supportive. Let “I have my reasons” be good enough.
I think that was pretty clear.
She responded that she felt bullied. By me. Because I took a stand.
I stopped talking to her for two months after that exchange, because this was not the first time she’d ignored my boundaries. But then Covid hit and I thought she might die, so we started talking again. I hoped against hope that she’d gotten the point finally.
She did not get the point.
This past Saturday, she emailed me with the normal breezy chitchat, and mentioned that brother is getting married next month and would I like to email with his lovely fiancée? As I was crafting my response, she sent me an instant message.
I said that I wasn’t interested in talking to the fiancée.
And then I wrote her an epic email of no-turning-back.
I told her that he’d molested me when we were kids. I told her that he’d tried to coerce me into a sexual situation with him and his then-partner. And I told her that she should have taken “I have my reasons” for an answer instead of forcing me to relive and relate to her something that I had told her was traumatic, shameful, and none of her fucking business.
Her response was “I am so sorry that those things happened to you. I will not mention your brother to you again.“
On its surface, it looks like she’s giving in, but I know my mother. She isn’t conceding anything. It doesn’t even mean that she believes me.
She didn’t say “I’m sorry that I didn’t take you at your word“ or “I had no idea, I apologize for pushing you.” She admitted no fault for trying to convince me to talk to my brother after I told her so many times that I didn’t want to talk about it and she wasn’t going to change my mind.
There is no wiggle room in this: I am just not interested in having [brother] in my life anymore, and I really don’t want to argue about it.
Yesterday, Wednesday, only four days after she once again tried to get me to talk to my brother (or, y’know, his fiancée,) and after I told her that my brother is a creepy sister-molester, four days after I told her that I was taking some space from her, she sent me an instant message asking about my first appointment at brain injury rehab: How did Monday go?
She does this. She finds her way back in because an uncle is in the hospital, or there’s some news she just has to share. Or she’s concerned.
Nope. Not this time.
This was my response:
When I told you that we aren’t going to talk for awhile, I meant that we aren’t going to talk for awhile. If something major happens, I’ll let you know. If you or my dog are dying, I would like to know. But I don’t care to talk to you about anything other than that. If a relative is in the hospital, ask Dad to tell me. You are on a time-out.
Don’t get me wrong: This is agonizing.
I love my mother. I don’t want to hurt my mother. Good daughters don’t tell their mothers to leave them alone.
I don’t even want to cause my brother distress. I really don’t. I am reluctant to post this because he’s out of my life now, and I’m pretty sure he’s fine with staying out of my life. He’s not even in this country anymore. I don’t want anyone who knows him, or knows me, or knows enough to put it all together, to go after him or shame him. I also have the somewhat irrational fear that he’ll fly 5,000 miles back from Europe and kill me.
Maybe I’m still trying to protect people who haven’t earned my protection.
Or maybe I’m scared that someone will blame me for what happened, for not forgetting, for making a big deal out of it, for being irreparably broken and shaped by what was done to me. I’m worried that some family member will see this and yell at me for airing dirty laundry. I’m worried that some stranger will see this and tell me I’m a whore and I deserved it. That I’ll be blamed for my own lack of boundaries, for my indiscretion, for talking about it. For being the type of person who volunteered at kink parties. For being the type of person who writes publicly about what’s in my head and heart.
I’m scared that someone will say it isn’t true, that I’m being melodramatic, that I’m remembering wrong. That’s not how it went. We would have known. We would have seen.
And my mother reads this blog.
One of the many things that have come to light for me in the past several days is that my mom wasn’t trying to get me to forgive my brother because he’s upset that we’re estranged. It’s never “your brother asked me to tell you that he’s here when you want to talk” or even “[brother] asked about how you’re doing.” As far as I know, he’s fine with the estrangement.
My mother wants me to have a relationship with my brother because that’s what she wants. It’s not about him, and it’s definitely not about what’s best forme. It’s about what’s best for her. And surely my reasons can’t be good reasons because if I had good reasons she’d have to accept it, and that’s something she simply won’t do.
When I was in my twenties, I was in an abusive relationship. He never hit me, but he spent four years telling me I was a slut and a whore and that no one would ever love me if they knew who I really was. He spat in my face on the way home from couples therapy. He once got drunk and tried to push me down the stairs. He destroyed my possessions. He destroyed my sense of self-worth.
When I got out of that hellish relationship, my mom told me “I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for him,” even though she knew he’d abused me. “He’s such a troubled soul. He had such a bad childhood.”
I have been expected, for the entirety of my life, to shut up and take abuse from people who had shitty childhoods. Or who were good people, deep down, if you really get to know them. If you’re willing to just let all that cruelty flow off of you, they’re actually worth getting to know.
If you’re willing to shove your feelings into a drawer and never call anyone on their bullshit
If you’re willing to play along that you’re happy and that nothing is bothering you
If you’re willing to sacrifice the best parts of yourself, it’s totally worth it.
I don’t know what made my mother this way.
But I know that I don’t want to emulate it.
I talked to my therapist yesterday. I don’t need to see her much anymore, because other than the brain injury, I’ve been doing great! She already knew all the background about my brother and mother; I’ve been working with her for almost nine years. I had already written most of the stuff above this paragraph, and so my thoughts were pretty organized. Even though my shrink knows most of this stuff, when I was laying it all out, she kept shaking her head, not because she didn’t believe me, but because she can’t believe them. At the end of the session, she told me that she’s proud of me.
That means a lot.
I told her about my desire, still, to protect my mom. To protect my brother, even. She asked “protect them from what?”
And I replied these exact words: “The consequences of their actions and inaction.”
She smiled and nodded.
And she said that this is what the Me Too movement is trying to address. How we hold such shame, such secrets, and they fester and they burn and we are told by society that we must hold the shame and the secrets and never ever let them out. She wasn’t that poetic, but that was the crux of it.
She told me it’s okay to stop protecting people.
She said that I don’t have to post this if I don’t want to, but she doesn’t think I should hold back out of a sense of wanting to protect my brother and mother from the fallout. That I’m strong and I have a right to speak my truth. I don’t have to protect people from the consequences of their actions and inaction.
I said “I think that it could help people, but if I post it, I’m not going to do it for them. I’m not that altruistic.”
And she said “You’re writing it for yourself. But it could help people.”
I have told the world about being raped. I have shared about my periods, perimenopause and hot flashes, my devastating mental illness, how great my boobs are, what a good cook I am. But I haven’t shared the stark facts about how my brother molested me and beat me up when we were kids, that my parents didn’t do anything, that my brother was violent and inappropriate with me when we were very much adults and that I have shame, oh such shame, about it all.
Why did I invite them to that party in the first place? Why did I choose to live with them in Portland? Why did I keep trying so hard to have a relationship with someone who terrorized me?
So much shame. But I won’t let that hold me back any longer.
I’m done protecting my abusers.
It’s Thursday the 17th. I’ve been awake since 3:23 AM. It’s now 7:30. I had such a terrible headache that I look one of my precious Percocet because my head was just pulsing with pain when I moved or stood up. That’s calmed down quite a bit, but I’m on Percocet, so a little woozier than I was before–and I was plenty woozy. Called out of work. I have a doctors appointment scheduled later so that I can get my Reasonable Accommodation paperwork filled out. And I have tomorrow off.
Instant messaging with my husband on Tuesday, he said that he hopes I can still focus on good things in my life, that this won’t consume me.
I told him “I’m seeing how strong I am.”
He sent back a smiley.
I’m doing really well. That’s not bluster or trying to appear more resilient than I am. I’m really okay! It’s the situation that isn’t okay.
Coping with my brain injury continues to be a challenge, but I found my happiness again after two months of feeling despair about how terrible this is.
Coping with this family bullshit is so incredibly hard, but I am so incredibly strong. I finally grew a spine. And I know that I’m living the life I want to live– stable, happy, good. There are problems and struggles, but after a life of such darkness and depression, I continue to be grateful for all the sweet things in life, knowing how fragile they can be.
I don’t believe in an invisible sky daddy, I believe in weird things like human kindness and cherry trees and the power of love. If I’m spiritual, it’s in a very down-to-earth way, and I take comfort and experience wonder and all that good shit. If life has no inherent meaning, it’s up to us to find our own. And I do it every day.
That hasn’t changed, even in the face of all of this horror.
Why am I talking about this now?
I never forgot that my brother abused me, or that my parents abused and neglected me. This isn’t some recovered memory shit. But I put all of it in a lockbox and only took it out on special occasions. It’s so much easier, I thought, to just let bygones be bygones. I tried very hard to forgive and to build good relationships with my family, flawed as they are. I admired my own ability to move past things.
But moving past things allowed the abuse to continue, except I treated it as a momentary aberration rather than a pattern of behavior. I’m not willing to maintain that illusion, it’s already cost me way too much.
I used to be miserable. I used to be a shitty person. But I learned, I grew, I changed.
My dad and I used to have a pretty contentious relationship, but he divorced my mom when I was 20, and over the course of many years, we learned how to get along pretty well. He was willing to change his behavior, so I’m willing to keep him around.
My brother continued to bully me long into adulthood. He continued to be inappropriate with me.
My mother continued to ignore my mental illness and minimize my pain. She kept discounting my own version of my life. Kate remembers everything, whether it happened or not. She kept pushing me when being pushed made me feel rage and incredible pain. I told her she was hurting me. She didn’t stop.
They did not change. I’m not sure they know how.
You might think I’m being unfair to my poor, sweet, well-intentioned mother.
I hope that you can believe that for everything I’ve said, for every horrible story I’ve told, there are many that I didn’t mention. I could go on and on and on. But that would start to feel petulant. I think I’ve explained myself well enough, chosen the right stories, to let anyone reading all of this know that I have my reasons, and they are good ones.
Even the best parents make mistakes. They are only human. I do not think kindly about those people who go through their lives with a chip on their shoulder, thinking the world owes them something because their parents weren’t perfect. I have spent much of my adult life trying not to be one of those people.
But I took it way too far in the other direction. My resolve not to be like that made it so that I ignored and disregarded that my family was still failing me. And that I was letting them. Because I didn’t want to hold a grudge.
I didn’t want to hurt them, so I let them continue to hurt me. In some twisted way, I thought that made me a good person. And as someone who knows that I used to be careless with the feelings of others, I want very badly to be a good person.
I’m proud of who I am now. And a natural extension of that is my newly-rediscovered ability to stand up for myself and say “you don’t get to hurt me anymore.” I don’t expect anyone else to change. I wrote off my brother four years ago. I have told my mother not to contact me. I do not expect them to change one bit. They’ve had time to do so. My mom is almost 70, she’s had time. I’ve tried as hard as I can to accept her just as she is, but she continues to inflict more damage, and I really don’t think she gives a shit.
Oh, she’ll say she cares. She’ll say she didn’t mean anything by it. But I told her over and over, hey, stop, you’re hurting me. And she just kept right on hurting me.
Some people say that you matter to them, but those words function a means to control you. How can you say that when I love you? How can you hurt me when all I’ve ever done is care? I’m so harmless and sweet, I would never intentionally hurt you! How could you think that? They show a face to the world that is caring and kind but inside it’s always, always about control. Your anger and pain hurt them but it’s not empathy, and it’s not shame about their behavior. It’s a demand that you stop being difficult because it stresses them out.
So they don’t ask “How are you feeling,” they ask “Are you feeling better yet?” Instead of “I’m sorry I hurt you,” they say “I’m sorry you got hurt” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Because it’s your job to make them feel better, it’s not their job to offer you meaningful support or acknowledgement of the harm they cause.
This is called narcissism. And it’s often couched in what abusers call “love.”
It’s really, really hard to change my thinking from “She loves me! She’s my mom! I can’t hurt my mom!” and instead face the fact, and the implications of this: When someone you love says that you’re hurting them, you’re supposed to stop.
Last night, awash in exhaustion, I made a pumpkin curry soup that has always turned out really great.
This soup is inspired by that one time I ordered soup with my takeout meal and they gave me the soup of the day which was an amazing, spicy, incredibly addictive pumpkin curry soup. I trolled the internet looking for recipes, which I used as a guideline, added some things, ignored some things, and came out with a soup that was perfect the first time and every time I’ve made it since.
I am an extremely slapdash cook. I don’t tend to measure anything, so the only parts of this that are precise are the cans. The rest I just eyeball and taste as I go, but I’m a good eyeballer, so these are probably pretty accurate measurements.
This soup is very rich. It’s great on its own, and is also good over rice, with naan or other flatbread, or with a nice hearty homestyle bread. I ain’t here to tell you how to live your life.
Here’s how to do it:
One 15-oz can of Pumpkin Puree. If you start with 15 oz, keep ingredient measurements the same. If you use 30oz, double everything. You’re smart, you can figure this out. Make sure not to get pumpkin pie filling as they are not the same thing. I use Libby’s because my childhood babysitter used to sing us a jingle about it.
Canned Coconut Milk, similar amount to pumpkin. These often come in cans of 13-14 oz, which is just fine. I haven’t experimented with low-fat, but I bet it would work just as well.
Heavy Cream: Start with about 1/2 cup and add more as needed for texture and flavor. You could probably do half and half, just don’t tell me about it. If you’re vegan, just sub coconut milk.
Yellow Onion. About 1/2-1 cup all chopped up, depending on how much you like onions and texture. Chop it up as tiny as you can stand to chop it. I am lazy so I often have bigger pieces, but you want to go small if you can.
Pot Lube. You can use 1-2 tablespoons of butter, or any vegetable oil that you like. You don’t need much.
Garlic, 1-4 cloves. Garlic cloves vary wildly in size, and you might be trying to ward off vampires, so err on the side of more if that appeals to you. I often use garlic paste in a squeezy tube because of lazy. About 1 tablespoon if you go that route.
Ginger. Again, I get this from a tube, but you can finely grate it or whatever works for you. 1-2 tablespoons. I always do closer to 2 because it really does add something to the soup, and you won’t really taste it consciously. Unless you want to. THEN GO NUTS.
Curry powder. I don’t like heavy curry flavors, but a little bit really does make the soup. I add about half a teaspoon and you can add more if you like.
Cayenne or other spicy spice (red pepper flakes would work well.) I use this VERY SPARINGLY because a little goes a long way, and the heat intensifies the longer it cooks. Maybe 1/4 teaspoon and then wait awhile to see if you need to add more. It really does get spicier as it cooks into the soup, and I am a wuss.
Tumeric, Nutmeg, and Ground Coriander: I add these “to taste” later in the soup process. You can also add a bit of cardamom or whatever strikes your fancy. All of these will have a big impact if you add too much, so start with about 1/2 teaspoon, stir, wait, and see if it needs more. You really don’t want to be able to taste it. They’re to add dimension, not actual discernible flavor.
Salt and Pepper: Again, to taste. Do this after you add the cream.
Heat up your soup pot to medium. Add butter. You can add the Butter before heating it up, I don’t care. Wait until butter is fully melted and sizzly (or in the case of oil, whenever it’s hot).
Add finely chopped Onions and sauté until they’re translucent and starting to brown a bit at the edges. Turn down the heat to medium-low.
Add Garlic, Ginger, and Red Curry Paste. Continue to stir over medium-low heat, being careful not to burn the garlic. Do this for about a minute, just to get everything warm and fragrant.
Take your cans of Pumpkin Puree and Coconut Milk and pour them into the pot. A spatula will help you get everything out. Stir stir stir.
Add about a half cup of Heavy Cream. This will make it more soupy and less pasty. You should keep it around for later in case you want to thin out the soup or if you add too much of any of the spices and want to scale it back a bit.
Add Curry Powder. This is the point where you should start tasting the soup. If you taste it before you add the curry powder it’s sort of bland and icky.
Add your Cayenne. Remember to start with just a leeeeetle bit, you can always add more later, but that it gets spicier the longer it cooks. This is the most frequent mistake I make.
While the soup is cooking and getting to know itself through intense self-reflection, search your spice cabinet for anything you think might help the soup taste awesome. This is when you can add Tumeric, Nutmeg, Coriander, whatever. You want to add things that accentuate the pumpkin flavor but also add to the curry goodness. Go light and add more if needed. I’d stay away from cinnamon. Onion and/or garlic powder are often things I toss in because I feel like it.
Add salt and pepper, then let the heat do its work for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Taste! Is it spicy enough? Does it need anything? PLAY JAZZ.
If it tastes as awesome as it should, ladle into bowls and eat.
I like to do quizzes. My favorite site for quizzes is Sporcle. And I’ve always been into presidential trivia, ever since I was a young child and got a book with weird presidential facts at the Scholastic book fair. So I’ve been doing a lot of history and president quizzes, and I was having trouble with for a bit with the “identify these presidents by their pictures” quizzes. Some of the presidents look way too fucking alike. Grant, Hayes and B. Harrison are all beardy, all served in the late 1800s, and just don’t give you a lot to work with. So I wrote a list of the presidents and how to identify them/tell them apart (and some fun facts.) Enjoy!
(I’m also trying to memorize them all in order, but Millard Fillmore fucks it up. Who cares about Millard Fillmore?)
How to tell the presidents apart:
George Washington: Oh no, Grandpa forgot to put his teeth in, but his wig is perfect.
John “The OG” Adams: Big hair, painted portrait, sideburns. Looks like he takes the weight of the republic very seriously.
Thomas “Rights for All Men Except The Ones I Purchased” Jefferson: Redhead when young. Handsome. Ruddy cheeks. Looks like Thomas Jefferson.
James “Mad Dog” Madison: Looks kinda haughty, not bad looking, painted portrait, clean-shaven
James “Portraitists Hate Me” Monroe. Clean shaven, short brown hair. Painters were not kind to him.
John Quincy Adams: Conservative muttonchops, close-cropped white hair.
Andrew Jackson: Looks a lot like the guy on the $20 bill. Dessicated when older; he was probably exhausted from ordering the slaughter of all those “Injuns” on the Trail Of Tears.
Martin Van Buren: Glorious white muttonchops and floofy white hair to match. The only president who spoke English as a second language, and the first born after the American Revolution.
William Henry Harrison: Clean-shaven. Kinda looks like Sam Waterson. Shortest presidential term ever because he gave the lonest inauguration speech in history while standing in the pouring, freezing rain and apparently that’s a dumb thing to do. Got sick and died.
John Tyler: Cadaverously thin. Clean-shaven. Way too thin. Like, seriously, hook a brother up with a sammy or something.
James “Don’t Knox It Until You’ve Tried It” Polk: Clean shaven, had a man-about-town look to him, hair is white and kinda mullety, but cool?
Zachary “Zed To My Friends” Taylor: Kinda craggy, didn’t look happy. Clean-shaven.
Millard “Seriously? I was a president?” Fillmore: Bland-looking. Clean shaven. Kinda chubby. Who the fuck remembers Millard Fillmore?
Franklin “Ugly On The Inside” Pierce: Youngish, handsome, but also like super racist tho. Popped collar like he was hot shit. Clean-shaven.
James Buchanan: Older, handsome, bachelor, lookin’ for the hottest ladies. Popped collar, but more in a dandy sort of way. Clean-shaven.
Abraham Lincoln. He kinda looks like the guy on the penny.
Andrew Johnson: Looks like a vagrant that wandered into the presidency and is pissed about it. Clean-shaven, but looks like he thinks baths are for sissies.
Ulysses Grant. Shortish beard, haunted expression. On the younger side when elected. Easy to distinguish from other beardy presidents because he looks like he sees the ghosts of dying soldiers everywhere. Drank himself to death.
Rutherford “Ooh My Little Beardy One” Hayes: ONE OF THE CURSED BEARDED ONES. Uh… whiter beard than….
James “Not a Cat” Garfield: Not a cat. Also beardy. Browner hair/beard. But seriously, what the fuck. Assassinated, clearing the way for…
Chester A. Arthur: Inglorious muttonchips. From Vermont, but Vermonters are fine letting New York have him.
Grover “Not a Muppet” Cleveland. Looks like Taft, less-fancy mustache, marginally less obese.
Benjamin “Whitebeard” Harrison: The whitest beard of all the beardy beards. Also kept his beard rather well-groomed. Beard.
Grover “Deja-vu” Cleveland: Looks like he was president twice.
William “Denali” McKinley: Always looks like someone poked him in the butt and he’s offended. Assassinated.
T-Roos: If you don’t know what Teddy Roosevelt looks like, you’re a dumb-dumb.
William “Heavyweight” Taft: Fat, fancy mustache.
Woodrow “World War Won” Wilson: Looks like he’s gonna smack you one. Sometimes glasses. Clean-shaven, stern. Looks like he led his country through WWI and the Spanish flu and he’ll have none of your shit.
Warren Gamaliel Harding. Eyebrows. In many pictures looks like he’s on death’s door (he was!) Listed his middle name because for some reason I know it. Tenure marked by SCANDAL!
Calvin “The Potomac Sphinx” Coolidge. Clean-shaven, looks kinda like Truman, NO GLASSES, kinda smug but like he earned it. Vermonter, and this one we’re proud of.
Herbert “Damn Dam” Hoover: Chubby, looks nice enough to name homeless camps after. Clean-shaven.
Franklin “Polio Sucks” Roosevelt: Looks more and more like he’s about to die (he was!)
Harry “The S is for Sexy”. Truman: Glasses, looks like a swell guy other than that whole atomic bomb thing.
Double-D Eisenhower: Looks like your cool great-uncle if he happened to be a 5-star general.
John “The F is for Fuckmachine” Kennedy: Callow and wall-eyed.
Lyndon “Let Me Show You My Penis” Johnson: Looks like a dirty old man.
Tricky Dick Nixon: Looks hungover from all the souls he drank last night. Shifty.
Gerald “Oopsie, I’m the President” Ford: Looks completely out of his depth
Jimmy “Iran So Far Away” Carter: Just a simple peanut farmer! Looks like the kind of guy who’d not only give you directions, he’d draw you a map and send you off with a piece of his wife’s prize-winning cherry pie.
Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan: Resembles a movie star’s corpse.
George “READ MY LIPS NO NEW TAXES” Bush: Tends to look smug, taken aback, or a combination thereof.
William “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” Clinton: Looks like he speaks with a drawl when he’s trying to steal your woman.
George “Walker Texas Ranger” Bush: Like an adolescent chimpanzee who is very impressed with himself.
Barack “Seriously, how can you think Kennedy was hotter than me?” Obama: Voted “Best Smile”
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Joseph Robinette Biden: Looks like grandpa still walks three miles a day and builds his own fences.