Having a rhino hide is safe for some people, I suppose. I wouldn’t know. I can’t remember a time when the judgement of others was not a danger to me. Hurt feelings are one thing, but it is a different matter entirely when someone else’s judgement of you can have such devastating effects. This clear indication that the person is able to turn on me, and will at the slightest provocation is something I can never ignore.
My ‘mother’ turned round to me one day, when I went to her weeping that I was being bullied in 5th grade, mainly because I was the smallest person not just in that year, but also the one below. I was a truly tiny, quiet, bookish, and scared little thing. I had no one at home who really gave a damn about me, and besides I was infinitely fun to bully, pick up and throw around. I was never an attractive child, though grew into my looks somewhat in my teens. Being unattractive not only didn’t endear me to my mother, it also seemed to make the other children furious. My nose was too big. My lips too full. I wore glasses. Mother kept my hair in a severe pageboy cut. I had braces. I was very thin and a good head and shoulders shorter than the next shortest girl. I went to the woman who I looked to for comfort, and told her I was scared and unhappy. She told me if I didn’t want to be bullied I should be less weird. “Be more normal, Dee, then they won’t have to bully you.” I was crushed. Her judgement was dangerous to me. Not only did it fail to rescue me, it put the blame for being bullied firmly on my shoulders. I continued to get beaten up and tortured verbally and emotionally in school until I managed to get a place at an all girl’s school aged 16. I got myself out the situation by working hard and getting good grades. No one else cared I was suicidally depressed, but part of me really wanted to live, if only to spite those who seemed to hate me for no good reason at all. I didn’t even want to be included, be part of the gang, I wanted simply to be left alone. I wanted the absence of harassment and physical bullying.
The next couple of years of my life involved having to dodge other people’s dangerous judgements of me. “Lezzer!” One of the pretty girly girls called out to me. “Fucking lezzer!” That was not safe for me, or for my girlfriend, a sweet girl a year older than myself, whose family was from a culture that had arranged marriages. I was not out openly, and at least thought I was being discreet, but some girls just won’t let things go. It wounded me. It was not a case of shrugging it off, sticks and stones and all that jazz, it was a case of being thrown out of my all girl’s school if I was found to be fucking my friend, and she probably would be too. It was not 2022. Not only that my parents, who already detested me, would have more ammo with which to launch into one of their diatribes against me. I was never left alone to exist. I read to much. I was too quiet. I didn’t like getting a tan. I was not bouncy and perky. I was not girly. I was not pretty.
I complained when I was being bullied, my homework thrown in the trash, my lunch stolen, pinched, poked, hit and threatened. I was seen as the problem, as not being able to get on with others. In fact I did nothing other than take up space and breathe air. A girl who might be absolutely lovely to the other girls she saw as ‘the same as her”, would not treat me in the same way, and nobody could see that ‘lovely Laura’ who was ‘such a nice girl’ was perfectly delightful to my mother’s friend’s girl….but a fucking bitch on steroids to quiet, odd, tomboyish, nerdy me. I was othered. I was different. I was odd.
I was called ‘overly sensitive’, and people claimed I ‘put a lot of pressure’ on myself. The fact was that no one just left me be. I was strange, I was odd, I was a slut (that one was not true, but still the man who called himself my father loved to say it to me when he would torture me). I was difficult. I was nerdy. I was a boffin. I was all these things which others claimed I was, that they saw me as, and that as a result I was bullied to within an inch of my life for. Then came the drugs. I was finally doing something that deserved my parents ire, that was not simply being ‘strange’ and ‘bookish’ and deserving of bullying. It was not that I was seen as ‘sensitive’, and ‘easily hurt’. Finally I was doing something quite illegal, and in their eyes at least, dangerous…had they found out. I finally had something other than the fact I liked girls, to hide.
I would steal booze from the booze cupboard, sometimes watering down a bottle to hide the level going down. Other times I was take only a small amount from each bottle, pouring it into an emptied out pump action hair spray bottle and the screwing down the lid. I kept myself at least a little drunk. I got hold of speed, and then weed and hash and acid. I spent a lot of my time hiding the fact I was high or drunk. I went to great lengths to hide the fact I usually did indeed have class A drugs in my bag.
I went to great lengths to hide the fact that, yes, ma, I was a druggie. People gossiped. People talked. Girls stopped outwardly bullying me and started avoiding me instead. I wore a lot of black and heavy combat boots. I was never without a pair of sunglasses. I developed an edge, even if I didn’t grow very much. To be frank by 18 I was just happy I had made 5 ft tall. People commenting on my habits, making judgement calls, threatening my only piece of comfort and relief. These things were also not safe judgements, however true they might be. My life started to revolve around avoiding suspicion and being pulled up on getting high. None of it was acceptable to others around me, most of whom didn’t give a shit, apart from to either make trouble for me, or else were concerned on how it would reflect on them.
Then came the big time. I had made it as a judge-ee. I became a mother. Not only that I was not the kind of mother that has family, a nice husband, and spends her time doing normal motherly things in a way that society is ok with. No. I became a Hague Mother. My mothering was subject to intense scrutiny. Every drink, every joint, every slip up every time I ran to save our lives without the permission of my husband held up to the light and examined. My every move. Every behavioral quirk examined for signs of being not good enough, or at the very least divergent from what others demanded of me: namely that I stay in Japan and die like a good little obedient girl. I was subject to the Judgement of Courts that could put me away for decades for the act of running for my life. Of course there are people who think they could have done better…or I didn’t do good enough. There are people for whom the law is everything. There are women who want to understand, but instead talk down to me as if I am a pathetic little squib who shouldn’t be in charge of a goldfish. There are other people who simply look at the sum of my life and whilst these ‘Laura’s’ are perfectly nice to other women, perfectly respectful and wonderful to those who are not women like me, to me, they are really not nice at all. But of course, that is my fault too.
Those who judge, who have an opinion on my actions and my choices have real life devastating consequences for me. These are negative, life changing, thrown in a prison cell and never see my child again consequences. Judgements are dangerous. It is dangerous to me if people judge my actions to not be ‘right’. My actions are rarely what the rest of the world deems acceptable because I have been placed in extraordinary situations. I cleaned up. I went to teach English. I reinvented myself. A father who was a little out there, a little artistic, who occasionally went on drink or drug adventures – in fact just about every rock and roll dad in history, is applauded. Heroic. Go Keef! Hurrah Bowie! But a woman? No, women who do exactly the same as the men are dragged like witches. We are held to different standards. I can’t afford to have thick skin. I can’t afford to give the benefit of the doubt. I can’t afford to take risks with people who prove themselves superficially disloyal, or who argue the other side, because those little judgement calls can easily end up destroying the tiny piece of happiness I have built.
If I was forgiving, trusting, kind, and easy going I would be dead or in prison. That is not how anyone survives this. I made a choice to stay with my child, and to fight to be safe and free, and not to go through the court system which was built to be against me and to defend my violent brutal husband. I made a choice to run and hide and give the courts and those who judge but fail to understand, the middle finger. I have my boy. He has never left my side. I am good with my choices, and I only care when others are not good with what I did because that could potentially destroy everything I love and fought for. I have taken a lot of chances and risks over the years, I don’t take risks with people. It is simply not safe to do so.
And here endeth the rant.