When she was a young girl, before the insidious abuse began, it was just the 3 of them. Her mama would often make her way into the single bathroom they all shared and look in the mirror beside her then 7 year old daughter and smile. “Do you think we look alike?” she would ask. Daughter grinning back at her pretty mama, “yes!” They would giggle and go about their grooming and silliness before the school bell rang and her pretty mama would head off to work. She was learning at a very young age what being a soft, feminine, sweet little girl was by watching and learning from her very young mama. At 26 years old, she was the most beautiful, kind person in this girl’s life. She loved her with all her heart and she knew her mama did too.
They were essentially growing up together, but she also knew that mama was the adult and she had to follow her rules. Her big brother was only 16 months older than her and he loved them both, but somewhere he began growing up faster than she did. Maybe this is what happens to a young man when there isn’t a daddy around. She loved her big brother. They had fun playing outside, riding bikes and skateboards, tossing the football and playing catch. No one ever told her she couldn’t play like the boys and when his friends came over, they didn’t mind having the little sister tag along, much. She had her own friends too, but being with the boys was fun.
As she got a little older, this eventually started to fade. Either way, she was outgrowing them or they quit liking the baby sister hanging around. This is when that new man came into mama’s life and our lives began to turn upside down. Mama gradually stopped visiting her in the bathroom mirror and she was beginning to look elsewhere for validation and approval. She was turning the corner on adolescence when a young lady desperately needed her mama to keep teaching her about being that soft, feminine, young lady she was emerging into. She was losing her, or was mama losing herself?
Her teenage years were approaching and while other girls seemed to struggle with the normal issues of confidence, self esteem and courage, she continued to spiral down in her own self worth and doubt about her appearances. Boys were the topic amongst all these girls she was getting to know in her junior high days and she was becoming more shy with every passing day. Attention she received embarrassed her and she didn’t quite know what to do about it. She secretly had crushes on this boy and that one, but that was all she knew, how to like them, but not talk to them. She was getting good at hiding.
By the time she was in 8th grade, her family had moved to a new area which meant she had to start a brand new school and make new friends. This was especially difficult for the extra quiet and shy girl she had become. He immediately liked the new girl on the block and by that winter had become her first boyfriend. She had gone from admiring boys from afar to holding hands in public and at school with this assertive young man and she liked it. He was well liked and everyone knew him in this tiny little school. She quickly made a handful of new friends and was no longer angry about being uprooted from the only home she had ever known. This didn’t increase her confidence or boost her self esteem, but it did create an addiction to love and affection that would affect her relationships from there on out.
She learned that being with that special someone no matter the cost, was always better than being alone. This was the pattern she had established at the very young age of 15 when they entered their sophomore year in high school still a couple. What can you possibly know at that age? Was being in a committed, long term relationship normal at their age? Apparently to them it was. He told her often of her beauty and built her up the best he could, but she couldn’t receive his words of her external looks when she was fighting an internal battle for so many years now.
This would go on for years to follow, clear into adulthood. Her inner beauty so lacking in the strength and confidence a father typically instills in his little girl early on. Having an absent bio daddy and an abusive, substitute, narcissistic step monster who began objectifying her at age 14, she just wanted to be invisible and she worked hard to succeed at that. Her mama had long since been able to replace any of the hurtful, demeaning words that humiliated her since she herself was suffering most of the abuse from this monster. Her once, beautiful, spirited, lovely mama was just gone. Deep in the pits of despair she was cast and there she remained until her death.
By the time that young lady was married and a mama with 3 babies of her own, she had attempted to follow the beauty regiment she had learned at such a young age. She often recalled those intimate, special moments buried in her memories she shared with her mama. She recoiled at remembering his disturbing leering and twisted innuendos and once again chose to be invisible, rejecting the advances of her own husband and father of her children. Her head was muddled and certainly fucked up as she thought, what sort of woman doesn’t welcome the compliments of her own husband? Surely there is something horribly wrong with me she thought, but still she couldn’t shake off the shivers that haunted her. Don’t look at me, don’t see me and please, whatever you do, just don’t notice me.
It would be years later, five years post divorce that for the first time in her life, there was a man who did in fact, not only notice her and made her tummy flip, she welcomed his advances and wanted him to indeed see her. After the first 6 months or so his love bombing had hooked her so deeply she couldn’t get enough of his attention and longed for more. At some unknown point in time, after all the confidence and uplifting he had poured into her, she had changed her appearance to the point that he took notice of people noticing her and he loved that. As long as she was by his side, protecting her from other men, she felt safe. For the first time in her life, she thought she had been found and actually loved.
A secure sense of belonging overcame her for the first few years. One day she saw something different looking in the mirror at this indescribable image, she no longer recognized the lady looking back at her. The closer she gazed at the reflection, the more distorted and unfamiliar the features became. She had quietly been slipping away and was reverting back to that young girl, desiring nothing more than to be invisible once again. She had become her beautiful, lost mama after all. Fuck.
The compliments and uplifting expressions they keep tossing at her, are words and verbalized observations of her outward appearance. They haven’t matched her inside disturbance since she was that 7 year old, standing next to her mama, staring in the looking glass. Now she says to them…
“I don’t see what you see…”