Category Archives: Personal Stories

On the topic of rape jokes and DV jokes

CW: Discussion of rape jokes, rape, domestic violence, and DV jokes.

Please note, this is being written by a survivor of both domestic violence and rape. This is not a blanket statement for ALL survivors, this is specifically speaking from the point of a survivor using dark/gallows humor to heal from traumatic events. 

EDIT: Yes, this can be viewed as a way of upholding rape culture, and can cause issues, but at the same time we need to focus on how people heal and how they overcome situations, not blanket responses to everything.

When I was first recovering from the horrors that my rapist put me through, I would have readily agreed with anyone who said that rape jokes aren’t funny. Just the word ‘rape’ was enough to send me into a panic. Hearing someone talking about sexual assault could leave me catatonic. I would even verbally attack people for using the word rape. It wasn’t until I chose to take control and take power over the words and concepts surrounding my rape that I began to heal. I had no real support, my family didn’t believe I was raped when I started becoming vocal about it, and people accused me of just making it up. All because I could talk about what happened to me. So what did I do? Did I shut up? Did I go silent, like people said a “real” rape victim would actually act like?

FUCK NO!

I started speaking out even more, I started working towards bringing attention to what happens to victims who were unable to successfully prove their rapes. I voiced my disdain for the authorities that believed they knew what a real rape victim would look and act like. I voiced my anger at their dismissal of my claims, I voiced my anger at those who shamed me and tormented me over the repeated sexual assaults I went through. I also started telling rape jokes. Yes, you heard me right. I started telling rape jokes. I also started using the word when I was gaming, talking about how the guy I just beat into the ground was raped by my sword. It was a way for me to heal and to distance myself from the trauma I had endured.

If you are someone who has gone through a traumatic event, and are looking for a way to heal that is a little less…drastic, I would suggest checking out the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Now then, where were we? Ah yes, the rape jokes.

Before you go and clutch at your pearls in horror, let me explain something. I don’t just run out there and belt out rape jokes. I understand the concept of context. If I’m around people who I know won’t be comfortable with the jokes, I keep them to myself. I’m not going to walk into a support group for survivors and shout, “Who wants to play the rape game?” Do you know how many people I would have to dry hump if I did that? All of them would either shout “NO!” or freak out on me, and then I would have to play with all of them!

You see what I did there? Yes, I slipped a rape joke into my writing. I’m assuming that my audience would be able to understand that rape jokes would either appear or be talked about in this article due to the title! CONTEXT! As weird as it sounds, the jokes and taking over the word for my own usage helped me heal much faster and more effectively than the years and years of therapy that I went through. Perhaps it has to do with the chemicals my brain released when I made a joke that allowed me to stop viewing the topic with fear, and began being able to put little steps between myself and those events. I honestly don’t know.

I have used humor to heal many different times, and each time I’ve healed much faster than when I tried to keep a somber attitude. When I was trying to overcome the abuse I went through with my ex-husband and with a later ex-boyfriend, I joked about what happened; I put a humorous spin on the events.

“Well honey if you wanted the phone so badly you didn’t have to grab me by the hair and throw me to the ground, you could have just asked! Use your words, you’re a big boy!”

“Sure I’ll clean the house, take care of the newborn, cook dinner, and tend to my surgery site while you sit there and play video games , would you like me to slip into a little maid outfit with frilly panties as well?”

Granted, the humor was very sarcastic, but you can see how I started twisting events so that I could look at them with humor instead of pain and horror. But again, I’m not going to just go into a battered women’s shelter and start making these jokes, I look for the context of what is going on and who I’m dealing with. Sure, I could say fuck them and do what I want, but there are some things that I do like to be polite about….sometimes.

Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

So when someone tells you that rape jokes or jokes about domestic violence are never funny, no matter what the context, ask them why they feel that way. More than likely they will tell you something like how it spits on the victims of those crimes, how it belittles survivors. You know what you can ask them then? Ask them how many survivors they have discussed it with. Ask them if they’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate joke.

If they say they are a survivor and they don’t find them funny, then just leave it be, obviously they aren’t ready to distance themselves from the blanket of pain that they have wrapped themselves in. I can guarantee you though, that they have at some time laughed at what would be considered an inappropriate joke. If they say they never have, they are either lying or have been living under a rock their whole life.

Just because they don’t like the jokes that I tell, doesn’t mean that I should silence myself and stifle my way of healing. That is why I will continue to make the jokes, and why I will continue to use the terms and own them. It’s also why I will tell people who are complete assholes to bite the pillow, because baby, I’m going in dry tonight.

 

It’s the little victories that make it worth it

Since coming out in 2014 I’ve been dealing with a lot of people pretty much refusing to acknowledge I’m a man because I still look female. My mother in law even went so far as to not just call it a phase…yeah, I’m 35 and just having a “phase”…right, but to tell me that I can be whatever I want when I’m at home, but when I’m out in the real world I need to look and dress properly. She even bought me blouses to wear when she was still trying to force me to find work.

Thankfully the passive aggressive printing of all of my rejection letters from the jobs I’d applied at shut her ass up about finding work.

Poor Harvey has been struggling with the concept of me being transgender as well, but at least he’s putting in an attempt, unlike other people in my life.

But I think the most amusing and frustrating people to deal with when it comes to my whole “issue” would have to be my step daughter’s maternal grandparents. Let’s just say their family tree branches about as much as a lodge pole pine…or a telephone pole. I swear there’s just two small branches stapled one to it, one is Harvey and the other is one of the girls’ uncles. These guys are hard core Bible thumping idiots, and are partially responsible for a lot of the damages I’ve been working on repairing in their grandchildren.

When my eldest was still in Job Corps we went up to see her for her final presentation. I didn’t know she’d invited…them. I already knew I was going to have to deal with Harvey’s ex-wife (someone I would love to see cut in half by a train…but that would probably damage the train) at the event, but I didn’t expect to see her grandparents.

These were the very people who told her she was too stupid to be of any value in the work force and should just stay on disability. They were the very people who convinced her she had a bad brain, even though when we had limited their contact with her she had shown she could do fractions in her head. They were the very people who HAAAAAAATE me for corrupting their other grandchild with my evil Satanic ways.

Side note, all I did was have Nami actually read the Bible and allowed her to ask questions. Trying to figure out the Satan part still.

Well anyway, we all got there and it was less than two minutes before I wanted to beat these people with a table, but I was told to be on my best behavior so I just bit a giant divit in my cheek instead. When it came time to introduce everyone to her teachers and other guests, my eldest introduced me as her step dad.

 The feeling of elation and “YAY!” was short lived…..

She’d barely finished her sentence when the grandfather “corrected” her that I was her step mother. I could see that she was about to argue, and wished I’d had some popcorn on hand. The grandfather (let’s call him Neil) lectured her on how she needed to stop trying to pretend to have gay parents and that God did not approve. Neil told her that I was obviously a woman, and that it was not polite to call me a man just to suit her fantasies.

Should I mention that Neil also still believes that since his daughter and Harvey got married in a church, they were still married even though they are legally divorced? This guy really shouldn’t be lecturing people on fantasies.

I could see that the other guests were becoming really uncomfortable, so I decided to speak up.

I smiled and said, “No, she’s right. I’m her dad and please stop telling her she’s wrong about something you don’t know about.”

The look on the grandmother’s face was priceless.

I politely explained to one of the guests that I was a trans man and apologized for any confusion that may have arisen from my appearance versus how my kid spoke about me.

For the rest of the time we were there, Neil just GLARED at me. If looks could kill I would have been a pile of ashes.

Since that event, he has gone out of his way to ignore me whenever he is at the house, talks behind my back about how horrible I am as a parent to his “darling” grandchildren, and tries to bad mouth me to people. He did that ONCE around Nami. It ended with me having to rush from my house to their house a town over to remove her before police were called because she decided at that point that she wanted to see if she could cause Neil to have a stroke…or at the very least wind up in the hospital in some way.

Yay for damage control, right?

Probably doesn’t help that within the first year of dealing with Neil that I got in his face and told him that he was not welcome in my house. I had informed him that the only reason I tolerated him was because my girls wanted him around, and that I would only allow him on my property long enough to pick up or drop off the girls. When he tried to pull the “Men are the rulers of women!” Bible bullshit, he found out he’d made a huge mistake. He didn’t know that I was a licensed minister and that I knew WAY more about the Bible than he did.

After I got bored of his sputtering and flailing to Bible at me, I informed him he had until I unlocked my phone before I called the police to remove him from my property.

Never seen an inbred creeper move so fast. He got in his creeper van and left so quickly his Tinkerbell sticker had to hang on for dear life.

Yes, this is a grown man who has a Tinkerbell fetish. But remember, he’s all Jesus and shit, so it’s OK.

Not creepy at all, right?

He’s Just a Child

Names have been changed to protect those involved, even the scum who did this.

CONTENT WARNING: ABUSE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE, CHILD ABUSE

“He’s just a child.”

Those words will haunt me for the rest of my days.

“He’s just like a child himself, he didn’t understand what he did was wrong.”

I stood there, numb to the core. My four year old child had been raped, and this was the explanation her rapist’s mother was giving me? The man I had trusted to watch my daughter, the man who I had invited into my home, the man who shared my bed…had raped my child during the short time I had been called in to work.

It had started as any other Saturday, waking up to my daughter jumping onto my side of the bed and asking to watch TV. I remember groggily turning the TV on to Disney and the sounds of Handy Many began to play before scooting over so that she could cuddle up with my cat at the foot of the bed to watch TV. Roger grumbled about it being too early, so I got up and took my daughter downstairs to watch TV there.

I wasn’t able to admit it at the time, but Roger had already begun abusing me by that point; stalking me while I was out, threatening people I was friendly to at work, setting up a key logger on my computer so that he could track my every move and see who I talked to and what I talked about, threatening me if I upset him, and in some cases even hitting me or throwing me to the ground and striking me just because I did something to anger him. I kept telling myself that his anger towards me was justified, that I had done something to deserve being hit.

I had stood by as he threw his best friend to the ground and beat on him. My only thought at the time was to get my daughter to safety. His scuffle had awoken her and I needed to make sure she didn’t see the violence.

I had already learned what happened when you fought back.

That Saturday morning, all I was thinking about when I got the phone call to come in to work was how quickly I could get done with my shift and get home. I didn’t want to leave my daughter with Roger, because he was still sleeping, but I had little choice. I didn’t have enough time to find a sitter, and I couldn’t take her with me to work.

As quickly as I could I got dressed and kissed my little girl on the forehead, assuring her I would be home as quickly as I could. I asked Roger to keep an eye on her and that I’d already given her her breakfast. She would be fine watching TV for the couple hours I would be gone, so long as he kept an eye on her.

My shift ran long and I remember how anxious I was getting. I kept trying to get home early but my bosses insisted that I stay even though we were barely doing any business. I cannot tell you how agitated I was by the time they let me clock out.

I’m pretty sure I broke several traffic laws on my way home, and I didn’t even lock my car as I rushed to get back to my daughter. I just felt something was wrong and I had to get back to her.

I could hear her crying before I’d even opened the door.

She was at the top of the stairs behind the child gate, crying loudly. All the lights in the house were turned out yet I could tell that she was crying to the point that tears were no longer falling. I don’t think I closed the door, all I remember is rushing up the stairs and taking her in my arms.

After that…my mind goes blank. No matter how hard I try, I cannot remember what happened for the next thirty minutes. I have been told that that was when my daughter told me what had happened as best she could as a four year old child, and I believe that. I just can’t remember it.

The very next thing I remember is hearing those words…

“He’s just a child.”

Even this I had blocked out. I had blocked out almost everything about that day…until today.

His mother convinced me to not call the police, convinced me that he hadn’t known any better. She wept as she begged me to think of her son while ignoring that he had raped my daughter. She begged for me to choose a twenty year old man over a four year old child. She told me that most likely my daughter wouldn’t even remember the event because she was so young.

“He’s just a child.”

I just stood there.

“He’s just a child.”

I couldn’t do anything.

“He’s just a child.”

I was just so numb.

“He’s just a child.”

I already knew what happened if I fought back.

“He’s just a child.”

I gave in.

I agreed to be silent.

“He’s just a child.”

No, he’s a rapist…why can’t I fight back? He’s a rapist, why can’t I remember? He’s a rapist, why won’t people listen?

He’s a rapist…and I enabled him.

Love, Muses, and the Reverse Friendzone

So back in 1999 I met an individual that would later be the one who helped me see just how much of a waste of human protoplasm my ex-husband was.  I met Archer (not his real name, obviously) through an online game known as a MUD.  For those not in the loop, MUDs were the precursor to MMOs.  MUD stands for Multi User Dungeon and was a text based game that was playable through various programs or through the dreaded telNET.  You did the same stuff as you do in an MMO, but it was all text, no pictures.

Archer began to interact with me when I was a tiny little newbie player, and I enjoyed his flirting and how nothing was ever serious for him.  I created a new character in the game, this time an angel so that I could hang out with him and play with him since he was the first friend I made on the game.  Over the years I would not only make more friends on the MUD, but I also wound up being a developer on the game for several years, but back to Archer.

Archer and I flirted on the MUD and off the MUD and we found comfort in talking with each other.  I was in the process of breaking up with my first boyfriend and Archer was there to talk to me and reassure me that I shouldn’t just give up and should listen to what my heart told me.  We grew to be close friends and the flirting turned a bit serious for a while until I officially got together with Eric.  Looking back on it, I can definitely say that Eric was my rebound even though I had never had sex before and had only had one boyfriend before him.

We’d not even gotten to the point of a relationship when I got together with Eric, and so we just backed a bit off on the flirting and stuck to having fun on the MUD and hanging out.  The MUD was our personal place where we could enjoy each other’s company.  I won’t lie, I started developing feelings for Archer, even though he was younger than me and we’d only known each other online.

As the years progressed, we started to fall for each other, or so I thought.  

He was one of the reasons I started having almost instant regrets about marrying Eric.  But Archer had never told me he loved me, except when we were on the MUD, and when I tried to bring it up he would deflect it or work towards changing the subject.  I think I actually based a good chunk of my second book on that whole bit.  I’d tried even saying it first, before Eric and I were engaged, and Archer never said it back.  Like an idiot, I justified it to myself that he just didn’t know how to say it, since he came from a broken home and had been abused as a kid.

Is anyone else beginning to notice I spent a lot of my life justifying people’s shitty actions because I just didn’t want to acknowledge that there are total cunts out in the world?  Yeah, lot of good that did me.

I had been married to Eric for about four years when I was given the option of traveling down to the LA area for a small conference of sorts for laboratory professionals (I had just earned my certificate for lab assisting and phlebotomy and wanted to further my education).  I was excited because I would finally be able to meet Archer face to face.  He’d always had some excuse why he couldn’t come visit me over the years, but this time I was going to visit him.  My marriage with Eric was already crumbling due to his statements about never moving back to Oregon and I was wanting to be with my daughter more and more, so I figured heck, we’d (Archer and I) talked about having sex before several times, and I was in the process of getting separated from Eric…

Yeah…it didn’t happen.  

Obviously we were kind of awkward finally meeting face to face, and we hung out in my hotel room watching TV, but that was about it for the first night I was there.  The second day was the conference, and that evening we hung out again.  I actually ASKED him to have sex with me, and he shot me down.  Sure, he was polite about it, but come on!  Someone travels down to see you, and you know that they chose what conference to go to JUST so they could spend time with you, and you had been discussing sex with them….and you fucking shoot them down?

So needless to say I was kind of crushed on that aspect, but again I justified it as he was just being polite and didn’t want to risk getting me in trouble with Eric since Eric was still really possessive even though we were breaking up.  I told myself all sorts of things, explaining away that I had been “friendzoned” as some people like to call it.  As I was heading out to head back up to where I was staying in Fairfield, I managed to get a very….VERY chaste peck on the lips from Archer.

It was a combination of spending time with him, how polite he had been (in my mind), and my justifications that allowed me to gain the courage to tell Eric to fuck off.  When I got back to Fairfield I stood outside of my van and grabbed at my ponytail.  I’d been growing it out for a couple years, but I was determined that if I was going to make such a drastic life change I needed a body change as well.  I grabbed a box cutter that I kept in my van and sliced off my ponytail.  Long story short on that one, it didn’t go over well with Eric and his family but I didn’t care anymore.

Eric gave me the ultimatum of picking either him or my daughter, and I moved out two days later.  I was practically giddy as I drove up to Oregon, and after getting settled and helping put my daughter to bed I contacted Archer to tell him about what had happened.  He seemed happy for me, and I felt like I had someone who was supportive of me even while I fought with Eric and his family during the divorce.  Thankfully, Eric wanted nothing to do with my daughter, and we filed the divorce in Oregon, so it was somewhat clean…his parents were just being really difficult about certain things.

Archer stuck around and we got closer online.  We cybered from time to time, and that was really the only time that he would ever say he loved me.  Even then he would brush it away with a comment about it being in the heat of the moment or things like that.  During the divorce and the period after it I wound up writing two books based off of our characters from the MUD.  Found a publisher for them, publisher went under, so I went indy with them and am currently “fixing” a lot of the bullshit that I had put in them.

In 2009 I decided to go down and visit Archer again.  I drove down there from Oregon and arrived at my hotel exhausted.  I got cleaned up and went out to get dinner before Archer got off work.  While we slept in the same bed together that night, he was on top of the covers “to be polite” while I slept under the covers.  We went and saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine the next day and I almost got us kicked out of the theater when I shouted out that their explanation about the hydrochlorothyazide hiding the woman’s heart beat was complete and utter bullshit.  Archer laughed at it and we finished out the movie before heading back to his place for a bit. Nothing juicy happened there, I basically got to see his room and sit on his bed while we talked for a bit.

That night while we were watching TV in my hotel room I tried to hint as hard as possible at my mood, from stroking his leg (and up to his third leg) to actually (AGAIN) asking him to have sex.  And again, I was shot down.  He didn’t have a reason this time, just an “I can’t” and him moving my hand from his leg.

I went back up to Oregon defeated but again justifying his actions.  We kept up our “relationship” if you could call it that online until I took a small break to date one of the most abusive pieces of shit in the world.  To be fair, I didn’t know he was that way when I first met him.  I wound up having to get a restraining order against the guy after he started stalking me and threatening me and my daughter.  I had a short relationship with another person, and that relationship ended on decent terms.

My stalker kicked up his game around the time I met Harvey and I started having problems at work due to what my stalker was doing.  Harvey let me crash at his place since he lived in a secured building while we moved my stuff to a storage unit so that I could be safe.

It was around then that Archer decided he wanted to be in an actual relationship with me.  

The problem was, I was tired of waiting and I was tired of being led along.  Now for context, Harvey and I were only good friends at the time, and I asked him if he would help me gauge if Archer was a decent person or not.  Harvey agreed and so Archer came up to visit.  I went to his hotel room and due to bad lighting and a crappy parking lot I wound up high centering my car on a piece of concrete.  I had to call Harvey to help me move my car since Archer isn’t exactly a big and burly person.  So all three of us hung out for a while, and I could see that Archer was intimidated by Harvey (most people are though for some reason….) and so I went home and we were all going to meet up the next morning for breakfast.

I could see that Archer was NOT pleased with Harvey being there at breakfast, but at this point I was kind of wanting revenge of sorts for being shot down twice and having “wasted” time traveling down to see him.  That and he didn’t make any attempt to say he wanted to be alone with me, so I just let things play out.  We went to the flea market and all three of us got separated for a bit, mostly because I have this lovely tendency to go squirrel on people and wander off when I see something that catches my eye.

I met up with Harvey and told him my concerns about Archer, and he told me to trust my heart on the matter.  I was sitting in a chair with Harvey standing next to me when Archer found us, and he looked like he’d just sucked on a lemon. Harvey and I weren’t even being intimate, yet I felt guilty when Archer glared at me and I instantly went into chastised and submissive mode.  He asked to be taken back to his hotel room and so I did as he asked.

Harvey and I got back to the apartment and I went to take a second dose of my medications since I was shaking so badly I was having trouble standing.  I’d barely had the chance to finish my water when the texts began.

 “Are you and Harvey fucking?”

 “Are you and Harvey together?”

 “Why did you let me waste this money to come up here if you were with someone?!”

I tried to explain to him that we weren’t in a relationship and that we were just friends.  That’s when the text that killed ANY feelings I had left for Archer.

“Swear on your daughter’s life that you aren’t fucking him.”

I showed that text to Harvey and even he had nothing to say back.   I wrote back to Archer that Harvey and I were not fucking, and that he was just a friend.  Archer then went into this long text about how he had come up there to propose to me and how he had been planning on finding a place up there so we could live together and all those wonderful things I had dreamed of years ago.  One problem though, now all I wanted was to kick him so hard he coughed his nuts out his mouth.

It’s only now when I look back on it all that I realize he had just been leading me on, and that the final set of texts was more to hurt me than anything else.  I’d made the mistake of falling for someone who was toxic for me and who quite possibly could have turned out to be abusive.  I kept justifying his actions and explaining them away instead of seeing them for what they were.  I had given my love to someone who hadn’t appreciated it, and when I decided I was done he had gone out of his way to make ME feel guilty for not still being in love with him.  I guess it’s why poor Harvey is constantly having to reassure me that he’s not going to do a 180 on me and start abusing me or mistreating me.  I was so used to being abused and used by that point that it was all I knew.  Actual love and compassion was foreign to me outside of the love I felt for my daughter.

Since the visit, Archer and I have only spoken a few times.  Those conversations have been short and cold, and nothing like they used to be, but I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck.

So there you have it.  I fell in love with a man who became my muse for two books and was one of the main characters, only to find out that the feelings were not equally shared.  While my love for him did help me get through some tough spots, it was one sided and once it had served its purpose, it vanished.

How $10 became “I Will Never Trust You Again”

While I was born in Oregon, my parents moved down to southern California before I was three.  After my brother was born, we moved up to Davis.  I went through third grade without too many issues, well aside from the alien abduction that has left the scar on the right side of my forehead.  I say it was an alien abduction because I have yet to find a better explanation for how I got from sitting on the side of my bed looking at my night light to lying half in my room and half out of my room with a giant gash in my forehead.  While my dad says that I hit my head on the bed post, the lack of blood in the room and the large gap in my memory kind of make me wonder.

 Occam’s razor aside, the alien abduction story definitely makes for a better explanation than “I woke up, then fell asleep and then in the middle of sleep walking fell and cut my head on a wooden head board and stumbled out of my room.”

 When I was eight, we moved to Winters, where I lived until my dad dragged me up to Oregon in 2001 to keep me away from the man who would become my ex-husband.  Winters can definitely be described as a one horse town, to where if you blink when driving past it on the 505 highway, you will miss it.  I lived in the safest part of town according to my dad, because no one would be crazy enough to try to rob a house on a block where there had been two homicide suicides in under ten years.  During the years that I lived in Winters, I managed to dye the carpet in my bedroom blue with my chemistry set, cut a square hole in my parent’s screen door and tried to blame it on the dogs, and spent probably a good portion of my youth grounded.

 But aside from living in Winters, none of that really has anything to do with my story.  

 About 38 miles from Winters is the town of Vallejo, where at the time of my visit was a park called Marine World Africa USA.  Now it’s apparently called Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, but you know what?  Fuck Six Flags!  Marine World Africa USA will always be more awesome because of all the different animals they had and all the fun science stuff that was available for a nerd like me to experience.  Screw the rides, I want science!

 I was ten years old when the incident occurred, and I remember that not only did they have a new addition to the shark exhibit, but since Jurassic Park had recently come out in the theaters, they had a whole new dinosaur and pre-history exhibit in the park.  I was so excited by the dinosaur exhibit that I spent a good several hours pouring over every part of it and playing with the interactive exhibits within the larger exhibit.  For a ten year old kid who loved to learn and loved science, it was the best time of my life.

 Using the map that they gave me when I got into the park, I decided to wander to the different places to watch the various animal demonstrations and shows.  I set up specific times to meet up with my parents to check in, and made sure that my watch was working properly before heading off to have fun.  I went and watched the dolphins, and then on to the tigers to watch them play in their exhibit with the trainers, and then over to the butterfly house to get out of the sun for a little while before meeting up with my parents for lunch.

 My parents had brought stuff for lunch along with them, but I didn’t want any of it.  I can’t even remember what it was, just that I really REALLY wanted a hot dog and a large lemonade.  I got told that if I wanted that, I had to spend my own money on it since they had packed a lunch for all of us and they would not spend money on overpriced food.  Being ten, and I REALLY wanted that hot dog and lemonade, I went and spent my money on my lunch.  Yeah, I know…stupid kid wanting stupid things.  Remember that lunch, it will play into this story later.  I do have to say though, it was a really good hot dog and lemonade…at least my memory wants to claim it is.

 After lunch, we set up another set of check in times and off I went to go and have fun again.  Since the shark exhibit, called the Shark Experience, was the closest to where we’d had lunch, I headed over there to enjoy the air conditioned exhibit.  The Jaws theme plays on a loop as you walk into the exhibit, with outlines of the different species of sharks on the wall glow in the black lit corridors.  To say that the building all of this shark stuff was housed in was big would be an understatement, if I remember correctly it houses a 300,000 gallon tank along with many other things.  There was a tunnel that you could walk through so that the sharks swam overhead, and there were floor to ceiling viewing areas where you could just watch all the sharks swimming about.  I kept wanting to see that one shark with the saw blade nose swim over head, or one of the giant rays to swim over my head like they showed in the commercials, but they were always off on the far end of the tank for some reason.

 I could have spent days in there and still not been bored of the exhibit, but because of the crowds I probably only spent about thirty minutes in there before shuffling on to look at the sharks outside and then on into the gift shop.  

 Inside the gift shop I saw all sorts of things I wanted, from books, to models, to a wash cloth that if you put it in water it grew from a squashed disk into a usable washcloth.  But the thing that caught my attention the most was a pen that when to tilted it, had a shark that swam from one side to the other.  Well, he swam backwards if you tilted it one way, and swam forwards when you tilted it the other…so I guess that’s swimming? I remember really wanting that pen, but when I checked my pocket for my money, the memory of lunch came back, and how I had spent my ten dollars on food.  I stood there staring at that pen, and decided that I wanted it, and that it would be mine.  Looking around, I carefully slipped it into the pocket of my white wind breaker before also slipping that wash cloth disk in as well.

 Since no one shouted at me to put it back, I went on my merry little way to the next exhibit.

 After spending time watching the seals swimming around, I sat down and watch the sea lion show.  I always wanted to be picked when they came out to get someone to come up and meet the sea lions, but they picked some blond boy instead to get kissed by the sea lion.  I was glad it spit on him instead.  I went along the trail to the next exhibit, and eventually found my way to the front of the park and the main gift shop.  Inside I found these little troll doll pencil toppers that were smaller than my thumb, and in my pocket went one of each color.  With my new possessions, I went off to watch the killer whale show.  I met up with my grandmother and we watched the show together.  As we left the stadium, I told her about how I had found some toys in the dirt on my way to the show and showed her the troll dolls.

 She looked like she believed it, so I went off to the “kid” area and played on the giant rope ladder that encompassed the entire area.  You would climb up and could move across to other areas of the kid zone, or just sit up there and enjoy watching everyone walking and moving around below you.  It made me feel really cool because everyone looked so tiny below me when I was up there.  I noticed the ball pit that had this really cool air tube where you could put a ball on top of it and watch it hover was almost completely empty, so I climbed over and down to the entrance, took off my shoes and wind breaker, and hopped on in.  For some reason, it was like a challenge to me to try to keep that ball hovering for more than a few seconds, and I wanted to try to get to ten seconds this time around without some snot nosed brat swatting the ball away and laughing at me.

 I’d managed to get a ball to hover for around 8 seconds, even though it took me half an hour to get to that level of success, when I heard my mom say my name.  She didn’t say my full name, or even my first and last name, but the tone she put on my first name told me I was in deep shit.  Mind racing, I started trying to figure out what I had done wrong.  I hadn’t hit anyone, and I had been on my best behavior the whole time I’d been at Marine World, I had no idea as to why she had the “you’re going to regret being born” tone in her voice.  Climbing out of the ball pit, I didn’t even get the chance to slip my shoes back on before she told me to sit down at a nearby picnic table.  I could feel my heart racing as I sat down, and I could feel that sensation of fight or flight pushing its way up my spine and the bile rising in my stomach as I looked at my mom.

 “I want you to empty out your pockets.” she stated coldly.  “Empty them out and put everything in front of me.”

 My body went numb.  My grandmother had obviously told my mom about the troll dolls, and my mom didn’t believe I had found them.  I just knew it.  I began to empty out my pockets, pulling out the map of the park, and then the troll dolls. “Anything else?”  I pulled out the pen, forgetting about the washcloth.  “Where did you get these?”

 “I found them.” I lied.

 I figured I was already in trouble, so no point in owning up to something if I was just going to get in trouble regardless of what I said.  I might as well try to proclaim my innocence in hopes that I was believed. No sooner had the words left my mouth than I knew that she wasn’t buying it.

 “We’re going to go to each store you took these from, and you are going to walk up to the clerk and tell him you took them without paying and that you are sorry.” she stated coldly.

I nodded, my brain telling me to just shut up and go along with it.  We first went to the shark exhibit gift shop, and I walked up to the clerk, handing him the pen and telling him the line my mother had told me to tell him.  He set it on the counter and said that he was glad I returned it and was being honest.  It sounded rehearsed, but I didn’t get to check it as my mom dragged me to the next gift shop.  I showed my mom where I had taken the troll dolls from, and she stated that she didn’t care and that I couldn’t just put them back and be done with it.  She took me to the nearest clerk and had me hold out the dolls while reciting the line, “I took these without paying, and I’m sorry.”

This clerk looked between me and my mom, and then took the dolls back.  She didn’t say anything, but merely put the dolls behind the counter and watched as my mom pulled me from the store and over to the large dolphin fountain near the entrance of the park.  “We’re going to wait here for your dad, brother, and grandparents, and then we are leaving.  I hope you are proud of yourself, we are leaving early because of you.” she said.

I didn’t say anything, I just stared into the water and tried to count how much money had been thrown into the water that day.  I’d counted somewhere around four dollars by the time the rest of my family made it to the fountain, and the look in my dad’s eyes made me wish I could drown myself in the water.  I wanted to just crawl into the fountain and disappear in the water. Without saying a word, we all left the park and headed back to the van.  I kept trying to lag behind, not wanting anyone to see the tears forming in my eyes, but every time I did, my parents would demand I hurry up and stop feeling sorry for myself.  “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”…that is a phrase that still fills me with anger, even to this day.  It was what my parents, especially my father, would say any time I started to cry.  If I got angry, I was not allowed to express my anger in the ways I knew how, so I would cry to relieve the emotional pressure, which would lead to me being punished and told to stop feeling sorry for myself.  It is what led to me being unable to express my emotions properly even to this day, and led to the feelings of shame I feel every time I cry.

When we got to the car, my dad made me take off my windbreaker and turn out the pockets on my shorts.  He proceeded to check the windbreaker, and found that there was a hole in one of the pockets and that one troll doll and the wash cloth disk had fallen through it.  Pulling them out, he looked at me and coldly told me, “I will never trust you again.  Get in the van and buckle up.  You’re grounded until I say you’re not.”

 I can’t even remember how long I was grounded, or how many times I was checked to make sure I hadn’t stolen anything from other family members after that event.  If something showed up in my room that wasn’t mine, it was obvious that I stole it, and I was punished…even if I hadn’t taken it.  I knew that on several of the occasions my brother had planted stuff in my room, and on other occasions either the thing had gotten mixed in with my stuff and wound up in my room, or I had legitimately borrowed it by asking permission and being told I could take it into my room.

Fast forward 20 years.  I’m up at my parents house visiting with my daughter.  While she is cleaning up her toys, I’m telling my dad about finally getting my Masters in theology.  Harvey is sitting at the table with us as I tell my father about my thesis on Christianity being a piggy back style religion and talking about the various religions and mythologies it borrowed from to create its story.  As I finished up, feeling super proud of myself for my accomplishment and my paper, my dad leaned forward and said, “Don’t lie.  You can tell the truth about this stuff, you don’t need to lie.”

I could feel tears welling up and could hear Harvey’s grip on his cup tighten considerably.  Why would I lie about a degree I had received?  Why would I lie about a thesis I had written?  Why wouldn’t he just believe me?

Keeping as calm as I possibly could, I pretended to check a message on my phone and said to Harvey that we had to go.  I gave my daughter a hug good bye and headed out the door.  Part of me already knew the answer.  No matter what I could say, my dad would always tell me to stop lying.  I could tell him the sky was blue, and he would say, “Stop lying, the sky is cloudy today.” or something like that.  To him, everything I say is a lie, even when I show him definitive proof.  Or if I bring him proof of something I have said, he looks at me and asks, “Why did you bring me this?  Why didn’t you just tell me about it?  I don’t need to read an entire paper on the subject.”

Even today, 20+ years after the incident, he still refuses to trust me.  I have to have someone backing me up, or somehow prove to him beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am telling the truth for him to even consider believing me. Oh, and just to let you know, the main person who always told me to stop feeling sorry for myself when I cried, the person who told me that anger was a mind killer but never helped me with a safe way to deal with my anger, the person who wouldn’t let me leave a situation to go and calm down, and then punished me for becoming emotional?  My dad.  The man who refuses to trust his eldest child, is also the one who caused his eldest child to not understand how to regulate their emotions properly.