It’s like … 1980, probably. Maybe late 1979. It’s the summer in Los Angeles, and it is as hot as I can remember. The smog is so thick, you can taste an oily sheen in air that looks overcast, all the time.
I’m in the back seat of my godmother’s car. My little sister and little brother are on either side of me. We didn’t wear seatbelts in those days, which is nuts but it’s how it was.
My mother has enlisted my godmother (who is my aunt, my father’s sister) to drive me on a commercial audition that I don’t want to go to. I presume my father was at work and my mother had some audition of her own, so my godmother ended up with three kids, plus my cousin, in her VW.
I can see this like it just happened. I’m sitting up on my heels, on that sort of plastic seat that 1970s Volkswagens had, with the waffle pattern. I look into her eyes in the rearview mirror, and I decide that it’s time to ask for help.
“Aunt Dorothy, will you tell my mom that I don’t want to do this anymore? Will you tell my mom that I just want to be a kid?”
What 8 year-old has to beg their mother to “let” them be a kid? What kind of mother doesn’t hear that? What kind of father doesn’t care?
You know the answers — well, my answers — to those questions.
She looks back at me, and she says, as kindly and gently as ever, “You have to tell your mom that, but I’ll go with you if you want.”
And that’s when I knew that I was never going to just be a kid, because my mother refused to listen to me, refused to hear me, refused to see me as a person. I was her property, a tool to be used that would get her closer to her dreams, dreams she was focused on so singularly, she stole my childhood from me (before she and my dad stole all my money from me) and then lied to me about it.
I can’t count the number of times I begged her, “please let me just be a kid. I just want to be a kid.” I said those words through tears so many times, I can still feel how my throat burned with grief and fear and desperation. I can feel how much I was suffering, how unhappy I was, how I just wanted to be a kid, and how awful it was to be dismissed and gaslighted about it.
“You made a commitment,” was something she would say to me all the time, as if a seven year-old can understand what that means. “I gave up my career so you can have yours,” she told me, throughout my entire childhood, every time I wanted to quit, which was pretty much all the time.
It hurt, so much, to feel unheard, unseen, unsupported, and unloved. It was shameful to lie about it, to protect my abusers, for 46 years of my life. I know that it is the root cause of my CPTSD, my Depression, and my Anxiety.
Which brings me to the whole reason I told this story today.
My friend, Mayim, has a mental health podcast, and she asked me if I’d come on to talk about living with Depression. I said yes, and in the course of our conversation, we ended up talking quite a lot about my experience with selfish, narcissist, emotionally abusive, parents.
It’s intense. In fact, it’s so intense, this is the second podcast we did. With Mayim’s blessing, I spiked the first time we talked, because I felt like it was just way too raw and made me uncomfortable. So we had a second conversation, and it’s going to come out tomorrow.
Here’s a preview. What you don’t hear, just before this clip starts, is that my mother made me go to her commercial agency when I was just seven years-old, and coached me to tell the kid’s agent, “I want to do what mommy does.”