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Oh Yeah!?! I’ll Show You!

September 5, 2008

 

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

 

 

Oh Yeah! I’ll Show You!

 

Teenager is synonymous with the word rebellion, the years when a previously wonderful child transforms almost overnight into an unwelcome person full of sulks, bad manners, and unreasonable behavior. “Our youth now love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders, and love to chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” Although this may sound like a description of today’s teenagers, amazingly it was written by Socrates, who died in 399 BC. Obviously teenage rebellion has always been a normal part of adolescence. Most often, this rebellion leads to semi-harmless acts as a matter of testing the waters, spreading wings, or expanding horizons during the growing pains of being a teenager. But sometimes rebellion manifests into destructive behaviors as a result of parents who forget they too were once a teenager.

 

I was the definition of a “good teenager” for my first three teenage years. My parents were strict and, for the most part, I did not challenge their authority. I was a good student and had a circle of friends who also followed the rules in their households. I did my assigned chores as it didn’t occur to me that I had any other choice. I began working the summer of my 12th birthday, babysitting five days a week for a family with four children under the age of six. I turned the $10.00 per week I earned over to my mother without question, or I should say, without many questions. I babysat most weekends and every summer until I turned 16, when I was of age to get a better paying job. I started working as a dishwasher in a local nursing home. I worked three hours most evenings after school and an eight-hour shift on both Saturdays and Sundays, handing my entire paycheck to mother as soon as I received it. I had been a cheerleader in junior high school but my mother would not permit me to try out in high school because of the expense and “those outfits are too short.” I was not permitted to belong to school clubs, mainly because they would interfere with my working after school. I was only allowed to date on Saturday night after I got off work at 7pm, with a curfew of 10pm. Although I was not entirely happy with these rules and the money arrangement, I went along with them. That is, until my mother bought a blue suit.  

 

For many years, my mother told friends and relatives, “Cricket was a pretty good kid until she turned 16. Then, she went wild overnight.” That is not entirely true. It was exactly five weeks after my sixteenth birthday, standing in Jean Frock’s dress shop, that I lost all respect for my mother and made the decision I was no longer going to follow her archaic rules.

 

Two weeks prior to this fateful shopping trip, I had received the honor of being voted as the Junior Class Homecoming Attendant. Each year, the Freshman, Sophomore and Junior classes could nominate girls in their perspective grades, and then a vote by each grade was held to select one girl to be that grade’s Homecoming Attendant. The Senior class would vote for the top three girls in their grade to serve on the court for the Homecoming Queen, in which the entire school would vote to select the queen. To be honest, I was surprised I was even nominated to be on the ballot for my class. I was always friendly with everyone, and I believed I was well liked, but I was not a member of the “in crowd.” I was completely shocked when Jim Harrington, a definite member of the in-crowd, came running into the lunch room to tell me, and everyone sitting at the table, that I had indeed won. Although the official announcement was not to be made until the end of the day, he was on the homecoming committee and had helped with counting the ballots. At first, I didn’t believe him as he was known for pulling cruel practical jokes. Then he said, “Yeah, we were really surprised you won. But then I figured it out. All the popular girls nominated each other so they were all on the ballot with you. Since we could only vote for one girl, our friends ended up dividing their votes between them and your friends all voted for you. You only won by two votes. But, you won.” Now what was I supposed to say to that? He had taken the most exciting thing to ever happen to me and dismissed it as a matter of mathematics. Yes, he was a jerk. But I didn’t care what he thought; I was the Junior Homecoming Attendant! At that moment, I was the happiest girl alive.

 

My excitement and happiness were short lived. A few minutes later, the lunch room monitor came to the table to tell me I was to report to the Principal’s office. I thought my summons was to give me advance notice that I had won. And, to a point it was. Principal Slutz called me into his office to advise me I had indeed won, but, unless I agreed to stop seeing my current boyfriend I would not be permitted to have the honor of representing my class. John, my boyfriend, was a hood, a “bad boy” as Mr. Slutz called him. He went on to say how surprised he was that a “good girl” such as me would lower her standards and date the likes of John.  He said that he had no control over who I dated, but he had control over who would be Junior Homecoming Attendant. He then issued the ultimatum, “It is up to you. Do you want to be the homecoming attendant or do you want to continue dating John?” Let me tell you, I got mad! How dare he try to run my life! I sat holding my heading down starring at my hands clenched together in my lap for a few minutes trying to compose myself. Just as he started to speak again, I stood up and looked him straight in the eye. “You are not my father. You can not tell me who I can or can not date. And, you better think twice about trying to take away my being the homecoming attendant. It is already all over the lunch room that I won. If my name is not announced at last period, you will hear from my family’s attorney tomorrow.” I turned and walked out of his office. On my way to my locker to get my books for the next class, I started shaking. Then I started laughing. Alice, my best friend, asked if I was alright and what was so funny. I finally replied, “I was just wondering if Perry Mason would take my case if Slutz doesn’t allow me to be the Junior Homecoming Attendant. He is the only attorney I know and he is on television.” As it turned out, I did not have to search for an attorney to cover my bluff as my name was announced during last period announcements.

 

I wasn’t sure how my mother would react to my news. I realize most mothers would have been excited that such an honor was given to their daughter, but my mother was not like most mothers. My older sister actually told mom before I had a chance since I had to work after school. By the time I got home, my mother was in an uproar. She was not pleased “little miss popularity” was given such an honor. “What is this going to cost me?” she demanded. I told her I would need a suit for the homecoming game and a party dress for the dance. She continued to rant and rave about “not being made of money” until I reminded her of my paycheck, which I gave her every two weeks. Dad stepped in and said she was to buy me whatever I needed. This only made mom angrier, but she compromised and said she would purchase the dress but I would need to borrow a suit from one of my friends. This proved to be a challenge since I was so small. I was finally able to borrow a suit from a friend’s sister, even though it was at least two sizes too big. But I didn’t mind. I found if I put a belt around the skirt, which was well hidden by the oversized jacket, it wouldn’t fall down. It was a small price to pay to be allowed to purchase my very first party dress. Although I had gone to two previous homecoming dances, I had worn dresses that belonged to my mother, which were altered to fit me.  To have my own party dress was a dream come true!

 

That Friday night, mom and I drove to Wooster, which was a much larger town than the one where we lived. It had several dress shops and we visited all of them. My favorite dress was red, but mom said only whores wore red, so that one was out. Our final stop was at Jean Frocks, which was located at the end of the shopping area. I found a dress I really liked but figured mom would say no to it since it had a lower neckline and was a bright fuchsia silky material overlaid with black lace. Too my surprise, mom agreed on the dress. I figured out why she was so agreeable at the checkout counter. As she paid for my dress, she also purchased a blue suit for herself. I just stood and starred at her. I knew better than to say anything if I wanted to go to all the homecoming festivities, but I was very hurt. How dare she make me wear a suit that was too big and buy herself one instead? A suit she didn’t need. She worked in a factory and wore jeans. She didn’t go to church. There was absolutely no good reason why she should buy herself a suit. Except one. Because she could.

 

I do not know the motives behind my mother’s decision to purchase a suit she did not need, but that suit represented the final straw to me. I was done with following her rules. I was done with giving her the money I earned. I was fed up with her disrespect and hostility towards me, both of which I had endured my entire life. After the homecoming was past, I announced I was keeping my own money. Yes, I received several good beatings, but I held my ground. I cashed my paycheck and hid the money in my locker at school. I did pay for all my own expenses after that and even paid the monthly telephone bill. I also cut back my work schedule to include every other weekend off. I would tell my parents I was spending the weekend at Alice’s house so I could go out with John both Friday and Saturday night. One weekend, I even went to Cleveland with him and had my first taste of alcohol. I extended my curfew to 11pm like most teenagers had. On New Year’s Eve, I reluctantly agreed to babysit for an prominent area family, but only after the mother agreed to provide all the food and alcohol for a party for all my friends (of course there was to be no drinking until after I had the kids asleep, yeah right!).

 

There were many fights between my mother and me throughout the eight months following homecoming. Regardless of how much she beat me, I stood up to her. I never hit her back, but every time she knocked me down, I got up and mouthed off, most of the time getting knocked down again. I disobeyed her and didn’t much care that she knew it. During one particularly bad fight, in which I ended up with a bloody nose and a split lip, I got in her face and screamed, “You can hit me all you want, but I will do what I want, when I want to do it. I’ll show you!”

 

Two months later I was walking down the aisle on my father’s arm to meet John, a boy I didn’t want to marry. I was almost six months pregnant. I guess I showed her. At least that is what I thought at the time. Now I realize I fell prey to teenage rebellion that was misguided well off course as a response to very poor parenting. I often wonder where my life would have taken me if I would have had a mother that had even a small clue of how to raise children and how to deal with teenage adolesence.

 

“Children begin by loving their parents. As they grow older, they judge them. Sometimes they forgive them.”

                                                         Author Unknown

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2008 4:06 am

    It is amazing how much of teenage rebellion is a direct reaction to poor parenting. You’re right – your mother had no reason to buy that suit and deny you a new one. I have similar stories about my own mother, although if she had beaten me I know I would have hit her back. Sadly, our relationship today is still fractured. I am sorry you had to go through that. It must have left you feeling quite disenchanted. But good on you for standing your ground.

  2. genuinegem permalink
    September 6, 2008 8:25 am

    I had no idea Socrates said that.
    Now I understand your comment about liking high school. I can see the freedom it gave you. I’m glad you’ve come such a long way from such a turbulent childhood!

  3. September 7, 2008 11:34 pm

    I had a very good mother, and a wonderful father. We never screamed at each other and neither of them ever hit me. Had you been blessed with parents like mine I’m sure your life would have been much different. I’m sorry that my parents and others like them seem to be so rare. Good for you for pulling your life together and making it better.

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