I’m Tired of Naming Bands

12115718_1052162724808281_3508695767189747578_n

***

Hi, friends.

After creating eleventy-bazillion different blogs, both free and purchased, it finally occurred to me that I am once again doing that thing all musicians loathe: I am naming bands.

Blogs are the new bands.

I’ll explain.

Once upon a time, I was in many different rock bands, and one of the most annoying things one must do upon flocking together with other musicians to play shows in public is choose a band name.

This means that not only will the group of you have to think up something cool, you will all have to agree that it is the best name.

Then, you will search online, find out some other group of musicians is already using your clever name idea, and be totally bummed out.

Repeat this process again and again until you finally settle on something kind of dumb that none of you really loves, but at least you don’t all hate it.

I’ve never really liked the name of any of my bands.

I had a child, stopped playing music live, and started writing to fill the “I need a creative outlet or I’ll go completely insane” hole in my new life.

And I’ve been scattering my writing across the Internet for years under various blog names, each an attempt to finally own that elusive-yet-perfect band name I could never grasp.

After many years of thinking up a new band name every time the talented musicians kind enough to make my songs sound better would leave or change, I finally called the playing of the songs I’d written The Tawni Freeland Four because I was so incredibly tired of trying to be clever.

It probably looked like a total ego move from the outside, but I can assure you, as an entirely insecure chick from way back, it was a purely exhaustion-based decision.

I was so tired of trying to think up original band names. So I said, “The Tawni Freeland Four. DONE.”

The site at which I will be writing is my new The Tawni Freeland Four, except I got married, so my name is Tawni Crider, and I feel like nobody takes a ‘Tawni’ seriously in this world unless she’s on a pole and taking their money, so I’m going to go ahead and keep it simple.

T. L. Crider.com. DONE.

From now on, all I write, from flash fiction, to simpering, whiny Dear Diary blog entries, to attempts at adult articles, to open letters, to unapologetic babbling, will be located at: http://tlcrider.com/

Thanks for reading, if you’re so inclined.

xoxo.

Advertisements

Retaining Your Power: The Legend of Bitch Tit

power

***

Recently, my artistic 9-year-old son wore a Knuckles the Echidna costume to school. Knuckles the Echidna is a giant red cartoon character that looks nothing like an actual echidna. He’s a character from the Sonic the Hedgehog book, videogame, and animation enterprise with which my son is obsessed.

On the way to school, I tried to prepare him for teasing and frustration, because as a woman in my 40s, I wouldn’t know what in the hell he was if I saw him, were he not my son. I told him, “You understand that I only know who you are because you’ve taught me, and echidnas aren’t actually red, nor are hedgehogs actually royal blue, so people may not know who you are today, right?”

“Well actually a lot of my friends like Sonic the Hedgehog, and…”

I cut him off, “Son… not everybody is going to know who you are today. Are you okay with that? You need to be. Your teachers, for example, don’t all know about Sonic the Hedgehog and the characters.”

“Yes, Mom,” he replied, but I could tell he thought everyone would immediately know his character and be as excited as he was about it. And yes, his obscure favorite superheroes are annoyingly hard to find every Halloween. This is the costume I found on Amazon:

knuckles

 ***

When I picked him up after school, he wasn’t wearing the Knuckles the Echidna head, a piece held on by Velcro, with long, red spikes hanging down.

I asked him why he took off the head. Did he get hot?

“I took it off for self-esteem reasons,” he replied.

After deciding “for self-esteem reasons” will now be entering my personal vernacular because I kind of love it, I asked him what he meant.

“Some of the kids thought I was a court jester or a SQUID,” he answered, in a mortified voice. “They kept calling me squid even after I told them I was Knuckles the Echidna! ‘Squid, squid, squid,’ they laughed at me. It made me mad, and they kept calling me squid all day, so I finally took the costume head off!”

I wish he hadn’t done that.

He gave up his power to a few silly little mocking boys.

I thought I’d coached him better.

I constantly tell my child, “The person who cares the most has the least power in any interpersonal interaction or relationship,” because this is a very basic yet powerful fact of human psychology.

But he’s only 9, so when I explain to him that if you walk away from toxic people and bullies, you hold onto your power, he doesn’t fully understand.

On the ride home, I told him that when kids are unkind, if you let them get a rise out of you, you’re giving them exactly what they want: stimulation and power. The best way to ruin all the fun for a bully is by giving them no reaction. Or if possible, laugh along with them. A bully can’t laugh at someone who’s already laughing at themselves. What’s the fun in that?

I shared the idiom “never let them see you sweat” with him, and asked him if he understood what that means.

“It means never let them see they’re getting to you.”

“Right, son. When you got visibly angry today over the word ‘squid,’ you gave those boys exactly what they wanted from you: a reaction. Next time, just laugh. If you’d said, ‘You’re right! I can see how this costume looks like a squid, too!’ they probably would have moved on. But you got mad. You gave them the power. If you don’t let people know they bother you, you hold onto your power.”

And then to further illustrate my point, I shared with my son The Legend of Bitch Tit.

Telling a child this tale may call my parenting choices into question, but it felt right at the time, so judge freely. I’m not here to win any parenting awards.

(Do you see what I did there? I don’t care if you call me a squid. Call me a squid-parent again. Whatever. Power retained.)

***

The Legend of Bitch Tit was a story told to me by an ex-boyfriend. This ex-boyfriend was the shortest male I’ve ever dated at barely 5’10” (I’m 5’9”) and slightly built, yet he was completely confident about his size. He encouraged me to wear high-heeled boots or shoes, even though they made me taller than him because he told me, “Tall girls have presence. Be proud of your height… it doesn’t make me insecure if you’re taller, it makes me feel like, yeah, she’s with me!”

I was amazed by his confidence. He was extremely intelligent (I actually saw him on “Jeopardy!” recently), and he’d learned early in life as a smaller guy that he’d need to find other reasons to be confident. Because nothing is more attractive than confidence. Nothing. So he focused on his strengths, and gave no power to what others perceived as weaknesses.

For the first time in my life, rather than feeling insecure about being a tall, awkward chick in a world of adorably petite waifs, I felt good. It was extremely empowering, and I haven’t lost that feeling. It was a wonderful gift, and I still feel proud of my height rather than embarrassed by it.

During our years together, he told me The Legend of Bitch Tit, because this person taught him about confidence, and the power of owning it.

Bitch Tit was a guy who went to my ex-boyfriend’s high school with the surprisingly common condition of a male breast (gynecomastia). Not male breasts, plural, but one male breast. And not the kind to be hidden by clothing, but a full, round, obvious breast.

Being the guy in high school with one large breast is an extremely unfortunate card to be dealt in a world full of insecure people who try to feel bigger by tearing down others. We all know that humans can be cruel, but especially the not-yet-fully-formed ones with immature brains and little life experience to teach them empathy.

So, yeah. This guy was very quickly renamed “Bitch Tit” by his sensitive and kind-hearted fellow students.

Did he get angry or fight the people who mocked his physical appearance? He had every right to be mad, after all. Being an adolescent boy with a single huge boob isn’t exactly ideal.

Nope, my ex-boyfriend told me. Bitch Tit didn’t let anyone see him sweat. He didn’t get mad. Instead, he laughed along with the other teenagers, like, “I know, right? I’ve got a tit. Isn’t it weird?”

Bitch Tit owned it.

And by owning it, he took away the power from every single person who tried to tease him for his difference. Because there’s no fun or psychological stimulation to be gleaned from someone who’s laughing along with you.

Even if you’re hurt by what someone is saying, if you act like it doesn’t bother you – or better yet, you self-confidently laugh along with them – you retain your power.

poweroveryou
***

Bitch Tit ended up casually called his offensive nickname—not ever making a big deal over it. Soon, the other kids accepted him and wanted to be his friend. His confidence and ability to hold his head high despite something that would make most people want to hide impressed his peers.

Bitch Tit was one of the most popular guys in his high school.

I told my son that Bitch Tit may have felt insecure about what the kids were calling him, and probably grew out of the breast as his hormones adjusted, or perhaps later had the breast surgically removed. Who knows?

But he never let mean people see his insecurity and take his power. He never let them win.

I told my son that the next time someone is making fun of him, laugh along with them, or at the very least, walk away. Never let them have power over you.

“Don’t let the jerks of the world win. Be like Bitch Tit,” I said.

And then I told him, “But don’t use the words ‘bitch’ or ‘tit’ at school, or you’ll get in trouble!”

Fingers crossed.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Bones

427277_10200719495974991_38017494_n

Hi. I’m your cat. I’m going to sit on your lap and hold you hostage with my love or desire for warmth, and glare at you if you try to move. Enjoy!

***

I’m writing this with the kitty above awkwardly lying between my legs as I balance the laptop on my left thigh and she sleeps. Her name is California. I had just realized I haven’t eaten since 9 this morning and it’s now 2:30-ish, which might explain my headache, and then California got on my legs, simultaneously paralyzing and starving me. Oh, cats. How do you always know when the most inconvenient time to snuggle might be? It’s their superpower.

Since I’m trapped, I decided to write about how my last bunch of months since I last wrote about how things are going has been. Because you care. No, you DO. I know you care, and I believe in you, and also you look extremely pretty/handsome today. Did you do something different with your hair?

Let’s see… what was happening the last time I blogged? Ugh, I hate the word blog… can we please come up with a word that doesn’t sound like a bodily excretion, or take itself too seriously, like piece? I feel like I’m 12 when I talk about writing a blog, and like a pretentious twat when I talk about my latest piece. It’s just writing, not an art installation.

Anyhow.

Last time I wrote a writing thing, I was trying to lose some depression weight I’d gained. And then I got all hardcore about it and stopped eating enough food, and my metabolism stopped. And then I decided to eat little snacks between meals and stop starving myself, so the metabolism was like, “Okay, we can work with this, you self-loathing freak… finally!” and I lost 20 pounds in 2 months.

And then I broke my big right toe.

Because that’s just how I roll. What? What’s that, you say, Tawni? Achieving some success? Well, we can’t have that. I think you know what you need to do.

I was writing on my laptop, which must be done on a couch because I broke the end of my tailbone off in college when I was hung-over and running down a really steep flight of stairs to get to the bathroom because I had to pee. I was groggy and out of it, so that whole walking thing wasn’t working out so well for me that morning, and I missed the last 5 stairs. I landed square on my ass and my legs felt numb, which freaked me out, but only my tailbone hurt. Yes, I literally broke my ass, and had to sit on one cheek or the other for months or the loose piece would wiggle and rub against my spine, causing a disgusting zinging feeling to shoot up my back. I don’t recommend it.

This means no desk chairs or delivering babies without C-sections for me. Desk chairs make me hurt so badly I can’t walk and have lower back pain because of my stupid coccyx. Also, My Stupid Coccyx would make a great band name and I’m calling it right now. Dibs.

SO… to self-sabotage this time, I decided one morning in August that I needed another cup of coffee, like I do, stood up from the couch, put down the laptop, and twirled around to grab my coffee mug. While doing this, I unknowingly wound the laptop cord around my upper right foot, much like a snare wire trap might entangle an animal in a field. Because I’m a tall, clumsy girl with nearly zero self-awareness. It’s a living.

When I turned and briskly began to walk in the direction of the coffee pot, I was snapped short mid-air, and fell to the ground like the majestic she-beast I’ve always known I was inside. I hit so hard I don’t remember the fall, and only remember my son, who was watching television next to me exclaiming, “Oh my GOD, Mom! Are you alright?”

I pretended I was okay like all parents do when we don’t want to scare our kids, and sat assessing the damage. I couldn’t move my right big toe at all, and the pain wasn’t going away or even starting to fade like pain usually does after an accident. I walked on the left foot and outer edge of the right foot to the freezer for two bags of peas, and sat on the couch icing the top and bottom of the upper foot area.

It never stopped hurting. I kept waiting for the ice to numb it and the pain to subside, but nope. Still hurt like I’d just done it a minute ago an hour later. Uh-oh.

This is what it looked like:

hurtyfoots

I added the dogs because I was badly in need of a pedicure, and also so I could make a really lame “Man, my dogs are really barking today!” joke on Facebook. Don’t hate.

***

The husband got home from work and asked me if I was going to drive myself to the Urgent Care and I was like, “Um, sweetie? It’s my driving foot,” and I watched his face fall as you would imagine the face of a man who just realized he no longer has a wife, and has instead acquired a new larger, more awkward child might fall. The realization that this could be a really shitty thing dawned on him all in that moment. Poor soul.

So we spent a nightmarish amount of time getting x-rays and being told by the doctor that I’d broken my right big toe in “a really weird way” and would need to see a specialist as soon as possible, for sure. The lower big toe bone had pulled away from itself to form two weird empty zigzags inside of the bone, as if it imploded and was all like, “Ouch! That hurt! Let’s get out of here, inner bone!” And then the outer part of the bone was like, “No, you guys! I’m going to try to hold you in and not let you go, because walking is something I know the clumsy she-beast will want to do again someday! I know her better than you do!”

The specialist confirmed that I’d broken my toe “in a really weird way” because I can’t even do something as simple as breaking a toe in a normal way, apparently, but that because the outer bone had held it somewhat in alignment, we could probably get away with the annoying support shoe and medical wrap, rather than surgical screws being placed. (Way to go, outer bone! You know me so well!)

So I just barely didn’t need surgery, and had to have x-rays every 2 weeks to make sure the bone was filling into the empty places where it tried to escape the other bone. My right toe is now thicker than the other one, and the doctor said it will be 3-4 months before the swelling will go away because it was a weird break, but I can drive again, so that’s cool.

The toe will always be a bit bigger than the other because we didn’t go in and screw it back together with surgery, and I will have arthritis in it, but I don’t care. Feet are inherently disgusting no matter what, so it’s not like I’ve really lost anything.

The crutches made a gland under my right arm get all freaky-swollen and weird so I stopped using them and went crazy sitting on the couch for endlessly boring weeks instead. Good times. I had some Hearts of Darkness moments. My husband is a very patient man. That’s all I have to say about that.

I had to quit my gym because it will be months before I can put weight on the toe, so I’ve been trying to gently walk it for physical therapy. I’m working up to twice around the block, which is totally depressing, but whenever I get pissed off that I can’t even walk distances for exercise anymore, I remind myself that there are plenty of people who would love my stupid broken toe problem and I get over it. I’ll work back slowly to walking more, and that’s fine.

I’ve been wanting to practice yoga regularly, so I’m trying to look at the loss of my beloved weight lifting regimen as a positive, because I used to wear myself out too much at the gym to feel up to yoga. We’ll see how that goes. (Look at me bright-siding that. I’m impressing myself. High-five, me!)

***

What else? I’ve only gotten one call about my son’s behavior so far this school year, and another kid started it, according to the very nice teacher, so I didn’t have my usual panic attack because I’m the worst mother in the world who ever existed like I normally do after being reprimanded for the behavior of the small human they cut out of my stomach when he’s completely out of my sight and therefore control. So that was progress. For me, I mean.

My husband won a work incentive trip to Mexico for being great at his job, so that was fun. I only barfed one time, and that was because I forgot that my body should only be allowed to have wine or beer, ever, and had way too many cucumber martinis. And bonus: I don’t remember puking at all, or even walking back to our hotel room, so yay!

I asked my husband if I made an ass of myself and he said I actually got quieter. Oddly, I am usually a quietly-blacked-out-but-still-moving drunk on anything strong, which is dangerous for all. At some point in my twenties realized I had to quit vodka and gin and anything hard. But in my defense, there was a martini bar at the resort, and those things were damned good.

I’m growing shaky from hunger and will now try to carefully slide my legs out from under the blanket and cat lying upon them so I might find sustenance before I have to go pick up my kid from school. Wish me luck.

Hope all is merry and bright in your world, friends.

xoxo.

Extinguishing Road Rage: 5 Ways to Chill When You’re Feeling Hotheaded

car-923425_640

Ugh. Are we there yet?

There are some seriously bad drivers out there. The person who pulls out in front of you, forcing you to jam your foot on the brake. The texting driver who crosses the line, making you slow down to avoid a head-on collision. The person who lazily left-turns into your lane rather than the designated one. There are so many bad drivers on the road that it can often make a person feel like they’re trapped in a videogame.

The devolution of driving skills may be happening as driver’s education classes are no longer taught in school, and because there is more technology to distract us than ever before. Or it may simply be that there will always be drivers who don’t understand the basic rules of the road. Clearly, no matter what the cause, defensive driving will continue to be more important than ever.

One thing is for certain, however: getting angry and losing one’s temper never diminishes a bad situation, no matter how satisfying it feels in the moment. We know from news stories that people can take road rage too far. Many have pointlessly died because rather than moving on, they were infuriated by another’s poor driving, and reacted in a dangerous manner.

Below are 5 ways to hopefully help you keep your cool in the middle of a heated driving moment:

1. To Err is Human; To Forgive, Drive-ine—

One of the quickest ways to not allow the bad motor maneuver of another person to ruin your day (or even your next ten minutes), is to remember that everybody makes mistakes. Yes, even you. Remember those “Pobody’s Nerfect” T-shirts kids wore back in the day? Truth, baby. Truth.

Rather than screaming at the person who just did a dumb driving move, maybe think about the times you didn’t perform at your best. Also keep in mind that next time, you might be the one who spaces out at the green light, or almost pulls into an occupied lane, etcetera. It happens. We’re flawed. We screw up. And that’s… okay.

So instead of feeling furious, try to feel humanity. If it boosts your ego to know that you’re a better driver than that yahoo you see making mistakes, then go with that, too. Whatever helps keep you calm in the face of another person’s failure is fine. Your blood pressure will thank you.

2. Care for the Cars—

Driving skills suffer when we’re going through a rough patch. Ever noticed someone crying in traffic, or an elderly person struggling to maintain independence? Driving through tears or cataracts is tough, and many don’t have anyone in their lives to help. That’s really sad, and if you honk or yell, you’re only making life worse for them. Not worth it, and not nice.

When you get behind a person driving poorly for no apparent reason, it can be frustrating, so kindly thinking of potential reasons for their performance might help. Maybe they just got dumped, or fired from a job. Maybe they don’t feel good, or are having an anxiety attack, and it’s all they can do to get to wherever they’re headed. Maybe they’re even headed to the doctor.

The fact is, we never know what another person is dealing with, and if we can focus on that fact, it may help us be less annoyed by bad behavior in any situation.

On the road, these types of compassionate thoughts can help us remember there’s a person driving the vehicle—however poorly—and perhaps not feel so furious.

driving-562613_640

 Don’t forget there’s a human being with friends, family, and feelings behind the wheel of every car.

3. Zen Out— 

As a lead-foot living in a state where everybody seems to drive 10 MPH under the speed limit, often while blocking the left lane, rather than keeping to the right, I’ve had to learn some coping mechanisms (beyond the one where I pretend I’m part of a parade, I mean).

One helpful mental device I use is to decide that the universe has me exactly where it wants me. I know it sounds a bit hippie, but it helps to think that maybe—as I creep along the road behind someone who apparently has nowhere to be, ever—just maybe I’m being held in place for a reason.

This is where I’m supposed to be right now, I might think to myself, as I repress the urge to honk at the double lane-blockers. Sometimes I’ll even go full Sliding Doors and imagine the accident I would have gotten into had I been 5 minutes further down the road. (Thank you, slow, seemingly oblivious people, for protecting me from danger!)

It sounds silly, for sure, but this thought process has helped me not sweat the small stuff. Because ultimately, unless you’re trying to get an organ to its transplant recipient or something else very serious, driving from point A to point B almost always qualifies as small stuff.

cars-925788_640

Traffic jams are frustrating, for sure. They aren’t, however, life or death situations. This too shall pass.

4. Cancel the Confrontation—

Glaring at a driver you feel has wronged you, or flipping them the finger might feel good in the moment, but we all know this confrontational approach can have harmful results.

Lots of folks are stubborn, and have tempers; yet some are worse than others. Many involved in road rage incidents have described a “black-out” type of fury where they felt out of control, as if on auto-pilot.

The problem with confrontation is that you have no idea with whom you’re engaging, and if they’re the kind of person who lets anger overcome their common sense, you might not survive what you thought was only an argument.

Be the bigger person and try not to start something that might end up ending your existence, rather than proving a point. Nobody listens well when they’re really mad anyhow, so try to let anoyances go and wish them peace on their journey instead. Chances are, they need it more than you do.

angry-man-274175_640

This guy is having a bad day. You don’t have to hug him, but engaging with him might be a bad idea.

5. Take the Time—

Guess what part of being a grown-up entails? Managing your time well. And guess whose fault it is if you’re late for work or an appointment? Yours.

It sucks, right? But if being consistently late is an issue for you, or traffic is unreliable on your commute, this can be incredibly stressful. And stress is bad for you. So rather than letting lateness send you into daily hypertension because the people on the road won’t move fast enough, why not leave early instead?

Get on the road fifteen to twenty minutes earlier than you normally need, find some good tunes, podcasts, or audio books for your car, and decide to enjoy the leisurely pace rather than rushing, cursing, and fretting all the way there.

Life is too short for road anxiety. Slow down, use hands-free entertainment to focus on something pleasant in the car, and most importantly, give yourself extra time so you won’t be mad at other people for something you absolutely can control.

small-driver-867577_640

I can’t manage my time because I’m too young to understand clocks. What’s your excuse? 

***

Every motorist has moments when they’d like to have harsh words with another driver. It’s completely normal to feel upset when someone puts your well-being at risk.

But two wrongs don’t make a right, so if you can possibly use the above techniques to keep your cool, you might feel better about yourself once you calm down and realize you rose above the obvious reaction. Because you know from experience that being the bigger person always feels better in the long run, don’t you?

Happy and safe travels to you.

Non-spiration

12592686_1097841256913858_922096414315063533_n

***

I don’t really mean to tell anyone to fuck off, but I am tired of this version of “inspiration.” I would have written “WHATEVER” in place of the “FUCK OFF” actually, because if it works for you, great.

I guess.

Unless what you’re saying is stupid and thoughtless.

Then: WHATEVER.

I’m one-hundred percent done with the “words over a scenic background” approach to mental health and wellness. Can we just talk, please? Whatever happened to talking about things?

Are we becoming so stupid we can only share our feelings via short blurbs and quotes from other people placed over pictures of things?

Are these enjoyed by the same people who need pictures to point to when they order from restaurants?

I especially dislike the “Happiness is a choice!” graphic floating around in various butterfly and rainbow-laden forms lately.

Happiness is not always a choice. I have two uncles who committed suicide, for example. For them, happiness was not a choice.

When Robin Williams killed himself, there was Team He’s Selfish versus Team Suicide and Depression are Mental Illnesses Beyond the Control of the Sufferer. (Or something shorter and more concise than that. I’ll workshop it. I was on the team with the long name, obviously.)

Hey! Guess what people who called him selfish? The autopsy confirmed what intelligent people already know… his suicide had many potential causes based on biology, not some weird, imagined desire to hurt the people he loved. He had Lewy Body Dementia, which likely contributed to his depression and suicidal thoughts, as it has been known to do to many.

For Robin Williams, happiness was not a choice.

So when someone shares this chirpy, oblivious-to-the-physiology-behind-depression message with me, I not only think they’re a blithering idiot, I kind of want to throat punch them.

Or maybe I’d just say WHATEVER.

But you’d know what I really mean, wouldn’t you, friends?

***

 

 

 

 

 

Victim Impact Statement

When I was 15 years old, my biological father viciously beat me up via repeated closed-fist punches to both sides of my face, eyes, and mouth. He has grossly downplayed his brutal actions over the years by lying to our family, as many shame-filled, violent offenders do.

I am writing this Victim Impact Statement because I am tired of explaining the ways in which my father repeatedly punched me in the face to people who wonder how I could possibly have an anxiety disorder or PTSD.

If a stranger had jumped anyone in an alley to beat them as severely as my father did me, no rational or intelligent person would be surprised to learn they had an anxiety disorder from the experience.

I will be sending anyone who wants to understand from where I’m coming to this writing from now on, because I’m creating a personal boundary I’d like all to respect.

Every time I am forced to discuss my father’s violence, it makes me think about a bad experience I’d rather not relive via repeated dialogue.

I refuse to deny what happened, because facts are facts, and it very much affected me, both emotionally and physically. To deny it is to deny the truth, and I won’t do that.

The truth is that my father should have been in jail for what he did, and had I called the police, he would have been. And he knows this. Not because I would have been lying, but because I was unrecognizably bruised and swollen, bleeding, covered in my own blood—and he didn’t have a scratch on him.

But I accept that it happened, and also that I can move forward into wellness, even if nobody believes me.

I would like to officially invite all doubtful people to join me here in Acceptance World. Because Denial World is not a place in which anyone can heal. And Nobody Believes Me Even Though I Have No Reason to Lie World invalidates me and hurts my feelings, so I’m not letting anyone send me there anymore.

You can believe me or not—that’s your prerogative—but my truth is no longer on trial.

I am not awaiting your verdict.

You can, however, consider yourself a part of a very disturbing problem if you believe the grown man who beat up a 15-year-old girl was in any way justified for this horrendous action.

If anyone needs further confirmation, I am still in contact with many school friends who saw my swollen, beaten face, puffed-up lips with cuts inside that bled if I smiled, two bruised eyes with one swollen shut, and chipped front tooth. The same friends who saw me drink my “lunch shake” through a straw for a week until the inner mouth cuts healed enough to stop bleeding, allowing me to chew again.

My science teacher was so shocked by my post-beating appearance she called Child Protective Services, causing a social worker to come to our home, who offered to drive me away on the spot. This means my abuse was legally recorded by my school and the Arizona Department of Child Safety (teachers are legally required to do this).

There is also an impartial non-relative witness to the event: my former stepmother, who screamed at my father to stop punching me, cleaned up my bloody, swelling face, and disposed of my blood-soaked clothes.

It turns out mouth cuts bleed a lot. Until my father repeatedly punched me in the face, I didn’t know this. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I think what I’m mostly trying to ask of you is please, stop blaming the victim. Start believing the victim.

(Also, please realize the victim doesn’t consider herself a victim and hates that label because it implies weakness and she’s one of the strongest people you’ll ever meet, but can’t think of a better way to say the above. Thanks.)

Below, I’ve written for anyone wondering, exactly what happened. Not “my version of what happened” but what actually happened.

You may have been given a different version of the events by the man who beat up a teenage girl, and I would like you to please use basic common sense and realize the person with nothing to hide and everything to lose is telling you the truth, not the man who is rightly ashamed of beating up a girl.

I am not afraid of legal repercussions or slander charges as I write this, because I know I am telling the truth and have nothing to fear. My father has lied to my family over the years, describing what was actually 6-7 sudden, hard, closed-fist punches to my face as “a slap to the mouth” to make me look like I’m exaggerating.

He recently confessed to his sister that yes, he actually did punch the shit out of me, but then lied about the circumstances, prompting her to tell me I deserved to be beaten up, as if there is ever a justification for a 36-year-old man to beat up a 15-year-old girl.

(I can forward you the email in which she admits he told her he beat me up if you still need proof.)

She stupidly believed his lies, once again. Yes, that’s right. She believed the person with every reason to lie—the man trying to make something he did look less disgusting or somehow justifiable—over the person with no reason to lie. She abused her daughter, too, so I think she’s hoping that by justifying my father’s violence, she can justify her own.

I now realize they are both very sick, psychologically damaged people, and am officially done trying to salvage a relationship with either one. I will explain this further below.

Because of my father’s fists punching my eyes, my optic nerves are permanently damaged with no other explanation. My eye doctor has confirmed that being beaten to the point of having swollen shut, blackened eyes without medical treatment is likely the cause, as I have no other glaucoma symptoms. (He couldn’t figure it out until I finally shared that I’d been punched in the eyes and face repeatedly without medical/anti-inflammatory treatment. This can cause permanent nerve damage.)

I have to get the chipped tooth my father’s fist knocked out replaced whenever the composite filling falls out.

I will pay for my father’s violence for the rest of my life financially and physically. I’m working with psychological professionals to heal the emotional damage, because that is the only thing I can hope to lessen.

chippedfronttooth

On the way to get a chunk of front tooth my dad’s fist knocked out replaced a few years ago. Again. No, he’s never offered to pay for this, even though he caused the damage. A real stand-up guy, right?

 ~

I share my story because I’m one hundred percent tired of discussing it and trying to convince even my own family members that this happened to me. It did. I have no reason to lie. By ending contact with my father for my emotional and psychological well-being 10 years ago, I lost a large financial inheritance… and it was worth every penny.

Because love is what matters in this life, not money. On your deathbed, the amount of money you amassed means nothing. The difference you made in the world, and the kindness you’ve shown others is all that matters.

At least, that’s what I believe will matter to me. Was I a good, honest, compassionate person with integrity? If I can answer yes to this question, I will be satisfied with my life.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, I am not seeking pity, and I am aware that worse things happen every day all over the world.

And this fact doesn’t negate what happened to me, or make my feelings about it any less valid.

Below is a detailed account of my father’s abusive actions, and the psychological impact his violent, sudden, and completely unjustified attack had on me.

~

My biological father was sitting in my newly-painted stark white bedroom – the one he’d destroyed in a fit of immature rage while I was at school that day. Every music poster I’d saved to buy had been torn down and destroyed, all color and life drained from my room via coat of white paint, creating what it already felt like to me anyhow: a prison cell.

The latest thing I’d done to piss him off was bleach my hair white blonde against his wishes because I wanted to look like a Madonna album cover. It was the late ‘80s, and I thought her hair looked rad. My father, upon seeing the hair color I’d secretly bleached told me the next morning before school I looked like a cheap whore. I told him I thought it looked cool, and assumed our latest conflict was over… until I came home to my completely-stripped-of-all-personality bedroom.

~

When my father walked into my Benjamin Moore Jailhouse White-painted bedroom to lecture me, I’d been sitting on my bed listening to a record. He lectured me about my disobedience, this time in reference to my bleached hair, although there’d been previous incidents that contributed to his worn patience with me.

I’m diagnosed with ADHD, and have always had extra nervous energy to burn off every day. Sometimes I’d catch myself rocking in place, or tapping a foot without realizing I was doing so. Unfortunately, this was a foot tapping time.

My dad noticed I was tapping my foot to the beat while he lectured, saw it as an act of defiance, and lost his temper.

~

He had a sudden, flash, blackout rage-type of temper. When he got back from Vietnam, I experienced it in the form of hitting, smacking, and having to go get the belt.

One cruel memory that stuck with me was when he snapped each of my individual crayons in half and dropped them, one by one, into the kitchen garbage can while my mom and I begged him to stop. My sister had left them on the floor, and not me, but I was punished anyway. He smiled as I sobbed.

Another disturbing memory involves his arriving home, taking off the black horrible-smelling socks in which he’d worked construction all day in the Phoenix heat, holding me down, and putting them over my mouth and nose. I would nearly suffocate trying to not breathe the horrible smell, and would struggle—little girl versus large man. If I peed my pants or accidentally kicked him during these struggles to escape, he would smack me as hard as he could. It would sting like bees wherever he’d hit me, so being 5 or 6-years-old, I’d sob until he told me to shut up or he’d “give me something to cry about.”

Luckily my mom divorced him when I was 7, remarried when I was 8, and moved us away to Kansas. My biological father still managed to occasionally smack me on summer vacations with him, but at least the majority of the year was spent far away.

~

But now I was 15, and once again unsuccessfully living with him. My father’s well-known temper this time culminated in his grabbing the record spinning on my player, and snapping it in half in front of me.

“There! NOW will you pay attention to what I’m saying?!” he yelled.

The nervous foot tapping. Whoops.

I told him to stop breaking my records. He grabbed another from the pile, pulled it out of the jacket, and snapped it. Then another. And another.

I’d already lost every music poster for which I’d saved, and was now watching my record collection disappear, one snap at a time. I wasn’t a rich kid, and had saved every allowance or bit of birthday money to buy everything I had. Often I skipped school lunch so I could save the few extra dollars per week that allowed. I knew I’d never replace everything in my room he’d destroyed that day.

Desperate to get him away from my quickly-depleting record collection, I ran to the living room to grab one of his records, holding it in the air, poised to snap, just as he’d destroyed mine. It was an album by The Beatles. The difference between my father and me was that I couldn’t do it.

He yelled at me to drop the record, and I replied, “Then stop breaking my fucking records!”

My mom told me later when I spoke to her on the phone about the beating that the f-word had triggered him to smack her across the face when they were married, too.

He dropped the record he’d carried out of my room to punch me repeatedly in the head and face, three or four hard, closed-fist punches with his right, then three or four blows with the left. He was an equal opportunity abuser, according to both sides of my now-swelling, bleeding face.

The attack was so sudden and vicious, one blow after another, that it took me a moment to stop trying to defend my 15-year-old self from a man with weight machines in his garage and a history of hitting women and children. I think I tried to block with my arms. I should’ve run after the first punch. It just happened so fast. There wasn’t really time to react beyond instinct.

Punchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunch, his fists rapid-fired at my head like gunshots.

I finally ducked, turned, and ran for the front door, blood pouring from my mouth because my teeth had been knocked so repeatedly against my gums that the area above and below inside my lips was shredded. My peach sweater and white skirt were blood-soaked from the gushing mouth cuts, and the skirt proved a traitor, allowing my father fabric to grab, preventing me from fleeing.

Thwarted from escape, I curled up into a ball, trying to protect my head and face, and my father kicked my curled-up body, sneering at me, “Stop being so dramatic.”

Being dramatic? That was when I heard the screams. I hadn’t realized they were coming from me until he spoke, snapping me back to reality, and stealing the protection of psychological dissociation from my traumatized brain.

I remember looking up into the light coming from the beautiful etched glass panels in the front door my dad and his current wife had picked out through the one eye that hadn’t swelled shut. I was groggy and confused, wondering why I hadn’t made it to the other side. I didn’t understand why so much warm liquid was running out of my mouth.

~

My stepmom had my infant half-brother in her arms when my father started punching, and now that she’d found a safe place for the baby, she ran to where he stood over me and the puddle of blood forming on the concrete beneath. She yelled at him to stop, to leave, to go to his sister’s house down the road, but he wouldn’t, instead storming down the hallway to their bedroom to cool off.

She took me into the guest bathroom where I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror.

I looked as if I’d been in a car accident, my face ballooned round because my cheeks were swollen and bruised, my lips huge, both eyes rapidly bruising, with one closed. One of my front teeth had a big chip missing, I’m assuming from his wedding ring.

All of the teeth in my mouth were loose enough to wiggle for a week afterward. I remember lying in my bed afterward, testing them one by one. I worried they were going to fall out from the trauma.

I remember being amazed by how the numbness from the extreme facial swelling took away the pain.

I’m positive I had a concussion, because all I wanted to do was go to sleep, and my brain had been sloshed around via repeated punch to my head.

My stepmom kindly cleaned me up, put me to bed, and disposed of my ruined, blood-stained clothing.

They would be divorced within a year or so. I wasn’t surprised, and always wondered if watching her husband beat up a 15-year-old girl showed her exactly what kind of man she’d married. I also want to tell all family members who don’t believe me to ask her what happened that day, as her son is fully grown, married, and no longer very much in touch with our shared biological father.

I would never have asked her to talk about my beating while my brother was in my father’s care out of protection for him. She couldn’t jeopardize her son’s safety, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to do so. In case you’re wanting to blame her, I also want you to know that I don’t and never have blamed her. She had an infant son to protect, and any action taken to legally or criminally prosecute his father could have been dangerous for her child. As a mother, I understand completely that she couldn’t risk her son’s future.

I only blame the adult man in his mid-30s who thought that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was morally or legally acceptable under any circumstances.

But now, my former stepmom could talk, if asked. She has no reason to lie, after all. She’s not related. I would challenge every disbeliever to ask her if my words are true. I have to wonder if maybe, since some family members have written me off as “histrionic,” they’d believe someone with no reason to lie.

Or would they still defend a grown man who beats up teenage girls?

What a sad question this is, in a culture full of victim-blaming, to wonder if a girl beaten up at age 15 by an adult male will ever be able to convince her relatives, the people who are supposed to love her, that she has no reason to lie.

There’s a magazine cover floating about our media right now with 35 women who’ve experienced the same shameful phenomenon.

~

To this day, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t call the police on my father, because then at least there would be photographic proof to show family members who still can’t believe their relative could be capable of such brutality, and wrongly assume I’m being hyperbolic.

If I’d just made it out the door, to the road, to the neighbors’ house for help, my father would have been in jail for assault and battery when the police saw the blood-soaked and badly beaten teenage girl, and her completely unharmed father. I looked like I’d been hit by a truck; he didn’t have any injuries at all aside from sore knuckles. It was a clear case of assault and battery: a “no-brainer,” to use a trite term.

My father would be a mugshot on the local news if he did today what he did to me back then.

I also wish I’d called the police because if I had a photo of my face to show, there’s no way any rational, compassionate human would decide that I “deserved it” or that my father “deserves love and forgiveness,” as I’ve been told by family members. They would recoil in disgust, and likely feel stupid for suggesting I forgive him.

If he was a stranger who had turned my face into someone bloody, beaten, and unrecognizable, they’d only want justice for me.

If a man did to their child what my father did to me, they would be filled with rage on behalf of their child.

But because it happened to me, their empathy disappears.

Except for my violent, child-beating father. Everyone feels incredibly sorry for the man who beat up a teenage girl. So much empathy for my abuser.

I want to ask my family, where is the love and understanding for me, when they ask me to forgive someone who’s brutally beaten me without remorse? My father not only never apologized for the damage he did, but is still lying about it.

How can they not see how hard it is to forgive someone who won’t even acknowledge they’ve harmed you?

Why do the people who are supposed to love me care more about the feelings of a man who violently beats up teenage girls? He doesn’t care about my feelings or forgiveness, so when asking me to forgive him, perhaps ask yourself, why is it so important to you? And please don’t give me some “enlightened” answer about how it will heal me because my healing journey is my own, not yours.

I tried denial disguised as “embracing positivity” for decades, after all, when I had a relationship with the man who caused so much damage. I tried to be the Forgiving Good Daughter. We spoke on the phone, had occasional visits, and guess what? It didn’t change a damned thing. In fact, it was harmful to me. The pain was still there because he never apologized, and he is still, to this day, justifying his actions with lies.

So my dad deserves forgiveness and empathy for beating me bloody at age 15, and I deserve none?

I’m supposed to magically heal and forgive a person for violating me, even though he refuses to be truthful about or acknowledge what he did?

Are you really going to pretend a grown male in our society didn’t know that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was wrong, because, as one family member actually told me recently… that’s just how he was raised and he didn’t know any better?

Because of course he knew better. He still knows better. And the fact that he won’t tell you the truth means he has no respect for you, either, by the way. He’s lying to you, because that’s what people who are ashamed of what they’ve done and realize they’re in the wrong do: they lie.

Stranger hurts family member: everyone wants justice. Family member hurts family member in the exact same way: everyone wants silence. I will never understand this phenomenon. Wrong is wrong.

Abusers often downplay their violence to make the damage less damning, attempting to make themselves look less horrible, and to make their victims look histrionic. This is a known fact about violent men, making it especially disappointing when female family members don’t believe what happened. They of all people should be emotionally savvy enough to know this.

I was recently told by my father’s sister, for example, because he told her I yelled “Fuck you!” and hit him—two things I never did—that I deserved to be beaten, and that any person in our family would have done the same.

The fact is, she’s a sadistic idiot, at best, for believing a grown man’s weak attempts to justify beating up a teenaged girl—especially considering that he’s lied to the entire family for the last 20+ years, including her, telling them that he’d “only hit me in the mouth” before only recently confessing to her that oh wait, yes, he did violently beat me up, followed by the fake justification given above, as if there is ever justification for a man to repeatedly punch a teenaged girl (or to beat anyone not attacking them, for that matter).

Rather than explain to her that she was stupidly believing lies he’s created to make himself look less awful… again, I instead gave up on her. And him. Forever. She also violently beat her own daughter, and actually sent her 16-year-old daughter to live with our grandfather, the pedophile who molested her daughter while fully aware of what he did to her daughter—so I’ve finally had to accept that my father and aunt are very sick people with whom I have no desire to communicate again in this lifetime. They were both abusive, sociopathic, terrible parents – so of course they want to rewrite history. They’re ashamed of themselves, as they should be.

I’m not engaging with either of them anymore because he’ll obviously never tell the truth, and she’ll keep defending his violent behavior in an attempt to justify her own. And I don’t have time in my precious life anymore for ridiculous, toxic, lying people—related to me or not.

~

Fortunately, I have multiple friends with whom I’m still in touch who saw my face when I returned to school a few days after the beating who can back up my truth. This helps, knowing there are people in the world who believe me because they saw the damage, even if my own family won’t listen. One is a close female friend of mine who cried because she barely recognized my battered face.

I told most who asked that I’d been in an ATV accident because I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me, but one teacher, a smart woman who saw through my story, called Child Protective Services and reported the obviously beaten up teenager sitting in her science class.

The social worker came to our door and had me sit in her car to talk separately from my father. She asked if there was anywhere else I could go, but at that point I felt like I’d ruined relationships with every available adult in my life, so I told her no. I felt like I was a bad kid, and must deserve the painful thing that had happened to me.

As an adult, of course I realize I should have called the police and pressed charges, but I was 15 and scared. I felt alone in the world. I begged her to let me stay, even when she told me we could drive away and she’d send the police back with me later to retrieve my belongings. I truly felt everyone hated me, and that I had nowhere else to go. She ended up giving me her card, making me promise to call her if it happened again or I changed my mind.

~

Despite all of this this, 8 months ago, I tried to reach out to my biological father in forgiveness, for my own peace.

I realize now I don’t forgive him at all, because I would never do to a child what he did to me. A better word than forgiveness would be acceptance. I accept that what happened, acknowledge that it shaped me in many ways, refuse to let it define me any longer, and will stop allowing it to negatively impact me as much as possible.

So I extended the olive branch to my father via letter telling him I forgive him and would like to have a relationship on whatever terms he’s comfortable, trying to find peace. I even apologized for the abrasive way I cut him out of my life 10 years ago because I expressed my anger in an unkind way.

That’s right—I apologized to my father for expressing anger at him for beating me up and never apologizing to me for it or acknowledging it. I apologized to him. And I had no expectations of an apology or anything from him, I was simply trying to move forward. I wanted to permanently place my pain behind a brain door labeled “This Bad Thing Happened” and get on with life. Acceptance. Peace.

And guess what, all you “positivity” hashtag-sharing people telling me to forgive my father because it will heal me, and he’s a good person, and surely it couldn’t be that bad, and blah, blah, blah…?

My loving, kind, poor, misunderstood, teenage girl-punching father blew me off.

He never answered my letter. So because I took everyone’s advice and tried to forgive the man who violently beat me up, never apologized, has lied about it to everyone for years, then admitted to doing it but still tried to justify beating up a 15-year-old girl… now, I am more hurt than I was before.

Yup. I gave him a second chance to hurt me, and he took it.

And great advice, everybody. Thanks for your help. #positivity #forgiveness #bullshit

Sorry for my bitterness. I know the people pushing positivity and forgiveness were only trying to help.

But I would like to ask anyone who blindly does this to please realize you don’t know the details of personal relationships, so this advice can possibly harm, rather than hurt. Sometimes a person seeking emotional wellness needs to close the door on a toxic person and move forward, not try to embrace the toxicity.

So this was obviously disappointing and hurtful for me—my lifelong deadbeat, unsupportive dad once again not being there for me—and there might have been some closure to be found if my father and I could have put this behind us.

But as my husband always says about my biological father: What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

~

I am now done trying to maintain a relationship with him out of some sort of “good daughter” guilt trip-expectation society places on people who’ve been harmed by relatives.

This double standard is one of the weirdest aspects I’ve noticed about my father’s violence. If a stranger had violently beaten me the way my own father did, my entire family (and most members of a civilized society) would want justice. But because I’m related to him, this somehow means I’m supposed to forgive and forget about pain this person has inflicted on me without remorse or apology? This makes no sense to me.

And it goes against the principles of basic biology to harm one’s own offspring. The number one priority of any mammal parent is to keep their progeny safe from danger. Because I know firsthand how worthless it makes an emotionally underdeveloped psyche feel, I will never understand how a parent can hit a child. My son is nearly 10, has ADHD neurology, and it has never once occurred to me to smack or slap him, much less punch him. The thought makes me physically ill. My job is to protect him from the danger, not BE the danger.

Another odd phenomenon I’ve encountered is the idea that being beaten up by someone I know—by the person who should be protecting me from such things—is somehow less traumatizing than a violent beating at the hands of a stranger, rather than more traumatizing.

A stranger doesn’t know me, so it’s not personal if they hit me.

But growing up feeling physically unsafe around the one person in the world who should have made me feel safe?

That’s worse than anything a stranger could have inflicted upon me.

~

As I was telling my psychiatrist about the recent discovery about my eyes, I embarrassingly started angry-crying, because this permanent optic nerve damage was completely avoidable had my father acted like an honorable man instead of a malicious bastard.

My doctor asked me if I have bad dreams or relive it, and I told him I relive it whenever I talk about it too much, and yes, which recurring nightmare would you like me to share, because I have five?

I confessed that I often have to sleep with a hunting knife folded up in my hand because I never feel safe.

I think every noise or creak of the house is someone breaking in, and patrol windows in the dark, trying to protect my son from unseen dangers.

Sudden noises have me shaking in an adrenaline rush of terror, I can’t be in crowds, and I always have to be facing a clear exit in restaurants.

If my son playfully sneaks up behind me, I have to hide the anxiety attack-tears he causes because I don’t want him to feel guilty for something “normal” moms can handle.

I’m damaged, and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Spending the earliest, most formative years of your life being afraid of a parent who should be making you feel safe and loved will do that to a person.

Being violently beaten up by your own father at 15 will also do that to a person.

Because Child Psychology 101. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

My psychiatrist then diagnosed me with PTSD, and gave me an antidepressant he said is commonly given to people with PTSD.

Desperate to pull myself out of the pool of anxiety, fear, and sadness I’d felt since I found out my optic nerves were damaged, I tried the SSRI antidepressant. It made me feel even more anxious and scared, and after giving it a week, I stopped taking it because it was making everything worse.

My doctor told me I’d done the right thing the next time I saw him and prescribed another antidepressant in case I wanted to try a different one, but we both agreed that I should probably stick to only anti-anxiety meds. I never filled the second antidepressant prescription.

I am currently seeking a behavioral/talk therapist to help me learn how to avoid being “triggered” or upset when discussing violence.

~

What I would like anyone reading this to know is that I’m not crying or upset as I type, I’m actually calm, because writing is cathartic and soothes me. I’m not wishing to be considered a victim by sharing the truth about a bad man, and don’t want pity. It makes me furious to think of someone feeling sorry for me, actually.

I would also like to make it clear that I recognize someone always has it worse. There is nothing I loathe more than a Compassion Competition, so telling me things like, “At least you didn’t have THIS happen to you…” only makes me think you have problems with which you need to deal and are living in denial, or perhaps that you are lacking in empathy.

Because yes, I get it: of course there are one million worse things that might have happened to me. But that doesn’t make the pain of what happened to me any less valid. Pain is not a contest. And neither is empathy.

I also want people to understand I write about painful things because reading about similar experiences from other people has made me feel less alone, and like someone else in the world understands. I’ve experienced a lot of gaslighting from family members who’ve chosen to believe my father’s downplaying of the facts over the truth—all doubts that could be erased in seconds had one person snapped a picture of my face after he violently beat me up.

And no matter what anyone thinks I did— no matter what a sad old washed-up piece of shit whose three children barely speak to him has to say—this 15-year-old girl didn’t deserve to be brutally, repeatedly punched into permanent facial damage for any reason. There is no justification and no excuse for what my father did to me.

I am not my PTSD and I’m not my anxiety disorder. What I am is a good-hearted person who had a crummy thing happen to me that I’m actively trying to work through and move past for emotional wellness.

Thank you for listening, and especially for believing people like me who have no reason to make up stories.