Continued from yesterday….
Throughout all this, I was beginning to get attention from boys. As a freshman, some juniors and seniors at school began calling me…dare I say “courting” me? I was terrified by the prospect of dating. I had no idea who I was and was at some level sure that I would completely lose myself in a relationship trying to be The Model Girlfriend. But I liked the attention, sure. I never encouraged it and was always up front about my readiness to date. The calls kept coming.
So my parents put me into a private school the next year. Depending on who and when you ask, they will say that they were worried I would get pregnant. They would say they were worried that I was going to stop focusing on my schoolwork. Apparently, according to my sister, they were worried I was going to start taking drugs. The cause for this? Apparently my straight-As, my active membership in the SADD chapter at school, and my benign compliance when they asked me to participate heavily and publicly in a lot of religious activities.
But I think the boys scared them.
It saddens me now to see how little faith my mother had in me. (My attending private school was her decision. Never once had I even thought about it.) How little sense of self or inner strength she may have thought I had.
And I suppose she was right. I was empty and afraid, but I’m pretty sure I had such a healthy fear of pregnancy, drug addiction, and BAD REPUTATION that I’d not have retreated into anything other than my studies.
I had a disastrous high school experience. I could not articulate the pain I was in at home. I don’t think I was aware of it. But it manifested itself in ridiculous teenage ways. I was lost, and redeemed only by the activities at school. I immersed myself as much as possible.
My mother chose to be visible and to host whatever school-related functions she could. She was well-liked by my friends. I assumed she just held it all in until it was just family and she had a reason to blow. I hardly minded her being so involved in my social life…she was lovely and kind. I hated when we were alone with her. She was unpredictable. She was tired. She was overworked. She was stressed. She was unhappy.
She was anorexic, taking handfuls of diet pills to stay thin and to boost her energy. She snarled at my dad’s pot belly. She told my size 12 sister to go blond. She ate a lot of salad.
I was very blessed to be accepted to a number of colleges and universities. I chose the University of Chicago for several reasons…I had been intrigued by their creative application essays. I loved the campus. I was proudest to have been accepted there. Additionally, we’d grown up hearing that Chicago was the nicest place, that people aren’t like they are on the East Coast. Plus, my grandmother and a few aunts and uncles were about 30 minutes away.
My mom didn’t cry when they dropped me off to school as she had cried for my siblings.
It took me all of the month or six weeks before Parents’ weekend to put on 10-15 pounds, which honestly did not look bad on me. I let my hair go natural — waves and occasional low tides flowing on my head. I dressed comfortably, but stopped hiding my figure. I dated a little bit, but nothing serious. I liked my classes and was grateful to be able to keep my head above water.
My mother visited for parents’ weekend. She took me to look for dresses for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. I had gone from a size 4-6 to an 8.
She also bought me a girdle and some control top pantyhose.
Just to smooth things out.
She asked me if I wanted a professional hair cut/blow out before the big day.
I know you don’t have a lot of time to do your hair.
She introduced herself to my friends, who were like moths to a flame. My beautiful, fun, cheerleader-esque, charming, modern mom who listened and gave sage advice to my young friends. They admired her. I knew that look. I ended up having 5 other women sleeping in my room that night. They couldn’t get enough of her.
I remember feeling proud and happy that they were in there.
It didn’t occur to me that they’d never wanted to do a mini sleep-over with just me.
These floods, these memories, these waves hit me the car ride home. Wave after wave after wave. No time for recovery.
We pulled up to the house. My dad was inside watching the boys. My mother had backed out because she was on a last-minute business trip. It was not required she go, she just wanted to be in the loop.
“What do you want to tell your dad?” Huzzy asked, pulling me out of my reverie. He didn’t feel like a lifeguard coming to pull me out of this murk. It felt like I’d gotten one good gasp of modern fresh air before he was holding my face down in the water…for my own good.