Years ago my mother asked me if her working so hard when we were young was worth it. It was a very unusual question because she isn’t someone who doubts herself very often and when she did, she generally wouldn’t come to me. I told her then that her sacrifice was worth it but I was lying. The truth is that back then I didn’t know. Growing up, both my parents worked super hard to take care of my siblings and I. A lot of the things they had to do wasn’t apparent back then but with the eyes of an adult, I see how hard it must have been for them and I love them even more. One of the reasons I couldn’t give her an honest response was because I went through an experience as a child that no one should ever go through.
As is the case in most families I know, both parents work and most get nannies or “house-helps” to take care of their children at least during the day although it was more common to have live-in help. Usually a family would take in a girl or woman to help a young mother take care of her kids. The family would provide for the girl, send her to school and pay for her to follow whatever career path she chose. We had a few of these girls growing up as one would complete school and leave then another would arrive. One particular nanny I hated for no good reason. I couldn’t understand why. Whenever she would come to our house, I would become this rude, aggressive person and it seemed like I had lost control of my body. Since my parents still had a good relationship with her at the time, she came over to our house often even after she finished school and left. I never shook her hand and when she tried to touch me I would lose my mind. Strong emotions have never been my forte and the magnitude of my loathing was immense. I couldn’t understand it and I genuinely thought I was going crazy. It didn’t make sense that I couldn’t hate someone so much and without reason.
As I turned 15, I remembered the things that happened eleven years earlier: when my parents would leave the house she would take me into the bathroom to ‘play house’. I remembered every single detail: lying on the bathroom floor with her on top of ,me, the cloying smell of the cleaning agent and the air freshener, the patterns on the bathroom ceiling formed by layers upon layers of repeated painting . Sometimes it would be in the bedroom where she would pull me under the covers, pull out my penis and place it inside her. I even remember the smell of her
vagina privates. I felt like I was clothed and naked at the same time. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew it was bad. I was not supposed to talk about it – she made me swear after all. All these memories hit me at once like a lightning bolt and I was a wreck for a couple of years. The passage of time didn’t make it any better. I had to tell someone but I was scared. At this point I was also coming to the realization that I really liked boys and it wasn’t something that would go away. I thought of suicide all the time and made many plans of how I would carry it out. Eventually I told my mother about my childhood experiences but she didn’t say anything. She just looked at me like she wasn’t sure what to do with me. We have never talked about it since. To be honest, even though she didn’t help me the way I wanted her to (and I’m not even sure what I expected her to do), I don’t hate her though I realized that I may have blamed for awhile. So when she asked me that question, all I could think of was if she hadn’t been working so much, maybe the things that went down wouldn’t have happened to me, maybe I’d have been straight. I know it wasn’t her fault and she probably didn’t know what to say or do. It’s not like there’s a motherhood gene that prepares anyone for the possibility that they could have to help their child who has been sexually abused.
One of the biggest issues I faced with coming to terms with my homosexuality was that I could never be sure if it arose from the fact that I was abused or whether this was the way I was meant to be all along. I tried church (many I might add), I tried therapy, I tried mind-over-matter, I prayed. The feelings stayed the same and there seemed to be nothing I could do to make them go away. Then I started meeting people, apparently straight guys who I could have (mostly) candid conversations with and some reported being abused as children but were clearly straight. I also met a lot of gay people and none of them reported ever being abused as kids. At this time, I finally began to come to terms with the fact that maybe I was always meant to be gay irrespective of what happened in my childhood.
If my mother were to ask me again if all her struggles was worth it, I’d say yes but now I’d be telling the truth. I have let go of the things that happened. It doesn’t mean that I’m over them because I am not and on some level I doubt that I ever will be. I have forgiven this lady for what she did to me. She was young herself and who knows if she too was once abused. Now I can fake-smile when I see her but I’m definitely not ready to fake-hug just yet.