The Battle For The Sexes: Part 2

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These outdated ideas about gender need correcting if we are ever going to really solve a lot of the problems in society. One couple decided to raise their child genderless. They didn’t tell their family or even the school what gender the child was. The child was never given any gender biased signals from the parents. It played with whatever toys it wanted to play with. They referred only to the child as “the infant”. They did of course use the name, which was Sasha. The child was a boy. The mother made the following comments when questioned about her decision:

“I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping,” she said. “Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?”

“I don’t think I’d do it if I thought it was going to make him unhappy, but at the moment he’s not really bothered either way,” she said. “All I want to do is make people think a bit.”

Personally I’m a little bit disappointed that I was beaten to being the first to raise a child this way. I absolutely would want to do this for my child. Especially in the first few years that are so important. Society will eventually try and make us conform in one way or another because that is exactly what it does. Those that resist by dressing as they choose or behaving as they choose are derided. I’m even guilty of doing this when the reality is I don’t care. People can behave however they want within the laws of the country that they are in (and even sometimes break them depending on where they live).

The child will grow and have little regard for what it “must” look like. Maybe it will never look in the mirror and feel less than what it really is like so many of us do. Perhaps it won’t seek the impossible form that eludes most of us. As we lie our way through Instagram photos, with filters and tweaks (or the one of the many hundreds of apps on the App stores designed to enhance your selfies) trying to show the best, most fun version of ourselves to others did we never stop and think about what that says to everyone else? If you keep raising the bar ever higher there is an argument for the case that eventually nobody will be able to meet it.

In a society that sees so little merit in individualism or non-conformity is it any wonder that cosmetic surgery and body dimorphic behavior is on the rise now even amongst men? When we flick through the celebrity magazines and judge those who seek surgery are we not culpable for these actions they are forced to take? To what end will this pursuit of conformity lead us? Is it just really the case that one day we will all be designer babies?

Amazingly I can still bring this back to the world of comics. In the far off planet of Krypton there have been no natural births for hundreds of years. Everyone is born with a predefined role. Only those skills for those roles are acceptable. Those in power are stubborn and those who seek power are ruthless. You are not encouraged to be different. They finally destroyed their planet and everyone on it. It is a lesson that we must learn before we go too far.

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The Past Is Never History: Part 3

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She had stormed off to get a table. Utterly ignoring the queue of diners already waiting to be seated. My Mother was hungry and she shouldn’t have to wait. We were at a Pizza Hut and it was Christmas Eve. Myself and my partner at the time were with her. He had been very good in dealing with her behaviour over the previous 3 years but he also found it alarming. Once we had been seated, after they removed my Mother from the kitchen as she was looking for a member of staff to seat her, she started to misbehave and swear. If you swear around my Mother it is unacceptable. If she swears then the rules don’t apply. On this occasion she embarrassed us enormously when I gave a member of the waiting staff a tip and, in a packed restaurant, she decided to shout “don’t give it to her she was f*cking useless”.

This has become the way that she is now that she was unable to strike out and that I no longer lived at home. On one infamous dinner with my partners sister with her new boyfriend she decided to ask him why someone of his age was interested in her, apart from the obvious, and went on to suggest that nobody his age came without baggage. Now what I should point out is there was perhaps 4 years between them and there had been 8 years between my parents. Again an example of the same rules do not apply to my Mother. She also was not maternal in the slightest towards my other half’s sister. She just wanted to pick a fight.

There is perhaps another reason for her being the way she is now. In the time between me living at home and now my Father had died. After almost 40 years together she was all alone. It rocked her a little while. She lost her confidence and, dare I say it, became almost bearable for a year or two. Once the reality of being alone set in and her confidence returned she was worse than ever. Having nobody at home to control meant that now any member of waiting staff was fair game and, should you annoy her in any way, so were you now. Her verbal attacks became worse and completely without boundaries. She would stick the knife into other family members. In what has gone down in our family Christmas history as awful, she berated my Aunty while she was sat only a metre away from her as if she couldn’t hear her.

Of course with my Mother the simple act of my Father dying was not without complications. He was diabetic and had had several strokes. Upon discovering I was gay she decided to stop speaking to me and forced my Father to not speak to me either. I call him regardless and she never knew. What did though that was out of my control was to not buy food for the house. The care workers would come in and have no food to give him. I discovered this when, on one visit, he had a hypo attack and I had to call the District Nurse. He was forced into hospital at one point and there were concerns he was a battered husband. He would be alone at home all day, then she would return and make dinner before going upstairs and leaving him all night as well. My Father went to his grave knowing the same fear of her that I did, there is no doubt in my mind of that.

In the final 18 months of his life the Social Services took him away from her and placed him in a care home. She acted devastated. In her defence she visited him every day. He suffered in care as he had at home. Finally he acquired an infection and passed away. She was bereft, mainly because she was alone and very afraid. She had never been alone before in her life. Her father had passed away after she was married. I once found her sat in the dark because the iron had tripped the fuse board and she didn’t know what to do. I rang her every day for months to try and help her get through it. In doing this I made a rod for my own back. She never wanted it to stop and to this day, almost 6 years later, she expects daily contact even though I resist.

Shortly before my Father had died I put her back in touch with her sister. While I had no interest in maintaining contact, I felt she needed someone to be there for her that knew her and understood her. Their absence from each other’s lives of almost 30 years was due to my Mothers own jealousy. She had felt their Mother, also absent for over 30 years, loved her sister more than her. Her evidence for this? She had sent her a card on the birth of her child but when my Mother ended up in hospital, due to an accident, she did not send her a card. This was the last straw and my Mother broke all contact with her and even, 32 years later, refused to go to the funeral. I’m not sure that even her sister could really understand this behaviour, I certainly didn’t and pleaded with her to go.

This brings us more or less to the last 18 months of contact with my Mother. It was in this period that my life started to fall apart as hers got better again. Her confidence, almost arrogance, was dominating and suffocating. Something had to change and change it did.

The Past Is Never History: Part 2

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(Part 1 is here)

“The worst days work I ever did was give birth to you” she muttered as I walked into the bathroom one morning. However by this point I was old enough to answer back and retorted with “I think you mean the only days work you ever did”. This didn’t rattle her one bit and she continued brushing her teeth. The days of hitting me had long since ended. Now all she had was bitter words.

When I was around 14 she raised her hand to me for the last time. I didn’t punch her. I just pushed her and she fell, in a sitting position, to the floor. She didn’t say a word as she got to her feet and walked upstairs never taking her eyes off of me. She was angry but this time, and every time from now on, she knew she would not be able to strike me as she had always done. The control was over and the rules had changed.

In the following years she tried to verbally knock me. My weight, lack of girlfriends, academic ability and never liking my friends. She tried to change me from the ground up with words now not violence. I fought her as I always had. She is cunning and fairly smart. She was never a match for my intelligence. Saying that is hard for me though. What is harder is admitting I am probably only as bright as I am because I had to be to survive. I didn’t lack academic ability I was just uninterested in school until I became much older.

The fall out from all of what was going on at home was I had been a bully at school. I discovered that was not the right thing to do though it took some time. My cutting words lingered longer, I would often make the mistake of speaking first and thinking later. I hurt people and I still feel guilty for that now nearly 15 years later. When you live in fear and absolute control it is easy to lash out at weak targets. I did that and it is my burden to carry. Being a bully and always in trouble at school only served to further feed the fire she held about me being a bad child. It was always about image though. She didn’t want what was best for me she just didn’t want to be judged for her disobedient and unruly child.

One day I was sat in the lounge with my friend. My Mother walked into the room and sat down opposite us. She picked up remote for the TV and counted the numbers on it out loud in a very child like voice. She got up and left the room. My friend turned to me and apologised. I looked at him oddly and he replied “I always thought you made it all up, now I realise you were telling the truth, she is mental”. My Mother has held down a very professional job for 30 years. She hasn’t a blemish on her record. Very few people I imagine know what she was really capable of. Image was everything as I said before. The mask can never slip. They can never know.

When I was about 16 I finally spoke to my Father about what had happened growing up. He seemed surprised. He spoke to her when she returned home that day from work. She denied it all and said I exaggerated. She managed to appease him by reminding him what a difficult child I had been. I never spoke to my Father about her again. I found out much later that he had known all along what she was, even going as far as to ask a member of the family to raise me as their own out of fear for my safety. He didn’t know what she was capable of. He was soon to find out just how far she could go.

Face Our Fears

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I’ve not shared much with you all lately about my therapy sessions. This wasn’t a deliberate choice just the way it has been. I will attempt to share as much as reasonably comfortable in this post.

This weekend I am taking a trip to face my fears. It is something I have been running away from as long as I can remember, perhaps, all my life. In therapy I have been building to this final act of catharsis I am about to embark upon and believe me it is very much about fear.

For as long as I can remember my mother never felt “normal”. She was always angry and detached. Some of this comes from her post natal depression however not all of it can be attributed to that. When I was about 11 or 12 I remember the first time I realised I was not alone in this assessment of her. I had up until that point fought her every step of the way, hearing this other assessment made me fight harder against this tyrannical regime. My mother was not normal and I would not let her force her way of being upon me.

Without going into the real meat and bones of it all I was physically and mentally abused from the age of about 2 until the age of around 14. The culprit was, sadly, my own mother. She has never changed to this day in her behaviour towards everyone in the family. We have others who have put up with her behaviour and allowed her to walk all over them. In their case they were adults and made that choice but I was a child.

I am going to attempt to return to my family home, in a respectful way I will attempt to address my childhood with the creator and the gatekeeper of it. I am going to walk into the dragons lair, attempt not to slay it but to lay myself open in front of it, hope that it looks at the wounded animal in front of it and the magnitude of what it did will hit it.

So back to therapy. I am going to write some things that I suppose I accept but I cannot fully embrace now and I hope you all understand.

My therapist says that despite my concerns I am not my mother. Over the course of the past 12 weeks he has not seen in front of him the person I describe. I said that I wanted to reach inside myself and rip every part of her out of me but he says I do not need to. She is not here. I had the rare ability found in about 5/10% of people to be able to look at her and realise that her way is not the right way. He says I should take comfort in this, that my intelligence and logic in dealing with things is a gift that few people have.

I don’t know how this makes me feel. I am detached completely from the whole of the above paragraph. It goes back to my previous post on perception. I perceived myself to be my mother. I thought I had the problems she does and I think I just realised I don’t. He said that she taught me lessons like when I was a bully at school. I learned that was not
right and not for me. She taught me that. I hate what I did and regret it. I have done other things of which I am not proud but I made the mistakes and I learned from them. That is my gift. I am the mould breaker.

The Problem With Parents

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Parents. The relationship we have with them is often complicated. Even when we get along with them and things are fine we are never more than a misplaced word away from all out warfare.

Religious guilt gives us this attitude of “honour thy father and mother”. It is flawed in so far as some people do not deserve it. To honour them would be a failure on our part as a human being.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that not only did we not ask to be born but it was completely out of our control as to what kind of parent (good or bad) they go on to be. Let us make no mistake here. A bad parent is a bad parent. There are mistakes and then there is down right negligence or neglect.

Often I see forums where people have fallen out with the parent and others always advise that somehow it is their fault for this broken relationship with the parents, ultimately that they are our Mum/Dad and that we should respect them.

I have tried for 31 years to both honour and respect my Mother. On an almost daily basis (if I allow her that access to my world) she has repeatedly let me down. Every chance or opportunity she has had to step up to the plate she has failed. Not just as an adult now but also when I was a child.

Older family members speak of as a toddler I was the adult and she was the child. If I had something she wanted I would give it to her and share. I would be the one who would try to reason with her as a young child. It was me who looked after her when my Dad died calling her daily and arranging things. I have tried to keep the peace and bite my lip.

Around this time last year something change. I could no longer carry on the way I had been. I introduced what my therapist calls “boundaries”. It was not what I had planned but it just happened. Enough was enough. After an extended period of withdrawal I got back in touch with her when she went into hospital. I imagine most people cut out of another’s life would ask why the absence and what had they done to deserve it. This question was never asked.

I am of course in the interests of privacy and “respect” omitting a lot of the things that happened growing up. I will write about it one day simply so that it is out there in writing and when I feel that perhaps you all need to understand it.

So to anyone with a difficult parent or parents, you have my sympathy. The world will tell you that you are at fault and that you didn’t do enough. Know that this is not true. Never forget you are the child and they are the adult.

Super(obese)Man: Part 1

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As of today I have lost almost 5 stone in weight (70 pounds or 31kg). So I decided to write this post.

I decided to try and do something about my weight in the latter months of 2012. I’ll talk about the why’s in another post but this one is mainly to give people who are either earlier on in this path some hope and encouragement or to answer some questions that many people have about “becoming that fat”.

As a child I sort of coasted through at what I would consider an average weight or at least looking at photos from back then a not unusual weight. That was until about aged 10/11. In 1992 my parents bought a pub and we relocated leaving behind friends and family. I was aged almost 10. Looking back I don’t blame the pub or my parents. They had to do what needed to be done. My dad with little qualifications stumbled from one job to the next and so this was a “secure” job that he could own and make his. I think everything combined made my weight spiral. Less parental supervision (ironically they were only ever just downstairs though), leaving everyone else I knew and loved and my fathers weight issues were obvious to all except perhaps him.

As a child of the 1940’s/50’s he would have been raised without todays high fat and high sugar fast foods. It’s hard to pin point his weight issues. He never spoke about them and most people around us seemed to be in a state of denial. To this day my Aunty still thinks he was just a tall, well built chap. My father was offered life saving gastric surgery in 2001 which he impolitely declined.

The little I know of his upbringing was that his mother struggled to raise them single handedly after my grandfathers death in his early 40’s. She borrowed to clothe and feed them, which was frowned upon back then, and she would often lie to them that she had eaten because she couldn’t afford to. Both of his sisters have battled with weight all their adult lives and so did his parents perhaps having seen photos. My mothers family did not seem to suffer the same fate.

My father entered the army in the 1960’s so we can safely assume he was at the very least fit & active. He would go on to serve for 8 years in Germany & Hong Kong.
By the 1970’s when he marries my mother the wedding day photo reveal that his army days are long behind him and the battle of the bulge has been lost. He never shifted any of it to my knowledge and was a “big chap” throughout my childhood.
He would later go on to lose a little of the weight during the illness that lead to his death. This was after several strokes and a thrombosis. He was fortunate to never suffer a heart attack.