Two women are sitting at the table in the breakfast nook sipping their cups of Earl Grey, pinkies in the air, chatting. They've been there since they awakened a couple hours earlier, so they are still in their robes and slippers.
It is a mother and her grown daughter. The two of them imagine that drinking Earl Grey tea is evidence of how civilized and urbane they are. If they only knew of its existence they would apply for membership in the Tiara Tea Society. Basking in their contrived sophistication they pretend their way through the morning.
They've been enjoying talking at length about themselves to each other; a close observer would pick up a bit of a competition between the women. Little games of one-up-man-ship are being played, but nothing too intense. Today, they are relaxed and in a good humor.
Most of their topics, when not totally self-focused, center on gossip about other family members. If you wore special reality-revealing glasses while taking in this scene, instead of two women sitting at a breakfast table, you would see two vultures sitting on a big warm rock enjoying that stuffed feeling after having picked several carcasses clean to the bone.
They preparing to move in on dessert. Dessert d'jour is succulent and sweet. The best for last.
Anna is being served up. The gleam of anticipation in the vultures' eyes is discernible from across the room. As full and fat as they are, their appetites are in no way diminished for the last course. There is always room for a big plate of Anna.
Young vulture has been excitedly sharing her newest fad interest. She's found a brand of Christianized psychology that has given her a new lease on life, she claims. She is secretly cherishing the idea of being able to sell Old Vulture on taking a course in this particular brand of psychobabble for her own ulterior reasons. "Healing the Broken-Hearted" (name changed to protect the guilty) has provided a slick package which allows Young Vulture to blame all her character flaws on Old Vulture. The older woman is being set up by the younger.
The hook needs to be set first. How to do this? The Younger sets up her sister on the autopsy table. She is going to slice and dice her to the wonderment of The Older to show her just how incisive this "Healing the Broken-hearted" program really is.
The classic "Y" incision is made slicing up sister stem to stern. "Did you know that the trauma of a difficult birth can cause that person to have rage issues later in life?" states The Younger authoritatively.
The Older looks interested in the theory so The Younger continues.
"Didn't Anna have a difficult birth?" A light dawns in the The Older's eyes, the answer obviously being "yes". Anna was in a breach position when the birth pangs began. Her mother was in labor for hours and hours. The final delivery was with forceps. The difficulty of the birth left its marks on the baby as well as the mother. The baby's head came to a discernible point, Conehead style, along with the scratches and bruises from the forceps.
The Younger continues by pointing out Anna's "anger issues", particularly as a teen, still sometimes glimpsed into adulthood. The Older swallows the hook whole. Of course. This makes perfect sense. Anna had a difficult birth and now we understand her anger issues. They cluck their tongues and nod their heads knowingly. They have cut to the core of Anna's soul. They have discerned the "pain" that moves her.
They are so full of shit.
This interpretation which is presented by my sister as fact, because she is relying on what she is calling an "authoritative" source, offers up something very important to both of these women: absolution. This lame-assed theory completely absolves them for any responsibility for their behaviors which frustrated the holy, living crap out of me.
My sister, while trying to sell me on her psychobabble blather, told me about this theory one day during a phone conversation. She then told me that she and mom had talked about it together on my sister's last visit to Mom's house, and they both now understood why I was such an angry "child". She sounded so sympathetic; like she was offering up to me complete absolution for my sin of being angry. She was shameless in admitting that she and Mom had sat there discussing what they considered to be my emotional "issues" and had both agreed on the root cause. I was supposed to be impressed...and thankful.
I laid some truth on top of this history revisionism for my sister, and she never brought this up to me again.
"D, that theory is unprovable and runs against the facts." I told my sister. "First of all, both you and mom seem to be forgetting that I was an almost unnaturally calm baby, I rarely cried, could be ignored for hours (and was) as I lay in my crib (by my mother's own admission to me). As a young child, my sweet and submissive nature continued. No tantrums. No displays of fits or rages. Compliant to a fault. If your memory was actually working properly, you would know that I didn't display my anger until I reached my middle teen years. Do you think there might have been a reason for my anger? Do you think that perhaps I might have been reacting to the complete frustration of my life with Mom? Do you think it possible that my anger was understandable and the cause and effect discernible if one considered my life at that time; the time when the anger began to be shown by me? This theory, sister, is complete bull-shit."
She actually yielded my point. The facts were not refutable once I proved that I remembered the facts. She knew them too, but had chosen to forget them because the glitter of her new theory was so much more appealing than the truth.
She didn't want me to go further. Because she knew, deep in her selfish soul, that my mother was not the only source of my youthful anger. She knows that she used me and took advantage of me up until I ran away from home at age 17. She was lazy and selfish and looked out completely for herself. I was her shield from momster. Because the rule was laid down that when Momma made a command-- it was law -- and it better damn well get done now. If it did not get done, I, as the eldest, was held responsible. My sister took full and complete advantage of this arrangement. She exploited it shamelessly. I know she has not forgotten this.
Let's look for a moment at what displays of anger these two bitches were talking about. You may think that I was picking fights in school, or screaming at my family and knocking them around, or joining up with a local gang and beating up homeless guys, if you were to judge by their bringing up my "rage issues" pretending like it negatively impacted their lives. Here's the truth.
First off, I was not allowed to express my frustration or anger verbally. Neither of my parents allowed negative emotions to be spoken because they were not to be inconvenienced by my emotions. There was no mouthing back. I would have been knocked into the next week if I had dared shoot off at the mouth snottily, let alone with overt anger. If I slammed a door, my mother would come running from where ever she was and belt me. I remember the few times when a door would accidentally slam and I would quickly run to re-open it and say, "Oops! Sorry!! That was an accident!" smiling as sweetly as I could as I watched to see the cloud pass off of my mother's face. So door-slamming was usually not an option. What outlet did I have then?
I would occasionally vent on inanimate objects outside the house. I have a clear memory of being so angry once that I went out to the garage and pounded on a wall with my fists for about 10 seconds just to vent onto something. Wow. What a sinner I was.
The anger these two women were gabbing about that day was primarily demonstrated by me with a quiet seething. A lid was kept clamped down on it by me...but the look in my eye would occasionally intimidate them. I remember seeing their intimidation a time or two. They were intimidated because their own consciences condemned them as they saw my quiet condemnation of them. Knowing they had completely and totally crossed a line over into unfairness that could not be justified even by them, they were intimidated by my anger. They knew my anger was justified.
My self-control even while enraged actually scared them a bit. Perhaps they were afraid I would finally unleash and split their skulls open like they deserved. I never, not once, behaved violently toward a person. During these rare occasions when they knew I was angry, perhaps I would slam a door or lash out at an inanimate object. No one would say a peep. My rage was known by them at that moment to be linked to their unreasonable and grossly unfair treatment of me. I think I only slammed a door in anger like that a couple of times. Neither time did my mother come at me with her rage. She was laying low like the simpering coward she really is because she knew she was in the wrong. She would not have let me get away with a slammed door except that her conscience was burning, and she seemed unsure of what I would do with my anger...probably because she was judging me by her own poor self-control when angry.
Get what I'm saying here? If there was not an obvious reason, i.e. cause and effect, for my anger, even these extremely rare displays would not have been allowed. My anger would have been met with an escalation of rage coming from my mother to me. So my sister's pretending that my "anger issues" as a teen were heretofore of mysterious etiology was just another bit of history revisionism by these two narcissists. They were absolving themselves of all responsibility for their actions toward me...while pretending to me that she was offering me some jewel of insight about my unexplored psyche.
I think in my next post I'll allow my cousin to describe her very first impressions of my family as she gazed in wonderment at this strange and new (to her) family. She was six years old...I was thirteen. It is a very focused snapshot of my life with my family from an outside witness. If one takes that snapshot and replicates it a few thousand times it will give at least some sense of the system of unfairness and servitude that was my life at home. The tea-sipping crones were the two most responsible for foisting this unfairness and slavery onto my life. Now they would chalk up my anger to forces beyond any of our control in order to clear their consciences. They were pathologizing the victim in order to purify themselves.
Now, as then, my anger does not dictate my behavior. I have self-control. I am allowed to have a feeling as long as I don't use a feeling to justify doing something immoral.
Where those two are concerned, I still have "anger issues", but there is no shame in that for me any more. In the spirit of the subject of my anger...