I was eighteen years old and a college freshman before I was allowed to select my own clothes. My mother “owned” me; I was not a human being but her personal property.
There was a small shop in the “ville,” as we college students called it.
I purchased a blue-and-white polished cotton long-sleeved blouse in October of my freshman year.
It should have been framed in ornate gold and hung on the wall for posterity, as though it were an expensive handmade kimono from Kyoto.
My relationship with my mother had always been strained; I was terrified of her. There had never been any kind of emotional intimacy between us: no affectionate caresses, no bedtime stories, no nicknames, no birthday parties, no Santa Claus, no tooth fairy, no hugs and kisses, no cuddling, no appearances at the camp horse show or water ballet or school spelling bee, no phone calls, no care packages…nothing–even when I was very young.
Not once in her life did she say that she loved me…liked me…that I ever did anything worthwhile…or even deserved to take up space on this planet.
Years later, she and my father boycotted my wedding and sent a neatly typed note on engraved eggshell stationery: “Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Smith, Jr., will not attend.”
I waited for an explanation for their absence. I waited for decades, but it never came.
My mother and I were master/slave; Hitler/Jew; shark/bloody leg; Mr. Murdstone/David Copperfield; Johan/Henrik in Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband.