It’s funny that how after you tell people about personal shit that’s gone on through your life, they act real awkward whenever any movie, TV show, song, etc makes any type of reference towards what happened to you. Like that any cliched storyline involving an incarcerated father, dead mother, or drug addicted older brother relates automatically back to whatever your own fucking sob story is. Suddenly some giant elephant magically materializes in the room and shit goes dead silent. You can almost feel their pity lingering in the air. Although, sometimes, it’s not always pity for you. I’m fully aware, and so are they, of how awkward it can be for them, sitting there wishing that their friend hadn’t gone through such terrible shit so that you two could actually enjoy the movie and not have to feel weird about the fact that there were major congruences between the protagonist’s fucked up life and yours. Yeah, what a tragedy.
One thing they don’t realize, though; you probably weren’t even thinking about that strange similarity.
Whatever that actor said on the TV probably didn’t even cross your mind. You only ever notice because your friend starts acting weird. They freeze and get this weird look on their face like they have some pole shoved ten feet up their asshole. It’s a classic case of people assuming that because you’ve been hurt before that you’ll be hurt again. Not so, my friend. Tragedy isn’t a death sentence to all. I’m a fucking phoenix, man. We all are. We can rise up out of the ashes of our pasts, no matter how macabre they were, and transform ourselves into desensitized humans not instantly weakened by reminders of what had been.
This, sadly, is another thing that they do not realize. Welcome to Pity 101, everyone. Take a seat. Let’s learn about how you’ll be judged by the mass of the population for the rest of your life.
This is one of the major reasons why I don’t tell anyone anything about what’s happened to me. And why, with the select few I have told about it, I only ever tell them once and then never bring it up again. Usually I only ever tell them out of necessity, or if they ask and I can’t think of some creative way to lie about it. But keeping things like my past a secret really isn’t that hard. I’ve had best friends before who didn’t have a single clue what was going on in my life, even when it was fucking happening. I had days when I would show up to school on Monday wearing the same clothes from Friday because my stepmom had called me a slob and wouldn’t allow me to dirty any more shirts, but no one fucking noticed. It took nine years for someone to finally realize the shit that was going on inside that house. And that was after the peak of it all. This was when everything was going pretty well, actually. That was on a good day.
I’ll never forget the day my friend Erin’s dad drove us home from a football game our freshman year of high school. Like always, my dad failed to show up to get me, so I had to find another way home. We weren’t even that good of friends yet, but I guess when a desperate 14 year old girl asks you for a ride, you just can’t say no without looking like a real asshole. So, they drove me home. We turned onto my block and I pointed out to them our row home in the city. The one with the hydrangeas in the front garden. Stop here. Perfect. My stepmom fucking adored those stupid flowers. I guess she figured if the outside of her house looked pretty, no one would notice her marriage crumbling on the inside.
Only, the façade didn’t trick everyone. I could sense the hesitancy of Erin and her father to let me out. They sort of just knew or maybe understood that the house that I was coming home to wasn’t really a home. It was just a house, a brick building filled with nothing. I had a theory that they could somehow hear the echoes of my dad and stepmom’s screams from the night before. Like that all of the noises from their previous fights were floating through the air like lost radio waves, bouncing off of cars and lampposts and refracting right back into our ears. I wonder how painfully obvious it all was to them.
Years later Erin told me that even though I hadn’t yet told her about what was going on back then that day, her and her dad could still tell that whatever was going on wasn’t good. She told me that they almost didn’t let me out of the car. Yeah, like that would’ve gone down well in my house. My dad probably would’ve beat the shit out of her dad.
I’ll also never forget the time that I recently went to the movies with one of my really good guy friends. We went to go see The Wolf of Wall Street. Great movie. This friend was a really good friend of mine. So good, in fact, that I had actually decided to tell him about my past. One night he asked me about my dad, so I told him flat out. Sometimes you have to let people into your shitty world. But anyway, we were at the movie and it was going great. The movie was hilarious and almost all the way over when stuff starting getting too serious. The main character, Jordan (coincidence number one), is told by his wife that she wants a divorce and that she’s also taking the kids. The normal response is to be equal parts mad and fucking devastated. Only this guy takes it to a whole nother level. He starts going in on his wife, calling her a bitch and a cunt and so many other names that I learned all from my father by the age of ten. He finally reaches the apex of his rant and BAM he fucking socks his wife right in the face. And again, a minute later, another punch, but this time to her stomach. Another coincidence. I swear I could see my friend’s spine go a straight 90 degrees. Every vertebrae in his back instantly stiffened and I tried to pretend like I couldn’t see him staring at me out of the corner of my eye. He was trying to see my reaction. They do this in order to gauge your response. They want to know if they should attempt to comfort you or just act like nothing even happened. I guess his decision was for the latter since he didn’t end up saying anything. He didn’t have to. It was a long scene, and I could feel his pity basically breathing down the back of my spine the entire time.
It kind of pissed me off that he assumed that the scene would remind me so much of my situation at home. Like that all cases of domestic violence are all the same. Not true. Domestic violence is like 50 fucking shades of gray. It’s a spectrum. You go from the shallow end with your mild drunken slaps through to the name calling and slightly harder slaps and punches, and then somehow find yourself at the deep end in the black eye and bruised ribs territory. That’s where my family lived. My stepmom unfortunately knew that area well.
The Wolf of Wall Street had almost nothing to do with what went on in my family. For starts, Jordan was a millionaire stock broker. My dad was an accountant for a non-profit Republican think-tank, which sounds nice but still didn’t pay enough for him to be able to pay our phone bill on time. Also, we didn’t have a housekeeper who could help break up fights or call the cops when shit got too out of hand. That job usually fell to me. And finally, Jordan’s daughter didn’t have to watch as he beat his wife. My brothers and I, on the other hand, caught it all.
So this is mainly what I don’t get about people acting awkward when situations like this come up during movies, TV shows, songs, etc. It’s not like Jordan hitting his wife made me suddenly burst into tears and bring back flashbacks of my childhood. I couldn’t relate any fucking less to that movie. But yet people always assume that somehow shit like this always triggers some deeply rooted pain inside of you. Yeah, I get it, my dad was abusive was just like that actor on the screen. But my dad wasn’t him. And he won’t ever be. So stop fucking staring, go back to your popcorn, and enjoy the movie. Because it’s probably pretty good.