As the child of a single mother in the 70’s, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom playing alone. During the summer months my mother couldn’t afford to pay a baby sitter, much less send us off to summer camp. My brothers were 5 and 7 years older than me so they didn’t really need a babysitter, they were the built-in babysitters. In retrospect, I am able to see that due to circumstances beyond our control they were in the position of having to care for their little sister. Teenage boys would much prefer to hang out and have fun with their friends. My brothers Constantine and Rinaldo were not any different.
Their friends who would spend a lot of time at our house while Mother was at work. Since I was the youngest and the only girl around, I was the designated sandwich maker and drink go-getter. Demanding boys! I remember how much time my brother’s had to spend with me because our Mom was working. I can’t imagine how much it bothered them to always have their little sister with them. I felt like a burden and I certainly didn’t always like getting dragged around to go visit girlfriends when we were not supposed to be leaving the house. However, Rinaldo’s theory on life was that if I did the same thing they did then I couldn’t tell Mother because I’d get in the same amount of trouble as them. I have to hand it to Rinaldo, the boy was a genius (and still is, literally. Super high IQ). I completely believed him and just went along with it.
Most of my brother’s friends were nicer to me than my brothers, but then again I wasn’t their little sister who tattled on them all of the time either. There was one boy who about a year older than Rinaldo who just scared me. Being around him was uncomfortable and I didn’t like to be left alone in a room with him. I remember him with a dark aura around him and he almost always had on a khaki military jacket. One time during the summer he was in the living room and had asked me to make him a sandwich. My brothers were not around and it was just the two of us in the living room. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. After I was done making it, I brought him the sandwich and he ran one of his hands up the back of my left leg on the bare skin. I instantly became very aware that I was a little girl and he was a male much bigger than me. I already knew what that kind of touch meant and no way did I want that happening at my own home. No 2nd grader should have to feel that uncomfortable around her brother’s friends. I ran away from him and made sure I was never in the same room with him again. Nothing else happened with him. He just stopped coming over after a while and I was very grateful. (As an aside, before I wrote this post I googled his name and discovered he’s been arrested several times for crimes against women such as battery and stalking. I was very fortunate.)
I used to have some serious issues with claustrophobia. The kind where if you got up in my face, my fight or flight instinct would take over and I’d start swinging regardless of how much I liked you. Why did I have claustrophobia you ask? Well, let me tell you! Mother was very clear “no one in, no one out.” It was a standing rule when she wasn’t home, a rule which was frequently broken by Rinaldo and Constantine. This one specific day during the summer, my brothers and their friends wanted to get high and didn’t want the pest (aka me) around to witness it. I got locked in my bedroom closet and was told I wasn’t allowed to come out until they came to get me. PS, hours later I was still in the closet. Mother came home and I heard her ask “Where is Maria?” My brother Constantine came running to my room and opened my closet door. He told me I better not say a word and pretend like everything was normal or else. So like a good little girl, I obeyed and shut up.
It’s taken me 40 years to get over being claustrophobic. It’s taken me 40 years to deal with all of the moments where I had to “be a good little girl.” Think about what you say to the younger generation. You are forming the adults they will become. I used those moments as lessons to teach me to what I didn’t want to become as an adult, but not everyone makes that decision. Many times bad behavior is repeated.
The next time you see someone with OCD or with a phobia, before you criticize them verbally or even in your own head, think twice. Ask yourself, what happened to them during their lifetime to cause the issue. It’s much better to see the issue through their eyes rather than your own.
Who are you to judge?
I am just me.