Well, just as Shakespeare said, that is the question.
Growing up I started out as a relatively happy child. In the early grades in school, I excelled and brought home A and B report cards to show it.
Unfortunately, my early years taught me some very difficult lessons, many of which were difficult to overcome. I managed though.
While still with what remained of my family, mother, sisters and I, I did the best thing I will ever do in my life. I saved the life of another and remained close to her till her natural death many years later. I was 5; Hernando’s Hideaway was a popular song on the ratio, the man down the hall played it a lot it seemed; ice was delivered daily for the icebox. Gas stoves had to be lit with a match; life was good. I came home one day to find I could not get in. Doors were locked and, being 5, I had no key. I found an unlocked window and got in only to find my youngest sister on the kitchen floor with the gas on. I quickly shut off the gas and roused my sister. She seemed angry and pushed me out, locking the doors again as well as the windows.
I finally managed to get some adults to help and, together, we saved my sister. As far as I know she never tried to kill herself again. She married and had children and was always the one closest to me despite the dissolution of our family. Eventually we all were made ‘wards of the state.’
During this time I confronted a troubling experience from my early childhood, before my family split up and I became a ‘state kid.’ When my father visited, there was also a counselor there to act as an intermediary. My father said I lied about the incident and that it never happened. The adults pulled together and agreed I had lied. Lesson learned: adults can’t be trusted. With this experience under my belt, I began a process of pulling into myself.
During this same period in my life, I also learned that my peers could also not be trusted and I continued to further isolate myself to some degree. I did try to fit in with some success but the lesson had been learned.
Another home; another school; fifth grade. I continued to do well enough in school but not the original A’s and B’s. Now there were C’s as well. The work might have been harder or I just did not try as hard. I don’t know. I raised my hand often to answer the teacher’s questions and was more often correct. The other boys, though, would taunt me with ‘you think you know everything.’ Well of course I did NOT know everything but the message was, you make us look stupid. I caved in to be accepted and found two things. I stopped doing as well and I remained unaccepted by the other boys. This was, perhaps, my greatest mistake. I compromised myself and stopped trying to be the best I could. From this, much else followed.
Still, at home anyway, I was accepted in the family unit and played well with the girls and their dolls. During this time, color tv was just experimental; coal was used for heating and we used the coal ash on icy sidewalks. If you got coal in your stocking at Christmas time, you had been bad. Oil heat was being promoted as a clean alternative to coal and the now famous sleeping baby was introduced to show how good and safe gas heat was.
There was a vacant lot to the left of the house across the street. Some few trees, lots of dirt and grass; a near perfect playground for active children. One day I found myself in the house across the street. Later I found myself walking away from this same house, but not immediately home. I do not consciously remember many details about my going in or coming out, but I do clearly remember being in a dark closet because the man wanted to show me his gun. I remember feeling something that was both warm and hard. It was years later before I understood and accepted what it was. Still, my mind locked it away to protect me and I never said a thing about it. I could not have told an adult as I had already learned they could not be trusted and this experience was further proof of that fact. My peers would have simply teased me and I could not have that. So I conveniently ‘forgot’ the incident, further withdrawing and becoming more solitary.
Another time, home, family. I was accepted at home but, because i was a loner by now, both the boys and girls at school teased and rejected me. I got into many fights, as I recall, and remained more withdrawn. Looking back at that time, I see that a lot of those troubles were of my own making. My humor was misdirected and my open distrust obvious. Since I would not, or perhaps could not, defend myself, I was a perfect victim. I had a major crush on one girl though, but that went nowhere in the long run.
I spent many summers at camp, paid for by the state of course, and it was during my stay at one camp during this period that I had two more important life experiences. During some free time I was in the woods not far from the cabins with an older boy. I think he wanted me to play with him but I wasn’t sure what to do. I did watch though as he masturbated and finally produce something solid and white. It was years later, again, when I realized he was probably sterile.
Yet another city, home and family. This time my placement was with a Catholic family in Revere. I was most definitely an outsider here. Life with this family was definitely less than fun more often than not. I got into lots of trouble, some of which was not my fault but for which I was blamed by Aunt Mary’s kids. She wanted us ‘state kids’ to call her Aunt Mary because we were not, and would not likely be, family. I ran away from here because of the final problem with her youngest when I would not let him ride my bike. I was punished for this and left heading for New York. I was picked up and returned and that summer, after camp I was placed with yet another family in Lynn, Ma.
It was during one of my many camp seasons that I learned to shoot a 22 rifle and use the bow and arrow. I never achieved better than pro-marksman with the rifle and only ever hit the dead center bulls eye once with the bow. But I did run afoul of several older bully type boys and late at night I ran away from camp to my father who was living in a room in Brookline, MA. Because I went to him, the court gave him custody and I was no longer a ‘state kid.’
I started high school while living with my father and during my freshman year, one day I decided I had to wear girls clothes. No idea why but I knew I had to do this so I set out to get some clothes to wear. More than a few neighborhood close lines were short things in the mornings. Anything that fit I kept and the rest was thrown away. Sometimes I would dress up, put a kerchief on my head to disguise my obviously boy hair, and went walking. I stayed away from people for the most part because I did not want to be caught but at the same time, I loved being out as a girl. I kept my clothes hidden in our part of the basement, mostly in suitcases we weren’t using.
I did get caught twice, actually. Once by the police as I was walking through a park late at night while my father was visiting family in PA. After I managed to convince the officer that I was not out to meet someone for sexual purposes, he let me go home one very scared girl.
The second time was when my father went for another trip to PA and later came back instead of continuing on. When I used the bathroom and found his suitcase outside the door I checked out back. His car wasn’t there so I assumed he had forgotten it. When he finally came back again and found his suitcase not in the hall, he woke me up and i let him in to find me dressed in girl pajamas. Naturally I had to get rid of the clothes. But I only ended up going and getting more. Eventually I got a job and with my income was able to take a room down the hall from my father and began to live on my own for the most part. I had a girlfriend in high school and we enjoyed movies, ice skating, going to one of several parks near her home. It was a good time. I also had a sort of affair with a boy from school. We went so far as to have oral sex to a point though nothing ever came of it – either way. For unknown reasons we stopped getting together for anything. While I was working I met another girl, on the job. Very pretty Jewish girl whom I dated. Mostly we went bowling or spent time at my room. I had a special code for ringing her doorbell she she would know I was calling on her. She was the first girl I had oral sex with and I can still taste and feel how good she felt on my tongue. We almost got into intercourse but agreed not to go there.
My first actual intercourse was with another Jewish girl whose family lived in the apartment on the top floor of our building. She was also a lovely girl as I recall. She had been hired to watch the landlord’s wife while he worked at his fish market. She was going senile and needed someone there. One day the girl invited me in and took me to the bedroom. We stripped and she helped me into her and things were going well enough except she was afraid she might get pregnant. Before anything could happen, the landlady came by the room but whether or not she understood what we were doing was questionable. We stopped and got dressed and I left. I admit I liked being in her body. It felt very good.
to be continued ….