as the mother of twin girls…..

I grew up with a single mother who started being told that her body is an object to be thrown around and assaulted in every way possible since the time she was an infant. She had me when she was fifteen as the result of being raped by the star quarterback’s little burner brother in front of her family’s trailer in the rural Midwest. She tried her best with what she had to work with, but as a model of womanhood she lacked. She showed me that drunk, aggressive, pathetic excuses for men were welcome to come waltzing through my life and take whatever they wanted. That I was to act as a needy co-dependent victim groveling gratefully at the feet of the men who showed up just long enough to destroy any semblance of a stable home, help themselves to mine, my mother’s and my sister’s bodies, and give us just enough of the fatherly love that we had been craving so badly for so long that we would forgive him. We were starved for attention and the way that my mother was showing me how to get it was to be a sexual object and a victim.

There are many ways that a young woman might internalize such a childhood. That “crazy bitch” or “slut” that you know are probably acting out something that they had no opportunity to process earlier in their life. But I turned it inward, and started protecting myself in ways that were ultimately just as damaging. As a teenager, I developed a relationship with painkillers and food that allowed me to wall myself in to a fortress of my own body, one that I felt no one might be tempted by. I ate compulsively to a point that was physically painful, because if anyone was going to hurt me, it was going to be me. I became addicted to painkillers and couldnt remember what it felt like to not hear the fuzzy hum of my own consciousness reverbing itself. I had frequently had dreams of trying to run and finding myself immobile and screaming silently.

Until one day, I heard someone scream. I had spent the day wandering and skateboarding around the city on what I now know to be a ridiculous dosage of Vicadin, and I ended up in a record store. I had a duct-taped together Discman that only worked when I held pressure in just the right spot, and a hooded sweatshirt with a rather concealing front pocket. I was browsing around idly when “Suck My Left One” came on. Between the drugs and the general dissociation with which I tended to live my life I didn’t pick up on it until the very last few riffs, but after that I knew that I had just experienced something that would change my life forever. I asked the guy what that band was and he gave me the standard snotty record store guy attitude with his response of, “uh, Bikini Kill…. “ and wrote me off. It was 1998, so I guess I was a little bit behind schedule. I asked him if he would play it again, and he snubbed me so I went to the Alternative section and stole a copy of “The C.D. Version of the First Two Records.” I didnt stop listening to it until my shitty Discman kicked the bucket for good. I wish I could say that I then picked up a guitar and started a band of my own, but suffice it to say that I eventually found my own ways to scream that did the trick.

Now, as the mother of twin girls I am concerned with presenting a model of womanhood that provides opportunities to scream and ways to get attention that have nothing to do with being a sexual object. I feel pretty good about what has come out of what started as a pretty shitty run, and if you think Im a success, you can thank riot grrl.

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