I just read My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf. My brother was lent the book by one of his friends. My brother is a rock poster designer. He designs for Social Distortion, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Dropkick Murphys regularly but designs and prints posters for any band or entity that wants one and can pay. He’s got dyslexia and supposes that he’s not bright but he’s very intelligent and observant and if you know him well and talk to him you’ll find some interesting conversations waiting to happen. He and I talked to each other often as he was working, silk screening said posters as I racked them. I feel guilty revealing that he’s got dyslexia but he’s open about it and jokes about it making him dumb. The fact is it looks like he’s dumb when he spells things wrong and his handwriting but he’s anything but stupid.
So I saw this illustrated novel on Goodreads a while ago.
My dirty rotten secret is that I was that grungy kid that no one would talk to because I looked like I was kind of retarded. I defocused my eyes so I never looked at anyone straight. I was bullied and ragged on and was an easy target. I had my own scum nickname that the boyus would chant when they felt they needed to feel better about themselves. I was the school and the family whipping girl. I had major depression as a child and slept as much as I could to escape my pathetic life. For some reason whenever I tried to tell anyone how horrid my life was people would undermine me and act like I was putting them on and exaggerating. The fact of the matter is that later on I found out from my Mother that my other brother (not the rock poster designer,) felt guilty for not defending me on the bus from the constant harassment that I would get every bus trip.
Maybe it was because both of my parents worked and they both had educations. Maybe it was because my sister was nominally popular as was my youngest brother. Maybe it was because I was silent and learned eventually to keep my mouth shut and my head low that people thought I had a charmed life or something. People would hand me cheesy platitudes about life seeming so tough as a kid but was really not. Abuse is abuse no matter how old you experience it. People are lazy and stupid as well as dismissive.
I was grungy. I was fat. I was greasy. I was never smiling. I was dressed in hand me downs. I was depressed. I didn’t defend myself. I had snarls in my hair. I was an unpleasant sight. And I wouldn’t talk to people unless I absolutely had to.
Getting back to the book, I could relate to Dahmer as described within. I was weird. (Not as weird as Dahmer.) I had fantasies of becoming a werewolf and killing my classmates and others I felt were harming me. I’d go to the library and research how to become a werewolf (yes there are spells to make oneself a werewolf,) but couldn’t bring myself to render the fat of a human baby. No one asked me what I was reading about so vociferously. No one asked me for the same reason no one asked me how my day was at school. No one gave a shit. A “leave well enough alone” policy reigned in our house. In fact if you kept your grades up in school the reward was that my parents would not keep tabs on you or your homework/schoolwork/social life (or lack thereof.) So basically if you wanted any kind of attention you were fucked. You got negative attention when you did bad and you got no attention if you did good. This messed up standard was the kind of model that was set for my life. As a kid my parents thought I was literally retarded. And they didn’t ask the school to test me they just trusted the school to know what they were talking about. I went to special classes that were actually very pleasant because the usually assholes that occupied the regular classroom that I was in didn’t go to these classes. I went because I REFUSED TO READ. I wasn’t slow. I wasn’t retarded. I wasn’t even average. I didn’t see the reason for reading. There was no reward for me so I didn’t do it. But in this quiet encouraging environment I blossomed quickly into a reader. My payoff? Yes, I got kicked out and back into the abusive classroom of my “peers”. If I sound bitter you’re reading me right. After that I learned to keep my head low. I learned to hide any gifts I had. I learned to make pretend that I was not special, not talented nor did I have any interesting qualities that would get me recognized and removed from any place into a worse situation than I was already in.
When I had an IQ test at age 14 or 13 and they found I had a 130 IQ I was fucked. But I think I wrote about that in another post.
Before I was the retarded sister that no one expected anything of. I believed I was retarded. After testing it was proven that I wasn’t retarded. I couldn’t get back to the easy classes where i could slink back into the background and enter my mind and escape the hellhole reality that life had dealt me. Now I was expected to “pull my weight”. I would go to college. I would get good grades. I would make Mom and dad “happy”. Eventually I learned that I was my sister’s backup if she should fuck up. And she did. And I followed suite. And I was a GREAT disappointment to my parents.
I know this sounds petty. I also know that the majority of you people can not sympathize with what happened to me. You may think that I’ve held a grudge for way too long. It’s not a grudge.This is not one incident, this is a life long attitude and life long lessons based on lazy logic. I was the second child and really didn’t matter. Put in my Mother’s words I was an “oops” child. I wasn’t planned. I also wasn’t really tended to. My sister took care of me. My Mother had no time. My father didn’t care. I couldn’t have known of my self worth. I was never taught that I was worth anything. Any way I became twisted. My morals were questionable based on how easy I could make it for myself since I was in a bubble of pain every day.
So by the time I reached Junior High School (our town was small the Junior and Senior High were in the same building,) I had a well known reputation that would prevent me from ever being dated or even looked at as if I was a viable female and I knew it. And the bullying started in again in earnest. Except this time with the particular cruelty of adolescents. The difference between myself and Dahmer is that I did have loyal friends. They were the lowest common denominator of friends in school but we didn’t betray each other to the general angry throng that was the student body. Trust me if we could have gotten out of our circle and into a better one we would have in a New York minute. We each had been the butt of many jokes all through Elementary School and hadn’t lost any tarnish that came with it. The rest of the school (yes not just our class the school, everyone pretty much knew everyone else and your reputation preceded you in graduation,) made sure we knew it.
My later education involved much avoidance and a growing amount of anger and seething rage. My face helped to deflect people from talking to me. I scared people outwardly when they were not making fun of me. I was a walking time bomb.
I still had dreams of dating. My libido was out of sight and I couldn’t masturbate. I hated my body that much. I was able to cop a feel occasionally when I went to a friend’s house and we went out trawling in her neighborhood. My body image was ruined by the times I had been molested by the scum bag next door who gave me a job and took advantage of the empty bar we were suppose to clean. Dad got me the job. It meant a bottle of whisky that that old scum bag would filch from behind the bar. That was one small thing that helped me to associate the casual skullbuggery that had happened to me in the past to my father who really could give less of a shit about me. My sister reigned supreme anyway in our house hold. I was nothing and anything I was worth was below shit. I wasn’t worth protecting. I wasn’t worth getting serious help for. I wasn’t worth more than a cheap bottle of Ol’ Grandad. And that is why I hold my father to a different length of hanging rope. That is why his name means mud to me. Anything he’s done for me is not because he loved me but because he believed that I was worthless. I was a loser and couldn’t do it myself. I was retarded and deserved to be patronized. He can eat my shit.
His living was a reminder that my life was frivolous.