I grew up in a city in Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, OH. I played in an alleyway and cemetery that were behind our house.
My parents made sure we were fed and I never went without a home, but other than that, I was left to my own devices.
My mother worked two jobs because the money from my narc father’s job (sometimes jobs) supported his gambling addiction.
The only grooming education I got as a child was to brush my teeth. I am grateful for that. I didn’t learn about hair styles or how to match clothes. I certainly didn’t learn anything girly. I went to Catholic school, so my school clothes were already picked out for me.
It would have been preferable (at least for my dad) if I had been a boy. The very least I could do was be a pretty and presentable girl for him to show off.
I heard a lot of derogatory comments about my looks as a child from my father. In looking at old pictures, I was actually a very pretty little girl, but no one took the time to teach me how to care for myself. Mostly, I went with the ‘raised by wolves’ look when I wasn’t in school.
When you are raised by a neglectful narcissist, the sting of rejection is a lesson well learned. Apparently, there is another type where you are smothered by your parent. From what I’ve read, that type is really no better at all.
I found that it was easier to fade into the shadows as much as possible. Follow along, don’t make waves and don’t ask for anything. If you never ask for attention, then you can’t be hurt when the request is denied.
But there was this boy.
Charlie Bright. Isn’t that a great name? It sounds made up, but it’s not. He belonged to the crowd of street rats that I hung out with. He had big eyes, thick lips, and I thought he was beautiful.
I was probably 10 or 11 years old and my band of friends were constantly pairing off. He went with her then she went with him. It was innocent enough. I wanted Charlie Bright to be my boyfriend.
My best friend’s name was Nancy. She was bad ass. She wasn’t afraid of anyone and all the boys wanted her as their girlfriend.
I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but Nancy decided to take it upon herself to ask Charlie why he wasn’t my boyfriend. She asked this right in front of me. I can remember with full clarity that hot/cold feeling of fear and excitement. I remember looking at him, terrified but hopeful. I never put myself out there. I always hid, but not this time. I wasn’t going to say “EWW, gross. I don’t want a boyfriend”. I just looked at him and waited for his response.
He wasn’t cruel when he said what he said. I guess that would have been worse. I guess if he had laughed at me, it would have been worse. What he said was “Michelle, go home and wash your face”.
I don’t recall if I went home right then, or if it was later. When I did get home and looked in the mirror, there was a long smear of dirt across one cheek.
I was horrified. I was ashamed.
No wonder he didn’t want me to be his girlfriend.
To this day, I am sickened if I find a smudge of anything on my face. It makes me feel like that little girl who was constantly coated in a layer of city dust.
I don’t know how many opportunities I have let pass me by because of my fear of rejection. Honestly, I don’t even want to think about it. What good will that do? The past is gone.
I put myself out there again.
It’s not the first time I’ve put myself out there. I haven’t lived my entire life in the shadows. But this is the first time I considered putting myself out there that made me think about that little girl with the dirty face.
A blogger I admire put a call out for guest posts. She wanted posts that have to do with change. I had a couple ideas and thought I would float them out to her. I wrote her a short email with my ideas and when I finished writing it, decided to not contact her.
Her blog is a professional blog. She is an admired and successful blogger. I was sure she would be kind and let me down gently, but I was reasonably sure that there is no way my voice could be on her blog.
I sent the email anyway.
I started writing this post before getting a response from her. I had no idea how it would end. I would either wrap it up by writing how a rejection didn’t define me or defeat me, or I’d end it by writing how taking a chance actually panned out.
She responded with YES YES YES.
I can’t begin to tell you how nice it was to start my New Year with those words.
We all want to hear YES YES YES. But hearing no shouldn’t stop us from trying or stop us from living. Life is so much easier when you aren’t afraid of ‘No’. At least I suspect it is.
This acceptance won’t make me bold and fearless. I don’t know that I’ll ever get over feeling afraid of rejection.
However, it did feel good. Not just the ‘yes’ part (although that is my favorite part) it felt good to ask.
I’m not that sad girl anymore. I still carry some of her fears and her scars, but I’m an entirely different person. I’m always going to be one of the adult children of narcissists, but I am not a child anymore.
I wonder if Charlie Bright ever got off Philadelphia Street?