Had another rough thought on my mind, but first a song, this one by Simon and Garfunkel titled “The Sound of Silence” (not because it’s associated with these thoughts, was just playing earlier in my car and is a song I love):
While I recognize there are laws on the books I could exploit, I preferred not to do so for various reasons. One being that I wish to believe in the power of love and therefore have no interest in marrying (and divorcing) for money. Furthermore, I don’t see it as the State’s place to approve our unions and so see no reason in going forward to bow to social custom and agree to pay a fine to marry and an even bigger fine to divorce if it doesn’t work out. I paid for my last divorce and do not wish to pony up like that again. And as for using children to extort money from their father, I will not have children (a long-standing decision) and take serious issue with anyone who uses and abuses children in that manner, because it only messes people up and creates needless pain that is completely unfair and immoral. That is my stance on marriage and children and has been for a very long time, as it will remain.
But people like to bark these days about the imbalance of power between the sexes, especially when it comes to those two areas, and now that I am a grown woman I tend to be blamed preemptively for my potential to change my mind and abuse the system to serve my own ends. Well, people can bark all they want — my own views there are set in stone and were brought into being by my own life experiences, which no outside argument can sway. No one needs to believe me, and it shouldn’t matter since I’m not even in the dating game anymore. I have my people and stick with them, and that’s all there is to it. But I share my views because they exist and I see no reason to remain silent.
The thing is that legality isn’t the only area where imbalances can and do occur. We can (and plenty do) experience unfair partiality within our own families. As stated elsewhere on this blog, I am the product of an out-of-wedlock tryst where my biological father was never notified of my existence (and I have no way of contacting him now, having tried in the past, he being a foreigner). So I’ve come up with a mother and her side of the family plus a stepdad and his. My only sibling is a half-brother who is the product of my mother and stepdad’s union, and he and I were raised very differently, even during the years we resided in the same house. My parents were very protective of my brother, over-protective some would say, so he spent most of his time indoors and close to our mother whereas I was encouraged to stay outdoors and to care for myself. I remember being primary school-age and my mother cooking dinner for herself and her son, leaving my stepdad to pick up a meal on the way home from work and me to mooch off of neighbors or steal coins from my stepdad’s cup (locked in a drawer easily jimmied with his handy pocket knife) to buy snacks at the corner gas station.
The books I reflect fondly on having access to as a child weren’t purchased for me but rather were for my brother. They would read to him at night and I’d sit on the floor and listen in. That thought came back to me recently when someone sent that video “The Secret of Oz” to me, remembering back (assuming memory serves me correctly here) to Dad reading The Wizard of Oz to my brother, though I only caught bits and pieces of it.
My brother was sent to a private Christian school that he attended from 1st through 12th grade. When I was younger we moved around a good bit and I was later bounced between relatives and wound up attended 9 separate schools up until I dropped out in the 11th grade, completed my GED, and went to work (having moved out into my first apartment by then at age 16).
I can recall receiving a tiny allowance as a kid, ranging from $2-$4 a week before it was cut off. My brother, however, was frequently handed money to keep in piggy banks and then later in a bank account, which I learned from him a couple of years back came to amount to over $20,000 by the time he hit his 20s. He still sits on that money, as he was taught early on not to spend it, though he’d had what he wanted purchased for him, including many computer and console games.
As a teenager I had no car and relied on the bus or friends (and in some cases strangers) to give me rides. My mother said I had no need for a car, and I did not get one until my husband and I were married and we shared a vehicle (thanks to him working at a bank that repo’d it, we received a good deal on it). Yet, when my brother hit driving age my mother gave her car to him, which he still drives to this day. I paid over $40,000 in car payments over the course of my 20s — my brother has never had to make a single car payment ever.
One that stung me pretty hard was that my brother had his college education paid for by his dad, who happens to be the only dad I’ve ever known also (my maternal grandfather—whom I refer to as Papa—ended up playing more of the role of father, but he earned a lot less and couldn’t afford to help anyone out like that). The loan my brother chose to take on responsibility for paying was under $3,000 and came as a result of our mother taking out a PLUS loan, which she used for her own self (yes, very corrupt, I know, but my brother was only held to paying back about one-fifth of the total amount she borrowed under that false pretense, which he willingly agreed to after refusing to turn her in and press charges). My stepdad helped me pay part of my freshman year in college (which was considered out-of-state and therefore very expensive), but it turns out my 3.25 GPA that year wasn’t high enough to suit him, so I was cut off from thereon and took out loans for the rest of my education, now totaling over $55,000.
I can recall as a youth bringing home straight As for years on end and my parents never seemed to care much. My stepdad would say that good grades were their own reward, so there was no need to compensate me with a pizza night or a money allowance for doing what I ought to be doing. While I do agree with his logic on that these days, I also recall how they seemed so proud of my brother for managing to stay on the B honor roll.
Look, I’m not upset at my brother since he had nothing to do with any of this. I’ve loved him since the day I first laid eyes on him and missed him so much when we lived apart as kids. When I returned as an adult he told me he barely remembered me seeing as how I moved away when he was 7 (we have a 5-year age difference), and that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever heard anyone say. He told me another time that mentioning my name in their house sometimes led to our mother screaming, so I wasn’t discussed much, and he vaguely remembered the fights my parents and I had when I’d been around. It seems that I was used as an example of what not do if you wish to be kept, and he proved to be quite my opposite — quiet, subdued, non-argumentative, easy-going, does what he’s told without much questioning, obeys authority, very reserved, etc.
My brother and I don’t have much of a relationship these days, probably because we were raised so separately and he’s barely familiar with the maternal relatives that I grew up around. He’s since graduated from college with degrees in Finance (a field he has no real passion for) and a computer-related major and has gone on to work in big companies where he’s doing a good job at proving himself. He still lives with our mother and remains under her thumb [spoke too soon — he actually moved out and into an apartment of his own in spring 2014]. Never dated a girl, so far as I’m aware. Never taken a trip by himself or engaged in any big risks. Banks his money and tries never to offend in any way.
Honestly, I wouldn’t want to trade places with him, because he’s had his own challenges to deal with in terms of pleasing those people, though I do feel a bit jilted over how differently we were treated and how many eggs were stacked in his basket as compared with mine. It probably would have been easier to accept their treatment of me had there not been this comparison and disparate ways of parenting, because I grew up well-aware that for some reason I didn’t measure up and wasn’t someone they had much faith in or thought would amount to much of anything. And I suppose it’s proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in some ways, though I’m not doing terribly these days. Did what I felt I had to do to get by, and some of the choices I wound up making will forever taint people’s view of me, and so be it. Such is life. But I guess in terms of my personal upbringing and experiences I feel a bit flustered and frustrated by those who assume it is I who am making out like a bandit just by virtue of being born female in America in this day and age. That’s just not how the cookie crumbles, not for everyone anyway.
I could take the attitude that the world owes me and then make my problems everybody else’s, or worse, have children of my own so as to take it out on them, but no — the buck stops here. Long ago I realized my genes do not deserve to be forwarded on if my family is any indication of how future offspring may turn out. Plus, I am too emotionally impacted to be entrusted with raising youngens who need me to be their everything and to protect them. I just can’t do that full-time, and I won’t be responsible for bringing them here and then failing them. So, perhaps my brother will someday have children, maybe, though it doesn’t look like he’s interested in doing so either. And maybe that too is for the best for all involved.