Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble by being yourself? Had your motives misunderstood? Done something wrong without knowing it was wrong, thinking you were being funny and had it taken the wrong way? Had your family take the other person’s side, blaming you, putting you in the wrong, not even trying to see things from your side? I thought by now those days were over. I’m nearing 70 years old. My parents can’t get mad at me anymore, as they’ve both been dead for years. I should certainly be able to do what I want, as long as I don’t hurt anyone. But there are still people in my family, younger than I am, who stand in judgement and tell me being myself is selfish. I’m to do what I’m told. Period.
When I was little, no more than five, my mother told me not to walk in puddles with my shoes on. So I took my shoes off and walked in puddles in my socks. That was the only time my mother ever took the belt to any of us kids. I was the oldest, and I think she decided that the belt was a bit much, so I saved my younger brother and sister from ever feeling the crack of the belt. I still look back on that and don’t see my crime. Certainly wet socks were never a big deal when I became a mother.
When I was in my senior year in high school, I secretly got my ears pierced. That time, I knew I was disobeying a direct order. I always loved earrings and used to play in my grandmother’s jewelry box for hours, trying on all her earrings and looking in the mirror to admire them. My grandmother had all clip-on and screw-on earrings, which hurt her ears after a few hours. She’d always wanted to get her ears pierced but never had the courage, even the day my uncle pierced his daughter’s ears for her in my grandmother’s dining room. I asked my father repeatedly over the years if I could get my ears pierced, but he was firm. As long as I lived under his roof, I had to live by his rules, and he said no. I heard all the arguments: if God had wanted me to have holes in my ears, I would have been born with them. Why not put plates in my lips or stones under my skin?
When a classmate offered to pierce my ears for me, I bought the smallest earrings I could find and kept my ears covered under my hair around my father for months. My mother knew I’d done it, and I thought she must have told him, so when a mutual friend asked one evening if I’d gotten them done, I said yes, right in front of my father. He threatened not to attend my graduation. He threatened to fire me in front of the entire staff at camp that summer, where I…