When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I acted as a child. Now that I am an adult, I am a total fucking asshole.
— Some Asshole
I was born at some hospital in New Orleans when I was very young. Growing up Brown in a time after the utter decay of Louisiana Creole culture, I never really identified with anyone. I went to a predominantly Black, Catholic elementary school called Epiphany. I say, “predominantly,” in that I went there. Everyone else was either Black or convinced they were even though they were in actuality, like me, Creole. When my father grew up here, there were balls for us, entire cultural celebrations. Ironically, with the repeal of segregation laws came the destruction of the mixed culture that comes with the word Creole. By the time I got to high school, I was telling people I was Samoan so I didn’t have to do a grocery list of races when they asked the extremely rude-sounding but well-meaning question, “What are you?”
I spent my childhood trying to find a cultural identity, fighting the label of Black simply because somewhere in my blood a hundred years ago some slaves were raped. Mostly because I don’t see how that makes me any different from anyone else in this country, and in particular this state. Everyone here is a little Indian, a little Spanish, a little French, a little Italian, and a little Black. But if you come out anything darker than apricot, you need to find a label.
In hindsight, I always had a bit of an anxiety problem. I was a sensitive child who was terrified of authority and who followed directions implicitly. It meant I learned very easily but was quickly being crushed by the smallest of actions or reactions by my parents. My father, also a sensitive man, did the least damage to my recalling, but probably did a lot to me by being so goddamned sensitive. I had to take care of him a couple of times when he fell on hard times and my mother was still calling for the child support check. He also, of course, let my mother take custody of me to spare me the legal battle, which he has regretted ever since. My mother is the product of her household — a ball of neurosis and narcissism that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to parenting. Everything I did was a personal attack on her, and she and her family have a tendency to overreact at the slightest hint of rebellion. They hated my father and insulted him in front of me, which only damaged my ego and made me identify more with him than them. My mother, however, was a tollerable, if slightly disfunctional person, and loves me. My grandmother was who raised me, though, as my mother desperately combed through a series of assholes looking for my new father or for her real one. My grandmother was not a nice woman, and squashed my individuality until I had to destroy my mental connection with that entire side of the family in order to sustain my sanity. Now, I could seperate myself from such attacks, but as a child I was not so strong willed.
I cried myself to sleep for an entire week once, convinced I was going to hell because I was a horrible person, which only now I realize was because I was judging myself against perfection. I always have been.
I was related a story from when I was an infant by my father, from before he and my mother were divorced. Mom was giving me a bath, and I crapped in the tub. She freaked out as Dominicks are wont to do, screaming and running from the bathroom, and I started crying. My father had to come in and finish giving me a bath, and admonished my mother for the possible damage she’d done to me. It was, unfortunately, too late.
From as long as I can remember to when I was around 13 and my free will began to surface, I could not go to the bathroom properly. Only in hindsight did I realize that all that time, I was literally holding everything in, doing irrevocable damage to my intestinal track. At the time, it was an involuntary reflex from a child who learned to be terrified of what he had done as a baby, like how if you act scared of a dog in front of your baby it will take that fear from you and turn it into a phobia. I was put on medication after medication, and received more enemas and even a barium colonic on one occasion from ages 4-12, no one ever putting together that I was the one keeping my shit in for up to a week at a time. By 12, my metabolism was fucked and I had stopped playing or doing physical activities because I had to worry about shitting my pants. All of this distraction also lead to me being afraid of doing other things, and my mother did not make me learn these things because she had been dealing with so much terror for me that she leaned towards coddling. Thus, I was fat from ages 13-23 and I do not know how to drive, ride a bike, or swim. In many ways, I am still dealing with the ramifications of a shit I took when I was an infant. I do not tell people this story, ever. I am doing it now in the hopes that it will lift some of the burden from me. You see, I hold everything in, even now, and I am tired of it.
The same type of terror that gripped me about going to the bathroom, the same demon that shakes me to my core and paralyzes me behind the wheel of an automobile, is the same fear that grips me about the opposite sex. I see a cute girl and suddenly, I can’t move. The world fades away and the fear is all there is. Just a heartbeat and the tears I hold back like everything else. I can’t even form words. Maybe, if I hadn’t gone to an all-boy high school, I’d have gotten used to them earlier and developed a sexual identity, but I think it would have been pretty much the same as everything else — no identity. That same paralyzing terror would have been present, but perhaps I would have had more immediate obsessions. As it stood, that did not happen until college.
I went to Jesuit for high school. This time, all-male and predominantly White, although still Catholic and crippling. I realigned my identity with people who talked more like I did, liked the same music as me, had similar ideals. They were not a lot like me, but they had to do. I was fat and brown and I didn’t meet a single girl while I was there. Just as my hormones were pumping full tilt, I was denied even a casual contact with females, and the impossibility of their being interested in me anyway was very real. I did not look like the guys on TV who the girls liked. I was not Jared Leto, though I wanted a girl like Claire Danes very badly. The internet ended up being my first outlet into the social world, and I met my first girlfriend there. I have only physically hung out with Irina once, but she is still one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and I consider that a real experience. She was certainly realer than my other obsessions back then, which all took the form of women and girls on TV or in movies. (Side note, I was selected for Natalie Portman’s Fanatic, but then they never ended up doing it.) High school was a horribly depressing time in my life, but there are a few things I learned there that helped me save myself — rebellion, and the surrogate family that friends can be.
I was medicated, yet again, this time with Prozac, which turned a very depressed teen into a sucidal one. Then Effexor, where I missed a day and literally could hear my own eyes moving. I started college, hanging out with my cousin’s friends now that most of my high school group had moved on to different pastures. Eventually, a combination of my own sensitivity and my inability to actually talk to girls, and my perception of myself as a quasimodo-like creature put me into several situations with no good ending in sight. My abandonment issues made me fall for girls who would fuck anything but me, including my friends, which caused me to lose it on one particular occasion and end up in Charity’s mental ward. I didn’t want anyone to have to pay a bill for my weird, vain freakout.
But college was a game changer for me. More on that in part 2.