In kindergarten I brought a pair of Indian moccasins for show and tell. The teacher, Mrs. Yeoman, told me to go next door, to the other kindergarten class to show them too. I froze. The idea of it filled me with anxiety, but how could I tell anyone that? I went into the hallway that connected the two classes and stayed there for what I thought was a long enough time and then returned. No one was the wiser, especially me.

Perhaps it was the first time, or maybe just the first I remember, but it was not the last time I “faked” it to get through uncomfortable tasks. It did become a pattern throughout my life. I needed someone to take me by the hand to guide me through the feelings, but that never happened. I am pretty sure my parents operated on the theory that if they couldn’t remember anything before the age of 5, that we wouldn’t either and it didn’t matter much how we were treated.

So where did the shame come from? Which came first — the chicken or the egg. At that age, you can tell a lot about who you are from how you’re treated. I was the last kid in a large family — the baby, as it were, about as wanted as a bargain basement pair of shoes. My mother told me I was “wanted”, which meant that she wanted “a friend” for my older sister, but apart from serious jealousy, we didn’t really have a relationship. Three years is a big gap when you’re under ten.

The shame came from being nobody in my own family. I didn’t fight it; I had no weapons, nothing at which I could shine. I needed approval, but the conundrum was this: if you had to ask for it, it was invalid. It had to be spontaneous. Warmth and love happened when I was sick. I got attention when I was naughty. I was ignored much of the rest of the time because my mother was so busy and my father was never home. I was lonely and forgotten. I was ashamed because I was white trash.

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