Friday, October 30, 2009

Gift Horse House

My grandmother bought me a mobile home when I was 19 - a $20,000 gift to me and my cousin. She paid to have the old carpeting and linoleum gutted, and for Van, one of her followers who'd recently moved with his wife to Florida to be near Giggy, to do all the labor. It sounds generous as hell, right? I mean, at the time I thought I owed her everything. The only reason I was able to afford moving out of my mom's house at the time was because she owned the building, and my cousin and I just had to pay lot rent. ($280 a month, or $140 each. I miss that rent.)

The catch? The trailer was across the street from hers, next door to my aunt Sally*. On a block with only five trailers, we were hedged in by elderly, nosy, intrusive relatives. I think she must have done it because she realized she was losing us. There were so many times, I see now, when I started to drift away and, like a cat mauling a lizard, she dragged me back.

Jason* and I had both attended public high school, and he had spent a few years living with his estranged dad who didn't follow our family's brand of reckless self-endangerment as his faith. (But the guy was an alcoholic who had three kids from three different women, all born within 4 months of each other, so it's not like I'm singing his praises or anything. He just wasn't our brand of crazy.) We were both sexually active by that age, and partook of weed and alcohol as opportunity allowed.

We tried to have this totally free young-adult lifestyle, but we were hampered by overbearing religious women on both sides. After some misadventures in cocaine use and my cousin bailing on me mid-month one day to go live with his future-ex-wife, Gig sold the trailer and I moved back in with my mother. I didn't move out again until I lived with my future-ex-husband, who I escaped by moving back in with my mother yet again, until one day she kicked me and my 2-year-old out with no notice for lacking sufficient "gratitude" for her allowing us to cover all the diaper, food, and other non-mortgage payment bills (and to use my car whenever she wanted, since she didn't own one at the time.)

Neither Jason nor I had a decent shot at a real childhood or a real young adulthood. Giggy met her need to constantly manipulate, micromanage, and control our lives - while giving us the illusion of freedom and selfless generosity. Since she had given us this generous home to live in, we owed her whatever she decided we needed to pay that day. Jason got sucked back into being her personal voodoo doll to move all her own pain, self-loathing, and depression onto, and I got sucked back into working for the cult and supporting her aims. I started the cult's (now gone) blog, in fact, as my very first foray into online writing.

I've never lived with anyone who wasn't actively attempting to manipulate or control me, or to tell me how I was allowed to feel and think. The only reason I have that luxury now is because I live alone (with a 4-year-old, but the "pwease??" manipulations of his age have no totalist power over me.) The closest I came before to freedom was in that trailer: sure the person who's name was on the deed wanted something from me; sure I was being blatantly manipulated - but only by the woman across the street, not by anyone inside my own four walls.

Maybe that's why I have a hard time accepting compliments or gifts. I feel there's bound to be an invoice someday, and I don't want to owe anyone anything of worth that could be used to manipulate or control me.

From Bujold's "Komarr"

At a moment like this, she could really wonder why solitary confinement was considered such a severe punishment. Why, nobody could get at you.

* Names changed cause they didn't start a cult, so they get that courtesy.