29 May, 2006


Sometimes, I wonder how much of my response to things is because of having been abused as a kid, and how much is actually related to the situation at hand. Over the past couple of days, two things have happened that are still troubling me.

In the first case, it was all about tone of voice--I got intensely triggered overhearing my SIL putting her kids to bed, snapping and yelling at them as they got more resistant to laying down to sleep. I could understand that the situation was stressful--the kids had had an exciting day, and were in a strange bed, and we'd had dinner later than we should have; SIL had had a long and tiring day, hadn't gotten enough rest the night before, and didn't have the support of her husband putting the kids down for the night. But as she snapped and snarled at the kids, I couldn't help feeling that sense of impending danger that I felt throughout my childhood. SIL wouldn't beat her children, and I know she loves them, but emotionally, it's still hard for me to separate.

The second case is even harder. I was chatting with one of the kids who lives next door to us yesterday. He had on a sleeveless t-shirt, and I noticed a bruise near the side of his chest. It was a narrow, sideways u-shape. It's a shape I'm familiar with, peering in the mirror, or craning my head, the day after a spanking with the loopy toy. And try though I might, I can't think of anything other than a looped cord that would result in a bruise like that.

In neither case am I sure what I should do. I will definitely keep an eye on the kids next door; but would social services actually help? It's such a hard thing to figure out. And W. and I are trying to figure out how to approach tone of voice with her sister in a way that will actually help both the kids and SIL.

Yeah, so that's what's on my mind right now. I'm just not sure what to do.

24 May, 2006

The Rule of Silence/ Story: Revenge

We don’t talk about these things. If there was one rule obeyed in our family, it was the rule of silence. As adults, I think each of us has touched on speaking, and then backed away, putting up walls of denial between ourselves.

My sisters and I, between the four of us, probably show nearly every symptom of having been sexually abused as children. Physical problems, mental ones, emotional ones: the signs are there, but we don’t talk about it. My older sisters talk almost constantly about their various physical problems, but have never mentioned sexual abuse as a possible factor. My younger sister? Well, she’s the one who does the acting out, sleeping around, making really unwise choices, having brief intense affairs, and all of that.

Four or five years ago, she asked me whether I had ever wondered whether I’d been sexually abused. Her timing was bad: I was on the way out the door to the first meeting of a class, and our younger brother was visiting. I meant to get back to her on it, but… well, I didn’t.

Part of it is because it’s all tangled up in shame and guilt and denial. As much as things happened to us, there are the things we did to each other. And it becomes difficult to confront, because I don’t know how to approach one part without acknowledging the others. I remember the sheer mean-ness of how we—me, my older sisters, my mother—treated my little sister because we were jealous of how her father favored her over the rest of us. We teased her, a lot. And none of us protected her.

And there is the anger I hold towards my next-older sister, who even if she didn’t sexually abuse me (she may or may not have, I don’t remember clearly enough to say), definitely taught me that she had the right to touch my body whenever and however she chose, whether or not I wanted her to do so. It’s something I’m not entirely able to forgive, and as I grow older, I still hold her responsible for it. She may have been hurt herself, she may have been young, but I still believe she should have been old enough to know better.

I worry, sometimes, that part of why I am reluctant to get clear memories of my childhood is that I, too, did things to hurt my siblings. I don’t know, and I also have no idea what I would do with those memories if I had them. The rule against speaking holds strong, and words are a weak tool for making up for sins I committed a quarter of a century ago.

The rest of this post is a story I wrote quite a few years ago, pulling together some memories I had on this topic.



Excitement flared as soon as I saw the door. I had to have that room. It HAD to be my room. A lock, and no one in the family had the key. Nothing could be better than that.

I got the room, not so much because of the lock, but because the room was roughly the size of a large closet, and only had a tiny window, which looked out on the blank wall of the neighbor's house. When we moved in, the room was mine. And there was no key to the lock.

For the first time in my memory, I could sleep every single night, safe behind my dead-bolted door. I had that room for six months.

The next summer, I went to visit my father for the first time. I was away for the whole summer. I was eight, and I mostly forgot what it was like, back home. At the end of the summer, I returned. I was nine now, and, with my hair in fancy cornrows and beads, and my ears pierced, I was a new person. Someone who could sleep at night for three whole months, with the door wide open, and not have to worry.

I took my suitcase up to my room, and got ready to show my family all the things I'd made and gotten that summer. But something was different. I looked around the room. My red white and blue quilt still lay across my bright red bed. My books were on their shelves. My toys were piled in their box. My winter clothes sat on the closet shelves. What was different?

And then I saw it. The lock was broken!

Mom! What happened to my LOCK?!

My little sister, the blonde haired, blue-eyed princess, the one everyone loved best, had been in the room. She locked the door. No one could get it open. She couldn't get it open. My stepfather got a ladder, and climbed into the room from outside. He broke the lock so she wouldn't get stuck in there again.

How could she ruin this for me? How could she RUIN it?!

I was furious. I was helpless. I wanted nothing more than revenge.

My revenge came within a few weeks. She said she had missed me. She begged and begged, and finally convinced me to move my bed out into the big room, and have it across from hers. We could share a room. We could be friends. I didn't want to be her friend. She ruined my lock.

That night, I heard the sounds, and I turned to face the wall. I didn't have to hear them. I closed my eyes. I didn't have to see the shadows. I made myself a story. I didn't have to be in that room.

Later, I heard her voice. "I had a nightmare. Can I get in bed with you?"

My revenge was ready. "No. You'll be fine. Go to sleep."

The next night, as we got ready to go to sleep, she begged. "I don't want to have a nightmare. Can I sleep in your bed?"


"Please, please, can I sleep in your bed?"

"No. Here," I gave her my stuffed cat, a present from my stepmother. "Sleep with this. You won't have nightmares if you sleep with this." It was a lie, and I knew it. But I was her big sister, and she believed me.

The sounds came again that night, and the next, and the next. I learned always to sleep facing the wall. I had to be invisible. If he noticed me, I wouldn't be safe any more. With her in the room, I was safe. He didn't love me, because I wasn't his real daughter.

She finally gave up begging to share my bed. We didn't talk about our

But she finally figured out how to get her own revenge. One day, we were playing outside, and both of us wanted the bicycle at the same time. I was three years older, so I was able to shove her away, and get on the seat.

"I hate you," she shouted,

"Why?" I asked, since that had stumped her in the past.

"I hate you because you're black." The words, lashing from the mouth of a six year old, couldn't have been her own. We didn't talk about me being black in the family, not openly. We both knew it was something not to talk about, even if we didn't know why.

It hurt. She hated me for something I had no control over.

Even if it wasn't really my skin color at fault.

She slapped me. I ran inside to tell.

She ran after me. Mom was at the store, or at the doctor, or somewhere not at home. My sister's father was taking care of us.

"She slapped me," I tattled.

"Because she pulled down my pants outside," she lied in retaliation.

My stepfather grabbed the excuse. Even though it would never occur to me to do that, he was happy to punish me.

"I'll show you what it's like to have your pants pulled down," he shouted, and yanked down my pants and underwear. My sister and brothers watched, without surprise. Spankings were common enough.

He quickly glanced around the room, and picked up an extension cord. He pushed me over the arm of a chair, and began to lash my bottom and thighs. "You'll never do something like that again," he warned.

The pain began to burn through my whole body. "I DIDN'T do it!" I protested. It did no good. He continued to whip me with the extension cord.

My body was on fire. I couldn't make it stop. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I begged, but I couldn't stop him.

Afterwards, my bottom and thighs were raw with welts, but it was okay, because it was fall, and I wouldn't be wearing shorts any more until summer. No one would see the welts.

My sister and I kept seeking revenge. I pulled further and further away from her. She searched out ways to punish me for the things that neither of us could control.

I still hate her for making me lose my lock.

I still feel guilty for not sharing my bed.

I am finally learning that I hated the wrong person all those years.

Fear of Writing

I’ve wrangled around with this entry a lot of different ways, and the words fight me every single time. I think the problem is that I’m so used to not writing about this issue, that it’s really difficult to find a way of facing it down.

See, the reason I haven’t been writing on my dissertation is that, separate from all the usual reasons people don’t write, I also have to fight intense terror of the act of writing itself. It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, and gets worse the more direct and real I have to be in the writing. Thus, writing a history dissertation becomes something of a problem, because I have to take facts and make my interpretation of them as clear as I possibly can.

When I sit to write, and it’s something that touches on reality, I struggle. When I’m lucky, I can find that clear space in my head, and write without connecting to what I’m writing about. Things focused on the present, touching only peripherally on my emotions, are the easiest. I can write lists and charts with very little difficulty. Stories are pretty easy, most of the time, until they become stories about myself.

But writing, real writing, writing where I take facts and state an interpretation of them… this becomes terrifying. I sit to write and my hands shake, my vision grows dim, the world tilts and spins around me. A filter intervenes, somewhere between thought and expression, to make what I’ve said as inscrutable as possible.

I thought, for years, that this was just a problem with academic writing. In college, both I and my professors were puzzled by it, because I could express my thoughts clearly in words, and I had definitely mastered the mechanics of writing… but my papers did far more to obscure my thinking than to express it.

And then, after college, I read over some of my journals, and realized that the avoidance and inscrutability were more, rather than less, present. I noticed that, and kind of worked on it, but mostly put it aside. I couldn’t really face the reasons that I find it so hard to put words onto paper (or onto screen, as the case may be). I hoped that the problem would go away, without me having to actually face it.

But I’ll keep trying to do this.

After I was in the hospital last February, I had voices in my head, repeating over and over “This is what we SAID would happen if you told. It’s what happened the last time.” And I could only respond, “What last time? I’ve never told.”

Then my brain would thrust forward a half-remembered event from my childhood. When children’s services came to investigate. The thing is, I always remembered this as being because my sister said or did something in school that made them come. But the image was persistent.

So I make my guesses. Perhaps I was the one who wrote something at school, something that made my teachers wonder, something that caused social services to come. I don’t remember what happened afterward, but I cringe every time someone mentions a social service investigation. I am terrified for the kids in the family.

When I worked in a high school, and was a mandatory reporter, I hoped I would never have to call children’s services. I remember my absolute fury in the training, because they instructed us not to tell the kid whose parents we were reporting that we were doing so.

And I have to wonder. Why do I remember the… violence coming towards me, if I wasn’t the one who told? Why am I the one who has such fear of putting things down in words, if it wasn’t me who made the mistake in the first place?

But I struggle with that, because it’s tied up with realizing that perhaps there was a time when I wasn’t able to keep myself safer than my sisters and brothers, when I wasn’t able to maintain that protective distance.

Rationally, I know that there’s nothing my family could do to hurt me now, no matter what I put into writing. It’s still hard, to get past that part of my brain that has kept me safe for the last quarter of a century. I am accustomed to writing around and through the barriers, finding ways of getting words out without alerting my internal censors to the danger.

I need to find a different way, though. I have a strong sense that the only way for me to get this dissertation finished and get on with my life is to finally face those censors directly, to address why they are there, and hopefully to put them to rest. It feels like dragons or monsters, lurking in my brain, waiting to attack as soon as I make the wrong move. And let’s face it, I can’t write clearly enough when I’m cringing, waiting to be attacked.

So I’ll give this a try, writing about those forbidden topics, trying to prove that it’s really okay, that I can say what I need to say without being beaten or yelled at. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it.

19 May, 2006

The Punishment Book

The women over at the Punishment Book asked me to join them this week. I am flattered and looking forward to sharing the space with them (um, well, not so much in the sense of looking forward to being punished, but, you know, to the self-expression part).

I posted an introduction yesterday. And then, last night, W. gave me a totally unexpected punishment, which I write about in greater detail over there. Because, well, it seemed to make more sense over there.

I've got some things running through my brain that I'm going to be posting about here, but there's thunder and lightning again, and dinner is getting close to ready, so I'll write about those things later.

18 May, 2006

Is It Okay To Spank an Inner Child?

So, yeah. I posted three weeks ago about W’s and my conclusion that it’s okay to spank an inner child. But time goes by, and one goes through actual, rather than theoretical experiences, and things become less clear.

I have continued to be varying levels of cranxious. Most of it, I think, is the process of working through the feelings that therapy and my foray into craziness are bringing up. (No, I don’t really think I’m crazy. I just, you know, have issues to work through.) And when the emotional load gets to a point where I can’t ignore it, I don’t always manage to let the feelings out in a reasonable, responsible, adult kind of way.

Last weekend, after several days of hearing my inner child demand—ever more loudly—to be allowed to throw a tantrum, I let it out. And, boy oh boy, is my inner child childlike. So I threw all of the socks at the wall. And then all of the pillows. And then I dumped all of the dirty laundry on top of that. It wasn’t enough. That inner child had a lot of frustration and anger to let out.

So I proceeded to my playroom (and, for the dirty-minded out there, I really mean “playroom”—it’s where we’ve got the playmobils and the blocks and the arts and crafts supplies). I dumped out all of the blocks and rattled them all over the floor. It wasn’t enough.

So I did something entirely, utterly childish. I got out the finger-paints, and proceeded to paint all over the wardrobe. Boy, was it satisfying. My inner child finally felt like it had gotten a chance to do something bad. It wasn’t quite enough, though. Since my (by then inner) adult objected to writing “bad words” on the wardrobe, just in case the paint didn’t wash off, the child wasn’t entirely satisfied. So we got out some expensive Post-It brand poster paper, put several sheets on the wall, painted on them, and then used pens to write bad words.

And in a full display of maturity, my inner child decided that the “bad words” it needed to write were things like “uglybutt” and “fart face.” Silly? Sure. Satisfying? Very much so.

But on some levels, my inner child was destined for disappointment. Because as much as it wanted its bad behavior to be recognized and limited… well, W. didn’t quite comply with our plans. Partly, it was because she thought it was just silly and funny. I can see this, and, yeah, it was pretty silly and funny. Mostly, though, it’s because she felt that it was good for me to let my feelings out, and she didn’t want to discourage me from doing it.

I’d like to say that I think she’s right. But as I check in with that part of me, I can understand the disappointment. There’s a safety in having reasonable limits imposed on my behavior. It wasn’t safe for me to behave badly as a kid, because the response was disproportionate, dangerous, violent. So I have always fiercely controlled myself, and I have learned to turn all of my anger and frustration and rage on myself.

My adult side has trouble letting go enough to let this inner child out into the world. It’s an embarrassing part of me, especially when it doesn’t behave well. It’s messy and irresponsible and bratty. And it’s looking for limits, and I can either test limits or impose them. I can’t do both.

So we go back, W. and I, to pondering whether or not it’s okay to spank an inner child. (Or, for that matter, wash its mouth out with soap, or send it to bed early, or whatever.) If it were a real child, neither of us would consider those options. And if I’m behaving like a child, then shouldn’t I be treated like a child? So it becomes difficult.

Several times recently, W. has brought up the idea of couples counseling with someone we could talk to about the role of spanking in our lives. I admit that I’m incredibly wary of this, for a lot of reasons. But it’s still something to consider, and perhaps having a neutral person to mediate the discussions could help us to stop going over and over the same ground.

And, who knows, maybe they could help us answer the question:

Is it okay to spank an inner child?

15 May, 2006


Several years ago, back before I met W., I saw this bath brush on sale at Bath and Body Works while searching for a rubber ducky. I figured, you can't go wrong for $7. I bought it solely for the purpose of washing my back. Well, and also, as it turns out, as a back scratcher. No, really! Okay, I did have spanking in mind, just a little bit, but since I didn't have someone to spank me, it was mostly a vague fantasy.

Since meeting W. it has, of course, been tested out for spanking purposes. The back side is pretty noisy, but I think W. likes it anyways because she gets, um, a lot of bang for her buck. And the bristle side is shockingly wicked, yet pretty quiet. So the bath brush often ends up in the bedroom instead of beside the tub where it belongs.

More recently, we've gotten some kitchen-related multitaskers.
I saw the red item on the top for sale at Whole Foods. It is called, I kid you not, "The Switchit." It's a narrow silicone spatula with a metal core. The wide end has a pleasant sting and the narrow end hurts like holy heck. I admit, between the bright red color and the name, I bought this one primarily for spanking, although it's seen some use in the kitchen as well.

That wooden spoon is a different story. I've been on a quest for a wooden spoon that doesn't hurt... my hands, while I am mixing things in the kitchen. I bought this spoon, since OXO products are generally pretty good about being ergonomic. However, when mixing a stiff dough, this one tends to bite into my hands a bit more than I like. So once I'd gotten another spoon that I like a bit better, I tossed this one into the toy cupboard.

I brought it out last night as W. was mourning her hairbrush that cracked last week during a vigorous (but strangely unpainful to me) spanking. (I guess those drugstore hairbrushes with the little spiky things simply are not meant to be spanking tools!)

Oh. My. Goodness!!! First, the spoon is incredibly quiet for a flat wooden implement. Second, W. was delighting in the marks it leaves--a white spoon outline, followed in short order by a bright red oval. But third--that thing hurts like crazy, and leaves a lasting burn.

W. likes the control she has over it (no catching herself on the hand, as has been known to happen with the evil "loopy toy"). I like the fact that, also unlike the evil loopy thing, the spoon can be used at varying levels of intensity.

So there we have it: three great, inexpensive spanking toys that also have uses outside of the bedroom.

12 May, 2006

Story: Got Topping?

I wrote this Janey and Michelle story for the SSC Short Story Contest a few years ago. I was reminded of it by facing the same situation at the grocery store earlier this week. Why is it they can have an excellent price on ice cream... and have nothing but vanilla on the shelves (or, in the case of this week, also Edy's brand Spumoni, which is just not appealing to me!).

Anyhow, here's the story:

Got Topping?

I observed my flavor options for the ice cream that was on special this week, and pouted. "Vanilla. Nothing but vanilla. What is UP with this city?"

Janey ignored me.

"Not EVERYONE prefers VANILLA," I grumped. Janey continued to ignore me, but I was getting a few glances from other shoppers.

"I mean, really," I continued, trying to provoke Janey, "SOME people are a little more ADVENTUROUS, and would like MORE than VANILLA." I was either feeling feisty or premenstrual. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference.

"Okay, fine." Janey reached into the freezer, and plunked a carton of vanilla into the cart. She started walking away. Since my bag was in the cart, I figured I'd better follow along.

"I said, I don't WANT just VANILLA."

"No problem," she said, and kept walking.

She turned the cart into one of the aisles. "I can provide you with some TOPPING." She put a jar of fudge sauce into the cart, and walked briskly on.

Waiting in line, she said, "I'll be right back." She returned with a wooden spoon.

"What's that for?" I asked suspiciously.

"We need a special one, for the topping," she explained snidely. "It doesn't stop being vanilla unless the topping gets BEATEN in."

A woman my grandmother's age was behind us in line. "I don't think you should beat it that hard, sweetie," she suggested, "It might get all drippy."

Janey and I looked at each other, and tried not to snicker.

We got to Janey's house, and as soon as we'd put the ice cream in the freezer, she had me bare-assed and leaning over one of her kitchen stools so she could test out the spoon.

And then, to make up for the bottom-smacking, she gave me ice cream with hot fudge sauce. But she let me use my own spoon to mix it in.