Ahahahaaha. Apologies to people who have heard this.
My father changed religions frequently when I was a child. There were always new rules and new health crazes. Liquids only before dinner, not during, lest they harm digestion. Lots of vitamins. He had a temper. Would storm out of the house, threaten to throw himself under a bus. He worked in advertising; his secretary wore orchids in her hair. The world was very perilous and still like Mad Men. I feared I was an agent of destruction.
My education was rigorous and peculiar. I wrote two hour essay examinations in every subject from the time I was ten. French lessons at five, Latin at 10, Spanish at 12. Music, art, and acting always. So I could converse well at cocktail parties; actual performers were whores and I should never be one. I left that private school to go to Stuyvesant, where I did nothing, pulled B+’s and then left there at 16 to work and write essays about it for my final credits.
Friends were relatively few, and very close, although other shinier people were often chosen over me in the end. I’m in faint contact with some people from Stuyvesant. No one from my private school. I was ugly, the teachers treated me poorly, it was not a good situation. I learned a lot about forks and curtsies. I was educated better than almost anyone I know just to be a wife I am not.
But I grew up in NYC! My parents were overprotective. But I was a good liar, and didn’t need a lot of resources to do things if I snuck out. Which I did, especially once I had the long commute to Stuyvesant.
What I remember most kindly about my childhood now, is that it was a world of adults who treated me with intellectual, if not emotional, respect. They were negligent of my neurology and my problems. I was taken to doctors often for problems I did not have, and not taken for problems I did. Medicalization of minor issues was an act of love and a tool of control. I spent a lot of time thinking I was dying.
But I was also allowed to be an introvert, and to find my own secret life. Children have no privacy these days, But I had clubs and protests, fabulous fashions, and mentors everywhere I looked, because the walls between children and adults were not then what they are now.
The 1970s and ’80s were a hard scary time, in New York, and in the world. But we lived like everything was almost over, not like we were already dead.
I have a lot of wounds from my childhood. Massive, gaping, often untreated.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.