This was originally posted in January 2008.
“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Perhaps the greatest irony of all time is that our parents are the ones who make us, but they are also the ones who break us, and we spend most of our adult lives trying to undo the damage they have done to us. My mother did the best job she could raising me, and when I hear the stories some of my friends tell about how bad their parents were, I really count my blessings. But that doesn’t change the fact that my mother, despite being a great human and a wonderful person, totally screwed me up as a kid. And now, as I slide down the slippery slope of being a single man pushing 40, and wonder how come I’ve had so many fucked up relationships, I realize how much of my current predicament goes back to my childhood.
For those of you just joining the Adventures of David Walker, let me give you a quick overview. I was raised primarily by my mother and my paternal grandparents. My father died before I was two years-old, leaving me without a stable male role model in my life. Sure, there was my grandfather, some uncles and few cousins, but the two dominant adults in my life were my mother and my grandmother (that’s me and my mom in the picture below and to the left). And again, I know they both did the best job they could, and I think the fact that I have never been arrested, that I have no criminal record, that I have never beaten or cheated on any of the ladies in my life, and have not fathered any children only to neglect them, speaks volumes about how well I was raised. But I also think that my pathetic love life also says something about how I was raised. Don’t get me wrong, because I take full responsibility for every bad choice I’ve made when it comes to whose hand I’ve chosen to hold, and where I’ve stuck my dick. But the other day I was having a conversation with a friend who was telling me about some drama their 9 year-old was going through, and it opened up a series of forgotten memories that hit me like a shotgun blast to the face. And when I recovered, I was left with the profound realization of, “Oh, that explains a lot.”
There are two primary stories that set the stage for the life I was going to lead. The first was when I was in kindergarten. I don’t know what it is like now, but back then you only went to kindergarten for a half day. I was in the morning session, and Kyra Robertson, who lived across the street from me was in the afternoon session. Kyra was one of those flamboyant, gregarious girls who really freaked me out as child. As I recall, she was kind of weird looking, with bright red hair and a face full of freckles, and I remember thinking that she looked like Pippi Longstocking’s chubby sister. Because Kyra was “weird”, and because of her bright red hair and face full of freckles, she earned the unfortunate nickname of Diaper Rash. Honestly, I never called her Diaper Rash (at least not to her face), because I saw that it made her cry, and I didn’t want to make her cry. But just because I never called her Diaper Rash, it does not mean I was particularly nice Kyra.
The problem with Kyra was that she was in love with me—at least as much as a 5 year-old girl can be in love with a 5 year-old boy. Every day, when the school bus would drop me off, it would pick her up; and as I was getting off the bus, she would grab me and kiss me. One time, I managed to dodge the kiss, but she chased me, tackled me, and planted a wet one on my cheek. This happened all the time, and it was humiliating and disgusting to me, mainly because according to everyone in kindergarten, Diaper Rash had the cooties, which I was certain to get if she kissed me. Of course, all the adults thought it was cute, the way she would jump on my as I exited the school bus. I was beside myself, because it was only a matter of time before I got the cooties from Kyra, and none of the adults who witnessed her sexually assaulting me day after day would do anything about it. My mother told me that there was nothing wrong with Kyra liking me. “But mom, she’s gross and she has the cooties and all the kids at school call her Diaper Rash.”
My mother explained that there was no such thing as the cooties, that if I ever referred to Kyra as Diaper Rash, even in private, that she would beat my ass to the point I could no longer sit, and that the day would come when I would appreciate the fact that Kyra loved me. “You should consider yourself lucky that she thinks enough of you to try and kiss you every day,” is what my mother said. That was perhaps the first curse my mother placed on me.
When I look back on my social life as it pertains to the women I’ve dated, slept with, and dated and slept with (because the two are not always the same), I can see that there are certain recurring patterns, and that while there have been many women in my life, in various capacities (as well as positions), I can see that approximately 99% of them fall into one of two types. One of those types is the woman who likes me more than I like her. These are the adult equivalents to Kyra, who instead of waiting for me to exit the school bus so they could jump on me and give me a kiss, would do things like frost their face with my manhood, take a ride on my rocket, and let me poke at their hay. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent, laying in bed with some woman I should not have been laying next to, feeling the conflicted emotions of gratitude that she thought enough of me to have sex, but disappointment in myself that I would stoop to humping some chick I didn’t really like that much.
When Kyra turned six or seven, she invited me to her birthday party. As the only boy in the whole school to be invited, I was mortified. This was compounded by the fact that she was telling everyone how she was going to kiss me, and I was convinced her house was a breeding ground for the cooties. Even though I begged and pleaded, my mother forced me to go the party. “You are going to that party, young man. She thought enough of you to invite, so you are going, even if it’s just for a minute. You go, and then tell her you have to do something with your mother, give her the present and leave. But you are going, or I will beat your ass!!!”
So, I went to Kyra’s birthday party, and I brought her the Josie and the Pussycats board game that we bought at Bradlees, and I handed her the present, and made up some lie about how I could not stay. Now, I haven’t thought about this in over 20 years, but I remember at the time, Kyra was so thankful for the present that she started to cry when I handed it to her, but the tears quickly turned to disappointment when I lied to her and I told her I could not stay. I was no more than six or seven years-old, but I felt like total shit. Fast-forward twenty-something years later, and it was pretty much the same scenario with any one of a string of women. But instead of showing up to their birthday party with a Josie and the Pussycats board game, I had shown up to their place with a pocket full of Trojans and a lion that was ready to roar. But I seldom wanted to be there, I was just fulfilling some obligation that arose from them liking me. And I can’t tell you how many of them had that same disappointed look Kyra had when I left her party, as I made up some lame excuse for not spending the night.
The second tale that explains why I’m so fucked up—and I apologize for taking so long to get to it—takes place right around the same time Kyra was chasing after me. After kindergarten, I would get off the bus, Kyra would grab me and kiss me, and I would retreat to the house of the lady who watched me until my mom or grandmother got off work and could pick me up. The woman’s name was Cathy, and I hated being there because I was surrounded by her three daughters who loved to tease me, a few kids younger than me, and this girl named Brooke. Brooke was a skinny black girl, maybe a year or two older than me. She wore her hair in afro puffs, and the sadistic bitch was pure evil incarnate. Everyday at Cathy’s house, she would tease and torment me more than the other girls, and once in a while would kick me in the shins. By the time summer rolled around, and we were all going to the same day camp, things with Brooke got out of hand. She walked up to me one day, and slapped me across the face so hard I almost started to cry. Then one day she literally grabbed me, and tried to claw my eye out of my head. Amazingly enough, Brooke managed to time her attacks when no one else was around. I was terrified of this skinny little cunt, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she killed me. So, I decided to train for a showdown. I got home from day camp, and ran around the house several times, then I broke out my inflatable Bozo the Clown punching bag, and went to work on that. Finally, I took a broom, and began practicing these elaborate karate flips (my rationale for using the broom was that it was about as skinny as Brooke, so it would prepare me for using karate on her scrawny ass). My mom came out into the front yard, saw me beating the crap out of the broom, and asked, “What the fuck are you doing to the broom?”
I explained that there was this skinny girl named Brooke—almost as skinny as the broom—and she kept slapping and kicking and scratching me, and I was preparing to use my karate training to put her in her place. My mother explained to me that under no circumstances was I to ever hit a girl, even if she hit me first, and that I should just walk away. And that’s what I tried to do the next day, but as I was walking away, Brooke kicked me in the ass so hard I thought she broke my tail bone. I turned around, and I beat that bitch within an inch of her life. The ironic thing was that every time Brooke pulled some shit with me, there was never anyone around. But as soon as I commenced to beat that girl like her name was Tina and I mine was Ike, one of the camp counselors caught me. I got in so much trouble for that it was ridiculous. But the thing that really stands out was my mother, going off on me, and trying to explain that the reason Brooke was always hitting and kicking me, and making my life a living hell, was because she liked me. It made no sense to me—someone likes you, so they treat you like shit—but it was one of those pivotal lessons that stuck with me.
I’ve tried very hard to have “normal” and “functioning” relationships over the years. Sometimes, it seems like things are going well—like in this picture taken many years ago of me and Crazy Liz. Look at how happy we appear. But there is a reason she is called “Crazy” Liz, and like so many other relationships, we were both too fucked up to make it work (in this case, she was more fucked up than me). Now, with decades of experiences, I can’t help but think about how many women I’ve known—not just dated or fucked, like Crazy Liz—but who were simply friends or co-workers—who seemed to be living their lives by the notion that “if he pulls your hair and punches you in the stomach, it means he likes you.” One of the reasons Liz and I broke up was because we got into an argument, and I didn’t hit her. I raised my fist, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. She looked at me with disdain and said, “If you were a real man, you’d hit me.” So much for the happiness you see in the picture.
I also can’t help but think how many guys have wasted their lives in pursuit of women who they are convinced are perfect for them because “if she treats you bad, it means she really likes you.” I mean how many of us have heard some variation of that idea—the idea that says if a member of the opposite sex treats us bad, it means they like us. What kind of terrible, scarring, fucked up shit is that to tell a child? And has it ever occurred to any parents that if they convince their children that getting the shit beaten out of them means they are liked, that the opposite end of the thought spectrum leads to kids thinking that there’s something wrong with being treated well by members of the opposite sex?
Other than the time I beat up Brooke (and the time I got into a fight with a girl in seventh grade who was beating up this retarded kid), I have never hit a woman. (Although like Chris Rock says, “I’ll shake the shit outta one.”) In fact, I have tried very hard to be respectful to all women, even the ones I fucked but didn’t really like. But ever since I was a teenager, I could never fathom why so many girls favored so many boys that treated them like shit. I’ve read books, and had countless discussions, and heard all the theories about daddy issues and that other bullshit. And while some of it is valid, a lot comes down to the fact when a little boy likes a little girl, he lacks the means of expressing it, and so he pulls her hair and punches her. Then her parents tell her that it means he likes her. And this poor chick grows up thinking that’s the way it is, all because of this silly little lesson that gets trapped in her subconscious, and ends up dictating every social and sexual encounter of her post-pubescent life. And by the time she figures it all out—if she figures it all out—she is so damaged and fucked up from years of bad relationships that she’s damn-near impossible to have a healthy relationship with. And for the record, we can say the exact same thing about men.
I hadn’t thought about Kyra in many, many years. The last time I saw her was when I graduated high school. I was visiting my family on the east coast, and her family had moved to the house across the street from some of my cousins. I saw her picture in one of my cousin’s yearbook, and was surprised to discover that she had gone from being the freaky looking girl called Diaper Rash to hot young lady. I actually went to her house and knocked on the door. I’m not sure if I was there to apologize, or see if she was still interested in kissing me. But no one answered the door. As for Brooke, I haven’t thought about her in decades. It is anybody’s guess what happened to either Kyra or Brooke. Who knows what sort of women they grew up to be? But I’m willing to bet that they are fucked up just like me, you and everyone else.