Oh high school, the teen drama. Will Billy ask me to prom? Is Susie wearing the same shirt as me? Who has the answer’s for tomorrow’s math quiz? You gotta love it. The heartbreak, the gossip, and the embarrassing moments add up to the four most awkward years of your life. For a “normal” teen, it is torture enough. For a teen whose parents stay in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, it’s movie worthy.
Don’t get me wrong. Life could have been worse. My parents never beat the shit out of me, I was never sexually abused, nobody had cancer, etc. There are much worse situations a child could live in but you don’t think like that at 15 years old. You think your life is the hardest and no one can relate. That’s how I felt through most of high school. I didn’t make it any easier on myself. I inherited my dad’s loud personality and my mom’s need to be liked. I wanted everyone to notice me and to think I was funny. I was desperate for attention that I wasn’t getting at home. It was the perfect cocktail for disaster.
I was somewhat cute, nothing to brag about but I had a few admirers. I found myself telling them about my parents problems before I even really got to know them. I just needed someone to know. I wanted someone to finally hear what I was dealing with at home. I wanted someone to relate to my problems. Stupid 15 year old me. The boys that want to make out with you are not the people who care that your parents drink themselves into oblivion. Within weeks of me opening up to the first few people, it felt like everyone at school knew. People either avoided me, because they had no idea how to talk to me or desperately tried to be my friend, because they wanted in on the dirt.
Rumors started floating around that I was lying for attention. I definitely was telling people for attention but none of it was a lie. Of course I wanted attention! I was 15 years old. I had no idea how to handle being a teenager and parent my parents. I started embracing my spotlight instead of trying to blend in. I did more and more things to be the center of attention. I would dress ridiculously, I joined as many clubs as I could, I flirted with every guy I could, and I was just digging myself a bigger hole.
These “friends” I had made had no idea how to comfort me when my mom went missing or my dad wouldn’t come home to help me find her. They didn’t know what it was like to come home and find your mom passed out at 3:30 in the afternoon or to have to drive your mom home from a high school football game because she was hammered (even though I didn’t have my license). They didn’t understand what it meant for your mom’s license to be taken away and her picture to be splattered in the paper for a DUI. They loved to hear about it because they loved to tell people about it but it stopped there. There was no other support or outreach, just gaping looks and the need for more juicy info. I can’t blame them. They didn’t know. They didn’t experience it.
That was my only support and I clung to it. If people wanted to stare at my disaster of a life, why not? At least someone was looking. I even talked to a few teachers about it. Social services never got involved. Some of the things I told them should have warranted a report and maybe they tried but it never got accepted. If they didn’t call, I assume it’s due to the fact that I was relatively well adjusted (besides being obnoxious). I had good grades, I was clean everyday, and I don’t think it hurt that my family lived in a nicer neighborhood in town. This is just an assumption.
Anyway, one of my most cringe-worthy moments (and later on I realized most needed moments) occurred when two guys came over to my house. We had been friends awhile and I knew they both liked me but nothing had happened with them yet. They didn’t seem to want to be my friends just to witness the chaos. They seemed genuine. We hung out upstairs. We watched TV and did stupid 15 year old things. My parents were quiet downstairs so I didn’t think anything too traumatic was going to happen.
I didn’t have my license so when it was time to go home, my mom had to sit in the car with us. I didn’t realize she had been drinking until she got in the car. My mom repeatedly told me to turn my lights on. However, the lights were on in the car. I kept telling her this but she kept insisting they were off. At first I started to play it off but my mom wouldn’t let it go. The two guys are sitting in the back seat as we argue this all the way to their homes. It was such a stupid thing to argue about. Why did I keep arguing? Why didn’t I try harder to change the subject? Why did I keep yelling? She kept reaching over and trying to turn the brights on. She kept moving the wheel and I started swatting her away. We drove spastically and I am so glad we weren’t pulled over.
As I am screaming at her in the front seat, I can see how mortified the guys are in my rearview mirror. They get out of the car as quickly as possible when we arrive at their houses. I text them later to apologize and they both say it’s fine. They don’t say anything else. I still get a pain in my chest when I think about this car ride. These poor kids. They didn’t have alcoholic parents and I invited them into my mess. Their parents would probably never let me see them again. I remember bitterly thinking “they certainly had some juicy info for the next few days”. This isn’t the kind of attention you want in high school. Even someone like me, who was desperate for attention. I was humiliated.
I came home and told my dad. His response was “You shouldn’t be inviting people over. You know better than that”. I was shocked. He didn’t even yell at my mom who stumbled to bed. We will just keep everything a secret in the house until I explode one day. That’s helpful. At least we will have the comfort in knowing we never addressed anything in the home. At the pit of my stomach though, I knew he was somewhat right. I did know better. I just wanted to pretend for a second like that wasn’t my life and it blew up in my face. I went to bed that night completely deflated and hating everyone. I hated myself for thinking I could have friends over. I hated my dad for not giving any shits. I hated my mom for just plain sucking at life. I even hated those guys because I felt like they wanted to be my friends to be in on the crazy that was my life. Why else would they want to be my friend?
I went downstairs slowly the next day. I expected some kind of apology from her. I was even smug about it. I deserved something. It was business as usual though. My mom didn’t remember what had happened. We had breakfast like we did everyday. My parents did the jumble in the paper and I ate in silence.
Something switched in my brain that morning as I sat across from them eating breakfast. They didn’t care that they had embarrassed me. This was just another day to them. They didn’t care or maybe they didn’t realize how bad I was hurting. I was still sitting there. I was still eating. I was still going to school. How bad could it have been? They must have been thinking this because I can’t imagine why else it was never brought up.
I stopped talking about my family with other people for a long time after that. I realized I was getting attention from the wrong people. I subconsciously decided I was going to get my parent’s attention instead. Looking back now, I can see the transformation of myself over that breakfast. I started looking for trouble. I was going to get the attention I craved, even if it was the wrong way. My next post will review learning the hard way that getting your parent’s attention isn’t always helpful.
As for those guys, they ended up being groomsmen in my wedding. What I thought would just be juicy crap to share at baseball practice the next day, turned into empathy and two of the best friends I have ever had. I let somebody in and it worked. It just took me awhile to realize it (more on that and them later)
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