So while I was in college for my undergrad degree (Ohio University, in Athens OH), I worked summers at Kings’ Island, the local “big” amusement park. Hours were long, the work tiring as hell, but I still enjoyed it — I was assigned to a burger stand in the kid’s section of the park, near the Eiffel Tower replica & the “Smurfs/Scooby-Doo” boat ride . Employees not only got free admission to the park, but also a number of passes for family & friends to give out as we wanted.
My boyfriend (now my husband) lived in Athens, working at Casa Nueva, one of the area’s first worker-owned restaurants. Being poor & stuck at just above minimum wage, Brett didn’t have money to do fun things; he’d had to drop out of college due to a foul-up in his financial aid. When I invited him to come over for a KI day, he accepted; I even paid for his bus ticket.
During the summers, I lived at my parents’ place, the home I’d grown up in (where we’d moved after SOBs in the old neighborhood threatened us kids), a big, two-story house in a fairly new subdivision. Tons of space — the house had “formal” living & dining rooms that my family never used; Mom forbade us from even going into those rooms & got upset if we ever set foot into them & “marked” the white carpet with our footprints. Seriously — those rooms were not used; they took up half the ground-floor space of the house. Mom kept them picture-perfect clean, with the best-looking furniture & art that my parents had bought in Gatlinburg TN.
Anyway. I’d asked my parents if it was okay if Brett slept over (in the regular living room, in a sleeping bag) so we could go to KI the next day; I’d also asked my Dad if he’d mind picking up Brett from the bus station in Dayton & driving him back to the station the day after, as I had to work & hadn’t been able to get those days or the shifts free. Both Mom & Dad agreed, so I called Brett to invite him over & to work out scheduling.
Keep that in mind. My parents agreed. They gave permission when I asked, before I invited Brett over.
I was 20. I was set to graduate with honors the next year. Brett & I had been together for just over three years by that point. I got back late from KI the day Brett arrived; I walked into a house where both Mom & Dad were scowling & Brett looked uneasy.
I had no clue what was going on, but I was tired & aching from work & went upstairs to shower & change. Afterwards, Brett and I went out for a walk around the neighborhood & Brett clued me in: for some reason, Mom & Dad got upset about Brett sleeping in the living room, my brother had said something about it, & a fight had erupted — Brett only sat there, not sure of what was going on or why my family was suddenly angry & arguing about him sleeping in the living room. He made a tentative suggestion about sleeping on the floor of my brother’s bedroom, just to try to settle whatever the fight was about, and next thing he knew, my brother & parents got even angrier & the argument more heated & aimed at him — and that’s when I got home & everyone shut up.
Brett’s explanation wasn’t clear. He was confused as hell as to what had happened & what he’d done — I definitely didn’t understand it. I told him that Mom & Dad had said he could sleep on the living room floor, but Brett said that my brother had (angrily & sarcastically) “agreed” to let Brett sleep in his room. Brett had no clue why the living room floor was an issue, but just agreed with whatever they were saying to end whatever the hell the fight was about.
Ooooookay. I had no clue what the deal was. We got back from the walk, arm in arm; I was *happy* for the first time that summer. My parents were in the living room, the TV was on with some sitcom on; Brett and I settled in the living room, sitting next to each other, his arm around my shoulders & me leaning against him. My back was aching from work; I asked him if he’d mind stretching my back out — he’d lay his forearms on my spine & “spread” them like he was flattening dough with his arms. I was fully clothed. Brett was fully clothed. Mom & Dad were right there. My brother & two sisters wandered through the room at various points.
As Brett was doing this, I noticed both Mom & Dad were now glaring at me. I ignored them; whatever the whole “sleeping on the floor” issue was about, if they weren’t going to say anything to me, I didn’t care.
We finally turned in, Brett to my brother’s floor, me to my bedroom upstairs. The next day at King’s Island? Awesome. We were there the whole next day, all the rides, all the shows: just a grand, glorious day of roller coasters & fun, away from work, stress, and worry.
The next day, though, I had to work a double-shift, a full open-to-close at that KI burger stand. I had to be up gods-awful early; Brett had gotten up, too, as his bus was scheduled to leave later in the morning, & we hugged, kissed, said goodbye. I left money for Dad to fill up his gas tank & left for work.
That double shift was murder. Anyone who’s worked in any kind of fast food joint knows the special kind of hell those jobs are. Multiply that by several thousand, and you’ve got an amusement park burger stand: long lines of people, all day long, over hot grills, cleaning up messes, dealing with cranky customers & screaming kids. That was my day that day, from the minute the park opened until several hours after it closed. On top of that, the stand manager decided it was time for the weekly deep-cleaning: all equipment taken apart, scrubbed, hosed down, walls & floors scrubbed, every single crack & crevice scraped, oil changed, inventory restocked — yeah. KI closed about 11:00 PM during the summer, but I didn’t leave that stand until 2 AM, and had been there since 7 AM that morning.
I was exhausted. I barely managed to crawl into the showers at the employees dressing rooms — a cold, cold shower to wake me up enough so I could drive home, 30 minutes away. I’m still not sure how I got home, but I did, driving slowly & forcing myself to pay attention to everything.
But oh, fuck…. when I got home….
It was well after 3 AM by the time I pulled into the driveway & staggered through the garage side-door into the living room, and pulled up short.
Mom & Dad were waiting, arms crossed & glaring.
Not good. They normally went to bed early, since Dad still worked 9-5 as a manager at the local steel mill. But at that point, I was too exhausted to care. I only nodded at them and went into the kitchen to grab something to eat — a couple Pop-Tarts.
That’s when the bitch-out started.
I sat at the kitchen table, chewing on a chocolate PopTart & reading the newspaper. Storming in, standing over me, glaring down, Mom & Dad laid into me — screaming, yelling, cursing. How DARE I act like a slut in front of them. How DARE Brett touch me in front of them. How DARE we hug, you SLUT you acting like THAT, how DARE Brett touch you, how DARE Brett tell them where he would sleep, how DARE I act so ungrateful & spoiled & evil & disrespectful —
You’d think me & Brett had stripped naked & fucked in the living room in front of a bunch of kindergarteners. I was a slut for hugging. I was a slut for asking for a massage on my aching back. Brett was an ungrateful, lazy monster for making a suggestion during a stupid argument over sleeping space. etc etc etc etc.
I just sat there, not reacting, not moving, not caring. Mom & Dad yelled & screamed & cussed me out. I didn’t say anything. I only chewed on my PopTart and focused on the comics page.
There was a pause. I don’t remember why. I don’t care. I stood up, taking my dishes to the sink, then turning to look at the two so-called adults who had waited until I crawled home from an exhausting all-day shift in order to scream at me over something SO. FUCKING. STUPID.
“This is stupid,” I said. Flat. Uncaring. “If you two want to keep fighting over this bullshit, we can talk tomorrow. I’m going to bed.”
Without another word, I walked past them, up the stairs to my room, shut & locked my bedroom door, and went to bed.
I was cold-shouldered for weeks. Mom & Dad refused to talk to me & barely acknowledged me whenever I came into a room. I ceased caring. They tried to ground me — not that it worked. I told them if they were going to “ground” me, then THEY were going to call Kings Island and explain to the actual Reasonable Adults there exactly why I couldn’t work. I spent every waking minute at Kings Island; I took all the extra shifts I could. Even days I didn’t work, I “worked”, spending all my free time at the park.
When they finally deigned to start speaking to me again, they started insulting Brett with every word they spoke. They were on a campaign to get me back under their control, listening & obeying without ever voicing any thoughts of my own.
I was fuckin’ 20 years old, in college, on the honor roll, a lifelong “good girl” who tried to follow the rules & was working my ass off, and I was being treated as if I’d scraped dog-shit all over the living room carpet.
My entire perception & mind-set had shifted. I no longer cared what my so-called parents thought, or said, or did, or believed. They’d betrayed themselves as unreasonable, controlling asshats. I started noticing the lack of any affection or love between them. I started ignoring everything they said.
But it still took me far too long to throw them off completely.