To be brief and before I post this, I need you to understand that I am posting something that only my mother and husband know about. I want to do this to show him for what he was. His early signs of emotional abuse and emotional incest, need to be exposed. He spent the majority of my teenage years exposing and humiliating me as this chapter will show you all. To reveal the entire truth about that holiday is a massive step for me as I am still hiding a lot of painful moments we shared together, torment that he flung on me and boundaries that he broke. I hope one day, I will not fear the judgement.
The first summer arrived so quickly. I had just finished my GCSE exams and my father had booked a long holiday in the U.S. I had been once before with my sister and that was a very revealing trip for her. She saw him in his true light. However, he spent the whole of the last holiday showering me with attention. I could not wait to return. I was desperate to get away. Things had been left on bad terms with my mother and we barely had a relationship. This felt like a much deserved break.
The memory of the America trip is a painful one. Still to this day I find it difficult to talk about, having only shared the hardest part with my mother in recent years. It was the first time the real character of my father shone clearly. After building up an almost God-like image of him throughout my childhood I was about to have the biggest revelation.
The holiday started out fine. We stayed with relatives on the West Coast then set off on a road trip across California. Money was an important part of his life. Although for years he showered me with gifts, he would often scrimp and save in other ways. Frequently with food as he hated being ripped off. If anything was expensive it was “over-priced” and we would only ever visit restaurants that had clear offers displayed. However, he was very concerned about external appearance. He liked to look affluent. This was apparent by his choice of car. A white Cadillac with a red leather interior hardly gave off the image of a poverty stricken man. He dressed very smartly for someone on a relaxing holiday and spent plenty of money buying clothes in well known American stores. To the outside world he must’ve appeared so generous and well turned-out. However a new and different side of him was slowly unravelling in front of my eyes.
He lost his temper very quickly and became easily provoked. If someone was tail-gating him or driving slowly on the freeway he would steadily get agitated. He regularly vented his frustration in the car, telling me how un-cultured these people were or that they must be women drivers. Often he’d swear through gritted teeth, it sent shivers down my spine as his face changed to a threatening appearance (it would be a familiar expression I’d relive over the following twelve years).
It wasn’t only strangers that annoyed him, eventually after a week of the trip I became a giant nuisance too. I had never really been bullied before. I was unaware what bullying felt like so didn’t notice what was happening to me at the time. He began nitpicking about things I said and did. He constantly corrected my grammar and if I dropped a‘t’ off the end of a word he’d cut me off mid-sentence and force me to pronounce it correctly. The way I walked was an issue. If I was too slow he’d tell me to stop lagging behind but if I bounced ahead, he’d criticise me for not waiting as he couldn’t keep up.
Gradually I became aware that it was difficult to put a foot right. This resulted in me being extremely cautious and worried of disappointing him or getting an earful about my “juvenile” behaviour.
Day to day activities was a chore. He had changed personality overnight. He continued to be cowardly, refusing to ask for anything himself, it was my job as usual. If we were out for dinner and he needed the bathroom, he would insist that I should ask the waitress where the toilets were, more specifically the male toilets. If I mentioned that it was an odd thing to do, he would instantly accuse me of being a selfish daughter not wanting to look after her elderly father (at the time he was 59, hardly elderly). He most certainly wouldn’t approach another woman to ask that kind of question. I quickly learnt there was no reasoning with him as when I tried to, I was bombarded with demeaning names.
If we needed directions he made me roll down my window and talk to a passing stranger or get out and run to the nearest shop to ask. He didn’t worry about my safety in these circumstances (I was only sixteen at the time), just as long as he wasn’t coming across as needy or weak.
I felt humiliated for the entire trip on the road. The worst thing (and the most difficult to talk about) is the memory I only recently revealed to my mother.
We often stayed in nice hotels in the cities but when travelling through smaller towns we resided in motels each night. Not wanting to waste money, my father would only book one room. The first time this occurred was our first night away. I was horrified. I was a sixteen year old girl; I knew how inappropriate this was. Praying that he’d have thought this through and asked for twin beds I was mortified to find instead a large double. I didn’t question him. (Although I now wish I had). He thought nothing wrong in his decision. He wanted to keep his costs down. His argument would’ve been clear. Why would I need another room if we were only staying one night? And more importantly, why would I want to waste so much money for no reason? So every night for the next two weeks, we shared a bed.
I remember each night running into the bathroom to get changed, panicking at the thought of seeing him undress in front of me which he had done previously without a care. I never slept in pyjamas, only a long t-shirt. I berated myself for not planning properly, for not having trousers to wear. Tugging my shirt down, I would quickly leap into the bed. My father undressed in plain view of me, stripping down to his boxers and then putting on pyjama pants and a vest. Why did he not go into the bathroom after me? We had never been this open as a family; everyone seemed to enjoy their privacy. Except him. Thankfully, the motels beds in America were huge so I pushed myself as far to the edge as possible. I barely slept the entire holiday.
One morning, towards the end of the road trip we stayed in a small motel in Fresno. As we checked out I caught the hotels clerk’s eye. He was staring at me, confused. He asked my father our room number and if he had the key. My father handed it back to which the clerk inquired,
“Was it just one room?”
I bolted out of that reception and headed straight to the car park, humiliated and ashamed that someone else knew how wrong it all was.
My father had no idea of how other people perceive things and if I dared to suggest the obvious, he would call me ‘evil’, ‘disgusting’ or ‘perverted’. Me, perverted?!