I convinced myself of many things in order to cope with child abuse, emotional abuse and being defined as less important than others in my life.
I was unable to cope with the truth so I changed the truth to suit me. I learned how to view “unhealthy attention” as though it was healthy and validating in order to cope with my dysfunctional world the way that it was and by doing so I was able to pretend that my world was actually functional. I found a way to believe that I was special.
But in order to feel loved and to believe that I had at least some degree of self worth, I had to change my understanding of the word “special”. I had to warp my definition of that word in order to fit it to the actual circumstances. The things I accepted as “proof” and validation that I was “special” became pretty sick and unhealthy.
I remember when I was about 13 or 14 years old, my mother started commenting about the way men were looking at me. I remember that it was embarrassing to me. She would whisper to me in the grocery store “Darlene, did you see the way that man looked at you??” She told me that I was attractive to older men as though this was some great gift I had. I felt uncomfortable about it, but at the same time I felt validated by my mom. I felt like “finally!! I have done something right!” She looked so happy when she told me these things. She looked pleased with me. It was important to her that I was attractive and she was saying that I was. I found some value for myself when she commented on these “older men” who were looking at me with appreciation.
I thought I was special because my mother wanted to take me out to bars with her to pick up men when I was 17. I thought that meant that I was attractive; SHE thought I was attractive. I thought she was validating me and I longed for her approval and acceptance, so I accepted this as the way I could get it.
I believed that I was special when I was sought out by older men when I was too young to be in any kind of man/ woman relationship with them.
My mother usually took me to hotel bars; bars where men were staying on business trips. The men that hit on me in the bars I was in with my mother were married men. In my youth and naive way of thinking I thought that I must be “really special” if they were giving me attention when they were married. This kind of thinking sounds really sick now but it comes from the situations that I was put into without knowing that this kind of thing was not “normal” or right.
I remember the duality of the way that I processed this kind of dysfunctional relationship that I had with my mother and the men that were hitting on me. On the one hand I thought I was special. On the other hand I was scared of what might happen. One night this man hit on me and it was clear that he was married; he was wearing a wedding band for one thing. But he asked me to go out to the lobby of the hotel with him. He made a phone call to his wife while he had his arm around me. I was SO uncomfortable. I wanted to run. On the phone he asked his wife about her day and about the kids while he was stroking my arm and rubbing my hip and he kept smiling at me.
Thoughts were firing through my mind at warp speed. I didn’t really know what the hell he was doing and I felt dirty, but there was the thrill of danger, mixed with the relief of acceptance and approval. At the same time I was wondering why my mother wasn’t worried about where I was. I felt sick to my stomach and I felt powerless. I felt like a hooker, but somehow the whole thing felt like a compliment. I felt special; I felt like I had some kind of exotic power that this man would take this RISK “for me” in that way. At some level I knew he was using me but I was too young to understand the cheap thrill he was getting talking to his wife with a 17 year old girl tucked into his side. He winked at me which scared me and reassured me at the same time. I wanted to walk away but I didn’t think, (didn’t know) that I had a choice. When had I EVER had a choice? How would I have learned that I had a choice? I didn’t want to be rejected by him; I didn’t want to disappoint my mother. Where the hell WAS my mother??
And under all of these thoughts, I had just a whisper of a feeling that I wanted to avoid feeling more than anything else. I couldn’t face the truth that both this man and my mother had absolutely NO regard for me at all. I was just a means to an end for that married man. Perhaps he thought he would get me in bed at the end of the night? I was nothing to him. I was nothing. I was just some object some “thing” to distract him from the tedium of being on a business trip out of town with nothing to do in the evening. I was just a good story to tell to the boys at home. He had to have known that I was just a kid; even though I was in a bar I could not legally have been less than 19.
And to my toxic mother I was just someone to go to the bar with. I was likely a good man magnet too. What did she care about what could happen to me? As an adult it took me YEARS to face that what my mother was doing was wrong (not to mention illegal!) and that her actions showed how little regard she had for me. This was all about her.
Talk about an example of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship.
The world might have judged me accountable for being in this situation if the world had known about it so to protect myself, I couldn’t tell the world. I had to keep it to myself. In my world the girl always got blamed. That man was married and fooling around on his wife but I would have been labeled as the tramp that had enticed him. I would have been judged as a home wrecker and a slut. I knew that stuff already so I went along with him… smiled at him while he sweet talked his wife as he winked at me somehow knowing that I wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t expose him and that I would submit to this objectifying treatment. In order to comfort myself, I told myself that this defined me as “the special one” in the situation.
By the time I was 18 years old I had lived without value long enough to believe that there was something wrong with me. I was full of shame and disappointment; full of self loathing, full of self disgust. I wasn’t even legal age yet and I believed that no one would ever love me. And even though I believed that all I needed was to be rescued by a man, I didn’t trust them anymore.
This story represents the how I took a situation and broke it down in order to understand my belief system and how it formed and how this situation resulted in being one of the ways that I came to view myself. Because of circumstances that I didn’t know how to process, I decided that I was special because my toxic mother thought that I was attractive enough to take to bars when I was underage. This conclusion was a lie. That didn’t make me special at all. Believing that I was special because a married man was attracted to me and therefore used me to boost his ego was not a healthy self view and it was a lie about me. The way he acted didn’t define my value in a good way at all. I was coping with the fact that my mother was using me and putting me in a very dangerous situation by reassuring myself that her actions defined me as special. And the pain that I had to face was that her actions defined me as nothing. Not important, not worthy of respect or protection, not loved, and certainly not special. The truth is that my mother and I had an extremely dysfunctional mother daughter relationship.
~Just a little more context ~ Although this was nowhere near the first time that my toxic mother had taken me to bars with her, (she had started doing that when I was still living at home) I was living with my boyfriend at the time of this occurrence and on this night he was in jail serving time for impaired driving. I told myself that my mother must have thought that if I was old enough to live with a man then I was old enough to drink in bars with her.
But here is the funny thing and the conflict that I never saw the truth about; the reason that I was living with my boyfriend was because my mother had told me to get out of her house for staying out too late twice. I wonder why I wasn’t old enough to stay out late, but I was old enough to go to bars and help her pick up men?
Like I said, my mother and I had an extremely dysfunctional mother daughter relationship.
Please share your thoughts on this subject of the fear of not being special and switching the truth around in order to avoid the truth and cope with the pain.
Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;
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For Related posts on Mother Daughter Dysfunctional Relationship or Toxic Mother Daughter Relationship please see the “Mother Daughter Category” ( also see links (the words) in highlighted bold print throughout the article)