I realized the other day that I know very little about my mother’s childhood other than the abuse. I know they traveled extensively. I remember the house and was absolutely impressed with the basement and it’s many rooms and how it lead to the backyard. There are good memories from my grandmother’s house yet very little is known of my mother’s day to day childhood life. I know even less about my aunts.
The aunt I will eventually sit down with was bullied at school for her very dark skin with very dark, straight hair. They turned her name into a cruel song game. I can all but see them circling this very pretty, well dressed school girl who is trying to ease through a space between girls skipping and singing about how ugly she is.
Could they ever know their songs would be so heavy on the heart of that child and then the adult? No. They too were children and children just don’t get it. They don’t get how deeply their sing-songs hurt because they lack the life experience to know how emotions work. Kids live in the moment, they’re growing, taking risks like there is no debt to pay, no bruise that won’t heal. They were just kids that abused my aunt, just stupid kids. How hurtful stupid kids can be to those with a little bit more life under their belt and a clear understanding of emotional consequences.
My fourth grade year was landmark, but for the most part I missed out on peer, but my sister did not. No one knew she’s dyslexic. They called her stupid. That word is cruel enough to crush bones, and it did. But I’ll tell you what, they called the wrong person stupid because I can tell you of impressive intelligence in my sister. I can tell you of moments when I was so proud to be sitting beside her. It was one of those, “That’s my sister!” moments every younger sister wants to have. Ya know, she was my idol. I swear she was, but she didn’t know it. It makes me smile when I think of the impressive things she did, some creative, others logical and well spoken.
Awhile ago I started this art collection of paintings of little girls who may have had bullying. I called it the Ugly Girl Collection. It didn’t go over well but I feel the need to start it up again because I’m back in touch with memories of girls (my aunt, my sister, school kids) that were not ugly but teased for this or that reason. It’s a validating collection. It’s a collection of art to say, I get it, I’ve seen it, as a matter of fact I once bullied and I’M SORRY. It’s a collection to say your experiences mean something. I understand that they can shape how we feel about ourselves. My abuse as an ugly girl came from my mother and my family. My sister was pretty, thin, stupid. I was smart, bad, fat. No one ever said the word ugly, they just made sure I felt it.
So, the Ugly Girl collection of art will be reopened and kept open. I’ll field comments that come in via my email and just refer them to this entry. I am not trying to be mean, not at all. I do not wish to cause more harm. What I wish to do is give an artistic presence to those emotions that made ME feel ugly and that made others feel ugly.
I’ll add to the collection when I’m reminded of someone or I see a child in public who displays an characteristic that stands out as different. I remember seeing a young girl here in the city full of personality and confidence. She was about 10 years old and dressed so boho! I loved it. I wanted to paint her and I would have added her to the collection because children who break the mold often experience some sort of teasing. That painting would have been a kudos to her for having the courage to stand out and be different and hold her head up while doing it.