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I’ve said it in jest so many times. Lately I realize that somehow it’s a reality and one that’s actually not so funny.
I’m not sure exactly what age she removed my backbone completely. I doubt it was all in one sweep. Rather, my guess is it happened incrementally like the most effective method to boil a frog. Yet, when I try to recall having a backbone, I just can’t recall. I was a spineless, pushover, gullible, desperate for affection and approval from ANYONE kind of person for as long as my memory serves me.
It begs the question: are babies born with a “backbone” ? Or do our parents instill them as they love us, teach us, allow us to learn to think for ourselves and nurture us into capable, self esteemed people?
I know OF backbones. I understand the concept. I even encourage others to use theirs ! Although, I cannot.
Thinking was discouraged in my childhood home environment. In fact, for me it was prohibited. I didn’t feel safe or confident enough to decide what my favorite color was. I was always afraid I’d pick the wrong one. So, I jumped on others’ selections. If someone I knew loved purple, then I loved purple too. It was a safe pick. And that way, I knew I’d be right about the best color to someone. Likewise for any other color of the moment.
This seems silly, I know. I even recall feeling envious of people with favorite colors! People who passionately expressed their love of blue or pink or green… Whom wore their color proudly and frequently without the crippling fear of getting it wrong. I used to think to myself, how do they know? How can they be so sure? I guess their mother told them the right answer… Otherwise, how could they know with such certainty? I mean, it wasn’t like it was okay to get it wrong! Getting anything wrong meant you were belittled, criticized, berated, mocked and subtly punished..for days and days…
Where were these people getting this certainty? I wanted some! So, I jumped on their color bandwagons, hoping to minimize my natural inept, chronic wrongness.
This meant I never really had a favorite color. I was too afraid to make such a flexible statement with any confidence.
Around the age of 33, I picked my favorite color. It was scary. I was shaky and nervous. I knew logically it wasn’t important and I was too old to get in trouble for getting it wrong, but I felt it was time for me to make a damn stand on my own for this perpetual lifelong struggle/issue.
And I decided. It’s definitely pink! …except when it’s better for it to be green. Otherwise, it’s almost always pink. Not fuchsia, not hot pink, not neon pink. Soft, bubblegum, baby pink. The tender color of a newborn baby girl’s fuzzy newly-home-from-the-hospital snuggly blanket. Softer than “Barbie pink”, but a smidgen brighter than pale pink.
I remember precisely where I was the day I decided i should not only finally decide on a favorite color, but that I should somehow gather the courage to not be afraid of choosing one. I was in Kansas City, Missouri at a trauma unit to help me overcome the severe PTSD I had from being mugged and raped at gunpoint in a baseball field by my house. About 3 days in to my trauma treatment, after sitting in groups all day long hearing other people talk about their traumatic experiences, and I would listen and wonder what their favorite color was. Did they have one? If so, How and when had they picked it? Who told them it was ok? Did they get in trouble for that choice ever? Were they made fun of at home for it? Had it ever changed over their lifetime? What was it? Why was that their favorite?
…and I wanted to ask EVERYONE there, “what’s your favorite color?”. But I was too afraid to ask anyone. I stressed that they’d know the answer, then ask me and my only safe reply would be to repeat their choice.
On the third day of my five day treatment program, I took a brave stand and proclaimed I had a favorite color. I pretended I wasn’t afraid of getting it wrong. I acted as though I was positive of my favorite color and as though I didn’t care if I picked the wrong one. (Secretly, I was scared though. I just believed that after a severe trauma, the odds were less that anyone would point out I had picked the wrong favorite color, or at the least, probably not be cruel or hateful directly to me about it, right?)
So, I let myself choose a favorite color. It was a bold moment of taking a stand and pretending I had a backbone like everyone else and that I wasn’t afraid to exercise it.
Yeah, that’s my favorite color:pink.
Except when it’s green. And sometimes it’s certainly green. …at least with all the certainty I can muster without a backbone.