I have a life story that continues to change and a few handfuls of memories that change with it. The events that I remember from 20 or 30 years ago are the most meaningful, and often the most painful. I believe that behind this pain lies power.
This post is about early memories of shame that have stuck with me. I believe they continue to affect me ways that I haven’t yet figured out.
The purpose of this post is simply call up and hold these memories in the light of my current day for whatever value that may offer myself and others.
Nursery (kindergarten), aged 3-4. Summertime. The teachers got all the kids to strip naked and dance around the garden bit whilst being sprayed with a hose. I didn’t want to do it. It didn’t seem right somehow but felt wrong for not doing it. Thank goodness they didn’t force me.
Nursery. There was a leaving party for a kid who was emigrating to America. I was halfway up an indoor climbing frame when he pulled my pants down. I couldn’t pull them up because I was still holding on. I was just stuck there. Everyone laughed at me. It was horrible.
Nursery. I soaked my clothing playing with the water toys. The teacher made me strip naked and stand in the hallway whilst other classes of boys and girls walked past. It felt like a very long time. Unsurprisingly, I felt naked. I had to walk home in borrowed clothes and without shoes.
Primary school (elementary), aged 5-6. I had a boring, ubiquitous part in the nativity play and felt totally invisible. I went to toilets and got creative with my indignation, daubing the cubicle wall with my own poop. I was gone for some time, but managed to sneak back unnoticed.
Primary, aged 5-6. There was pressure from the other boys to show them my private parts. It felt wrong because I’d learned that private parts are private. One day I built up the courage, or had succumbed to pressure, and excitedly showed myself. I felt really confused afterwards.
Primary, aged 6-7. We used to have a scheduled daily milk time with these little cartons. Everyday, I would sneak in during the break time and squirt milk all over the cushions in the reading corner. I don’t know how this strange habit started, but I felt secretly powerful. They never caught me.
Primary. Washing paint off my hands but the water was scalding hot. Suddenly I desperately needed to wee but my soapy hands couldn’t get a grip of my fly zip. I had to wet myself. I pretended to be ill so my mum would collect my early. She found out and got angry.
Aged 7 or so. I was in the bathroom and became distracted somehow. I ended up taking a pair of scissors scratching S E X in massive letters into the wall. I realised I was out of my depth and had to call my mum in. She was incredibly compassionate and helped me to disguise it from my dad.
Aged 14. An older boy who used to pick on me said, “when you masturbate, do you clean it up or does your willy stick to the sheets?” I didn’t understand why he was laughing at me so hard. I looked up ‘masturbation’ in my little dictionary but didn’t understand what it said.
Aged 17. I was busy discovering masturbation in the bathroom. My mum heard something and knocked. “What are you doing?” I froze and then continued when I thought she had gone. She then realised and fled. I was overwhelmed with shame. She probably was too.