This is an autobiographical post. The names of people and places may be changed.
We decided to write autobiographical posts about the colorful life we have lived. There will be tales of sleeping in a campervan on the beach, of defending a bird’s nest from a snake, and of running away from wolves while sick with bronchitis. There will be tales of diagnosis with PTSD and ADHD and how it changed our lives, of meeting biological family, and of job loss. It’s a tale of overcoming challenges, of finding out who we are, of love, hope, cats, and of a marriage that’s gotten stronger through it all.
Autobiography Post 10
An Oklahoma Childhood
We both were born and raised in Oklahoma. It was in the same suburb, and we went to the same schools, though Dorian was a grade ahead and we never met one another. Since leaving the state we never wanted to return, though circumstances brought us back for a brief period. Childhoods in Oklahoma are full of hot, thunderstorm summers and ice-covered winters, with very little to appreciate in terms of the weather, things to do, and a future outlook.
We both always had big dreams of creativity, travel, and opportunities. And Oklahoma is not where those things happen. Unless you’re a country singer, as the state has birthed quite a few of those!
The suburb we grew up was all barbeque and burger fast-food restaurants. It’s a good place to gain weight. There’s little in the form of community spaces and activities. It’s not walkable. Everyone lives the same life. They grow up, work in Tulsa, and get a little house with a little family.
That wasn’t what we wanted to do.
I was adopted as a baby. The story as it was told to me at the time was that my adoptive parents weren’t successful in having children, so they adopted from a woman who was pregnant. Though, five years later, they did have their own child, my younger sister. Whenever I asked about my biological family, it was usually met with the same response.
“I don’t know anything. You can try to find them when you’re older. But, I don’t want you to leave me.”
My adoptive father was reserved and cold. He didn’t like to interact with anyone, including the family. He went to work at the same place he’d work at for 20+ years with little in terms of promotions or changes. When I remember him, it’s sitting on the couch, watching tv, with the remote and snacks balanced on a large belly.
He and my adoptive mother fought at least once a week, usually every day. Large fights where things were thrown, furniture was turned over, and each would promise divorce. I recall comforting my crying baby sister in my room while we heard our father bash our video camera into the wall during one of his rages. He liked to break things in his anger. My adoptive mother was far more manipulative with her anger.
A textbook narcissist and lifelong “victim”, she would openly admit she liked to lie and pretend to cry to get what she wanted. She couldn’t keep any job down for long and so never had any career to speak of. She always would rage quit, leaving a long line of drama wherever she went. Each day she came home from work was a new story.
“You won’t believe what happened to me today! I have the worst luck!”
Her drama wasn’t just contained at work. She spread it across the neighborhood, across the extended family, and to my sister’s athletic events. It’s little surprise my adoptive mother never had any friends. Gossip, backstabbing, and arguments were her hobbies. I remember her also sitting on the couch watching tv, shoveling candy into her mouth.
“I’m so fat,” she’d complain around her mouthful. “I hate myself.”
My younger sister inherited my adoptive father’s rage and adoptive mother’s passive aggression in one nice bundle. You could never tell if she was lying right to your face or if she was about to hit you. It still makes me sad to this day because we were close when we were younger. But as she got older the bullying, verbal abuse, and talking behind others’ backs got worse. Her and her mother were tandem partners in this, whispering and laughing at other people (always making sure the victim could see this) while her and her father would have physical standoffs with one another.
I used to think something was wrong with me. I preferred to sit and draw rather than play sports like the rest of the family. I wanted to travel instead of being content in this town like the rest of the family. My refusal to take part in their passive aggressive activities meant I would end up being the target. I often felt alone and misunderstood, with deep insecurities. My days typically ended crying myself to sleep, praying another family would come to get me.
Dorian’s childhood wasn’t so different. His parents also had trouble conceiving, so they adopted his older sister from India. A few years later, he was born.
His father is a busybody, and we suspect its where Dorian inherited his ADHD. Soccer, gardening, housework, biking, boating . . . you are unlikely to ever find his father sitting down. His athletic ability didn’t prevent his heart attack in 2015, but he made a full recovery. He works as a computer technician and has made a long career of it. He is a soft-spoken man, good-natured and rarely upset. But the downside of that is he never protected or stood up for his son against the neighborhood bullies, or the bullying of the mother and sister.
Dorian’s mother is a Boss. She ensures everyone knows she is in charge, and dominates the conversation no matter who it is with. You are always wrong, and she is always right. She works in accounting, and she is very organized and very detailed. This is both a boon and a bane. Her own way of planning supersedes everyone else. And if you question, then you get the cold shoulder.
Both of Dorian’s parents are fond of drinking. Vacations as a child centered on going to breweries and sampling beer. The children had no choice but to go, but weren’t allowed to bring their own games or activities. This meant Dorian spent many vacations bored and watching his parents drink.
His older sister is a complicated person. She has no interest in her Indian heritage, despite her parents trying to get her involved in cultural activities. Passive in her aggression, she shows her anger at others by simply not speaking to them, sometimes for years. If the target of her silence tries to talk it out like an adult should, her response is:
“I’m not mad. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And then she goes back to the silent treatment.
My adoptive family tried to get me into sports, but I don’t have a single competitive bone in my body. I hated sports. For some years I did martial arts and dance which I loved. The helicopter parenting style of my adoptive family meant I wasn’t allowed to go to summer camps, birthday parties, sleepovers, etc. This meant keeping friendships long-term was very difficult.
So, I would spend my time writing stories, drawing art, and reading fanfictions online. I enjoyed being outside, taking walks, and photography. And reading. I loved reading anything and everything, but especially the fantasy genre.
Dorian’s family also tried to get him into sports, which he equally hated. He also is not competitive. His main activity was band, which he did in school for many years. He was extremely close to Cameron and his family, and he had an extended friend group that hosted large-scale video game parties at his parents’ house.
Dorian liked to play games, create stories, and film homemade movies with his friends. It’s little wonder he’s ended up as an executive producer in television! He was never much into reading (a hobby I introduced to him once we started dating), but stories and characters he loved.
Are memories of childhood complicated for everyone? Or are there people out there who only have happy and good memories?
Being raised by a narcissist in a household where I was the scapegoat for the family’s problems was painful and what led to my adult diagnosis of CPTSD. But there are some fond memories. Playing video games for hours with my adoptive sister. Large holiday parties with my extended family of 30+, even if there was drama between other people.
Dorian fondly remembers growing up with Cameron, playing games with his friends, and his father playing the accordion at the Christmas Eve parties. Those good memories are equally mixed in with an authoritarian household and lack of emotional connection with certain family members.
I felt this post was necessary to talk about our childhoods as a whole. In the future I may tell particularly funny, entertaining, or impactful stories. But this is a good overview of how we grew up, and how it shaped us.