I was born in 1984, at the end of January. The number one single in the UK that week was ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the number one album was Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. I’m extremely eighties. I was born mid-evening in the hospital the next town over from where I would be living, and presumably my mother and I were present at the birth. No idea about my dad, though. I can’t remember if he was there or not.
I can’t remember much about the details of my parents’ situation around the time I was born. Things were complicated; other relationships were going on. My dad stayed for a while, I think, but he was abusive towards my mum and there were many arguments and many nights spent at my grandparents’ place around the corner. Apparently my dad once hit my mum while she was giving me a bath. I don’t remember. My only memories of that place are of living with her next boyfriend, who was also a total dick. Unfortunately, he would take things out on me. I wasn’t ever beaten, and I don’t think I was ever hit any harder than a smack, but I was only 4 so it was still frightening. He once got angry at me for not eating soup because it was too hot, and punished me by tipping it over my head.
My dad beat him up for that. Knocked his teeth out and everything.
My dad always seemed to feel guilty about me. He never had to take proper responsibility for me, and my mum was the only one out of all the women who’d been daft enough to have a kid with him who he’d never married, so he used to get drunk and tell me I was his favourite daughter and he loved my mum and he wished it had been different… blah, blah, blah. He used to say that sort of shit in front of my younger sister and she grew up feeling pretty fucking worthless. She fell pregnant when she was 13 – it’s pretty mindblowing to think that she’s five years younger than me and she already has a teenage daughter. This is what happens when you put your kid down all the fucking time.
It sounds bad, but one thing which didn’t help me out much in a lot of these situations was my brain. My family aren’t smart people. They’re suspicious of intelligence. Learning things and gaining understanding freak them out a bit. Most of them seemed to not like me, and you’re probably thinking ‘well, yeah, if you called them fucking idiots to their faces,’ but I never did. I was meek as hell as a kid. They just didn’t like the fact I always had a book in front of me. Adults would ask me ridiculous questions – usually getting me to spell out words I didn’t even know – and if I got the answers right they would take the piss out of me but if I got them wrong then they’d laugh even louder. Horrible people.
My dad, however, seemed to not mind the fact I made him feel a bit stupid. He’d get drunk and stoned and ramble on at me and I’d do what I do to everyone who does this to me and smile politely and nod in the right places and it seemed to make him happy enough. Sometimes he’d get sad because he’d notice I was bored, or perhaps I’d disagree with what he was saying and it would hit him that I was just being kind and he’d realise he was actually alone with his shitty racist thoughts.
My dad used to be a mod. My mum was a skinhead. I don’t know why they ever thought it would work.
I don’t know how my mum felt about me. There wasn’t a lot of affection. Occasionally we had fun, like the times when she’d come crashing in late at night and she’d wake me up because she wanted someone to share the kebab she’d brought back with her. I’d ask her what was wrong because I was little and didn’t understand what it meant when a grown woman was lying on the living room floor, giggling and one-eye-squinting at dubious meat strips. ‘I’m just really tired,’ she’d slur, and the next morning the bedroom would smell of chilli booze sweats. But those moments were rare. She usually alternated between neglect, where she’d get a new boyfriend and I’d be dumped at my grandparents’ until she got dumped and came looking for me, and total overprotectiveness, where she would literally not let me out of her sight. I wasn’t allowed out by myself for years. I wasn’t allowed to go to my friends’ houses, aside from one whose mother was on such good terms with my mother that she was allowed to hit me if I was naughty.
I wasn’t a naughty kid. I just managed to do everything wrong, constantly. My mum used to tell me I was an accident, that she never wanted me. She said she got used to the idea of having a kid but she had her heart set on having a little boy. I guess that solves the puzzle of why I apologise all the damn time. Before anyone can reassure me otherwise, the little voice in my head tells me that whatever I’ve done is wrong.
It must be, because I did it.