If you haven’t read the first part of chapter 1 of Wifey 101: Everything I Got Wrong After Finding Mr. Right yet, I suggest going here so you can read that first. This next part of the chapter is one of the hardest truths I’ve ever admitted out loud. There is a lot of pain that goes into sharing, but I believe that shedding light on tough situations is the only way change happens and people heal. Not to mention, it allows you to lean on one another for support. I know I am not alone in this and I hope and pray that me sharing this helps others who have had similar experiences.
Chapter 1 continued…
At this point, the most influential man in my life was the guy who beat the crap out of my mom. The next man to have a major impact on me was my molester. Strike two.
Over the next decade, we moved about 11 times, always because we’d been evicted, and I went to six different schools. Most trailer park people are poor folks struggling to pay their bills, living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to survive. The majority of these families need government checks for heat, food, and rent. Mom wasn’t an exception. She tried to do well as a good single parent but there just weren’t enough hours in a day for her to give enough attention to each child or the housework.
Neighbors and teachers called Child Protective Services at least three times. Joh and I were in a school program called “Banana Splits” for children who had divorced parents. I think my Banana Splits counselor was on to us because my mom told me not to share anything about our lives with her. She didn’t trust her. They all figured it out anyway. The first time CPS was called, someone claimed we didn’t have food. But when the social worker showed up at our trailer, Mom flung open the freezer and all the cupboards to show her that we had more than just powdered milk. “See, we have food!” she said defensively. Luckily, Mom had just gotten her food stamps and stocked up.
Mom hated CPS but also used them to discipline us. I remember one time when Joh and I were acting up, we told her we were running away. “Go ahead!” Mom screamed. “Go pack your bags!”
“Come on, Jamie, let’s go get our stuff!” Joh said. We ran into our bedroom and packed our toys in big, black trash bags. When we came back out to the living room, Mom was on the phone pretending to be talking to CPS. “Don’t worry, they’re coming to get you!” she taunted.
Joh wasn’t scared, but I broke down and wailed, “Don’t let them take me, Momma!”
As life got more out of control, our trailers got increasingly more cluttered and run down. There were always dirty dishes in the sink, mountains of laundry, and mice. We were very proud we never got roaches from the neighbors. Mom said those little buggers traveled fast so we always made sure to shake our clothes off after hanging out at our friends’ trailers. We may have had a cluttered, messy house with occasional mice, but we never had a bad case of roaches. We killed them off the first time we saw them crawling up the wall.
Mom had a lot of jobs but rarely kept one for long. In the beginning we never went hungry, though our diets consisted of peanut butter, Ramen noodles, and fast food. We used food stamps (which always embarrassed my mom) and got free meals at school (I was always embarrassed about that). All staples came from the local food pantry. For holiday dinners, we’d go to churches handing out free turkeys and stuffing. A lot of times we woke up and it was freezing in the house because our electricity had been turned off.
It never bothered me. I didn’t know any different. When I was a kid, my mom was like a superhero to me. She always protected us from Hank. She always told us how much she loved us. I never thought about the fact that we lived in so many different places or that we were considered dirt-poor trailer trash. I thought my Momma was the most amazing woman. She was so beautiful to me. She had long blond feathered hair and was a bit heavier than the average woman, which made her extra cozy for hugs and snuggling on the couch. She had blue-green eyes, which she insisted changed depending on her mood. I’d always plop myself down on our teeny-tiny bathroom floor and watch as she applied her makeup. I watched as she smiled to sweep her rosy powdered blush on her cheekbones. She’d lean over the sink to get closer to the mirror so she could smother each lash plump with mascara. She took her sweet time making sure she looked pretty, even if she was just going to the grocery store. Mom insisted she wanted to look presentable.
That was her biggest downfall. Men were always more important to her than anything, including her children. At least when Hank was around, Mom was home and attempting to take care of all of us. But when she became single again, she changed.
The first thing I noticed was a major change in her wardrobe. She started wearing shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out. And she’d stuff her boobs—which Momma said sagged down to her belly button because she had to breast-feed five babies—into those low-cut shirts. I would always yell at her, “Put some clothes on!” I was so embarrassed of it. I’ve always found cleavage and booty shorts disgusting, not sexy.
She also started partying a lot again, throwing her card games at our trailer, even on weeknights, with her boobs and butt hanging out, cackling with her friends. At some point, she started doing drugs, pot and cocaine at first, but later it progressed to crack. There wasn’t a door on my bedroom and it was so loud and bright and all the lights would be on and she didn’t care. I’d try to cover my eyes and ears and nose and get to sleep for school, but would end up frustrated, yelling, “Please keep it down!”
“Leave us alone!” my mom would yell back. “Stop acting like you’re my mother!”
The worst side effect of Mom’s new life was that new men—strangers really—were coming and going constantly. She’d have noisy sex when I was hanging out with a friend in the living room and I’d have to turn up music to drown it out. If I complained, she’d tell me to “mind my own business,” or even more traumatizing, she’d go to the guy’s house and leave us all in the car while she went inside to have sex.
“You are not to get out of this car under any circumstances,” she scolded us. “Do not embarrass me.” Sometimes she’d bring Joh inside with her because she knew she’d honk the horn obnoxiously or just barge in anyway. I always wanted to please her so I’d say, “Okay, Mommy! Guys quiet down!” even though we’d have to sit in the car bored out of our skulls for what seemed like hours. I liked being the good girl.
I don’t know if it was the drugs or what, but it seemed like my mother stopped caring about my siblings and me. She stopped going to parent-teacher conferences and started pawning us off on other people to take care of us. When I was in Girl Scouts, my mom could never come because she couldn’t find a babysitter, and she was always late to pick me up. A couple times she completely flaked and the Girl Scout leader had to drive me home. She walked me up to the door and said, “Here’s Jamie,” and my mom was like, “Oh, I forgot tonight was Brownies.” I could tell my Girl Scout leader was like, “How is it six at night and you don’t notice your kid is missing?” When Joh’s rebellion got out of control, Mom said she couldn’t handle her and she made her go live with a boyfriend she dated for like a month. I felt bad Joh had to go live with this strange ex-boyfriend alone so I told her I’d go too. Apparently all Mom had to do was offer to let him claim us on his taxes and he’d take us in. I guess he felt bad for us.
You can only imagine the result of all of these older, un-vetted men going in and out of our lives and our trailers. The irony is that my mom used to tell us girls, “Don’t trust men, they only want one thing.” At least three of us kids were molested—that I know of for sure. The story of my molestation, which started around the age of seven and didn’t end until I was ten, is so dark and shameful to me, this is the first time I’m even acknowledging it anywhere other than in my mind and my memories.
One of my mom’s crushes during the time right after Hank left was a teenage boy, we’ll call him Frank, about 18, who lived in our trailer park. Remember, my mom was only about 28 at the time. All the kids would play kickball in the common circle and I didn’t know what flirting was, but I could tell that my mom thought highly of him. So then I thought highly of him. I remember I was so flat chested and I would try to push my nonexistent boobs together to get him to notice me.
He did notice me and several other young girls in our trailer park. I found out later not only did he molest me, he molested one of my sisters and my friend. It usually happened at his house when no one was there but he also cornered me in a drugstore once, too. He would make me kiss him and give him hand jobs and oral sex. He would tell me what he liked and I would do it. He ejaculated in my mouth and I didn’t know what was spewing out. My mouth was always just wet. It was disgusting, just disgusting. I didn’t even know what an orgasm was. I just knew I felt like I had to make him happy and proud of me. Isn’t that twisted and weird? And the thing that’s even more messed up is that for awhile I’d be upset if I didn’t feel like I made him happy or if he didn’t pay attention to me later when I’d see him around the trailer park. I was like, “What did I do wrong?”
My mom didn’t use her best judgment and actually hired Frank to babysit us. My sister said she told her what he was doing to the girls in the trailer park but my mom didn’t believe her. When he came over, we’d all watch cartoons together and I’d try to sneak away so he couldn’t get to me. I’d go sleep in my mom’s bed, thinking he wouldn’t dare touch me or do anything with me there. No such luck. He ignored my claims of being sleepy and insisted on kissing me goodnight and tucking me in, which led to groping and more abuse.
I always felt like what happened was my fault because I put myself in situations where he could do these things to me. Am I the one who actually wants this or is he manipulating me to think that I want this? Because that’s kind of what happened. I know logically what I’m saying doesn’t make sense. Of course at that age, this wasn’t my fault. But ever since then it just really screwed with my head because I technically wasn’t forced. I could have avoided going to his house or being anywhere near him.
The abuse went on for years and didn’t stop until we moved out of Beacon View, the first and only time we moved to a house with stairs. I felt gross and disgusted and ashamed. The only thing that made me feel good about it was if he would praise me afterwards. After a while, nothing about it made me feel good. I knew it felt wrong. This same sort of thing happened again later on, but with a different boy. This time I was older and wiser. I remember lying down in my mom’s bedroom with her and another trailer park boy. He had been flirting with me, but it seemed innocent. We were watching a movie together when he began rubbing my back. His rubs began getting lower and lower on my back. I remember lying there secretly hoping it would stop. I felt paralyzed like I couldn’t move or speak. I sat there quiet while inside I was screaming “STOP IT!” I don’t know why I couldn’t just say it out loud. Mom got up to go to the bathroom and I quickly jumped up to follow her into the room. As she was peeing I whispered to her that he began rubbing my back and I didn’t feel comfortable. She said, “Let me sit between you two so it doesn’t happen again.” I was hoping she would just kick him out, but that worked too.
Many have wondered why I have trust issues. Most people just feel bad for my husband, Doug. He would get so frustrated when I didn’t immediately trust him in our relationship. It’s not an excuse but this is what I grew up with. I pride myself on talking openly and honestly—regardless of how bad my flaws make me look—but this is way too heavy to just bring up in a nonchalant conversation. It’s not easy to talk about.
So why am I telling this story now? As I type this, Doug knows something crappy happened to me but he doesn’t know the details. It’s a bad memory, I don’t want to see it in my head. I don’t want to go there at all. But I will tell him before this book is published because secrets in a relationship—or anywhere in life—are unhealthy. And I’ve kept too many from him (See CHAPTER 6). I’ve learned that keeping dark skeletons in your closet only causes shame and hurt. The moment you open up and share them is the moment you realize that you’re not alone, that there are others who are hiding ugly secrets, too. When you finally let them go, you can find others who understand. Together you can lean on each other for support.
My goal in sharing my story is that it inspires you. And I’m telling you because it helps explain why I’d choose to seek a husband the way I did. My love life—until I got married—was a disaster, a direct result of the abuse I witnessed and experienced from Hank and Frank. After my molestation happened, I went the complete opposite direction with men. I never felt comfortable or safe around them. I didn’t want a boyfriend. I only liked guys that were not interested in me—not because I liked the chase but because I felt safer with them. You would not believe how awkward I am sexually (still to this day).
It took me 27 years—and going on an extreme reality show experiment that arranges marriages—to figure out that my past didn’t have to control and/or ruin my future.
I’m living proof that you can find happiness, if you’ve been in a similar situation. But it takes a lot of hope and even more work.
As scared as I was of real intimacy, I never gave up on finding true love.
End of Chapter 1
Like I said before, if you’re left wondering “Well, where does your marriage tie into all of this?” then you’ll have to read the rest of my book to find out. Please pre-order Wifey 101: Everything I Got Wrong After Finding Mr. Right now (links below). Save your order number and place in the box on my homepage for the first half of my book to be sent to you inbox immediately, for FREE. Yes, that means you can keep reading! You’ll also be sent with exclusive, never before seen video footage and photos of Doug and me. AND (because I really appreciate your support by ordering) you will also get discount codes to Jamie Otis™ Jewelry and Lanie Lynn Jewelry!
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