Alternatively: The Evil Stepmom Trope Is Real And I’m Living In It
I grew up in what was considered to be a “broken family.” My sister held daily screaming matches with my at the time too-overbearing dad, my mom popped pills in the bathroom with the door locked, I cried in my room by myself.
My sister ran away from home, again and again, until finally she was too old to be picked up by the police and brought home. My dad left my mom, and won full custody of me, eventually realizing his mistakes with my sister and befriending her with apologies for his actions. The divorce was messy, but necessary.
My mom took up alcoholism again, and moved away. I never saw her anymore, and barely spoke with her, either, except on federal holidays and birthdays. She’d spent my childhood lying in bed, rendered unconscious from sleeping pills, pain medication, whatever it was she felt like she needed that day, and I spent all my years as a kid hanging out with my dad. The coolest dad in the world.
I was raised by my single dad for the rest of middle school, high school, and a few years into college, before I bit the bullet and moved away from home (my adventures of which I’ve immortalized in a previous blog post). During this time, my dad met his second soon-to-be wife, and went on to marry her, too.I’ll call her B. Whether that’s the first letter of her name, or the first letter of what she is (a salty word I don’t dare broadcast), I’ll leave for you to decide. But all in all, what I wish for you to know about B before diving in, is this:
My first impression of B was that she was a genuinely good person, who loved my dad a lot, and wanted to mutually take care of him while he took care of her. She treated me with respect, though she was shy, and I thought, for once, I might know what it was like to have an involved mother-figure in my life (one living under the same household as my dad, at least).
After the wedding, though– apparently, not even 10 minutes after the wedding, either, B shed her nice person skin like a goddamn poisonous pit-viper.
I wasn’t there for most of it, I was off doing my thing during college, but I heard enough from my dad. Things started small, “B and I have been disagreeing lately, but I think it’s just because we’re a new couple.”
“B has been giving me the silent treatment for the last week, but I think it’s because we don’t know how to communicate effectively yet.”
“B tells me I’m a mean person, so I’ve been trying harder to understand her point of view.”
“I pay all of the bills, including the mortgage, but B buys the groceries sometimes. It’s because she believes the man should be the provider for the household.”
“B says she’s refusing to cook dinner anymore, but then gets upset when I then only cook for myself.”
“B came home to me watching TV on the couch last night, and it was like WWIII.”
“B refuses to go to couples’ counselling, because she says if there’s something wrong with the relationship, it’s my fault.”
“B is clearly bipolar, or depressed, or [something else needing medication], but she refuses to go to the doctor, because she doesn’t think anything is wrong, and I’m the one that’s instigating all of the fights.”
And then, finally, everything culminated the summer I had to move back home, or else be rendered homeless. According to B, it was the “worst summer of her life.”
According to me, it was the “summer I almost actually ended my life out of misery and desperation.”
I have a tendency for being dramatic. I’ll admit this. But that summer I was with her, I honestly, for the life of me, can’t understand how it was possibly the “worst summer of her life,” unless she’s lived every summer previous at a resort hotel and spa in Hawaii. (Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, since she grew up wealthy.)
Most of the summer for me went like this: I stayed in my room when she was home. When she wasn’t home, I might go into the living room to watch TV. I might make something to eat. But when the garage door opened, I would retreat back to my hole. The only time I ever actually interacted with her was during dinner, or when my dad would invite her along on our weekend outings into town.
If I was on speaking terms with her now, I’d love to ask what it was that made her hate me so immediately, without question. I didn’t want to live there, since the beginning. I was being forced to live there. I would’ve never stepped foot into that house, had I been able to help it.
She accused me of rolling my eyes, constantly. She accused me of “stealing” my dad– which made no sense, because she was married to him, and living in the same house. She thought I was inconsiderate, because I rearranged the guest room she was letting me “borrow.” She thought I was an ungrateful child, because she couldn’t comprehend why I didn’t have a positive relationship with my mother. I was afraid to speak when she was nearby, because she had a problem with anything that escaped my mouth. She would condescendingly laugh whenever I did speak, or offer an opinion. She told my dad she didn’t approve of my relationship with him, accusing me of being disrespectful because of the friendly rapport he and I shared.
God damnit, for the life of me, I have no idea what I did to her.
This went on for months. I was absolutely miserable. I was depressed. I was ready to die. The only reason I didn’t, was because I didn’t want to leave my dad behind, alone with this sad excuse for a sentient human being.
And yet she’s the victim, it being the “worst summer of her life.”I felt like a burden, I felt like an eyesore, I felt less than wanted. Despite never leaving my room in fear of enraging the beast, I somehow still managed to get under her scales. Anything I said or did, she would take out on my dad, rather than coming to me with her issues. How many problems could have been solved if she hadn’t been so goddamn passive-aggressive, like a high schooler?
Finally, one day, it occurred to me: I didn’t deserve to be treated like this. I didn’t deserve to be looked down upon, and walked all over like an insect. It wasn’t my problem she had an issue with everything I did, despite my never interacting with her anyway.
But, most importantly at all: she didn’t deserve a constant place in my mind.
I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of knowing she was taking a toll on me, that her scare-tactics and gaslighting were working.
A switch had flipped, suddenly, as if overnight. I couldn’t give a shit what she said, thought, accused me of doing, or being. It wasn’t my fault I’d been stuck living there all summer, it wasn’t my fault she hated me. If she wanted to dedicate her entire life to making me miserable, that was her own choice– but I wasn’t going to dedicate my own life to falling prey to her.
I stopped censoring what I said to my dad when she was within earshot. I stopped caring if my making individual meals in the kitchen bothered her, despite her being at work all day. I stopped caring what she said to my dad in complaint– because he’d stopped caring, too. He outright told her that he didn’t want to hear it anymore, that he knew everything she blamed on me wasn’t fair. Without even my dad on her side, she had no power over me.While I’m not privy to physical abuse, or sexual abuse, and even this abuse I experienced over the summer was nothing more than having my self esteem demolished, I feel like I at least garnered a peek inside the mind of a miserable person who has nothing better to do that make other people miserable, too. Other, totally undeserving people, like me, and my dad, and even my cat (who doesn’t give a damn about anyone, honestly).
By this point, though, I can confidently say she never even crosses my mind, and that’s exactly what she deserves.