Looking back, it seems that adults thought of me as so detached from reality, almost as if they saw me as a goldfish swimming aimlessly through a bowl and repeatedly hitting my head on the side. It seemed that they thought that I didn't know that I was hitting my head, let alone know that most goldfish don't do this. But I knew. I knew and understood much more than they realized. And despite what they thought, I was very aware that I was different.
By the time I was eleven, I had some vague idea that I was being looked at, that something was going on behind my back, that adults were talking about me. I was well aware that my parents thought there was something psychologically wrong with me. So around that time when I started seeing a psychologist, Dr. Klein (not his real name), I knew I had a lot to be suspicious of. My mother usually talked with Dr. Klein alone for five minutes before my session started. But one day she was in there for almost the entire hour that was supposed to be mine. After I realized that a long time had passed, I knew that something was going on, that they were talking about me. I did what any suspicious eleven-year-old would do: I sat outside the door and eavesdropped.
I remember Mom saying in exasperation, "She doesn't tell me what she wants." I knew exactly what she was referring to. One day (maybe the same day; I don't remember) before school I was looking for my bra. I had just started "developing", so needing a bra was a new and embarrassing thing for me. Like any adolescent girl, I didn't want my father to hear me talking about it. I found my mother and whispered, "I need my bra." She couldn't hear me. "What?" she had asked in a very loud voice. "My bra," I whispered again. She still didn't hear me. She kept talking more and more loudly. Not wanting Dad to overhear, in a normal voice I said something like, "My... you know." Mom didn't figure it out. So there she was that afternoon, telling Dr. Klein that for some reason something was preventing me from communicating a simple request. The fact that it hadn't occurred to Mom or Dr. Klein that I would eavesdrop and the fact that Mom couldn't figure out that I had been trying to tell her without Dad overhearing that I was looking for my bra speaks volumes: It shows just how little adults thought I knew and understood.
Around the same time, I had started drawing violent Addams Family cartoons. I knew not to draw violent pictures in school. But Mom forbade me from drawing them at all because for some reason she was inordinately convinced that I was indeed drawing them in school. Of course I knew at age eleven that there were certain activities appropriate for different contexts! I may have had trouble with some of these, but not all of them as my parents thought.
When I was turning eighteen, I was friends with a girl, Jenna (not her real name), who was fooling around with Wicca. When Mom found out, she yelled at me to stay away from her. Recently I got back in touch with Jenna (as detailed in "Why Do You Keep Dredging These Things Up"?) and I mentioned the Wicca incident to my parents. Neither of my parents remember the incident or even who Jenna was. Mom said that she was likely scared that I would join a cult (I do remember this being the case; Dad and I had had a conversation shortly after the incident). I recall feeling insulted that Mom would think I would be stupid enough to do something like that. When I brought up the incident a few weeks ago, Mom mentioned that I was a "kid with problems" and that was why she had reacted the way she did. I was a month shy of my eighteenth birthday at the time. Of course I knew that cults were dangerous! The Heaven's Gate suicide had happened a little over a year before, and I remember thinking that it was horrible and that it was amazing how easily people could be indoctrinated. And my parents knew that I had had these thoughts because we'd talked about it at the time (the absurdity of thinking that trying out Wicca is a direct pathway to a cult is another tangent I won't get into here).
I often missed social cues, but I was also better at reading between the lines than many people gave me credit for. In the summer of 1998, when I was seventeen and in the C. I. T. program at Camp Negev, my counselors told me on the first day that they were not letting me work with kids. When I asked why, they said that they wanted me to do "a special job". Suspicious that there was something else going on, I forced it out of them. "It" was that they were not comfortable letting me work with kids. Did they really think I wasn't going to know that there was something they weren't telling me? Did they really not think I would force it out of them? Throughout the day, I was quite upset and went to one of the head staff about it. When I asked her why I was being kept from the kids, she told me that people "had concerns". But I had had enough experience to know that someone telling me that they "had concerns" was a euphemism for something more serious. I had enough experience to know that it could mean, "You're weird", "We see you as a problem," "We don't want you here", or all of the above and more. Long before that, I knew when people were keeping something from me, or not telling me the entire story. "Forcing it out of them" is something I have long since had down to an art. Why wouldn't I, if experience taught me that a lot went on about me behind closed doors?