I was spoiled as fuck growing up.
I’m not ashamed of this, nor am I gloating. It’s simply a fact, so why hide the truth of the matter. I’m a material, a material girl. Thanks for the anthem Madonna. Madonna of Michigan, guess we have a thing or two in common. However, the queen of pop does have a brother, and I was not blessed (or maybe cursed) with such things.
As an only child I didn’t often hear the word no. When it was spoke to me, I certainly didn’t take it seriously. As a kid nothing seemed unattainable, and I was packed to the brim with dreams. Mostly involving possessions, fame, and fortune. Some highly unrealistic, such as having my very own theme park. Neverland was never in the cards for me, and I definitely didn’t identify with the King of Pop.
My parents were both 26 when I was born, and had only been dating for a couple months before my mom was pregnant with me. I was a cruise baby, since my dad’s signature move after dating someone for a short period was to show off, and take them on a cruise to a tropical location. Mom and Dad were never together in the years I can remember. Neither of them knew what the hell to expect when I came into this world. Neither of them knew how adorable and precocious I would be as a little girl.
My mother was a petite latina woman with hair the size of Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody. She said I looked so much like a doll as a baby, that people were always asking to hold me. “I can’t even believe she’s real,” they would say. She dressed me up in the most extravagant dresses, with tights, shoes, and a hair accessory or bonnet to match. I rarely was seen in the same outfit.
When I was old enough to talk, she told me pants were for boys. Midwest winters were brutal, and this woman still enforced skirts and tights as my dress code. Despite these constraints, I continued to run around climbing trees, playing in the dirt, and flashing the playground by hanging upside down on the monkey bars daily. The tights I ruined need their own landfill.
I can only recall having two separate homes. Naturally I needed double of everything, so I didn’t have to trek stuff back and forth. I had two of my favorite movie Dumb and Dumber, two walkman’s, a set of the same books even. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I accidentally left something at the opposite house, how would I know the ending to Holes?
Both my parents lived by the “you get what you pay for” mentality. We generally did not purchase products that were the knockoff, or cheaper version. I didn’t understand what this meant as a kid, but I heard the phrase so often from both of them it had to be true. I received the best quality toys, clothes, electronics, you name it. When the girls at school started wearing Lip Smackers and frosted eyeshadow, I wasn’t allowed to partake.
“That’s drugstore makeup, and isn’t safe to put on your sensitive skin,” my mother warned.
Apparently my skin was too good for the brands sold at Walgreens, off to the department stores we went. In elementary school I didn’t give a shit about Estee Lauder, Clinique, and MAC. I just wanted to be like everyone else. Until I swiped some cheap glitter on my eyes at a sleepover, and ended up in the ER with an eye infection.
How I hate when that woman is right.
I saw my dad every other weekend, and as a bachelor in his 20’s he had no clue what to do with me. So he got me a jungle gym, a bike, put in a basketball hoop, and brought me to Toys R US every time I visited. He didn’t play the toys we got with me, I played alone. We often stopped at Blockbuster on the way home, so that I could lock myself away in my room with entertainment for the evening. Meanwhile, he partied with his friends until all hours of the night. I wished he would party with me, we could have a tea party? I could make treats from my easy bake oven, my dolls never quite had the appetite.
Every Christmas since the age of 5, I wrote a list of what I wanted. I made a day out of looking through the ads, and circling every single thing my little heart desired. After narrowing it down, I then organized the items into categories such as dolls, outdoors, tapes/cds/dvds, books, and on it went. I copied the list for everyone on both sides of my family who I knew would be getting me gifts, and even specialized it for their budget. Think of it as a baby shower registry, but after the baby is born.
I knew Santa wasn’t real very early on. I used to sneak out of bed and sleep under the tree, to wait for him on Christmas Eve. That bastard was always a no show. My parents didn’t make a big deal out of him, or play make believe with me from what I can recall. Therefore, I was very suspicious of mythical creatures, there was just too much that didn’t add up.
I had nine cousins on my dad’s side and six on my mom’s, yet at family Christmas I often had the most presents under the tree. Sometimes my parents would force me to open some at home, so that my cousins didn’t believe “Santa” liked me more. What a bunch of babies.
When the big day rolled around, if I got something not on my list or the wrong brand, I usually made an announcement about it. Ever seen a preschooler shame an adult? Ya no, most people haven’t.
I felt like if someone didn’t get me what I wanted, it meant they didn’t love me.
The strangest part of it all, is that my parents were my hype men. I often heard them scolding their own parents with statements like:
“You had the list Mom, you know she won’t like it if it’s not the exact one.”
“Do you have the gift receipt at least? She’s going to make me exchange it.”
“Why didn’t you ask me before you went rogue, she’s never going to wear that.”
Were they scared of the fit I would throw, or did they actually believe I deserved everything I wanted? For my dad it was most likely the first option, and my mom the latter. Why did they choose to only spoil me with materials? It became all I knew.
Mom’s child support was quite a nice chunk of change for one kiddo, on account of it being based on daddio’s income. The less time dad spent with me, the more gifts I got and activities I could partake in. Gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance equals a lot of glitter, leotards, and broken limbs. Add in Kendall college art classes, blue lake fine arts camp (the one in American Pie), and about every sport that existed. The ones he liked I tried extra hard to be good at, that way we could have something to do together.
I was so excited about all my new skill sets, but I didn’t feel the reciprocation from him. My father’s love language has always been gifts, never been quality time. I didn’t mind so much as a kid, gifts were fun!
The older I got, the more I yearned for him to actually want to be around me. It felt like he didn’t even know who I was, or how great I was. I was that kid who was naturally good at anything I put my mind to, on top of that I was smart as all hell. Babysitters, teachers, and my friend’s parents, were constantly telling mine how lucky they were to have me. When I voiced how I felt on the topic, he acted like he didn’t understand, so I eventually gave up.
As I turned into a teenager I didn’t want to hang out with him or my madre anywho. I spent so much time away from both of them as a kid, that I was pretty self sufficient, with their money of course. I just wanted to do dumb stuff with my friends, and shunned my mother as if I had Connie the hormone monster in my ear. I started getting into trouble quite often, and was constantly grounded. Never been a big fan of authority, and didn’t like rules. I always felt I could somehow finagle my way out of most situations.
In middle school my mom would take away my books when I was grounded, as they were my most prized possessions. Usually it was the most recent release of the Harry Potter series. When she left for work I would snoop around and find said book, then swap out the sleeve on the cover. Jokes on you woman, I will be in my room reading The Prisoner of Azkaban again (wink).
MK was a single mother of an only child, living in a small religious town where she had no friends. She was lonely as all hell. We had moved to Zeeland when I was 9, and she married my step dad. After about 6 nightmarish years they got divorced. We only stayed there so I wouldn’t have to transfer schools.
When she grounded me in high school I would storm off to one of my rooms. I’ve had two in almost all of my houses, a play room and a regular room. I would catch her pacing back and forth in front of one of the rooms. She often made excuses to come in and grab something. I see you girl, lingering your ass off. She would then suggest that we go out to eat, and go shopping at the mall.
“Uhhhh Mom aren’t I grounded?” I would ask with a smirk. I knew she didn’t have anything to do without me.
“You are grounded, from doing anything that isn’t with me.” She pretended to sound stern and parental.
She knew that spending time with her was punishment enough for me at that age. Although, the On The Border meal and 6 new outfits from Hollister would say otherwise. I think it made her feel good to spoil me. She had 4 siblings growing up, and was definitely the least favorite of the bunch. She wanted me to have things she never did.
I was always given everything, so I appreciated nothing. Until college when I had to get a real job to pay for my extracurricular activities. I turned 18 shortly after I began my freshman year, and the child support was now nonexistent.
“What do you mean you won’t continue funding my weekly concert attendance? How am I to learn of the arts, and become educationally well rounded?” My Ticketmaster account had my Dad’s credit card saved on it, for an emergency show now and then.
“If it doesn’t have to do with school, then it isn’t a necessity. The arts aren’t necessary to get you to a 6 figure salary by your 30’s.” My father was very logical. I’m not sure if he believed in dreams. Instead, he believed in a steady job with income and benefits. He was from the Midwest afterall, this is how most of us were raised.
However, I always found reasoning for my need of something I simply wanted. My persuasiveness has gotten me far, but I definitely didn’t win in that particular battle. Geesh, looks like experience has made me rich, and now they’re after me.
Once Mom didn’t have child support to give me, I saw it as an excuse to run wild. Whoever has the money and the things I want, was the boss of me. Otherwise I’m off at Michigan State, and don’t have to listen to a word you say. In this case, that was Dad, and he didn’t care what I was doing as long as it didn’t affect him negatively. Like when I would call him the day after being released from jail, to let him know that I was once again in trouble. Hello probation, my old but very familiar enemy.
I got a job serving at a college bar, and it was actually a joke. I’ve always been very personable, and knew what to say to get people to like me, so the tips kept rolling in hot. Slap on a v neck tee and a Vicky Secret padded bra, and poof double the earnings. Cause the boy with cold hard cash is always Mr Right, right Madge?
It was like a competition to me, this making money thing. I’ve always been a hustler, and contrary to my parent’s beliefs, I wasn’t afraid of hard work One gameday later I could be rolling home at 4 am with enough tips for a designer bag. I could get used to this. There was a certain power that came with having my own money. However, I wasn’t aware of the stress to come from being in complete control of my finances.
At the age of 21 I was cut off, cold turkey. Father had decided, with his girlfriend whispering in his ear, that I was suddenly too spoiled and the time had come. That I would have to even pay for my last year of school with student loans, even though he told me my whole life that as long as I worked hard for good grades, my bachelor’s would be taken care of.
He was big on education, and wanted to make sure I was set up for success. More so, he wanted to make sure I didn’t end up like my mother. What had changed that sentiment? Was it the other expenses he had around that time? My Grandma told me it was because he had spent most of his money on a boob job for said girlfriend. I blamed her, how was a boob job more important than your only child’s education?
This was just another time I felt I wasn’t the priority.
Upon college graduation, I felt abandoned. No more all expense spring breaks paid for, no more studying abroad in foreign countries, no more car, no more free rent. It felt like becoming an orphan. If there was no money, what did I need these people for?
After a broke girl summer in Michigan, I moved to Chicago to begin my adult life. I made 40K at my first big girl job, and each paycheck felt like winning the lottery. Naturally I went out and spent it all on booze and clothes. I was living paycheck to paycheck. No one had ever taught me how to budget. I felt like I was entitled to living the same life I always had, on a very different salary.
My parentals had given me so many possessions, then thrown me out in the wild without a clue of how the real world works.
I would eventually figure it out on my own, after I racked up an immense amount of credit card debt. I didn’t start budgeting until I decided to move to California. I suppose that would require some sort of savings account. Savings was a foreign concept to me, if you had money why wouldn’t you just spend it? My dad had told me not to spend money I didn’t already have, but didn’t tell me he was going to leave me like this.
I resented him for leaving me. I resented him for a lot of things, but I think the recent absence of one of the only love’s I ever knew from him, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I became obsessed with doing my expenses, like OCD status. From 2014-now I have kept a spreadsheet sectioned in categories of every single thing I have spent money on. Even a $1 parking meter gets slapped on the Cabs and Parking column. It’s wild how guilty I feel for buying new things for myself that I know I don’t need. Similarly, it’s odd how conscious I am to this day of being a repeat dress offender. Even if it’s one outfit worn twice in the same month. I believe everyone notices, and is thinking less of me. It was just something I was taught not to do. That one’s clothes, accessories, and presentation made them who they are.
Presents now upset me more than they delight me. I wonder what on earth compelled someone to get me certain things, do they even know me at all? I take my gift giving and receiving VERY seriously. I personalize every gift I give, and should frankly receive an award for how grand of a giver I am. It’s all in the tiny details, even the card and wrapping is incredibly important to me.
They mean so much to me, because they are the only way I learned to show love. I still don’t value other acts of love as much as I should, and I wonder if that will ever change. I’m learning slowly that when I fuck up, buying someone’s love back may not always work. However, if there’s a small chance it will work, I will probably still try it.
It’s hard for me to break this stream of consciousness, or way of thinking. I often wonder what my parents expect from me now that they built this person. They built the person who feels ok showing virtually no kind of love to either of them anymore. They built this woman who isn’t sure how to. In the case of them I don’t know what would ever feel natural, except remembering a conversation we had of something they wanted, buying it, picking out a funny card, and shipping it back to Michigan. I left my love in the 90’s in Grand Rapids, and this is the only way I know how to give it back.