Tattletale

This morning at about 5:30 am, the cat woke me up because his timed feeder failed to open.  So I took care of that and then went back to bed. At which point a memory surfaced.

I felt an ache in my left leg, and the term “charley horse” came to my mind.  What followed that was an immediate association with my two youngest brothers.

And from there came this forgotten memory, of going to my mother, possibly crying, because one of my brothers had given me a “charley horse” when we were “playing”.  There could have been a trick played on me, as in, “Do you want a charley horse?” when I didn’t know what one was, so I would say yes.

So if my mother was in the house, I would have been younger than 6.  My gut feeling is that I was around 4, which would put my brothers at 7 and 11.  And my sense is that this happened in the afternoon, maybe after school for them.  I want to say that it happened outside, and I don’t remember a coat, so it was probably warm weather.

Anyway, I went looking for my mother and found her, lying in bed, and my view is that of being about level with her back, which was turned towards me as she lay on her side.  I can see her aqua colored housecoat.  She doesn’t turn over to look at me, let alone hug me or show concern.  She doesn’t even move.

And when I complain to her uncaring back about the physical harm my bigger, older, stronger brother did to me, what I was told may not have been in these exact words — but the meaning I clearly get, the words in my head now are,

“No one likes a tattletale.”

This is how my mother apparently dealt with me being deliberately physically harmed, at the age of around 4 or 5.

It puts the blame on me for having bothered her with my problem, my pain and distress.

It makes it clear that she isn’t going to do anything about it.

It contains the threat that “people aren’t going to like you” (which she continued to use on me throughout high school).

I now know that what was meant in all those cases — what she was really saying, but couldn’t say aloud — was I don’t like you.”

And finally, it fits the familiar pattern:  I ask for help of some kind, and I get told in no uncertain terms that I’m not going to get what I ask for.

(Of course, you mustn’t think that this shows my mother being NEGLECTFUL.  I have it on good authority that she’d have had to be going to a BAR and leaving the kids in the CAR, for it to be NEGLECT.)


So.  My recourse at that age is going to be one of two things:

  • go and tell Dad, and try to get some help – although I am certain he wasn’t home, or I would have gone to him in the first place;
  • or, with the threat of not being liked hanging over my head, which maybe also prevents me from going to Dad, because of the fear of losing the one person I can trust and count on in the entire world — (and thus exposing her complete lack of care and concern to him, the one person she has most to fear from if she is found out) — I can retreat and stay away from my brothers.

This works for the narcissist on quite a few levels.  They like to keep their audience from communicating with each other — it makes it so much easier for them not to be found out.

My mother’s reaction makes me wonder if there is also an association with the incident at my kindergarten Open House, in the fall of ’74, when I became the “big mouth” — blamed by my mother for having spoken truthfully about my family when I was asked.

If she decided that I was to blame then for speaking the truth, it is not a stretch from there to being called a “tattletale” for speaking up about physical abuse from my brothers.


There were other incidents of physical harm that revolve around them.

Once I was playing with my brothers in the back yard, and for whatever reason was running behind the garage.  I tripped (or was tripped?) and fell on some glass from a broken window.  My wrist was slashed open vertically — the way you’re supposed to do it if you’re serious about bleeding out — and I ended up with 9 stitches and three still-visible scars.

Another time, my second-youngest brother was cleaning a BB gun in the basement, on a big old metal desk we had down there.  I think all three of us younger kids were there.  I was drawing or writing on one end of the desk, and my brother was cleaning the gun at the other end — with it pointed at me.  At some point the gun went off, and I have a middle finger that I still can’t feel the tip of.  My brother claimed he thought it was unloaded, and that it went off when he opened it.  I have my doubts that that is how a BB gun works.

My youngest brother had a definite streak of cruelty.  After the divorce, when we had babysitters in the summer months, we had one who had a 5YO daughter whom she brought with her every day (with red hair, too).  I had no interest in playing with her, so I must have been several years older than 5; the divorce was finalized when I was 7.5 so I had to be older than 8, which puts my brother at older than 11.  Certainly old enough to know that you aren’t supposed to deliberately hurt other people.

He concocted this “game” where he would call her by name, and she would come running into the living room, and then he would hit her with a pillow hard enough to knock her down.

After a while she got smart enough to not respond to his call, so he invited me into the game and got ME to call her name, in order to prolong his fun.  I think I only did it once or twice and then refused to “play” any more.  That poor little girl was crying and she went to tell her mother, but I don’t think she was able to explain what was happening and besides, I am sure my brother said we were just playing with the pillows and she fell down, or something.

Funnily enough, once I stopped trying to play with my older brothers, I can’t remember any similar incidents that involved physical injury.

I’m sure this will be called paranoia by those who have a vested interest in making sure it is seen that way.

Or is it the willful inflicting of pain on another person — one who is already known to be the scapegoat, at least when Mom is home — by a couple of boys who are in pain themselves, and don’t have any other way to express it?  Because of course boys don’t get sad and cry.  Boys get angry, and then physically violent.  And the scapegoat gets the brunt of it.