My mom is probably the most interesting thing about me. She’s the manic pixie dreamgirl I could never be.
She always was. She’s the shining star that others orbit. She’s the loud boisterous laugh drawing others in close. Her bright smile, stretching freckles over a glowing complexion, charms everyone.
I love my mom and I hate my mom, and I’ll never forgive her for so many things, and sometimes I mourn the relationship that we won’t ever have.
The issue with my mom isn’t that she’s a Wiccan. The issue with my mom isn’t that she’s gay. The issue isn’t even that she’s feminist. The issue is that she’s a self-centered abusive monster. All smiles and jokes and ghost-hunting expeditions and D&D campaigns to everyone on the outside. Inside the house, it was all rage, screaming, wounds that had to be hidden. With a pentagram around her neck and wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Blessed Be’ she threw my two-year old sister into a wall as hard as she could.
Wiccan parents can be just as abusive as Christian parents. I get so bitter when I see people talk about Wiccans like they’re all such loving enlightened little warm marshmallows. People are people, regardless of religion.
I do have to say that, objectively, Wicca has a much weaker value system than Christianity. Wicca is far more based in individualism and subjectivism. It’s a truly post-modern religion. There aren’t a lot of rules, no dos or donts.
And really, that was basically the case in my house growing up.
There weren’t really any rules.
I mean, Mom might fly off the handle and drag you across the house by your hair, slam your head into the cement patio, or (again, this happened to my younger sister-she was about four) spike a key ring at your face and cut your eye open. All of those things could occur if you happened to do something that upset her. What would upset her? Who knew? It varied by the day.
I performed a lot as a kid. I had a naturally good singing voice and I had a chorus teacher who really took me under her wing and coached me. She helped me enter different competitions. She arranged different performances in the community. Sometimes my mom was really proud of me and thought my voice was beautiful. If I was walking around the house singing, she would get a shine in her eyes and tell me I had the most gorgeous singing voice of any child she’d ever heard. On other days, she’d glare at me, tell me not to think so much of myself, tell me she hated me….that I was the worst of her three kids….The same action could get a positive reception one day and a negative one the next.
Other than not having any rules or structure, there were lots of other ways my childhood is very different from most people’s.
There was the ceramics company we ran out of the kitchen. We had a kiln in the kitchen and all through the house, there were plastic shelves stacked with ceramics in varying states of completion. The greenware was mostly kept in the kitchen. That seemed normal to me back then, but now that I’m grown I’m so disgusted by that. Greenware is dusty. The entire kitchen was covered in dust all the time. I remember eating on a table coated with a thick layer of gray powder every day. It didn’t even bother me back then. Bisque (fired greenware) we mostly kept on shelves in the living room and in the hallways. There were also two sheds behind the house. Both were filled with ceramics and molds. There were several pallets covered with overflow molds beside one of the sheds and this was covered with an enormous blue tarp.
I used to go to flea markets and conventions with my mom to sell these ceramics. Sometimes one of the guys from her D&D group would come. These were usually really fun times. These are some of my best memories with her. She really was a good mom….when other people were around….
My mom didn’t come out until I was a teenager, but when she did, it wasn’t a surprise at all. Two years before she came out. I told one of my sisters, “If Mom ever comes out as a lesbian, I’ll literally be the least surprised person in the world.” And my sister agreed. It was pretty obvious to everybody, for a long time, that she was gay.
For one, there were some of the odd comments she used to make to her lesbian friends. See, she had a lot of lesbian friends. She worked at an adult store for years. At one point, she even branched off from her friend’s business (her friend (and ex-boyfriend) owned it, but she managed the daily operation of the store) and started her own side hustle, selling sex toys and lingerie on ebay. For whatever reason, a lot of lesbians worked at this store. I don’t really know why? It was a small store and at the time, my mom was the only “straight” woman who worked there. Two of the women were dating each other. Then there were a few others who were lesbian and single. I remember really latching onto this one really butch plump red-headed woman who worked there. Whenever my mom would bring me to the store, I’d follow her around and try to show her the books I was reading. I don’t know why, but I was pretty obsessed with that poor 22-year-old woman. 12-year-old me was always trying to get attention from her.
Anyhow, every once in a while, surrounded by all these lesbian friends of hers, my mom would make a weird comment, like, “Well, yeah, women are attractive. Duh, women look a lot better than men. Boobs, butts, hips, what’s not to like? But I couldn’t ever…you know…” It was like she was asking for affirmation or permission or something.
She also had a lot of pin-up photography in her room and a pretty unhealthy amount of Catwoman merchandise. She had an enormous latex-clad Catwoman complete with her signature whip hanging over her bed, right next to an artistic modern painting of a semi-nude woman holding a whip. Even as a kid I was like…..yeah, so…..there are a lot of sexy women with whips in this bedroom.
Then there was the fact that she was just always more on the masculine side. That in itself doesn’t mean someone is gay. I’m very hetero and I’m not the most feminine. But paired with everything else, the fact that she wore biker boots, Doc Martins, and flannel every day, and the way she knew how to put up drywall, once trapped a raccoon that got in the attic, and cut down a bunch of pine trees with a chainsaw borrowed from a neighbor with no prior chainsaw experience….yep, all of that together with the “artistic” images of women all over her bedroom and the odd comments like “I’m straight, but I don’t think any straight women are really attracted to men” just made it so that her coming out was more like a “Duh” moment than anything else.
Even my very conservative Catholic grandparents didn’t bat an eye. My grandmother was confused for all of about a second, then remembered how much she likes Ellen and was like, “Eh, I guess I already knew that.”
Honestly, her being gay is not a big deal at all.
I think all the Wiccan stuff had a pretty negative affect on me as a kid. But that’s mainly because it overlaps with so much occult/paranormal stuff, and my mom got it into her head that I was haunted and spent years weaponizing her Wicca to traumatize the fuck out of me.
But her being gay, I don’t think it affected me negatively or positively. For one, I was on the older side when she finally came out. I was just about to go into college. I had one younger sister in high school and one in late elementary school. For my youngest sister, it may have affected her the most. When you live in super rural NH and your mom is showing up to school events with her wife, that’s something that tends to be noticed. They hung up a pride flag at one point and their tenants (she used to have an in-law apartment she rented out) actually took it down. Is that wild or what? What kind of gall do you need to have to feel like you can take down your landlord’s flag over her own damn front door? I was moved out by the time all this went down. That was a lot of drama my younger sisters had to endure though. That’s not a gay issue though; it’s a bigotry issue.
So, what was it like being raised by a Wiccan, lesbian, feminist?
In short, the lesbian part didn’t do anything to me, but I think the Wiccan part seriously fucked me up.
I don’t mean any offense to my Wiccan friends. Just don’t spend years convincing your children an evil entity has attached itself to them and make them go through cleansing rituals, and you’re fine. My mom did, however, enact that lifetime movie meets Southern gothic horrorshow, so….as hard as I try, I’m never gonna be completely okay with Wicca.
Try to understand.
Sometimes I still think of that altar of hers, covered in animal bones, scrying mirrors, herb vials, and I remember her saying, “You invited this thing. You asked for it. There’s something so wrong with you.”
I will say this, my mom did teach me one really valuable lesson: be unapologetically you. She always was.
When she chaperoned my 5th grade field trip, she was the only mom sporting purple hair, a leather jacket and a ripped Iron Maiden t-shirt. And on the way home that day, she blasted Bollywood music.
She loves Dungeons and Dragons and used to make soundtracks and burn cds for every campaign she did with her group.
She paints and draws the most beautiful portraits.
She had this one incredible painting of the Egyptian goddess Isis hanging in our living room. When my class learned about Egyptian mythology in 6th grade, I told my teacher about it. My mom ended up lending the painting to the school. It was put in a display case with a bunch of my class’s art around it.
She loved ghosthunting. She loved going around to old cemeteries and making rubbings of the stones.
When she was fun and kind and loving, she was so fun and kind and loving.
Having her as a mom was usually just exhausting and terrifying. The good moments were so few and far between.
As an adult, my contact with her is limited. Both of my sisters seem like they try to do the same (although they have a lot more contact with her than I do). I can’t have her around for too long. When I do, her old nastiness starts to creep back in. When I keep her at a distance, she treats me like she always treated the outside world: all smiles and charm. If I let her get to close, the mask slips.
She left me a neurotic, chaotic mess of a person. I can barely make eye contact. I flinch when people try to touch me. I get dizzy and start to feel like I can’t breath if anyone raises their voice (so customer service was TONS of fun lol).
I’m terrified to have my own kids. What if I’m a bad mom like she was? She was a great friend, great boss, great artist. But she was a bad mom. All of her kids have suffered with emotional issues. I was hospitalized for catatonic depression in my early 20s. Aside from the in-patient stuff (which I hate talking about, so I rarely do), I had anger issues and disordered eating. My middle sister also had anger issues and depression. My youngest sister suffered from anorexia for quite some time.
We’re all okay now. As okay as we can be.
My childhood is not one I ever see reflected in books or movies. She’d fly into a hysterical rage and beat the fuck out of one of us and then put Enya on and rearrange her herb vials. I feel like the only time you see a very religious abusive parent in a story-well, do I need to finish that thought?-you know what religion they usually are. It isn’t Wiccan.
I used to help her do inventory on sex toys at her store. When I was eight, I watched her help a very large woman find a pair of clear heels in the shop that would fit her large feet. That was how I learned what Drag Queens were. She came home from a convention once and showed me and my sisters the photos she’d taken with a pair of topless porn stars. Like…I could keep going.
There’s so much that sounds ridiculous and back then, I didn’t even get how different my childhood was from other people’s.
Overall, it would have been okay, if she was a better mother. That’s really the crux of it. Even all the exposure to sex stuff, I don’t think it would have really hurt me.
It was all the other stuff, the physical abuse, emotional abuse, her strange fixation on me being “haunted.”
So to all the people who had a very conservative traditional upbringing, I just really want you to know the grass isn’t all that green on this side. At least not from where I’m standing.
I think gay or straight, trad-con or woo-woo free-for-all; some people just shouldn’t have kids.
That’s it for this rambling. Stay tuned for more.