I Know Shame Well

I know shame well. It held my hand and comforted me for years. It kept its arm around my shoulder whispering its daunting and controlling words of shameful self-doubt. I listened hard to shame, afraid to stand up to it, fearful of its wrath. I sought freedom from its grip only to find myself weighted down by a ball and chain, heavy in weight, unable to move, unable to escape its tightly woven links.
I danced with shame as I dated boys and let them touch me in places that were too soon to be touched. I let their fingers shamefully search my womanhood, though I was still not much more than a girl – I wanted them to like me, to approve of me; instead I shamed away as they laughed and gossiped to each other of how big my tits were, how well endowed I was for an almost twelve-year-old girl. I thought they wanted me, the me who feels and cares and cries and hurts and laughs, but they wanted the shell of me, the external, the flesh – just like he, my father did. How I felt was irrelevant to him, myself was invisible. It was my flesh he sought and in doing so he controlled all that I felt, my every move, as I learned to barter sexual acts for my freedom, a blow job so my friend could spend the night; my friends presence a shield from his nightly visits to my room. I learned to barter for my friendships and learned the shame of a blow job in the kitchen while my friends waited on a cup of tea in the living room. I learned how to look shameless when shame riddled my body and how to hide shame in the core of my soul.
We were friends, good friends, shame and I, for many years, all through my teens and into my late twenties, until a random phone call prompted a long hoped for conversation – an apology, ownership of his wrongful acts. I was brave enough to speak my truth, to show my pain, to ask the simple question, “why?” and with his response of, “I’m sorry, I was the adult.” came my unexpected divorce from shame. It wasn’t dirty, or difficult, it was clean and easy. I took my freedom from shame with a deep sense of pride. I fought for my freedom, I suffered for my freedom and I thank my dear departed father for taking my shame with him to his grave.

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