Emotional Eating and Penn State

This past week has been a cluster of emotional eating. At first I wasn’t tying it to anything, then I realized every time I read about the Penn State mess, I would start to eat. When I’d read some of the articles or the grand jury document, I would be brought almost to tears. I’m not much of a crier, and tend to push those feelings down with food. I think as children we’re taught if we cry we’re babies. And as adults, especially as women, we’re considered weak if we cry. But, sometimes it’s OK to cry. And by “sometimes” I mean other than during PMS when our hormones make us irrational and we cry and don’t even know why! That’s usually when I cry, when my hormones take over and I start crying over something silly, like my library book being overdue, or Netflix not connecting. I know it’s irrational, but end up crying anyway.

And you know what? I feel fantastic once it’s over.

When it comes to the Penn State thing, there’s not much of a reason for me to cry, other than I feel really empathetic with the victims of the crimes, including the parents. When I was younger, my cousin was married to this really creepy dude who would always hug on me and try to get me to hug him, and pretend we had this “connection” and one time at a wedding dance he even kissed me on the neck. I can STILL feel the slobbery kiss. It never turned into anything sexual (other than that kiss), but it was always awkward and uncomfortable, and when I tried to tell my mom I thought he was weird, she blew it off as our family not being affectionate (we’re not) and that’s how he is. And that could be the reason. And who knows? He probably never was a pervert.

All I know is he divorced my cousin and I didn’t think about him for YEARS. Until my cousin passed away and he was at the funeral with the two kids from their marriage. The sight of him set off warning sirens. I found myself backing away from him and not wanting any interaction with him. And when he did come over to talk to my family, he mentioned how “Kelly and I had a special bond. We were good friends.” If it hadn’t been a funeral, I might have given him a piece of my mind. At the very least I wanted to kick him in his privates.

Whether or not what he did was inappropriate or of sexual nature is unclear. I don’t feel, even now, to know what his intent was. I know it made me uncomfortable. But any person who hugs on me makes me uncomfortable. He definitely manipulated me through teasing, and I was one of those kids who wanted to please all adults. Did he cross the line? Yes. Was it ever appropriate for him to hug on me when I wasn’t comfortable with it? No. And he knew I wasn’t comfortable with it. Did he ever try to get me alone with him? No. Did he sit uncomfortably close to me in front of the entire family? Yes. Was him kissing my neck (when I was probably 11 years old) disgusting, perverted, inappropriate, and unnerving. Absolutely.

So maybe that’s why I have such a viceral reaction to what happened at Penn State. I can tell you that it’s scary to tell your parents that another adult (who they like and trust) is doing weird stuff. First, because you’re way too young to even know what that stuff means. Did I realize at the time that it was sexual? I don’t know. I honestly don’t. All I know is it produced a negative reaction in me. And I tried to tell my mom once that I didn’t like him and she just assumed why. Is that her fault? No. In fact, it makes me realize that really good parents can be unaware of what’s happening. My parents are, in my opinion, the best in the business. Are they perfect? No. But their lives really were focused on raising us, helping us grow to be mature, independent, responsible adults. They spent time helping us with homework and encouraging us to be whoever we wanted to be. They’ve never tried to make us be something we’re not, and they’ve always embraced our unique personality traits. They also instilled a sense of responsibility in all of us, and we are all accountable for our futures, blaming no one for the setbacks along the way.

They’ve never pushed me to follow a career path I’m not interested in or to get married. They’ve never asked when I’m going to have children.

But I will say, without a doubt, that my hesitancy to date is rooted in the trauma of this story. Although I’d never wish a divorce on anyone, I’m so grateful my cousin divorced this creep. I hope what he did to me was over-exaggerated in my young mind, and hope he’s never done anything inappropriate with anyone else. This is a burden I carry, but don’t feel confident enough to bring it up. Partially, maybe because I don’t want to be told I’m dramatic or lying or over-embelishing, or looking for attention. But partially because I can’t deal with the guilt I might impart on my parents if what he was doing was inappropriate and they never knew. Or worse, I’m terrified by not speaking up, he’s done this to other girls. And I didn’t say anything, making me an enabler. I definitely can’t be blamed for all of the time between 10 or 11 years old and when I saw him (when I was about 22). But I can be held accountable for the past 10 years of keeping my mouth shut. And that guilt is what I’m pushing down when I’m eating. I definitely feel bad for these boys who probably were scared to tell, or tried to and were brushed off. I know how that is, too.

Did I ever endure anything nearly as awful as what these boys did? Absolutely not. Without a doubt. I’m not even comparing my experience in any way, shape or form to them. But I can empathize with feeling helpless and scared, even before any real sexual contact happens. This is called “grooming.” And the grooming stage is terrifying and takes a child who feels safe and drops him or her in a situation of helplessness and fear. It’s also confusing because the person does make you feel special and unique and listened to and understood. But that’s all an attempt to gain the trust of the victim. It’s very confusing. And I’m sure parents witnessing are happy their child has found someone to give him or her attention or who he or she has found a connection with.

All I know, is what happened to these victims was not their fault. And whatever happened to me is not my fault.

How or if I’ll ever be able to confront this guy is unclear. I don’t know if there’s even anything worth confronting, other than my stubbornness and will to be right. I did make it very clear at the funeral that I did not like the guy and didn’t want to be near him and he better not touch me (he did try to hug me and rub on my shoulders). That’s my general demeanor, though, so I don’t think that was out of the ordinary. I tried to tell my sisters and they kind of blew it off as, “Huh, I never thought he was weird. It’s probably you.” So when I try to broach the conversation with anyone, it’s always brushed off like I’m being dramatic. Maybe I am. But all I know is how he acted made me uncomfortable. And there’s no denying that kissing a 10 or 11 year old on the neck is inappropriate.

Whether anyone ever tells me otherwise, I know this is true. And I know it’s not my fault. I also know that there is some responsibility for me to speak up, but I realize if I do and nothing’s ever happened with anyone since, it could ruin this guy’s life. My mom swears he’s this great dad. But part of me thinks he’s used his creepy skills to manipulate my mom. But, then again, maybe I am being dramatic?

Of course, that’s what Jerry Sandusky is trying to say. That everyone’s dramatic and over-reacting to “horsing around.” And I am 100% convinced he’s a pedophile. And he’s so flippant about it, I want to inflict physical harm on him. That’s the same way this guy acts. Like everyone’s over-reacting. And he sees no reason to hide his “friendship” with me.

Well, hear this, asshole. You are a pervert. Both you and Sandusky. And what you’ve done is wrong.

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