I was born, raised and educated in Kalamazoo, Michigan to parents of Greek descent. I’m the oldest of three children. Being the oldest meant that I had to set an example for my siblings. They didn’t have to be perfect, but I did. My parents put a lot of pressure on me to be perfect for one thing, because being a girl meant that I had to always be virtuous through conducting myself properly at all times. It also meant dressing properly at all times. That meant no shorts shorter than those that went above my knee, while the other girls my age could wear athletic shorts or whatever else was in style.
I was always told by my parents, “Nice girls don’t do this, nice girls don’t dress like that, nice girls don’t wear this kind of hairstyle, nice girls help their mother’s clean the house throughout most of the day, nice girls always listen to what their parents tell them, nice girls don’t think for themselves, nice girls don’t express their convictions.” The list went on and on and on.
My brothers could go wherever they wanted with whomever they wanted, while I couldn’t go anywhere with friends. The only way I could go out anywhere was if I were escorted by my brothers or if I was hanging out with my cousins.
Throughout the years I was living with my parents, I wasn’t permitted to date. If anyone called for me, that cruel father of mine would always say, “Who are you talking to? Is it a boy or a girl? If you are talking to a boy, you’re in big trouble.” He threatened to give me the biggest beating of my life. He often listened to my conversations with my friends on one of our other phones to make sure I wasn’t talking to any boys. I was told that nice girls don’t date. Nice girls don’t call boys on the telephone. Nice girls don’t receive phone calls from boys. I was also told by my parents that nice girls don’t have the kind of personality that I had. Nice girls don’t breathe the way I breathed. Nice girls don’t walk the way I walked. For so many years up to the first two years of high school, I had a habit of walking on my toes. This was until my father forcibly broke me of that habit through torture and cruelty.
He would demonstrate to me how I was to walk. Then, he made me practice for several painful, agonizing hours until I walked according to his satisfaction. The same with my breathing. He literally insisted I take a certain amount of breaths at a time. No more, no less. If I didn’t breathe the way he wanted me to breathe, he slapped my face and struck me with his belt, many times striking me with the end that contained the belt buckle, to each me a lesson for disobeying him, because he didn’t like the way that I breathed, or even the way that I blinked.
© Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015