Pinocchio has always seemed to me to be a rather sad story. Poignant, thought-provoking, but very sad. I mean, think about it. His creator, the lonely toymaker Geppetto, has his wish answered when his little puppet lovingly carved from wood, is given life. Well, sort of. He has to prove he’s worthy to be really real. So you have this little fake boy made from wood who can walk and talk and dream, but he’s gullible and he doesn’t have any character. Though he is a fake, he has these deep longings. Longings for love. For life. To be REAL. Genuine. To be an honest to goodness boy. Alive in every way. Authentic. He has a lot to learn. He has a lot of work ahead before he reaches a point of being precious and creditable. He sets off on a journey to prove his worth so he can earn personhood. He screws up a few times and it’s looking bad for Pinocchio’s dreams ever being realized. He has to learn right from wrong. He has to learn to not lie. He has to be worthy. And only when he proves that he is worthy does he become a real boy, thus fulfilling his dream and that of Geppetto. Cue the music. And they all live happily ever after. If only it was that simple. Abused children aren’t lovingly made. They aren’t cherished or delighted in. I know. Been there; done that. I grew up believing I was an object. To be used. I had to perform to a certain level to be worthy of breathing air. I could never really be WORTHY. I could never be precious. A delight. I wasn’t a person, after all. I was an object. No journey was ever going to change me from an object into a real live human being. Wasn’t possible. If I performed well enough, perhaps I wouldn’t be treated with hate and disdain. Perhaps I wouldn’t be rejected. Hit. Yelled at. Belittled. Nothing could save me from the sexual abuse. But if I behaved well enough and did all my many chores to the satisfaction (mostly) of my parents who could never be pleased and I didn’t bother them with those pesky things called “needs” (which I wasn’t allowed to have), then maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t hurt me as much. Maybe they would ignore me. Maybe I wouldn’t be their target. I wanted to be a real person. I longed to be loved. To be like others…having value just because they were…not because of how well they did. But I learned the lesson again and again…I was not a person. Objects don’t have needs. Objects are not human beings. Objects are only worth something if they are fulfilling their purpose. My purpose was to make my parents happy. To bring them fulfillment in life. To meet their needs. To take care of them. To keep the house clean, to help them through their emotional struggles, to give them purpose, to make them feel good about themselves. I was not to be a bother. To add to their problems. To require something of them. No, my job, my mission, was to bring them pleasure and to complete them. Only then did I have value, miniscule though it was. I never managed to fulfill them or to earn enough worth to become a real human being. I was always defective, disappointing, earning instead their disapproval and disdain. They used me, they derided me, they hit me, rejected me, humiliated me, told me I was such a disappointment, sighing as they looked my direction. They demanded more and more…and I tried. But I could never live up to their requirements or expectations. I could never perform up to par. So they abused me…that was all I deserved, right? Objects are used. Sexually, emotionally, physically. Objects aren’t real. Even a boy of wood has more value. Even a boy of wood is more worthy of love. Pinocchio was a miracle! I was…not. I deserved nothing. I was nothing. I was a lowly thing who failed to do and be what they required again and again and again.
All these years later, I’m still trying to understand that I just might be a person. That I just might have some value. That maybe I don’t have to perform perfectly to have worth. That maybe my parents were wrong. That maybe, unlike Pinocchio, I didn’t have to DO anything to become a real little girl because I already was one. Just because my parents didn’t recognize this fact doesn’t change the truth of it. I’m trying to believe that. I’m trying to believe I don’t have to keep doing more and more to be accepted and that I don’t have to do it all perfectly just to be allowed to exist.
And if I’m real…maybe, just maybe I have a tiny little bit of worth, just because I’m me.