The Closing Down of Jenny

Here’s Jenny as a baby, open and eager to engage with the world…


This picture was taken when Jenny was four years old.  Alas, I lost or mislaid the original, so this is a scan of a copy — not very high quality.

“Little Jenny with the Dar Gorani look” was named by a circle dancer who saw this photograph.  Dar Gorani is a dance choreographed to Armenian music, using traditional Armenian gestures.  We also call it the “prayer to the lost homeland” because it’s about being driven out of your home, and looking back to its beauty, and forward to the hope that you will be able to create a new home.  In this picture I see a child who knows that somewhere out there is a better way to live, but where she is right now there is just the pain of not really being seen and supported by her alcoholic parents.

This picture was taken at our summer house in Maine. The woman on the left was our mother’s helper, then cousin Terry, then Jenny, Jack, and Josephine. I look tense and unhappy.  By this time, I was being given too much responsibility for the younger children. We had no “mother’s helper” back home.

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By age twelve, I was given complete responsibility for the three younger children in the summers. My parents used to say “Weren’t we clever to have raised a babysitter before we raised a family.”  I remember being left alone with them, fixing supper and getting them to bed.  Then I was essentially alone.  I described what I felt as “that twilight feeling.”  Years later, I realized “that twilight feeling” was depression.

This is a picture of me at 13.  You can see that I’ve put my hair in pin curls.  I see a child who is very sensitive, very vulnerable, expecting only that she will be hurt again.

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This is me at 17.  I’m trying my hardest to look normal.  I seem to be saying to my judging parents “Is this how you want me to look?”

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Looking at this picture now, after working with my new therapist on the belief that I was ugly, I see that she doesn’t look so awful.  In fact I notice her bright eyes.  One reason I thought I was ugly was that I didn’t have any dates.  Most of my classmates were already going out and talking about the boys they knew.  I did not see that being at a girls’ school limited my chances for meeting boys.  I also had some bad experiences of having one or two dates, and then nothing.  Because I wanted so badly to be loved, I attached very quickly, made up romantic stories, and probably presented an aura of desperation which of course did not make relationships easy.  I was also raped by a date, which didn’t help my self-esteem.  Of course I never told anybody about it.

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