The Red-Haired Bully
Words by Jane Moir
Content Warning: Loss of Autonomy, Abuse, Eating Disorders
Once there lived a man and lady who met, fell in love, and got married. Not long after, the lady discovered she was going to have a baby. She wasn’t really pleased about this because she had not been married long and wasn’t quite ready to be a mother. But it was the early 60s and abortions were illegal and dangerous, so she had to make the best of it. The only thing she hoped for was that the baby would be a boy, as she really didn’t like girls very much. She did not tell her husband this because he was excited to become a father and didn’t mind if the baby was a boy or girl.
It wasn’t long, it seemed to the lady, before the baby was to be born. After a long and painful labour, the baby arrived. This was not a happy day for the lady because all her worst fears had come true and her baby was a girl. Again, she tried to make the best of it but she didn’t like the girl much as she would cry, wanting the lady to cuddle her. The lady didn’t like the crying infant then, so she secretly put shots of brandy into the baby’s bottle which sent her to sleep. After much anguish, the lady found she was pregnant again, when the girl was nearly two. This time she believed fate would smile upon her and the baby would be a boy. Now, if you believe in that man in the sky or some other enchantment, it will not surprise you to learn that something went wrong with this baby, and whilst it was indeed a boy, it was born dead. This shattered the lady and strengthened her determination to get a baby boy. She did not change her opinion on the girl at all, who still could do nothing but irritate her. She harboured dark thoughts about stealing a baby boy from an unattended pram, if she happened upon such a chance.
Now at this time a lot of naughty teenage girls were having sex before they were married and many of them became pregnant. This was a very shameful thing and their families would hide them away until their babies were born then put them up for adoption. This gave the lady an idea. Why could she not adopt a baby boy? The doctor told her she could not have any more children of her own. She tried to discuss this with her husband but he didn’t like the idea at all. He didn’t understand why she could not be content with the lovely little girl they had been blessed with. This made the lady very angry and she decided to take matters into her own hands and apply to adopt the boy herself. One day, some social workers turned up at the house to see if it was suitable for a baby boy and it was only then the husband found out what she had done. He was angry but his wife was so bossy he felt cornered into obliging her wishes. A few weeks later, the telephone rang and the lady was very excited to learn it was time to collect her baby. By this time, the girl was five and had just started school. Imagine her surprise when she came home one day to find her mother cuddling a screaming baby boy with bright red hair. Now being five, the girl just thought that was how one went about getting babies: you just asked the doctor for one and bingo, you got one.
At first the girl loved the baby, because like most little girls, they love babies. But if she wondered before whether her mother loved her, now, she knew for certain she did not. All the lady could think of was this baby and she took him out for walks in his pram and locked the girl out of the house forbidding her from tagging along. The girl resented the baby but she still loved him, however the lady didn’t want the boy to get attached to the girl in any way because this would make her jealous. So, she told her husband a big lie and said she had caught the girl trying to hurt the baby and it would be wise to fit a lock to the girl’s bedroom door at night to stop her from doing anything whilst they were asleep. The husband found this very hard to believe but again his wife was so bossy. He did as she asked and the little girl found herself locked up at night with a potty chair in case she needed to go to the toilet.
Time went by and as both children grew older it was obvious the lady’s plan worked and the boy, like herself, despised the girl. The girl knew by now her mother hated her…the evil woman had even told her when she was only fourteen that she wished she had risked an abortion, and rueing the fact it was not her instead of the next baby who had died at birth.
When mothers go this way, they may not realise it but they do a lot of harm to the child. The girl was used to her mother giving her thrashings with a belt for the most minor of transgressions but it was the emotional toll that did the most harm. The girl started to act out at school always getting into some scrape or another which fuelled the lady’s rage and she became even more punitive in consequence. The girl started to experiment with alcohol and cigarettes, rebelling in any way she could. Then one day her angry mother told her she was ugly and fat. The girl had never thought of herself as fat before and inspected her body in the bathroom mirror. Now, the truth was the girl wasn’t fat, she never had been. She was tall with long thin arms and legs. The only part of her that was big was her bosom. She hated this as boys noticed and would call out rude things. She tried to hide them by wearing baggy tops. As I said, the girl was not fat, but because the horrible mother said she was, what she saw in the mirror she did imagine to be fat. She thought her bottom and legs were huge and her tummy nothing short of a pot. This gave the girl an idea. Maybe this was why her mother hated her so much, because she was fat. She wondered, if she could become thin, perhaps with there being less of her, the mother would tolerate her more. So, she began to starve herself, barely eating a thing. Her stomach screamed all night for food and she could not sleep but she was determined to see it through. She hoped fervently too that as the weight dropped off, the annoying bosom might also go away. What the girl started here was a very dangerous thing which became an obsession. She began to experiment with throwing up her food because sometimes, after a few days of no food, she could stand it no more and would embark on an eating binge. This provided relief but was only okay in her mind if she was assured she could vomit it all up afterwards. Now being a very determined girl, it wasn’t long before she had perfected this art and so began years of starving, bingeing and vomiting.
The girl was of course very thin, in fact she was emaciated, and did the mother like her any better for it? Of course not. She blamed the girl thinking her both vain and greedy and she persuaded her husband to turf her out of the house. He was reluctant to do this, fearing what would happen to her but the lady said it was either the girl or her who must go and she didn’t care if that meant the girl would soon die…in fact, this is what she had wanted all along. The day the girl was expelled from the house was a sad one for the father but the mother and the boy were delighted. It was as good as Christmas, now they could be a family of three and never have to think about the girl again.
The years went by and eventually the prized boy got married and had a little boy of his own. He and his mother were very close, bonded by their mutual hatred for the girl. Life for them seemed very sweet without her to blight their happiness. The girl still saw her parents and her brother (usually just at Christmas) and she loved her father dearly but the cruel mother was jealous of this and made sure she could never spend any time alone with him, ensuring she was always there as well.
As the parents grew older the lady got sick and it became apparent that she would die. She did die and the girl felt it was the best day of her life. With this ogress gone, perhaps she could rekindle the bond with her father. This did indeed happen and the boy was not pleased, but for a while, the girl was truly happy for the first time in her life.
But fate can be a cruel thing and it was only two years later that the father died too. It was a very sad time for the girl and, if you can imagine it, there were worse things to come. The mother made sure that she left a very strict will and appointed the boy as executor. It was her money that she inherited from her father so the husband, much as he felt it to be unfair, went along with it. The boy got half of everything and he was to pay the girl an allowance for the rest of her life with the intention of keeping her on a tight leash with no autonomy. The power went to the boy’s head and he loved nothing more than to use it to punish the girl, knowing his mother would be urging him on if she were here.
Over time, the boy reduced the amount of money he gave to the girl, telling her all sorts of fibs and forcing her into paying bills that were the responsibility of the estate. If she refused, all he had to do was deduct it from her allowance. This made him so happy as he at last had her securely cornered. Now the girl really was no fool and one day she got entirely fed up with this horrible little boy/man, with his now balding red head. It’s time, she thought to herself, that this cruel legacy was halted.
So, where is she now? Well, she’s getting older and she probably won’t live for a long time. She still has anorexia and is pretty thin, it gets worse for her when stressful things happen, you see. She also likes to drink, not all the time but sometimes it just helps her to numb the pain that is the result of a whole lifetime of abuse. The girl has decided to fight for what is right. It will cost her a lot of money but she is hoping the man will be removed as her trustee, he now gives her nothing at all, he really is not doing what he is legally meant to do, and that is to be her fiduciary. If you do believe in the man in the sky, it would be lovely if you would hope and pray that eventually things will be righted once and for all for the girl, and she can live out the rest of her days never having to think about the cruel mother and the balding red haired bully ever again.