How could I possibly not know my attachment style until I was a teenager, you ask? Well, mainly because I had nobody to get that attached to.

My mother likes to tell people the story of my first steps. I was sitting on her lap one day at a family gathering, while she was chatting with the other adults, and I let it be known that I wanted a toy that was across the room. Nobody could be arsed to get it for me, or even walk over there and crouch beside it to encourage me to go get it myself. Eventually, I got tired of squalling, squirmed free, and toddled over to get it on my own. No stumbling, no falling; I just walked over, plopped down, and focused on my toy to the exclusion of all else.

She thinks this is an adorable story. It would be if it were a case of 'took our eyes off the baby for two seconds and look what happened'. It was not. This was my mother's parenting technique through my entire childhood: Whenever the baby wanted something inconvenient, ignore her until she took care of herself. She's not a sociopath -- she was good with food, water, shelter, clothes, school, making sure I didn't just drop dead, etc. But any level of psychosocial interaction beyond what a pet might need was inconsistent at best. The most praise I ever got was when I was "independent", i.e., didn't bug her for shit. Dad followed Mom's lead, and to be brutally honest, the two of them were actually an improvement over the families they'd come from.

Unsurprisingly, my mother and I got along increasingly poorly as I grew up. By the time I was a teenager, I could articulate the feeling that she wasn't listening to me when I complained, but it didn't do me any good. She could parrot back the words I'd just said, it just didn't appear to mean anything to her. At some point she'd just snap and shout, "What do you want me to do about it?" The actual answer was, "sympathize and comfort me," but by that point I'd been without it for so long I didn't know that was an option. I'd try to think up some practical solutions, find none, sullenly admit the answer was, "Nothing, I guess," and retreat to my room. As far as I can tell, she considered this to be her winning the fight.

There wasn't anyone outside the family for me to get attached to, either. I didn't have a best friend as a kid. I didn't know this; there was a girl in my grade whose mother hung out with my mother, and I was informed that she was my best friend. In retrospect, she didn't like me much and wished I'd go away, but she had been ordered to play with me. Her mother was the kind of woman who enforced the 'no squirming while I do your hair' rule by clonking her on the head with the hairbrush, so I'm not surprised she did it.

When I was eight-ish, I bought a set of those 'best friend' necklackes that are each one half of a heart. She flat refused to wear hers. I don't recall my mother having much reaction to this; I may not have bothered to tell her. Mainly what this taught me was that my affection was a goddamn nuisance, and if I wanted to make 'friends' I should probably not say anything about it. They would be, at best, confused.

I got innumerable more lessons in same throughout grade school. I tried berating myself into not caring so much, but that didn't work very well, so I took the compromise position of never talking about it. I still have favorite people, I just generally keep it to myself. I can be glad to see someone without making them take time out of their day to deal with it.

It was not until I was a freshman in high school that I met other humans who consistently acted like they fucking liked me. I still see people complaining that online socializing isn't "real" socializing, and I say a hearty FUCK YOU!, because without the internet (or at least crappy 14.4 mbps modems) I would not have had any friends ever, least of all at a time in my life where I was becoming increasingly stressed and despondent.

My school district set up an online BBS that was ostensibly for "homework help", although I don't think I ever saw a single post in that forum. What we actually used it for was play-by-post role-playing games. A couple of guys set up a Star Trek game, and I wanted to join, so I sat down to read the background docs. I found them woefully inadequate. I was even less diplomatic as a teenager than I am now, so I wrote the guy who posted them and went, "You call that tech?" and he wrote back, "You think you can do better, you do it." I owned all of the published technical manuals for the various Trek series at that point, and I did in fact think I could do better, so I did.

Bizarrely enough, this made us friends. Nerd lyfe, yo.

I ended up fairly close with the two guys who ran the game, and with a girl they knew, all three from a neighboring high school in the district. I handled this very poorly. I had no idea how to cope with people who actually cared about my mental and emotional well-being. It had nothing to do with how they were behaving; they did successfully transmit the feeling that they cared about me, very much. I just didn't trust my read of the situation, at all.

I felt as though I were on a tightrope the entire time, wondering how much they would tolerate from me before they snapped and admitted I was demanding too much attention, and told me to sod off. This was not their view of the situation at all; they uniformly thought my parents were horrible, and probably wished they could do more to get me away from them.

By this point I had started having what in hindsight were clearly uncontrollable panic attacks, which my parents responded to by ignoring them. Literally -- I can clearly remember sitting at one of the computer in the living room, sobbing hysterically while I typed at one of said friends in a chat window, both parents within sight of this and having absolutely no discernible reaction whatsoever. I took to doing this more and more, dumping my irrational, incomprehensible feelings out into text, because for some reason they all put up with it. I always expected that one day they would just tell me to STFU, but they never did.

One of the guys in the group had two sisters and therefore some idea of what you do about crying women, which was mainly hug them until they fixed themselves. He was very patient, and eventually became my first real 'best friend', a thing that surprised only me. When I was around seventeen, I was badly broken by the realization that he cared about me in a way that my own family did not, and that if push ever came to shove, my family could go fuck themselves, because I'd side with him. I remember sitting in the front seat of his car very late one night, babbling uncontrollably at him about this epiphany. I have no idea what he made of this, but he did continue to talk to me for several years afterwards, so it apparently wasn't anything bad.

I still deeply mistrust the instinct that says someone is aiming to be that kind of friend to me. It is rare, and I try not to let myself want that too much, because it gets me into trouble. It involves a kind of emotional intimacy that other people view as inherently romantic -- I don't, and I cannot for the life of me comprehend why other people do, but it provokes a lot of jealousy in the wrong situation. Losing friends is bad to begin with, but that one is especially ruinous for me. From my point of view, it means I have to give up a connection to another human being because a third party has arbitrarily decreed I don't get to have it. The jealous SO unilaterally declares we're in a competition I don't want or understand, and I automatically lose. It scares me on a par with what I think normal people would feel at the prospect that their sibling had married a crazy person and would never speak to them again. The reward has to be pretty big for me to take the risk.

This specific thing is the other reason (aside from a general lack of spoons and extroverted emotional energy) that I have decided I do not do closed monogamous relationships. There are seriously people who consider that kind of friendship to be 'emotional infidelity'. You can't see me right now, but if I were rolling my eyes any harder I'd risk retinal detachment. If this counts as cheating in a monogamous relationship, then clearly I am not natively monogamous, and I should not be in those. I really need that kind of emotional scaffolding, in various degrees from multiple people, to provide stability in my life, and I have no family capable of providing it. Any partner who told me, "you're too close to that other person, give it up or this relationship is over," would be immediately and permanently broken up with.


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