This is the text of “The Smith Family Chronicles 5: Betty’s Soliloquy.“
Today I learned that my husband kicked my daughter out of the house when she told him she was a lesbian. I also learned that while I was pregnant with Jane, my husband, and my best friend Darla had sex together. This means that every single thing in my life is a lie. That chair is a lie. The floor beneath my feet is a lie. Those two ugly pictures are a lie. I live in a fake house. With a fake husband. And my best friend is a fake best friend.
I am dreading telling my mother about all of this. She will be so disappointed in me. She is always so disappointed in me. She will not be on my side. My mother has been correcting and trying to improve me for my whole life. She gives me plenty of advice. But she never really gives me love.
It is not my fault that Bob and Darla did what they did. I know that I am supposed to forgive Bob. That is what my mother will say, what everyone will expect of me. But I’m not sure if I can forgive Bob, or even if I want to. What I do know is that I’m not even close to being done being mad at that jerk. Oh God. What will the kids think of me, of their father! How could Bob throw Jane from our house? She is an abomination? How about him? Shouldn’t he be pulling the plank from his own eye before he tries to remove a splinter from hers? Doesn’t he know her? Doesn’t he know how sweet, how sensitive Jane is? She’s wanton, my fanny! This is the girl who cries at dog food commercials when the puppies in them don’t get the right brand of chow.
And Darla, my best friend. I have always admired her so much. Where I always hold back, she jumps into the fray, always so boldly speaking the truth. She is so different from me, from my mother, so strong in the way she deals with people. But all this time, I have not seen who she really is. She is no stronger than me. And neither is Bob. He has always been so certain, so sure, so decisive. His boldness, like that of Darla, has tricked me. Not until now have I seen that they both lack the strength I have to admit my weaknesses, my doubts, my fears.
I am so angry that I am actually calm. And in my calmness what I see, for the first time, is that I have been leading a fake life, for all of my life. I have always been the good girl. I have not lied or cheated, no. But I have never looked at the world with my own eyes. And that is a very real kind of lie. I have always let everyone else tell me what is right, and never really dared to question what they said. I thought living that way would keep me safe, that it would be enough, that if I always said and did the right thing, then my mother, and Bob, and God would love me. Oh, how wrong that was. By trying to do everything right, I did everything wrong.
I have been foolish.
We have all been fools. We are all so busy trying to be perfect that we miss the whole point of life. But now I see that the real truth is that I cannot be perfect. I will never be right all the time. I may never be right at all. But what I can do is be kind. I can love. I can try. My honest failures will be so much better than this antiseptic life I have been living. I don’t want to pretend anymore.
I will figure out what to do about Bob. And I will use the conscience God gave me to figure out for myself if Jane’s being a lesbian is a sin. Why have I never trusted my own conscience? Can I really not trust myself? Do I really not trust God? How stupid I have been all these years! God has always been right here, beside me, all along! Whispering to me to trust myself, to trust him. Finally, I hear him.
I can’t believe I actually feel this way. I am living honestly, and plainly, in my own skin. It is exhilarating! Is this how it is supposed to feel to be alive? Is this what it feels like to finally be who you really are?
Is this what it feels like to be Jane?