Things I Haven’t Told You

by Brittany Ballard

***Trigger Warning***

Dear Mom,

-Please stop telling me about your nightmares of my kids dying.

-I want you to hold our hugs for longer.

-I hate your vanity because I hate mine.

-I want you to learn how to do my daughter’s hair, even though it’s different than yours. You
never combed my hair and I got made fun of in school, a lot.

-You don’t listen. And now I have a hard time listening and it really hurts the people I love.

-When I was 11 and got my period I needed you to tell me that bleeding is not gross, it’s natural,
and you will walk me through this rite of passage.

-You and Dad got rid of the piano too soon. I loved playing, it’s the only time I lost myself as a
child, and then I got boobs and boys’ attention and forgot my joy.

-Please stop offering me wine. It’s not always the best way to solve hard things.

-Please stop making me feel guilty about spending money on self-care.

I posted #Metoo that one night cuz of Alyssa Milano and you responded with a sad face on
Facebook but you didn’t ask me what happened. So…

-I had a miscarriage in 8th grade. I told you I had a really heavy period and didn’t go to school.
You didn’t ask.

-Jason, that babysitter, rubbed his hard dick on me from behind as I pretended to be dead on the
sofa in the TV room. I showed him my butthole, spread my cheeks open and sang and danced
for him like Madonna in my Madonna-themed bedroom. He was 17. I was 7.

-When I was 8, Mr. X came to our house for dinner. He watched as I rubbed myself on the edge
of the TV room couch. He just stood there, hovering in the doorway, pretending to watch Nick at
Nite. What was the deal with letting me hump every piece of furniture in front of family
members? I was just humping away, feeling pleasure in front of all of you. Why didn’t you talk
with me about it? I still feel so embarrassed of my desire, my yearning for pleasure.

And the old dudes—why did you let me go with them? Like—

-35-year-old Charles in his VW van taking my 15-year-old ass to the dance club in SF where he
was the bouncer. He gave me Red Bull vodkas and put me in the dancing cage while he flirted
at the door.

-Or that French dance teacher at Club Med. He performed La Vida Loca for the old ladies. He
saw my 14-year-old body, and I woke up in his humid, tiny Club Med worker room, his small
dick going in and out of me as I lay on my back while he kept saying I was the worst fuck he’d
ever had. “Why aren’t you moving?” he said. I gathered my things, held my pee and found the
resort room you and I shared in the bright morning sun. You were on your way to a tennis
lesson. You didn’t ask me where I’d been all night.

-Or 18-year-old Seamus—he kept putting his hand down my shorts in the back of the car. My
13-year-old self worried he was feeling my sanitary napkin. He took me to the top of a tower in a
field and ate me out and I didn’t know if I liked it or if I was peeing or bleeding.

-And there’s Chris. Remember when I ran away in 8th grade? I went to Mark’s house with guns
and weed and no parents. I was a virgin. I was Chris’s girlfriend but Chris told Aaron to “break
her in for me, dawg.” I lied to Aaron, told him I’d had sex with 12 dudes at once, a gang bang,
on the Jersey Shore with Seamus. He was into it. He fucked me hard, it really hurt, I bled on
Mark’s sister’s twin bed and prayed it wasn’t obvious. When he was done he left me in the dark
to get dressed and he never talked to me again.

Chris didn’t take me to his high school prom. He took me to a cheap motel by the Oakland
airport, where he gave me drugs. The older party girls there laughed at me and threw me in the
bathtub and ran cold water over my shaking tiny prom dress body, bandaids on my nipples.
Then Chris took me to the construction site next to his house. We snuck in, and it was cold, and
he put down his jacket, laid me down. I was hallucinating, seeing rats with machine guns,
maybe it was acid, E, who knows. I said stop, I said no, inside and out, then I watched my body
float up to the ceiling as he raped me. He put me in a cab and I came to the door of our house
all disheveled asking you for cash to pay the cab. You didn’t ask where Chris was.

He was my boyfriend. He had my name tattooed on his chest in prison. I thought this was love
so I did what he said, like fuck him and his best friend in the back of a stolen baby blue Dart with
guns in the trunk, a horrendous experience I still can’t let myself remember.

Yes, you gave me life, you did your best, and the rest is up to me. I know I must free myself.
And the only way to do that is to listen to my girls, hug them too long, be with them when I’m
with them, make sure I protect them and not the other way around, make sure they never feel
like an interruption, choose to stay in it when I want to check out, make kindness my religion,
and of course, keep doing all that forgiveness practice and chanting and breathing and and

….and I want to be able to tell you all of this and more, uninterrupted, unhurried, and for you to
say, “I am so sorry these things happened to you, baby, I am so sorry I didn’t protect you. How
can I help you heal? I love you no matter what you do and we will figure out how to have an
intimate close relationship because you are going to die and I am going to die and this is all we
have. Would you like some cake and soup while I comb your hair and run you a bath?”

And right now you’re probably rocking and singing to my little Nya baby on the back porch while
my toddler Seylah screams and throws the ball for Gracie the dog so I can write this.

How much easier it is to share this letter with strangers than connect with you. When that is all I
long for.

I love you, Mom.


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