I met a woman once, back when I loved her only son. I was pleasant as a peach but I just couldn’t crack that ice.

It felt so strange back then (parents usually adored me). A “good girl” through and through, the reason never crossed my mind. She’s just being protective; all she needs is time. But months went by, two years, still she wouldn’t meet my eyes. Kept me waiting in the street while they sang him Happy Birthday.

One day he told me she went off on him; he repeated every word. Poor boy, still much too young to grow that “mother-lover” filter. She’d asked about my family, where did I come from. I’d turned Capulet, and she decided I was broken.

She called me “nothing but a slut,” said I was only looking to get pregnant. Pretty personal insight since she couldn’t learn my name. Funny, it was her little boy who showed me a thing or two, and I who couldn’t be persuaded (I had my sights on grad school).

I guess he must’ve learned from his trail of “high-class” exes (abortion clinics in their phones, but hey, their parents were still married). Or maybe his big sister taught him – now her game was impressive: One up in her bedroom, another banging the front door. Miss One-Big-Happy-Family never even broke a sweat.

Honor roll, three part-time jobs, I’d barely ever dated. But my parents were divorced, and that’s the only part she heard. I knew I wasn’t trash; her prince never did do better. But for a while there, she made me question my own value. How could Mommy Dearest, her tribe all under one roof, ever be expected to let in some lowly stray?

While she turned up her nose at me from that mansion made of glass, that disgruntled son of hers was pulling back the curtain. I guess she never expected I could hold a conversation. Used my Undergrad in Psych to help him deal with Daddy’s mistress.

I never would be good enough. Until I realized I was better. Wonder if she ever found a way to earn that boy’s forgiveness.

At least my folks were real, and they had nothing on that bunch. My tree has some twisted branches but it weathers every storm.

You never forget the first to treat you like you’re damaged. If only she’d been different, I might never have known better.

With a fresh perspective and big mouth, Rayna Malone brings a fearless and inspiring outlook to relatable topics including life, love, parenthood and mistakes made along the way. Because no topic is off limits, and everyone’s entitled to her opinion.