February 17, 2020:
Very many years later it occurred to me that my secretiveness and my masks exactly reproduced my family's behaviors, as if I'd been genetically programmed.
The motives were different.
My grandmother, the originator of much of the family dysfunction, hid the truth because her options were constrained by society. In her 1930s milieu of Ozarks and Calvinism she needed to hide her circumstance as 14-year-old unwed mother. It was to protect her daughter, far more than herself. Later, she wanted each of her children to feel equal in the eyes of the others, so she told them they all have the same father. But all of this masks the denial she lived, I imagine to shield herself from the unbearable consequences of her decisions. That she had an alternative to the abusive household her choice of families imposed on her children. That her son grew up to be a murder.
My mother hid her truths partly to shield me from the violence she'd known. In her mind she was "breaking the cycle of violence". But there's denial there, too. And incompetence. Her atavistic Ozarkian belief that children's emotions are fleeting; her inability to take responsibility. Mostly there was passivity: it was easier for her to let things be, where obscuring their existence made ignoring them easier still.
Mine was about evasion, in the period of adolescent interregnum when I was aware I was making better decisions than those of my family but I was not empowered to put my decisions openly into practice. I could circumvent parental and societal authorities by presenting false identities. It was easy: they were incompetent, and disinterested. For me it was the path of least resistance.
But that's my point. My mother's lies were her path of least resistance. Her mother's lies were her path of least resistance. For each of us it was about managing the powerlessness we experienced, as an unwed teenager, a victim of childhood abuse, and a rebellious adolescent.