I really did hate her for a long time. It didn’t start out that way. My parents, with my mother at the helm, had dragged us through a messy divorce that left all four of us children in various states of devastation, confusion, and uncertainty. I was desperate for adult concern and caring. When I got the chance to move in with my newly remarried father and his second wife, all I wanted was to escape my own guilt at having abandoned my mother and to live my vision of a normal teenaged life, albeit in a new household headed by a woman I thought was a reasonable person.

Sure, we had a few barriers to overcome in the beginning. The new wife had first entered our lives as our mother’s “helper,” a 1960’s version of today’s “nanny,” when I was five years old. Several years later, she had helped break up my parents’ marriage by engaging in an affair with my father and undoubtedly, although unwittingly, played a role in my mother’s near successful suicide attempt. My mother absolutely hated her, with good reason.

Despite those problematic details, I secretly hoped my step-mother would love me, and I her, even though that longing represented yet another betrayal of my mother. When B.G. officially joined our family and assumed her formal title, I squirmed at her new role, but when I moved in with her and my father a year later, I was ready to behave, not a stretch for a child whose nickname was “goody-goody.” Besides, I believed she held the keys to my father’s heart, and, having already lost my mother (yes, she was still alive, but no, she was emotionally unrecognizable to me after her stint at a mental hospital and continued use of pills and alcohol), I simply couldn’t afford to lose my father.

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