Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Author

Living Life in the Country As A Writer, Photographer


“Unlovable.” That’s what my mother described. “She said I was a stupid girl. She said I’d never amount to nothing but a hill of beans. Stupid. Stupid. Just stupid.”

I’ve walked in these shoes even before my mother had a stroke and was released from life while her youngest daughter smothered life from her body. Never was she charged with murder, or any crime. I grew up believing I would NEVER be loved by a man. My mother would send me on a walk – to the grocery store — without any money. Her request/order for me was, and I quote: “I need you to walk to the grocery store. See the manager. He really likes you. Flirt with him and tell him he must let you get some things for supper. A loaf of bread. Pork n’ Beans. I ain’t got no money, so I need you to work it well. I know he’ll allow you to get something good for supper. Don’t tell your daddy I ask you to do this. I asked you cause I know you have a way with men. They like looking at you, when you smile those men melt. Get what you can out of them. Men like you.”


Little did I know my good ole Southern mama was training me. Training me to get men to treat me well. She wasn’t training or teaching me LOVE. She thought I could use my looks, personality, charm and sexuality to get what I wanted in life. She said, “Men like you, Barbara Jean. They always have. Now is the time for payback. I produced a pretty girl. Maybe an actress with Southern charm. They’ll pay you lots, just to get what you want. Don’t you forget that you stupid child, Barbara Jean.”

I was 15-years-old at the time. Mama would give me old clothes and hand-me-downs from one of my cousins. The cousin who never wore the same outfit twice. Mama told me to wear the off-shoulder blouses and shorts. “You got some nice-looking shoulders and legs, Barbara Jean, and you’ve got the right amount of boobs. Men like that!”

Funny, I never realized my mother was encouraging me to become a hooker and I cringe, refusing to respond to anyone who calls me Barbara Jean.

When I was 30, my marriage to Garrett was choking me. Depression left me so unhappy I thought my entire world was crumbling. My therapist, a lovely, tiny woman who always wore her hair in a twisted bun with a sparkling comb, and a bright red rose tucked inside her blazer pocket, wanted to know about my childhood.

Looking at her, my mouth quivered. “My childhood? It was awful. Never did I feel loved.”

“What about your mother? Didn’t she embrace you and tell you she loved you?

“No. All she did was tell me to flirt with men. They liked me. I could get anything I wanted from a man, if I ‘worked it.’ She said if I dressed nice and showed my cleavage, men would follow me to the ends of the earth.”

“Interesting.”

“What’s interesting?” I asked.

“Your mother was encouraging you to become a hooker.”

“No. She wouldn’t do that. Good mothers do not teach their daughters to hook.”

Covering my mouth while choking back tears, I realized something I never thought as a young girl. My hands were shaking. “Oh, my God. You’re right. My mother thought I could become a hooker.”

My therapist scribbled on a pad. “I find it interesting you never think of your mother as abusive, cruel, or a bad mother.”

“She said she wanted the best from me. Only her best was not what I wanted to become.”

“It sounds to me like your mother wanted you to dress like a hooker. I always see you dressed as a lady wearing cultured pearl necklaces and earrings. Your hair and makeup immaculate. You don’t show cleavage. When you sit, you keep your legs together. Like a lady, or royalty.”

Glancing at my posture, I realized she was correct. My legs were together, not exposed. Sitting with my ankles crossed, I realized she was right. I’m sitting like a lady. Funny. I’ve never considered myself a lady.

“Can you share more of what your mother taught you?”

Covering my face momentarily with my hands, I mumbled yes, sharing the stories my mother taught me. Sharing how she wanted me to use my sexuality to get what I wanted from men. “She said men would want to be with me, and she said I would never find love from any man. She said Barbara Jean was unlovable and a stupid girl. Nothing more than yesterday’s trash. Never to be loved. Never!”

2 thoughts on “Stupid Girl

  1. Perrie Adams says:

    Barbie
    I enjoyed reading this although painful.
    It brought back memories of your mother and dad. I remember thinking these two are so different, how could they coexist in the same house! I don’t know anything about her childhood but I suspect it was not a love filled one.
    Keep writing as you have a wonderful talent!!
    Your cousin Perrie

    1. barbiepc says:

      Perrie, thank you. I had no idea you read my blog. You are so kind. My mother was a strange woman. Never did I hear either Dad or Mom say I love you to us, or one another. Fortunately, Dad and I became close, during my childhood and when we moved him to Charleston. Such wonderful memories of he and I. He always spoke of you like you were his son. He would be happy to know we have connected. Bless you. Thank you again!

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