Shaping the Mantle

One thing about traumatic events is that even if a person has a handle on the general harm done to them, the events still affect them in small ways. The aftershocks shape people’s behavior and thinking, how they relate to others, their pet-peeves and interests, everything from how they dress to who they talk to. Trauma finds a way to through, like grass growing between cracks in concrete. It can even happens to the best of us:

Mickey Mantle suffered life-changing sexual abuse as a youth at the hands of males and females alike, according to Jane Leavy.

The author of “The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood” says the resulting scars probably played a big role in the legendary New York Yankee centerfielder’s lifestyle.

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Despite all the past books on Mantle, it was only in Leavy’s that word of the abuse came out. From Mantle’s wife, Merlyn Mantle.

“She had disclosed it in passing, in a family memoir,” Leavy explained to Smith. “And what she said was that she was not sure whether she should have mentioned it but, because it gave her the first time of feeling that she really understood her husband, she thought it was important to disclose.

“And I went back and talked to her about it, and he had been abused by his half-older sister. And he was mortified. One of the things about Mickey that everybody knew, is that he hated being laughed at. And she said that the half-older sister and her teenage friends would fondle him and then laugh and laugh. Well, I started to talk to other friends, and other women with whom he had long-term relationships, and he had disclosed bits and pieces of the story to lots of people. He had been abused also by neighborhood boys. He told one friend, that’s how he learned to run so fast. Because if he could sense trouble coming, he took off. He told his companion of the last ten years about a relationship with a high school teacher. He said, ‘That’s the only way I got through high school.” ‘

We have no way of knowing whether Mantle was actually a victim of sexual abuse. However, Leavy’s conclusion about Mantle is certainly possible. His behavior is consistent with how many abuse victims, particularly those abused by females, respond. As Leavy states:

“After I heard these stories, I went to talk to experts about childhood sexual abuse. And what was astonishing, if Merlyn felt she understood her husband, I felt I understood my subject. There’s a constellation of behaviors that they see over and over in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Alcoholism and drug abuse. Promiscuity. Self-loathing. Shame. Inability to get close to others. And people who lead actually kind of double — split lives. And Mickey mantle fits those to a ‘T.” ‘

Many people who suffer childhood trauma learn to wear masks. One of my foster-fathers once compared me to Batman. He said that like Batman, I put on a face while in public. Batman is not the Bruce Wayne the public sees. He actually is as dark and brooding as he is while in the cowl. That is the real Bruce. The one everyone else sees is the mask. Similarly, the face I wear around people I do not know is completely different from how I am around people I trust.

A friend once caught me off guard by calling me at work. I talked to him as I would if we met in private. However, when he called I was in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker. So what he heard was a person completely different from who he met in high school and had known for years. He caught the change immediately, and asked if I was at work. I told him as I was, and his response was “You do that, too?” My co-workers also noticed the change when I answered my phone, and I had to explain it away. I had no idea that the shift was that obvious.

Again, we do not know if Mantle was a victim of abuse. However, it is true that abuse has a way of shaping how people interact with others, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in subtle ways.

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