Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

May 19, 2008

gawking tourist shame

Although her negative childhood media experience was not as shocking and traumatic as that now being experienced by Elisabeth Fritzl’s children, Peyton’s whole life has been shaped and hardened by it and she cannot see how Elisabeth’s children can ever come to terms with the shame of their birth and cellar existence – especially if they remain in Amstetten to be gawked at forever.

"My parents were dirt poor losers – the family of seven lived in an old school bus in the backwoods – and I felt extreme shame when the family’s circumstances were reported in the local newspaper and tourists arrived to do some gawking, to see how the other half lives."

"As a result of spending my childhood being bitterly shamed and traumatized by this experience", says Peyton, "I became a materialistic snob and have no compassion whatsoever for people living in similar circumstances to the one in which I grew up."

"It wasn't so much the poverty that traumatized me," explains Peyton, "as the fact that our noses were rubbed in it by the rich people."

"I became shockingly aware of my family's extreme poverty at the age of four," says Peyton.

"A couple of newspaper reporters with cameras turned up where we lived and asked us a lot of questions and took a lot of photos."

"I was the second youngest kid in a family of seven," sighs Peyton, "and we all lived in an old school bus in the backwoods."

"We had no water, no cooking stove and no sewerage," says Peyton. "My parents weren't hippy types who believed in living as close to nature as possible - they were just dirt poor losers."

"I don't know whether my parents called the reporters or whether our family was just chosen at random, sighs Peyton, "but I do know it must have been one of those 'no news' days for our story and photos to appear on the front page of the local newspaper - with headlines 'look how the other half lives!'"

"My parents were actually proud of appearing on the front page of the paper and having tourists come and gawk at us," sighs Peyton, "but even though I was just four years old I felt really ashamed of being exposed like this."

"The photo that appeared on the front page showed us all at a window of the bus - and it's horrible and pathetic to see seven scruffy faces, mine included, grinning out at the world from that old school bus we called home."

"Nothing good came from that exposure," says Peyton. "My parents weren't given a proper house and we didn't receive any goodies either."

"All my parents received were several copies of the newspaper and a copy of each of the photographs that were taken that day."

"They pinned those photographs on the walls of the bus and I grew up feeling more and more hateful of my circumstances than ever."

"As far as I could see, my family had been publicly humiliated for the titillation of bored newspaper readers," says Peyton.

"Our miserable existence had been exposed for no other reason than to make the rich and the middle-class people feel good in comparison to us."

"When I started school I realized the extent of how much the people in town despised us for being poor."

"I hung around with the other poor kids and hung my head in shame like they did."
"I went through school with a burning desire to escape from all this," says Peyton. "And that chance came when my big brother made good in another state and invited me to come live with him and his wife."

"They bought me new clothes and cut my hair and when I started my new school nobody knew who I was and where I came from It was the new start I needed - and it allowed me to make good too."

"They say that poverty breeds strong entrepreneurial kids," laughs Peyton, "but it also breeds kids with huge chips on their shoulders."

"I won't be getting married and I won't be having kids," says Peyton, "because as far as I can see most families are just a fine line away from poverty - all it takes is a bit of bad luck - and poor people really do exist in our affluent society to make the rest of us feel good about ourselves."

"When I look at poor people I despise them just like rich people despised me when I was a snot-nosed kid living in a bus."

Check out these stories about the Fritzl family:

Elisabeth Fritzl’s Amazing Survival

Rosemarie Fritzl Wasn’t a Fat Housefrau

locked up living fritzl dolls

Austria’s Aryan Heritage

Elisabeth Fritzl Locked Up For Smoking

Secrets of Elisabeth Fritzl’s Age

Secrets of Josef Fritzl's Age

Elisabeth Fritzl’s Neighbors

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