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Who Am I – Starting Over, 01-12-05

by LauraBelle

It is always difficult for a new person to walk into an existing group of people. The four remaining women on Starting Over have a tight bond, especially after the difficult dismissal of Sommer. This seems to have pulled them all closer. They all wondered at the beginning of the show who it would be to be added to their tight clan. Cassie thought for sure it would be someone that would be very different from her, noting that the show always seems to put mixes of all different people in the house.

All were shocked, though, at how different Bethany, the new woman, is, and the sad truth is that she doesn’t remember how similar or different she is – she has nothing to compare it to. She is currently twenty-one, and at the age of seventeen-and-a-half, she had a case of encephalitis, and suffered complete memory loss.

From North Carolina, Bethany peppers her speech with phrases like “spittin’ distance” and “knee-high to a grasshopper.” Her father has been the pastor of a small country church for twenty-seven years, and the congregation there is like family to her. As she tells Rhonda later in a one-on-one, she is told she used to be quite vivacious. She wants to know who she is – the shy, reserved person she has been since the memory loss or the vivacious person she is told she used to be. She now lives in constant fear of re-losing her memory again and carries around a notebook of things important to her life in case she loses her memory again.

Rachael is having a confusing day herself. It’s the anniversary of her mother’s death, and when she calls her grandmother, looking for someone to share it with, she finds her grandmother doesn’t want to remember, underscoring why Rachael has had such a hard time herself. To make matters worse, her grandmother makes an excuse to get off the phone with her. The best part of her day, though, is that her mother’s old dress arrives in the mail. This is how she remembers her mother.

Renee meets with Dr. Stan to discuss her childhood sexual abuse. He gets her to understand her distrust of her father has less to do with him spending her college fund, and more to do with her distrust of a man in charge of her care, since the man who molested her was old enough to be her grandfather, and babysat her and a friend sometimes. Dr. Stan has a “healing artist” visit with Renee. She works to heal people with art. She makes a mask of Renee’s face, then instructs her to decorate it how she wants to see herself in the future. Renee realizes she can express her feelings of her abuse so much easier through art, and later moves to doing watercolor painting that night.

Cassie, looking more confident and strong every day, takes a GED evaluation test. She is very scared, as it brings up those memories of her attempted rape, the reason she quit school as a teenager. After it is graded, she finds she has done quite well. She even has a much above passing score in Social Studies. Writing she needs a little organizational help in, and in math, as they knew before, she needs a lot of help. She signs herself up for some classes to better prepare her to take the larger test.

All the women are sharing later in the kitchen, and Denise is grilling Bethany about her life. She hears Bethany is a virgin and does not plan to have sex until she is married. She also doesn’t drink alcohol, saying it’s not suggested with the headaches she gets after the amnesia, but also she wouldn’t choose to if she could. Later, Denise shares the Top Ten list Rhonda has asked her to prepare. First, of course, she went over it with Rachael to be sure she wasn’t sarcastic or making light of it. Denise reads off a very funny Top Ten Reasons It’s Good To Lose Your Memory. There are things on there such as, “You Can’t remember all the men you slept with.” Bethany loves it and laughs along. Denise was successful, and all breathe a sigh of relief.

Loss of memory can be horrifying for all. The person who has lost the memory is confused and frightened, and those around them can get very frustrated. Bethany’s goal is not to remember, but to create. She has an opportunity now that most of us never get – to start over from scratch, not only finding who she is … but who she wants to be be. Yet all the women in the house have that same option, they just don’t realize it until much closer to the end of their stay.

I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com

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