"Just you wait until you have a child as bad as you are. You won't be laughing then!!", Mrs Richards yelled. Elly never really understood why it was that her mother said things like that. To be fair, Elly never really understood much of what was going on around her at the best of times. If she could have, most of what bothered her about her life could have been prevented.
For starters, she would have been able to see that despite her belief that her parents were typical, she'd been dealt a rather bad hand. A lot of what was wrong with Elly that would hamper her later in life started because her pompous, bigoted, sexist ignoramus of a grandfather took entirely too long dying and thus was able to spew his misogynistic venom during her formative years. She ended up with a double dose of his malice because her mother feared any sort of defiance on her part. Marian seemed to live in terror that Elly herself would end up becoming a domineering, obnoxious, self-absorbed petty tyrant like her own father and slapped down any attempt Elly might have made to express herself. A man from Mars would see an anxious woman overreacting to quite normal behavior. Marian reacted as if the world would spin off its axis if Elly threw a temper fit or misbehaved.
What usually ended up happening was that Jim would fail to see the oncoming apocalypse of his shell-shocked wife's imaginings, insist on more lenient treatment for Elly and well, an argument about his being too easy on her would start up all over again. Elly herself knew very little of this and never really figured it out later on. All she knew was that if Mom was being unfair, Daddy would always be in her corner.
This, of course, is not to say that Elly was easy to get along with. She was born with a defiant streak that made her dare people to make her do anything that she didn't want to, a tendency to think that everyone around her either thought what she did (or should). a bottomless need for praise and a rather short attention span that made it hard for her to see much of what was going on around her.
This made her first few years of school something of a trial. As a for instance, she could always be counted on to make an embarrassing fool of herself in the name of becoming popular or a destructive fool of herself in the name of avenging a perceived slight. Her favourite sort of enemy for the latter was the poor woman tasked with the onerous job of trying to convince a sullen, frowning little girl that yes, Elly, you do need to learn fractions even though they're boring. Elly justified her naughtiness by casting it as a test of character. If a teacher liked her despite being tormented for the horrible crime of insisting on proper punctuation, that person was good.
Another thing that had to be taken into account was that Elly lived in constant terror of being embarrassed. In her mind, she couldn't allow herself to have to admit being in the wrong because that meant that everyone in the whole world would laugh at her forever. What this led to was her coming to the conclusion that the teachers who wanted her to do well in subjects she was bored and confused by were actually part of a conspiracy to make her look foolish.
Her need to see herself as the innocent victim of a plot against her also made it very hard for her to want to co-exist with her kid brother Phillip. As far as she could see, her parents decided to have a boy without her prior approval because she wasn't good enough or something. Not that her parents did much to disabuse her of this notion. On the one hand there was Jim whose reaction to being exposed to competent femininity was panic and disgust and on the other, there was Marian who didn't get along well with other women at the best of times and made her own child the target of her need to suspect other women of predatory intentions.
This meant that Phil could always count on being given far better treatment than Elly ever got. What this also meant is that her every attempt to point out the unfairness of it all was either ignored or met with a chilly comment about things being what they are. Jim said things like that because he was an overgrown child whose yearnings to have a harem of adoring beauties made living with flesh-and-blood women difficult and Marian said that because of a need to keep the kids from teaming up against her and dominating her. It was almost as if Elly's peace of mind had to be sacrificed so Marian could play some sort of political game with her family.
This would have been bad enough were it not for the fact that Elly had very few friends with whom to compare notes. Not very many people wanted to get to know the jeweler's crazy daughter because, well, because she never smiled and always took everything way too seriously. Her first real crush, for example, regarded her as an adhesive and clueless (and, when challenged, shrill) pain in the neck. Given that she lived in relative isolation, she never really figured out that her background wasn't normal by any means.
As a for instance, she grew up thinking that the point of cooking food was to disguise foods that other people hated and the point of cleaning a house was to rush around in a blind panic and not get anything done. To do otherwise would, as Marian told her, lead to chaos...as would thinking that no, pretty girls aren't actually engaged in a conspiracy to make her die an old maid.
She also ended up thinking that the point of a university education was not to do something silly and get a degree and thus die old, alone, ugly and unwanted but to find Prince Charming, MD. Since she didn't want her uncool old fogy parents getting in between her and happiness, it made a lot of sense to attend University far away from home. The end result of that miscalculation made a bad problem worse.