Singled Out: Golden Dimes' Paper Skin

Golden Dimes

Golden Dimes recently release their new EP "Uncommon Cents" and to celebrate we asked Avi Dimes to tell us about the song "Paper Skin". Here is the story:

I met Billy while I was a college student in the 90's. In exchange for academic credit, I volunteered at an afterschool program for underprivileged and neglected children. First and foremost, we were serving as positive adult role models to these kids. However, on occasion, the counselors, all psychology majors, would pull kids away from their groups for brief one-on-one interview sessions. The focus of the questioning was, largely, to learn and document how children perceive and interpret the world in which they live.

Billy was a quiet kid. At the age of 8, most of the other boys in his group seemed comfortable interacting with each other, but not Billy. Our first reaction was that Billy was just a loner which was probably the way most people perceived him. Despite encouragement to join in on activities and games, Billy never really wanted to participate. Like I said, to us, Billy was just a loner.

I recall the evaluation session going something like this. "Can kids hurt people?" I asked. Billy replied, "uh huh." "Tell me, how can kids hurt people," I asked. "I dunno. Maybe push 'em or somethin' and they fall down." "Okay, can adults hurt people, Billy?" Almost instantly, I knew the chord had been struck. Billy tipped his head down and paused for a couple of seconds. I repeated the question. Without bringing his head up, he quietly said, "yes." A bit nervously, I proceeded. "How can adults hurt people, Billy?" Another pause. I pressed on. "Billy?" He continued, "They can hit them...and make them fall down...and then drag them across the carpet so they...so they get carpet burns on their body." I was taken aback by the specificity and delivery of his answer. This might have seemed like just an imaginative response from one of the other boys but it definitely seemed alarming coming from quiet Billy. He elaborated, "They can also call them stupid. And tell them that they are no good at stuff. And then, and then hit them when they try to stop them from hitting their mom." Now I was the one who paused. Delicately I asked, "Has this happened to you, Billy?" Billy grew uneasy in his chair. He didn't answer the question, nor did I attempt to ask it a second time. Calmly, I ended the session and took Billy back to the group.

I didn't need to report the incident to my superiors. They were always watching through a one way window that looked like a mirror to those inside the evaluation room. Child Protective Services was notified and days later we learned, to no one's surprise, that bruises resembling rug burns were discovered on Billy's upper body. The anger that I felt as a 20 year-old man, raised by loving parents who never laid a finger on him during childhood, was intense. It was rage.

Paper Skin was written with Billy in mind. It is intended to be from his perspective, but as an adult, after having survived a physically and emotionally abusive childhood. I chose not to focus on the physical abuse with this song but the emotional instead - the abuse that is less visible on the victim, and often mistaken or dismissed as a personality defect. In the interest of continuing uninterrupted with our busy lives, sometimes selfishly so, humans justify things or subconsciously interpret them as not requiring additional consideration. But sometimes such additional consideration is required. The long-term psychological effects of emotional abuse experienced during childhood can be nothing short of crippling. Paper Skin was written to shine some light on this topic. Fortunately, not every parent is like Billy's father. But that doesn't mean we are all perfect either. We all need to be careful with what we say to our children and how we say it. What might seem like frustrating moments of poor word selection to an adult could end up being the cause of life-long, debilitating pain for a child.

It has been over 20 years since that academic year ended, and that was the last time I saw Billy. I don't know what became of him. I can only hope his wounds have healed, though I don't know that they ever could. As the song says, you can't repair a tear of paper skin.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the EP right here!

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