Tag: abuse

17: It’s Quite a Web They Weave

JeanneLarryPurvisSrProm

At first the jealousy seemed a testament to his affection for me, and let me tell you: it warmed my heart. Soon enough, though, the isolation began. All communication with my friends was cut off, and my world became smaller because his friends were the only ones I was allowed to talk to.

Then came the daily criticisms and the constant belittling. His lips would curl back revealing teeth that looked like fangs on a wild predatory animal about to pounce and grab his victim in a death hold. “You are the ugliest, the stupidest, the most worthless girl in this school,” he’d hiss. “I don’t even know why I date you.”

If he was particularly convincing, I would plead for him not to leave me because I wasn’t yet ready to risk being alone. Even though that was decades ago, even though my brain knows that this was part of his strategy, even though it doesn’t happen as often as it once did, I still do battle with his words on occasion, doubting my worth, my abilities, my beauty, my power – doubting anything good about myself.

I stopped smiling altogether.

The first punch came because on his way to the P.E. bus, he saw me in the school office with Johnny N. I worked in the school office during fourth period, you see, and Johnny N. was in the office because he’d been sent there for something or other. Not that it mattered. I’d been caught with another boy, and he was overcome with jealousy and rage that culminated with his fist connecting with the left side of my face as I tried to get into my car. He was SO very sorry. He would NEVER hit me again. He would make it up to me, he PROMISED.

But he did do it again. And again. And again. And eventually the apologies started not with “I’m sorry” but with “If you hadn’t” and ended with “I wouldn’t have had to hit you.” Sometimes he’d make threats – telling me all the harm he would inflict on me – then (try to) erase them by saying “I’m just kidding.”

I hadn’t been dating long enough – shoot, I hadn’t even read enough books and magazines to know how to get away. When I first thought about such things as escape, my plan was to put as much space as possible between us during the summer break. After a while, I was worn out and numb. The future – what was that? Independent thoughts were dangerous. Independent actions were unfathomable.

To the outside world he was Mr. Affability – the friendliest, most easy-going guy you’d ever want to meet. Always the guy ready to lend a helping hand, it was obvious that even if I did muster the courage to tell somebody what he did and how he behaved, nobody would ever believe me.

But then one day at the beginning of spring, I walked into the office during fourth period and was beckoned back to Mrs. Ash’s office. She and Mrs. Hopkins threw the principal out of his office, ushered me in, and closed the door behind them. “Who are you going to the prom with?” they asked, getting right to the point.

“X, I guess.”

With the most delighted smiles I’ve ever seen, they shook their heads and said, “Oh no you’re not.”

They had contacted a boy who graduated a year or so earlier and arranged for him to come home and take me to the prom. Knowing he wouldn’t have a car, they’d even arranged someone for us to double date with. “Do you have a dress?” they asked.

My body began to shake in anticipation of what would undoubtedly come if I went to the prom with another guy – the verbal and physical punches that would be thrown. I had to sit down.

I did have a dress, though. I subscribed to a mail order fabric club, you see, and from the sample card that came the month before, I’d selected some fabric in the school’s colors – gold and black. When the fabric arrived, I liked the wrong side so much that I made it the right side. I’d sewn the dress all by myself, cutting the sleeves incorrectly, leaving me with 3/4 length sleeves instead of long sleeves, but other than that, the dress looked fabulous to me. I found some shiny gold Baby Jane’s with a sparkly button on each side to wear with my new dress. I wanted an orchid spray painted black with gold glitter dribbling out from the center, but X had made it clear he wasn’t springing for a corsage for me. Flowers were for pretty girls.

“Good,” they said. “Then you go see Miss Bess about the corsage you want, and we’ll take care of it. Now, when are you going to tell X?”

With my body still shaking uncontrollably, I managed to say in a squeaky, scared voice, “I don’t know. I’ll tell him later.”

“Nope. We’re going with you to the lunchroom, and you’re going to tell him now. No sense putting this off.”

And that’s just what we did. With a secretary on each side of me, we headed straight for the lunchroom, spotted X who was laughing it up with his friends, and stopped at the end of his table. “Jeanne has something she wants to tell you,” Mrs. Ash told him.

Borrowing some strength from them, I said, “I’m not going to the prom with you.”

“Okay,” he said, chuckling in the direction of his friends as if to say “You see what I have to put up with.”

And with that, we turned and left the lunchroom. “That was easy,” Mrs. Ash said.

“He took it better than I thought he would,” said Mrs. Hopkins.

Their relief might have dripped off of each word, but my knees threatened collapse. They thought he took it well. I knew what was coming in a few hours when the last bell of the day rang.

A few weeks later, Larry P. came home as planned, and when the band sounded their first note, he grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go. Marines always hit the beach first.” The first time I laughed that night, it felt like I’d have to pick the shards of my face up off the floor. I could talk – speak my mind, even – without fear of retribution. I danced with other guys, talked with my friends, and there was no hell to pay. My soul sang and thought impossible thoughts like wondered what it would be like to feel like this – to feel this happy and young and possible and true – all the time, every single day. We danced till the last note sounded, then we went to a fancy restaurant for dinner with our friends. School ended a few weeks later, and though X stalked me, threatened me, and tried to kill me not once but twice over the course of the summer, eventually – with the help of the local Chief of Police – I was a free woman.

I will be forever grateful to Mrs. Ash and Mrs. Hopkins, two women who didn’t ask permission; didn’t wait on somebody else to tend to it so they wouldn’t have to; and didn’t worry about any blow back or liability they might have to endure. These two women simply stepped out and stepped in. They saved my life.

Since then and for the rest of my life, I spend part of each day in search of the secret recipe, the magic formula, the what would it take to convince girls, ladies, and women of their worthiness, talent, intelligence, beauty, and power so that at the first hint of isolationism, at the first hiss of venom, at the first physical hit to their body, they’d turn on their heels, run away, and never look back – not once.

~~~~~~~

100 Days, 100 Stories – that’s what I’m doing. I’d love to hear from you – to leave a comment here, click on the title of the post, then when it opens in a new browser window, scroll down to the end where you’ll find a place to leave a comment (no need to create an account if you don’t want to, just drop off your comment as a guest). Or maybe you want to find the post on my facebook timeline and comment there. Either way, I appreciate it. Oh, and one more thing: though they arrive without orange juice or a flower in a bud vase, you can have the daily story delivered right to your e-mailbox by mashing the “right this way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen and following the directions.

Let’s Talk Eyeball to Eyeball, part 1

Web

Now listen, let’s cut right to the chase: difficult people are one thing, stupid people are one thing, but abusive, controlling, manipulative people are quite another, and you need only stay in relationship with them long enough to be able to get out safely.

Period.

You deserve better.

Period.

You’ve heard the old saying “You made your bed and now you have to lay in it?”

Forget it. Forget you ever heard it. Erase it. Obliterate it.

Think you have to be miserable and in danger because you are obligated to live with the consequences of your choices?

Bunk.

Sometimes you can get so settled in a relationship, so comfortable with its predictable dynamics that you can’t see it clearly. You get lost in the familiarity, losing sight of the harm that’s being perpetrated on you and your partner. (But I don’t care about your partner right now, I care about YOU.)

Let’s be real clear about this:

Healthy love doesn’t manipulate, control, isolate, or harm another. Healthy love doesn’t issue ultimatums or demand you buy them things in return for their affection. Healthy love can’t be bought or sold. Healthy love doesn’t isolate you from friends sand family. Healthy love doesn’t pummel you incessantly with junky words designed to keep you down and them up. Healthy love doesn’t want you to be a slave or a doormat or a punching bag.

People, listen to me.

Healthy love wants you to shine. Healthy love brings out the best in you and the best in them. Healthy love makes you walk differently, with the grace of someone who is cherished and supported and loved through and through.

If your partner professes to be jealous of your friends, envious of the attention you give your family, if your partner demands that you forsake your friends and family spending time only with their friends and family, do not confuse this for love. This is not jealousy and this is not ardent love, my friends, this is controlling, isolating behavior, a tool in the abuser’s arsenal. Bullies are sniveling cowards, really. Knowing that other people just might see them more clearly than you, well, they want none of that.

Recognize it for the controlling, manipulative, isolating behavior it is.

If your partner tells you lies about your family and lies about your friends, see this for what it is: deceit. an erosion of trust. And really, if you don’t have trust as the foundation of a relationship, what kind of relationship do you have? Said another way, without trust, do you really have a relationship?

Trust is everything.

If your partner gets what they want by plying you with affection or pitching hissy fits and allowing you to makeup with them by buying them what they want, taking them where they want to go, doing for them what they wanted you to do in the first place, see this for what it is: immaturity and manipulation.

You are not a game piece they move to win the game.

If you earn money and your partner demands that you turn it over to them then refuses to share it with you – say it with me: this is controlling behavior and is not to be tolerated. I don’t care how you feel about capitalism, you need to have your own money.

Period.

If, after pitching a hissy fit, your partner says anything akin to “If you hadn’t done or said so-and-so, I wouldn’t have had to get mad, hit you, pitch such a fit (insert your behavior of choice),” see this for what it is: shifting the blame and trying to make you responsible for their unacceptable behavior. Unacceptable.

If your partner does any or all of these things, see it for what it is: thuggish, bullying behavior – abuse. Abuse doesn’t just mean physical contact, people. Abuse can leave bruises that are never visible to the naked eye. Bruises that can be healed, though it might take a few eons or so.

If your partner scares you,
If your partner tries in any way to make and keep you small,
If your partner blames you for their bad behavior
LEAVE.
Exit the relationship.
This is not a healthy relationship, and this is not healthy love.

You never did anything to deserve this. Ever. You may not be able to see it right now under all the years of words and deeds to the contrary, but you ARE worthy and you ARE lovable and you DESERVE to be with someone who cherishes you.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, you can’t be stupid about your leaving. You have to be safe and consider the safety of yourself and your family, but that doesn’t lock you into staying in an unhealthy relationship for the rest of your life. Shake your body like a dog fresh out of the bathtub. Do it again. And one more time. Scream YES as loud as you can (even if it has to be on the inside). Now square your shoulders, exhale, and start planning. I know it’s not as easy as me writing these words. Of course it isn’t. Your exit might be quick and easy or it might be a long, arduous journey. Either way, you will get tired – changing the way you see yourself is invigorating, trying, challenging, exhausting, and liberating. It takes practice to see yourself in a new way, it takes patience to let your bones convince yourself that you are worthy. But it’s doable. And we are here cheering you on. We want you to succeed. We want you to see yourself the way we see you. The world needs you to live into your own bigness, and you cannot do that while under the thumb and under the control of a monster.