Thursday, August 9, 2007
Scalpel's recent post Bad Idea brought back some interesting memories from my youth. Normally I don't have a good memory anywhere past 5 or so years ago, everything gets hazy and I can only recall small, seemingly insignificant events or feelings associated with some events. But there's a few memories I won't be able to rid myself of, no matter how hard I try.
When I was 14 I fell in love for the first time, and boy did I fall. Hard and fast. We'll call him Joe. He was a couple of years older than me and by that I mean he was 18. Joe was a redhead, freckles, cute personality and all around good guy. It started with just casual chatting for several months and then went on to more serious interactions. We met in person after a few months, at a mall because I was paranoid about meeting him somewhere secluded, and we hit it off amazingly. Everything about us clicked. We had the same interests, beliefs, morals, values, shared the same goals; it was magic. Even my parents liked him.
Then one day about 5 months into the relationship I got cheeky and pretended to be mad at him and called him by his full name, only I called him Joseph instead of Joe.
"Who the hell is Joseph? Are you fucking cheating on me? You skank, you're cheating on me aren't you! How fucking dare you! Who the fuck is Joseph? I'll kill him! I swear to God if you're fucking cheating I'll kill you both!"
Stunned, all I could do was apologize and told him I thought his full name was Joseph, that usually guys that go by Joe are shortening Joseph. I spend 6 hours pleading with him to believe me I wasn't cheating on him. There was no 'Joseph'. That it was a mistake. I missed a lot of sleep over it, trying to calm him down but in the end he relaxed and we said good night. I thought it was over. I thought it was a one-time thing.
I went to meet him one day at a local cafe, it was warm out and I was wearing a knee length skirt and a blouse with short sleeves. My hair was done up in a pony tail and I felt really cute. The minute I see him, he leaps out of the chair and grabs me by the forearm, smiling the whole while. He was hurting me, I thought he was going to break my arm the way he dragged me off behind the building.
"You little whore. Why the fuck are you wearing that? Do you think I want other people looking at you like a tramp! I don't want you wearing fucking skirts! Look at your short sleeves! What, you WANT someone else as your boyfriend? Fuck you."
That's when he first hit me. He backhanded me. I stumbled back. I could taste the blood oozing from my lip. Tears were blurring my vision and I had sunk to the ground, the rocks of the gravel digging in to my butt and thighs.
"Don't you ever fucking wear a skirt again. You understand me? You'll wear what I tell you to wear and it aint no fucking tramp clothes like that!"
Mutely I nodded, too much in shock and too much in love to disagree with him. When I went home, my dad asked me about the bruised lip and I told him I had gotten beaten up at school, then pleaded with him not to get involved. I was only 14. It would make things worse I told him. He never knew Joe hit me.
From then on I wore long sleeved shirts and baggy jeans. My parents began to suspect things were wrong when Joe and I would fight for hours on the phone. They told me he was abusive. I didn't believe them. Joe had a temper but it was okay because we were working on it. We'd get through it. We loved each other after all, didn't we?
One night Joe got the notion that I was cheating on him again, with someone online. After fighting and screaming into the phone my dad finally had enough and took it away. That's when Joe did something that really surprised me. He lied to my dad. He told him that I was cheating on him and having cyber sex online. I was 14. He told my dad all these awful lies about what I was doing online. But thankfully my dad didn't believe him. When the phone was handed back to me, Joe's words were "I can make your life a living hell, or paradise. Do not piss me off like this again. - Click - ".
Just before school was letting out for the summer, I mentioned to Joe that I had gotten angry at one of the guys in my class. He was staring at my chest because I had decided to wear this really cute low cut top to school. Joe went crazy. I wasn't allowed to wear such clothes, he told me, in between swings. I wasn't allowed to talk to other guys. I was flirting with them. I was always flirting. I was such a whore. A bitch. A slut. I had bruises on my stomach and chest, a cut on my lip again. He twisted my arms back behind me until I swear I thought they were going to break. He made me promise, over and over again never to talk to another man unless I absolutely had to - i.e. my father or a teacher. That I was only to talk to him.
I promised him. I loved him, after all right? You do strange things for love, right? Keeping the other person happy is what love is about right?
For his 19th birthday I bought him a book I thought he'd like. He did and he was very sweet and gentle with me.
For my 15th birthday, he gave me his graduation sweater which I adored because it smelled like him. I put it over my stuffed bear and slept with it. My parents were a little sore because I was more enthused with his sweater than the expensive playstation game they had bought me, which set them back quite a bit.
Over the summer I had some friends over one night and Joe called. He wanted to talk to my friend Amber so I handed over the phone. Afterwards, he yelled and screamed at me because he thought we were doing pot because Amber had a deep voice for a girl. He threatened to call the police on us, to tell my parents. Amber told him he was a lunatic and then he forbade me to ever see her again.
Another friend, Ashley, had gotten his ICQ number (this was before MSN days) from me and had begun talking with him. Ashley could be a mean spirited person. She was grossly overweight but still dressed in clothes 4 sizes too small for her. She did drugs, a lot of them, and drank. I have no idea why I was friends with her but we were - best friends. That is until, she decided she wanted Joe. Joe, however, wanted nothing to do with her and he made it clear to her several times.
One night, I went out horse back riding with another friend, the daughter of the woman we were boarding our horse with. I wasn't home until well past 6 o'clock, the time I usually called Joe. Thinking it was too late and because my friend had decided to spend the night, I didn't call him. It wasn't until about 2 a.m. that he called me. Thankfully we were still awake and I got to the phone before it woke up my parents.
"You drive me to drink you little whore. Look what you did.. I'm drunk. I got drunk because of you. Because you never called. I fucking hate you.. you're such a little whore. You know, I could have Ashley.. she wants me.. she loves me. You don't love me. Fuck you. You drive me to drink. I'll die from alcohol because of you!"
Maybe it was the early hour he had called, maybe it was that he was drunk or maybe it was me finally finding my voice but I told him no one pushes anyone to drink. That if he wants Ashley to go ahead, but not to talk to me until he's sober. I hung up on him. For the first time in our relationship, I had hung up. I felt empowered.
That feeling didn't last long. He caught me the next day. He was apologetic, saying it was stupid to call me so late and after he had been drinking. He was so sorry for what he had said. He never meant it. I, like a wounded puppy, believed him again. We went back to his parents place. His parents were out of town for the summer. There, he beat me. I had only ever gotten the belt once in my life from my father after I threw a hissy fit at school and had to be drug off school property by my mother but Joe took his belt to me that day until I had welts on my ass. I thought I would never be able to sit down again. I was scared they'd bleed and get infected. He didn't just belt me, he hit me across the back. When he wasn't satisfied with that, he used the belt to fasten my hands behind me and forced my mouth on him.
When it was over, and I was left in his room on the floor, sobbing hysterically he came back with a wash cloth and cleaned my face, untied my hands and told me he was sorry. That he loved me. That he never wanted to hurt me. But I made him so mad. Why did I have to make him so mad. Why couldn't I just be a good girl? I promised him I would be a good girl. I loved him. God, I still fucking loved him.
My parents again said nothing about me being sore the next day. I don't think they suspected anything. And if they did, they were unsure how to handle it. They had seen me go through so much pain in school, I had begged them not to get involved, that I think they were grateful just for me to be happy even a little bit that they weren't going to step in. I'm not sure that even today, I would have wanted them involved. I think this was a journey I had to make on my own. Would I advise other parents to stay on the sidelines? No. So I guess I'm somewhat of a hypocrite.
Sometime in July, after my birthday, he had a friend over. A girl. She stayed the night oh but they didn't sleep together. She slept on the couch. I told him I wasn't happy about that. He told me to shut the fuck up, that he would do what he wanted and if I didn't believe him, too bad.
It wasn't until August of that year when I truly got my wings and found my voice. My best friend had moved out of the country that spring and for whatever reason Joe suddenly decided I was no longer allowed to talk with her. That sent me over the edge. This girl had been my friend since grade 4 and no one would get between our friendship. Not even Joe. I told him what a horrible jerk he was, what a coward he was, how mean he was. He threw a fit. He destroyed everything in sight, he punched holes in the wall, I could hear them. We fought over the phone this time. He threatened to come kill me. Then he started sobbing, hysterical sobs. Pleading with me. I told him no. It was over. Enough was enough. I wasn't going to be repeatedly hurt like this. I wasn't going to be subject to his mood swings, to his jealousy, to his torments and his abuse. I was through.
Like a baby he wailed, threatening me, hating me, screaming at me. He was so upset he vomited, several times. Making me privy to the sound. He went again on a rampage. Screaming and terrorizing his room. I told him, finally, what an idiot he was. How ridiculous he sounded and acted. How childish.
He swore at me. Told me my life would be hell.
I hung up the phone. I opened my bedroom door and attempted to put the pieces of my life back together.
It wasn't the end however. He would call at odd times during the day and scream at what a bitch I was. Finally, after about a week of this, I called him back after one of his 5 second tirades and got his father on the first ring.
"Is Joe there?"
"Joe doesn't want to talk to you."
"Then tell Joe, you're 19-year-old son, to stop calling my house at all hours of the day and night and screaming into the phone." Click.
Ashley tried to kill me a few times but after managing to get a group of 80 people behind me and going to the police office, I filed a report against her. I moved out of that town the following spring and heard that she had come back for Spring Break (she had left town just after school started again) with a group of 15 people looking for me, saying they were going to kill me.
Joe tracked me down a year later and told me he wanted his grad sweater and photos he sent me back. I told him they were burned long ago.
I had found my voice. I had found my courage, buried deep inside me after being beaten into near nonexistence. I managed to throw off the shackles he put me in and fight back. To stand up and say 'enough'.
Was it a good experience? No. It most certainly was not. If I had my life to do over again, would I skip over this part? Surprisingly, no. Despite the fact that this was a negative experience, what I gained from it was positive. I learned to stand up for myself, to look for 'red flags' in potential partners. I learned when I was being abused or used and I learned how to get away from it. I learned that I am worth more to myself, than I'll ever be worth to anyone else. I learned that sometimes you have to go through these bad experiences to learn lessons for life ahead. Do I wish my parents intervened and called the police? No. For me this would have not helped me with the learning process. Besides, I believe in Karma and I'll tell you - Karma bit Joe in the ass big time. I won't go into specifics but let's just say he got a taste of his own medicine.
My heart goes out to the women who haven't found their voice. Who don't have their wings. Who can't say no. Who don't know how to say 'enough'. Sometimes, they aren't being stupid. Sometimes, they just don't know any other way of life. Sometimes, their self-esteem is so low that they convince themselves this is the best they'll ever do. And sometimes, they truly do love the man, despite his flaws. Despite the abuse. Sometimes, they need to go through the experience before some of them learn to stand up for themselves, to know when to defend themselves. And sometimes, no matter how much you try, whatever help you offer them isn't enough. Sometimes, they have to do it on their own.
I will never forget the day I found my courage. I will never forget the day I found my voice. And to this day, to this very day, I still know how to use both. It doesn't mean I haven't fallen a few times, it doesn't mean I haven't been tricked. But those subsequent times are not nearly as drawn out as the first.
Because now, I am able to say "enough".
** Please note the above scenario is a combination of a few relationships I have suffered through. Most of the details however do pertain to one individual but have been tweaked and modified to help protect my identity as well as to save space from going through each one individually. Names have been changed and some details have been fabricated completely from my imagination. I would say a good 90% of it is true however.**