Friday, October 30, 2009
It occurs to me that I possibly, will never feel grown up.
And I don't mean this in a good, happy-go-lucky, being able to emulate the joy of a child sort of way.
It concerns me that I don't seem capable of dealing with the issues right under my nose, that, as someone of empirically mature years, are ultimately down to me to resolve.
It is one year since my husband and I separated next week. On the surface we appear to be doing a stellar job of being amicable and flexible and 'friends'. However, under my surface lurks a creature in an almost permanent state of anxiety. "It's Time!" I announced a couple of months back. Time to sort out the finances, progress a divorce, sort out the move back to the UK. Grow some fucking balls.
Or not, as the case maybe.
It's not as if I haven't thought long and hard about it. My God, it's never off my mind. I live each day in a permanent state of terror of where growing a pair of balls will ultimately lead me. Of the tension and confrontation it may provoke in my life. (Because, of course, living in a state of anxiety which causes my chest to feel as if I have the dead weight of an elephant on it, compounded by an imaginary pair of hands slowly tightening their grip around my throat to the point that I have trouble breathing, is so much easier to handle.)
What could be the worst case scenario? That I will be even more financially vulnerable? That I risk losing the love and respect of a man who hasn't harboured those feelings towards me for three years and counting? It doesn't make any sense on a logical and rational level. But my fears aren't logical or rational. They're emotional. They're tied deep to the need of not wanting to go outside of my comfort zone. Of always wanting to be liked, loved, respected. Of being the person who likes to keep the peace and not being the one who upsets the apple cart.
Things came to a head financially a few weeks ago when I went overdrawn and in 24 hours incurred $375 of overdraft charges. After days of deliberating I reassessed my budget with a fine tooth comb and addressed the issue with my ex, also taking the opportunity to raise the subject of both the divorce and plans for moving home. I got a knee-jerk stroppy lecture about financial management, which I'd anticipated, but also an assurance that he will deal with all the issues and that there was no need for me to be stressed.
And of course, since that last communication the subject has been dropped like a hot potato on his part and it is now back down to me to address again - which just feels like an exercise in lobbing a hot potato at a stone wall, just less satisfying.
I don't want to have to deal with any of this. I wish there was a little 'money/divorce/relocation' fairy who could sprinkle the air liberally with magic dust and - poof! - resolve all this for me. And that's the crap thing about being a grown up. I no longer believe in fairies. And there is no one else that can sort this out except for me.
If only I didn't still feel so ill-equipped to do it 'properly', like a real adult.
I didn't mind not feeling like a grown up when I was in my 20s. But in my 40s? It's a real pain in the arse.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Green Eyed Man was in Atlanta all last week on a conference, which I think contributed to the fact that I spent far too much time deliberating the nuances of my own wounded soul and whether or not this was all just a spectacular waste of time.
I spent the week musing on whether or not he was tempted to shag any of the other delegates he had told me about over the phone - and wondering how I would really feel about it if he did. The sabotage in me almost felt like encouraging him to take advantage of the opportunity. And the fact that I am struggling to control the impetus to act like an insecure, petulant teenager rather than a mature woman in her 40s tells me quite plainly that I like him a lot more than I really want to let on. Why can't I ever just go with the flow and let things be abundantly simple? Is it really this necessary to complicate something so nice in my life right now?
Anyway, we planned to go to the movies on Saturday night. I spent the whole day in eager anticipation of seeing him again, so for once I appear to glide through the maelstrom of sports class, followed by play date, followed by lil'kickers football trial, followed by play date and rounding off with a couple of hours at a pumpkin decorating party.
I am always reminded of how very British and un-American I am when I turn up at a party. I turn up with a few beers and a donation of chocolate. Everyone else turns up with substantial homemade contributions of food to share and several pumpkins. Even after 9 years of being here it hadn't even occurred to me to turn up with a batch of fresh pumpkin brownies or a cobbled together chilli. It's times like this that I feel I will never really fit in to the American way of doing things and that I am such a slacker where socialising is concerned in this culture.
The boys harang me to decorate 'their' pumpkin and I am at a bit of a loss because a full grown pumpkin isn't something that I can magic out of my arse. Luckily one of the other guests donates one of their finer looking specimens, which means I am now stuck with having to carve a pumpkin for the first time in my life and truly stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. I am already one martini down at this point and not feeling in an optimum state to be wielding a sharp implement. Everyone else is attacking their huge orange vegetable with gusto and ease so I make a few half hearted stabs before the boys lose all interest and go off to whack a pinata with huge sticks. As is the case with every other pinata we have encountered, this one appears to be fashioned from solid concrete instead of paper mache and refuses to yield a single treat despite the enthusiastic barrage from several broom handles. Ultimately, after a couple of hours or so, I am exhausted from gouging triangular shapes into an unyielding giant squash and the boys have arms like noodles from attacking an inanimate object with sticks. We are both rescued by dads with superior knife / hacksaw abilities and finally venture home armed with our first carved pumpkin and a couple of bags full of crap sweets.
By the time the boys are in bed I am exhausted by my efforts at being supermum all day and am thankful that I am going to be spending the next couple of hours sitting in a dark cinema troughing popcorn to my heart's content.
Only that's not how our date turned out. Timekeeping is not Green Eyed Man's speciality and by the time we get to the cinema the show is sold out. I instantly revert back to full-blown teenager mode and go into a pubescent sulk of magnificent proportions, which he refuses to acknowledge and rise to. And of course I am thankful that one of us at least can maintain the dignity and charm of a full grown adult but nonetheless it only serves to irritate me further. Stop being so bloody perfect will you, I fume internally, and just get with the programme of acknowledging that I am a supremely immature and rude spoilt bitch who is a pain in the backside to be with?
He suggests we go to a Blues Club instead, which makes me perk up just a little. Despite having lived in the home of Blues for several years I haven't actually ventured to any of the clubs before, thinking that it's just not my type of music. But I factor in that it will be dark, they serve alcohol and as I still feel too tired to be capable of stimulating conversation the music could be a convenient distraction.
Once there, my energy levels lift. The music is amazing. My Margarita is perfectly sour and refreshing. We hold hands across the table and smile at each other a lot. And then he pulls me up to dance in the small space in front of the stage and the rest of the world fades into a blur as he moves me with supreme control and confidence to the music. I grin like a maniacal idiot and feel so insanely happy to be with this man that I could self-combust.
On our way home GEM confides 'I got you a present from Atlanta'. Oh, I think nervously, slightly worried that my bubble was about to burst upon presentation of an unattractive cap with 'I Love Atlanta' embroidered across it. He hands me a book: Half The Sky - turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. It is not what I am expecting and I am stunned into silence and could quite easily burst into tears. If there is any demonstration that this guy really gets me, this is it. It is a beautiful book and tackles one of the subjects that I feel most passionately about. It is hands down one of the most thoughtful and insightful gifts I have ever received.
I have to be careful not to speak. Because the only words on the tip of my tongue are...Fuck, I think I might be falling in love with you. And that is way too scary to even contemplate.
Friday, October 16, 2009
So I can handle dating a man who is like a Sex God sent from the heavens, but the fact that he is just so damn nice is proving to be a little more challenging.
Now I have never been a fan of the word 'nice'. It's just so bland, isn't it? Call me a little high maintenance if you will, but if anyone has ever said (after hours of preening and getting myself into a semi-glamorous state) that I look nice, well, I am likely to get myself into a little bit of a huff. Nice? Nice?? Surely what you mean is 'drop dead gorgeous' or 'beyond beautiful' or 'bloody hell, you look so amazing my eyes hurt'. The way I interpret the word nice is 'alright I s'pose' or 'passable' and I make a conscious effort to avoid using a word which I consider to mean 'distinctly average' or just 'OK'.
But the trouble is, Green Eyed Man is distinctly nice almost verging on slightly-too-good-to-be-true.
And the fact that he is constantly being so nice to me is making me question not only his level of intelligence, but also his sanity in general.
He calls or texts me at least once a day. He is constantly planning our 'dates' ahead of time, so I never have to wonder when I will see him again and whether or not I should make plans for Saturday night 'just in case he's free'. He has the most cheerful outlook on life and is intent on seeking the silver lining for every cloud. His glass is never just half full, it is just full.
Sickening, isn't it?
Add this to the fact that he is 6ft 1", probably one of the most handsome men I have ever laid my eyes on and has the body of a 22 year old professional rugby player and maybe you can understand why I am a little disconcerted.
But I think the most crucial piece of evidence that substantiates my inner fear that he is not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer is that he seems totally infatuated with me. Nice is just not a word that enters his vocabulary when we are together - although stunning, incredible, beautiful and hilarious often are. For Pete's sake...what chance do I have when I am up against that arsenal?
PLUS...he loves to cook for me, can dance circles around me (quite literally, which is a complete first because every other man in my life has always danced like a complete plum) and is totally into every single British thing I can throw at him (and I am not just referring to my frequently discarded pairs of M&S knickers).
It's all a bit much to be honest.
And despite the fact that I had thoroughly convinced myself that all I wanted was to meet a lovely, genuine guy and be done with workaholic, emotionally inept, egomaniacs - it is highlighting the fact that, in comparison to him, I am a predominantly shallow human being. I might have forced myself to believe that I am now an elevated, spiritual goddess seeking only the goodness in people's hearts, but it turns out that no - I am as superficial as Katie Price's boobs, only not quite as buoyant.
I thought I was beyond being attracted to a guy by the size of his...intellect and ambition. I thought I was beyond judging people (okay - men) by the size of their pay cheque. And I definitely thought I was beyond caring about how people I go out with dress. Turns out...not so much. Inherently part of me finds him lacking because he diligently works two jobs to put his sons through college. And that since his divorce he lives in a crappy little flat in the back-end of beyond, filled with pieces of cast-off furniture that have seen much better days. And that the contents of his wardrobe date back to the early 90s and there isn't a single piece from Banana Republic in it. Oh, and that he has only left the country twice - once on his honeymoon 19 years ago and once for a short trip to Canada, which, in my snobbish and superior assessment, hardly even qualifies.
In short, he is a hard working, incredibly genuine, down to earth bloke who manages his responsibilities in life with grace and is comfortable in his own skin. And I am a woman who, despite being miserable in dysfunctional relationships with men who were highly successful and so sharp they were in danger of cutting themselves, still can't see the wood for the trees.
Not to worry, says a well-intentioned friend, it's not like you have to even consider these things. It doesn't have a future - you're planning on moving back to the UK next year. You're in a position to just ignore all the stuff which indicates, deep down, you're a bit of a bitch and focus on his gold medal abilities in the rug olympics, aren't you?
Well, she has a point. He's quite the perfect 10 in the rug department. And it's not as if I am looking for my soul mate at this point in time anyway. Hopefully, by the time that I am, these shallow thoughts will no longer permeate my brain and influence my thinking. In the meantime, I can use them to keep him at an (emotional) arm's length because, if truth be told, I think this man is way too good for someone who finds it impossible not to judge on such a superficial basis. Someone like me, for example.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This seems as good a way as any to get my rants off my chest, so here goes.
I have so many bones to pick with you it's hard to know where to start. Let's begin with the fact that you're just going to have to stop growing like weeds. It is incredibly tiresome to discover each change of season that you have outgrown all those gorgeous clothes that were purchased for you just a matter of months ago. Every single pair of trousers you possess appear to have lost an ongoing battle with your socks and are inching up past your ankles. And if only 3/4 sleeves were all the rage this year, but alas they are not. And don't even get me started on the subject of shoes. Let me make this quite clear...there is no one in this household any more deserving of new shoes than me. We'll review the subject when you are crippled to the point of crawling on all fours and your toenails have impacted and are on the verge of molting painfully into your socks.
Which brings me neatly onto my next point. Can you please stop eating me out of house and home? I agreed a monthly food budget of $600 with your father, which you appear intent on chowing your way through within 9 days, if I am lucky. What are you, bottomless pits? I would be less concerned if you actually bore any evidence of eating your own body weight in food every 12 hours but you still don't appear to have an ounce of extra flesh on your body. Which is just galling when I only have to pass a sideways glance at a packet of biscuits before it becomes impossible to convince my favourite jeans to be winched an inch past my knees.
And one last thing. Gloves. How is it that we currently possess 6 age appropriate sized gloves in the house and they are all designed to fit a left hand? Are you that desperate for additional fibre in your diet that you have ingeniously ingested the cloth designed to protect your right hand from the elements? Why is it that you don't seem capable of both leaving and returning to the house with both gloves intact? Until that day comes here's a couple of ideas. Either a) shove your right hand in your pocket (or down your trousers...whichever is warmer and offers the most comfort) or b) we can surgically rotate your right hand at the wrist 180 degrees so that a left handed glove fits. Your choice.
Your (It's-No-Wonder-I Never-Have-Any-Money-To-Call-My-Own) Loving Mother x
Is there ever going to be a point in time when, each time you inhale and exhale, you don't shed a whole coat of fur over every single surface in my house? I know faux fur singlets are all the rage this winter - but faux fur covered sofas, rugs, beds and...well, just about every single item of my wardrobe is taking things just a tad too far. The odd dust bunny scattered around the house would be understandable. The fact that, irrespectable of the hours spent with either a hoover or a broom attached to my hand on a daily basis, we are still under constant threat of herds of cat hair wildebeest sweeping majestically through both the upper and lower levels of what is, you understand, primarily a HUMAN abode is definitely abusing all pet privileges.
If things don't improve you with either be a) shaved or b) shoved outside in the dead of night for the resident raccoon to have a 'word' with you. And let me just remind you...given the financial constraints of my budget right now - the raccoon is definitely the cheapest option.
Your (I-Rescued-You-Once-But-Wouldn't-Make-The-Same-Mistake-Twice) Owner
Dear Green Eyed Man
You just need to put a STOP to the use of pheromone charged lip salve, combined with the most effective breath mints known to man, that cause my tongue to seek the back of your tonsils within 10 seconds of every single time you come over to take me out on a date. In the past 2 weeks alone we have missed two movies I am desperate to see, plus a trip to the art institute, and never made it beyond the living room rug.
And if this isn't possible, then at least have the courtesy to lock the front door behind you before the rug olympics commences. At least this way I have a slim chance of maintaining that fragile facade of sophistication and decorum with the neighbours. This was quite possibly jeopordised beyond rescue last week when the front door flew open and everyone on the street, including the innocent bystanders at the bus stop opposite, was granted a gratuitous view of my large white bottom astride an anonymous male visitor. (Although I have to say, after all that athletic endeavour, the resulting breeze couldn't have been better timed.)
Your (Quite-Knackered-But-For-Once-In-A-Good-Way) Date
Dear Green Eyed Man
Hello. Me again. Just wanted to mention that you are making my oral sex skills look positively novice, verging on inept, in comparison to yours. Not a complaint. Just an observation. Feel free to continue to outdo me for as long as the urge takes you.
Your (Breathless-And-Ever-Thankful) Date
Is it patently obvious that I have consumed a couple of glasses of wine - on an empty stomach - whilst compiling this post? Oh good. Thought not.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
So I have been a little preoccupied over the past couple of weeks. (And no, not just with Green Eyed Man, although he is still on the scene and I promise to update with inappropriate details purely for your entertainment shortly.)
Now I am not sure that this blog is truly the right forum for this post. It is not something that I have ever put down in writing before, although it impacts my life every day and is never far from my thoughts. The one thing that I am pretty sure about from the outset is that this post is probably going to be long. Think of it like the blogging version of War and Peace. I am pretty good at verbalising the short and snappy - almost dismissive - summary, but selfishly I need to record this in writing. (Just a friendly warning: if you are sneaking a cheeky look at blogs whilst multi-tasking and are pressed for time, don't even bother reading any further.)
My preoccupation began with a thought-provoking post by Frog in the Field. In it she expressed her horror and sense of betrayal at discovering that her teenage daughter had been given a book by the school librarian which dealt with the harsh realities of child abuse, in graphic detail. This was followed by the Roman Polanski rape debate, so intelligently addressed by Noble Savage and Potty Mummy, amongst others.
This combination of posts struck a deep chord and stirred up strong emotions. I might torture myself on a daily basis about the emotional scars I am inflicting on my innocent offspring (caused by my recent marital split and general inability to parent consistently without screaming like a banshee at them at any given moment). However, heaven forbid they ever experience violent or sexual abuse of any kind.
Like the type of abuse that my sister and I were exposed to for several years, at the hands of my stepfather, for example.
Up until the age of 14 I had a pretty normal, verging on innocent, childhood. I lived with my parents and sister in a small town, was excelling in school, still loved ponies, was a member of a swimming club and had just begun to get interested in boys. That was soon to change.
In the summer of 1981 my mum left my dad for a man she had been having an affair with for 9 years. We left without warning in the middle of the day, while my dad was at work, taking half a house of furniture and all our personal belongings. He returned home, completely unsuspecting, to a virtually empty house - no wife, no girls, just a note to say we had gone. That experience in itself was sufficiently traumatic and emotionally damaging. Hardly a healthy demonstration of how to deconstruct a family with the least possible emotional impact.
Now up until this point, I would describe all the men in my life as 'good guys'. Salt of the earth. Pillars of the community. My dad himself was the sweetest and most gentlest of men, very strict (that's what years of the army does for you) but fair. It wouldn't be true to say that he'd never hurt a fly - his athletic prowess is only truly demonstrated when you witness him in action with his electric zapping fly swatting gadget. But he comes pretty close. As a result I was very trusting and had only had positive male role models as a frame of reference.
So on first appearances I perceived my mum's new husband to be handsome, intelligent, charming and charismatic. He had a full head of hair. (Unlike my dad.) He also had the physique of his 20 yr old self. (Unlike my dad.) My mum was totally besotted with him and, even though I felt treacherous, part of me as a teenager could see why. This was a man who could charm birds out of trees and visually was as dashing as a movie star.
But right from the start, something about him just felt a bit off. Intuitively I found him to be a little repellent, verging on creepy. I was uncomfortable with his over-familiarity. It felt vaguely inappropriate for him to hug and kiss and touch me at every given opportunity. Inside I was, in many respects, a sheltered young girl. But at 14 I was already very tall and, while still innocent verging on naive, I looked older than my age (a trend that, I like to kid myself, started to reverse, Benjamin Button style, when I hit 25). I tried to keep my distance from him, but was accused by my mum of being aloof and standoffish and hurting his feelings. It didn't help to lessen my unease.
Gradually he began to touch me more inappropriately - it was quite subtle and would quite often happen in front of other people. He would slide his arm around me and tuck it under my armpit, so his finger tips grazed the edge of my breast. Or he would put his arm around my waist and pull me close to him, gliding his hand down to rest on my bottom. If he hugged me face-to-face I would feel the whole of his body pressed against mine. He would walk into my room unannounced when I was getting ready for bed, catching me half undressed. I remember one time he came in to kiss me goodnight and, instead of kissing me on the cheek or the lips, he lent over and kissed my breast. It was all so insidious, but also so smooth, that I almost convinced myself that I was imagining it.
I began to withdraw to my room and immerse myself in homework every night, to avoid being around him. I kept to myself at school. I wasn't allowed to go out to youth club or socialise because 'we all know what kids your age are getting up to!' (said with an insinuating and repugnant leer). I knew I wouldn't be allowed to go over to a friend's house - and certainly couldn't face bringing a friend home - so it was easier to adopt the demeanor of class swot and be left alone.
There wasn't the option of voicing my concerns to my mum, who was in a blind state of adoration and clearly thought the sun shone out of his arse. And I couldn't talk to my sister about it, because she was only 11 and, like me, was fiercely trying to adapt to this new family situation and fit in. So I kept stum and used avoidance as the best policy of protection, whilst trying not to be too obvious about it.
Then his drinking escalated and the violent rows started. There was a period of time when the fights were predominantly verbal, which was terrifying enough in itself. The fights tended to start late at night, when my sister and I were in bed, and I would lay awake listening to the shouting, stomping and the crashing of inanimate objects. I was sure my sister was awake, too on edge and frightened to sleep, but we never spoke about it. Finally it would become calm again. And in the morning it was if nothing had ever happened. There was never any reference to any fighting. Cereal would be poured. Cups of tea drunk. I would go to school as normal, utterly exhausted but, again, almost successful in convincing myself that it was all in my imagination.
And then the violence became physical and I would be awoken to the sounds of my mum being pushed around, slapped, punched. Mostly I would lay inert, with every molecule in my body on high alert. Frozen into immobility but poised to react at lightening speed, should it become a fight or flight situation. I would listen intently to the nuances of the fight, trying to decipher its depth and intensity. My heart would pound frantically in my chest, blood roaring in my ears, every muscle tensed to anticipate any eventuality.
Typically the fight would eventually end and, again, the next day would start just like every other. Toast and orange juice. With mum sporting yet another fresh bruise on her arm, body or legs. Never on her face of course. That would be far too obvious and hard to cover up and ignore. "Take X his cup of tea", mum would request, with the words please just do this and don't cause any more trouble unspoken in the air. I would traipse upstairs, to take X his cup of tea in bed. Without fail, he would sit himself up, pushing the bedclothes down low so the top of his pubic hair was visible, one hand outstretched to pull me into a hug disguising a quick grope, the other under the blankets presumably on his groin. To all intents and purposes still this charismatic, handsome, loving family man. I hated him with a vengeance but understood how dangerous he was and how vulnerable we all were. So I learned to mask these feelings and do as little as possible to upset the apple cart.
This pretty much became the pattern of our lives for the four years I lived there. I didn't ever tell anyone about what was happening at home. For one thing, I was too ashamed. But mainly I didn't think anyone would believe me and I knew for sure that the truth would not be substantiated by my mother. He was the type of guy that had been the President of the Debating Society at University and could talk you into believing black was white if the mood took him. Also, I almost couldn't believe it myself. Despite living it almost day to day, it seemed too surreal, like something that you might watch on a documentary but that never happens to people you actually know. And which definitely couldn't be happening to me, personally.
The worst part of my day wasn't actually the morning after, scanning mum surreptitiously for fresh wounds, observing her make a conscious effort never to look us directly in the eye. Having to face our abuser with a smile and a kiss, before escaping the house for a blessed 8 hours of peace at the lonely hell of school.
No, the worst part was, without question, the walk home from school. There was no point dawdling because he had timed the journey and knew exactly when to expect us. But I cannot describe the utter dread and trepidation I felt as I reached the end of my street every afternoon. This would be the moment of truth in my day. What was I going to find when I got home? Would my mum be okay? Would he have downed 3 pints of beer and be relatively jovial? Or 8 pints and counting, already belligerent and looking for a fight? Would he sink into melancholy late evening and pass out? Or would the night bring a new round of terror? There was no way of knowing until the front door was open and every day I would steel myself to deal with any eventuality.
One night the violence got out of hand and, for whatever reason (a hair in his soup at dinner? It was possible) he went over the top and I think for the first time my mum actually feared for her life. She screamed and screamed for help. As usual, I had been listening to the intensity of the fight increase and as soon as I heard her cry for help I raced out of my room to try to protect her. I don't remember feeling any sense of danger - just a mix of terror and rage that he was finally going to kill her. I charged into their bedroom, to find him sitting on top of her, his knees pinning her down on the bed, repeatedly punching her in the face with both fists while she screamed. It almost seems funny now to remember how I reactively jumped onto his back to pull him off. It didn't occur to me that he might start hitting me. Maybe in a way I almost wanted him to. In that moment I was so consumed with pent up rage I felt capable of killing him with my bare hands.
As it turns out, he immediately shrunk away from the bed and curled up in a ball sobbing like a baby. My mum was covered in blood, face swollen and unrecognisable. I held her and soothed her, convincing her we needed to go to hospital, with a sense of utter relief that now it would all come to an end. I don't remember how we got to hospital although I do remember he was there. I also remember listening with complete disbelief whilst my mum made up some cock and bull story about falling down some stairs, while her face was being stitched back together. It reinforced the sense that there really was no way out. There was no cavalry. It was just a matter of survival and being there to protect my mum as best I could.
After that I intervened more frequently. One time my sister and I met on the stairs, uncertain about what to do. So I grabbed a bucket from the bathroom, filled it with water and went into the living room and threw it over him. It stopped him in his tracks for a few seconds, before he chased me, my mum and my sister into the bathroom with a crazed glaze in his eyes. We locked the door and sat huddled together against it, whilst he pummelled it repeatedly with his fists and feet. He succeeded in creating two large fist sized holes in the door, which were never repaired, but ultimately retreated. We slept on the floor of the bathroom that night, covered in a couple of damp bath towels. And then in the morning we continued the usual routine, as if there was nothing out of the ordinary in starting the day lying in a heap on the bathroom floor. As I left for school I saw mum tending to his bruised and bloody knuckles, removing embedded splinters with her tweezers. It didn't surprise me. Nothing much surprised me any more.
Another time, when I could no longer bare to hear the sound of his fists connecting to my mum's body whilst he screamed abuse at her, I rushed downstairs and grabbed one of his shotguns from the rack he had in the bedroom. It wasn't loaded. Unfortunately. More's the pity, I had no idea where he kept the cartridges or even if there were any in the house. Still. It made a pretty imposing weapon to yield and it frightened him out of the house, careering blind drunk in his car down the street. I silently begged God to place an inconspicuous lamp post or brick wall in his path, while externally begging mum to call the police and report a raving lunatic behind the wheel of a family estate. She was too frightened and I didn't have the gumption to do it myself. And by morning I was back to taking him a cup of tea in bed, whilst he leered and cupped his genitals under the covers.
However, the funniest incidence has to be when I went intervened in a fight and he chased me upstairs to my bedroom. Now at this point in time I had a lock on my door for security, so I locked myself in while he screamed abuse and rammed his body against the door, trying to break it down. In desperation I looked around but the only thing to hand was my hairdryer, lying plugged in near to the door frame. I turned the hairdryer onto the highest setting and directed the nozzle through the gap in the frame and the door, screaming at him to leave me alone. I think I intended to sock him with it, if he had broken the lock, and not just blow dry him to death. Luckily, the lock held.
The part of this experience that now, as a mother myself, I find the hardest to understand is not how my own mother continued to expose my sister and I to such danger, day after day. She was in denial and being cruelly manipulated and victimised. It was as much as she could do to survive every day as best she knew how. The most damaging part of my experience was the emotional abuse. The fact that I was repeatedly told that I was responsible. That if only I could be nicer to him, none of this would be happening. She was my mum. I predominantly believed her. Ultimately, despite being scared of her safety, I did leave when I was 18 and at the time I was convinced the violence would stop. It didn't, of course.
I didn't see my mum for a couple of years after that, or my sister. It was only after my sister finally left home at 18 and we reconnected that I discovered that, not only was he a violent alcoholic, but he was also a pedophile. Turns out I got off lightly, in that respect, which is something I'm not sure I will ever come to terms with. Why didn't I realise what was going on with my sister? Surely if I had, I would have been able to do something - would have had the balls to take her and just leave?
My mum eventually left him a couple of years after my sister. We've rebuilt bridges but never addressed what happened during that time. My mum just isn't able to talk about it. I think it would mean a lot to both my sister and I if we could hear her apologise, but I don't believe it's ever going to happen and, deep down, we both know that she feels the guilt of it deeper than she could ever express.
So, the point of this post?
Well, in response to Frog's post, I know this is a sensitive subject and one that we would rather not expose our children to in any degree. But some children/teenagers are not lucky enough to just be exposed to this as a piece of fiction or some vague, far off understanding that 'shit happens'. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of children who are being exposed to this type of abuse right this second. And the more people who are aware about it, and are willing to talk about it, the less taboo it will become and maybe more children will find the confidence to speak out about it. I'm not sure just yet how I am going to broach the subject with my own boys - but I certainly don't want to sugar coat it or protect them from the harsh realities of some of their peers (and indeed, mother's) experiences.
With regards to Roman Polanski, well, there are no prizes for guessing which side of the debate I am on. He was a man in his 50s who confessed to raping a 13 year old girl. It doesn't make any difference that he is talented, successful, charismatic. I am pretty sure that worked to his advantage. It is also irrelevant that the girl looked older than her years, as if that implies that secretly she yearned to be sodomised whilst at the same time saying NO. I bet to the casual observer I appeared to be a well-adjusted teenager from a happy family. It couldn't have been further from the truth, but I masked it really well. Just as I continue to today.
As for his traumatic childhood, well, I might not have endured the holocaust but my formative years were not a piece of cake. Can that successfully excuse any illegal actions, as an intelligent adult, that I might choose to make? Yep. Didn't think so.
With regards to his supporters, who point to the fact that his victim, now aged 35, has since 'moved on' with her life and isn't particularly keen to revisit the traumatic episode in the full media spotlight, all I can say is this. I, too, have moved on with my life. And I can't imagine that I would ever want this whole ugly episode of my childhood publicised to the point where complete strangers the world over think they have sufficient information to make judgements on whether or not I am a) telling the truth or b) in some way caused the abuse.
But given the opportunity, even after 24 years I would still gladly remove his penis with a rusty, blunt butter knife and take my time feeding it through a shredder. I sometimes wonder how many more years of therapy it will take before I can picture this man in my mind's eye without my entire body flinching with utter revulsion and my stomach gagging reflexively with the fear that I was never truly able to express as a child?
Anyway, to end (finally!) on a positive note - after reliving memories triggered by these fellow bloggers posts, last week I took the opportunity to start working as a volunteer with a local domestic abuse agency. I know this is something I am now ready to do...start to use my personal experience as a means of helping other women and children who are in the midst of a similar situation, in any way I can.
And who dares to say that blogging isn't life changing?
Monday, October 5, 2009
Seriously want to be funny. But that would require WAAAAYYY too much energy.
This made me laugh though.
Now...where is that emergency bottle of Jack Daniels?
Note: Best not to play when kids are in earshot, unless your mission in life this week is to teach them the word 'motherf*cker'. (Wish I had payed attention to that warning when I first opened this video on Sunday morning. Although I have to say - kudos to Johnny Drama for repeating it in context for the past 24 hours.)