Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate

My expectation for the mediation on Tuesday was that I would get to sit in my own little room, ex would sit in his own little room, and the mediator would shuffle between us. I wouldn’t have to see him, I wouldn’t have to hear him, I wouldn’t have to be in his presence. Unfortunately, mediator man thought that two adults need to act maturely and civilly, you know, be nice to each other.

He forgot that I had told him we were divorced already, not a good thing to forget. Don’t worry, I reminded him of this significant detail as soon as he started asking if there is a way to save the marriage. Um, what marriage?

Did I say that mediator man is in his 70’s, battling cancer and recently had a part of his right ear chopped off? Perhaps his perspective on life comes from the perspective of a man looking back at the follies of people, but since I am in the prime of folliehood I did not appreciate his view from on high.

When I walked into the mediator’s office I was confronted with a very, very big oval table of heavy wood with six chairs around it. I think it was a dining room table transformed into an office table. But it was wide enough so that we couldn’t be near each other.

(Highlight of the meeting: ex’s chair broke. The wheel of one leg fell off, twice. I was gracious enough to not laugh, but my was that lovely. I wasn’t able to look at him, but I could see him struggling to get the wheel back in.)

Is it worth it to go into the details of ex’s presentation of his case? Or is it enough to say that as I listened to him, I could hear how an outsider would think that what he said made sense but it was all twisted, twisted by a perception of reality that is formed in a narcissist’s mind. Apparently the house has not sold for two reasons. First, we had an offer that I rejected. I practically jumped out of my seat when he said that. There has never been an offer, there was a price probe last summer a month after the house was listed that was so low that even the realtor didn’t take it seriously. Second, the carpet in the entrance is old and I refuse to replace it. Yes, a house built in 1977 with the original kitchen, original bathrooms, original windows, original flooring has not sold because of a worn carpet and not because it is priced as if it has a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new windows and new flooring. Please.

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Letter to the Judge

I was supposed to go to court today to plead to the judge to stop mr ex from harassing me, start paying me what he owes me, and stop preventing us from listing the house at a reasonable price. We came to an agreement during our mediation session on Tuesday so I will not have to go to court. (The post on that is still being mentally formulated but since I am so mentally drained, it’s taking some time.) But I thought that I would post the letter I had written to the judge at my lawyer’s behest. This letter would have been my opening argument in court.

* * *
I have been divorced from mr ex since August 2007. I have been separated from him since March 2005. It is unconscionable that we are still living in the same house.

I separated from him and divorced him because he is emotionally and verbally abusive. He has only gotten worse. Because we still live in the same house I am still an emotional and verbal punching bag for him. He has no stops on his mouth. He curses at me in front of our daughters, now 17 and 13. He insults me in front of them. It does not matter if I go into my room and close the door and lock it, he continues. It does not matter what I say or do, he continues. We are divorced, there is no reason for me to have to live in the same house as him.

We need to reduce the price of the house so that it can be sold. We will both still make money. I am being held prisoner because of his greed and my lack of money.

* * *

I have not slept in a bed since March 2005, except when visiting friends and family or on one weekend vacation. Since mr ex and I separated, I have slept on a couch in the living room, then on a mattress on the floor of the guest bedroom, and since June 2007 on a love seat.

That’s a lot of nights of discomfort.

That’s a lot of nights when I can’t stretch out.

That’s a lot of nights when I can’t roll around trying to find a comfortable spot so that I can go back to sleep.

That’s a lot of time for two girls, who are now both teenagers, but were 9 and 13 when we separated, to see their mother contorted on a love seat while their father stretches out on a king-size bed.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to see and hear their mother being verbally and emotionally abused.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to grow up watching what happens when love dies.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to think that this is normal.

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Some More Reasons Why I’m Glad To Be Divorced

My friend, who never met slime, knew who he was immediately at the Bat Mitzvah. She pointed him out to me and said, “That guy, he didn’t hold the door open for me. He’s your ex, isn’t he?” Yup, that was him.

In the robing room, right before the ceremony, the cantor, rabbi, ex, my daughter and I were standing there to recite a blessing and receive words of comfort and joy from the rabbi. The rabbi asked ex to move in a little closer, which would result in his being closer to me—but in no way next to me. His reply: “no thanks, trust me.” Slime, always slime.

I arranged two parties by myself: one a luncheon after the service, and one a party for the kids at night. I planned, shopped, purchased, cooked, shlepped, arranged, organized, cleaned up (with the wonderful help of my sister-in-law—my brother’s wife), and shlepped back home with no help from him. Oops, I forgot, he carried one box into the house and took some things in his car to the evening party, but my daughter and her friends did all the carrying. slime and louse.

He cursed me out this morning in front of both my daughters (well, by this time I was in my room with my door closed because I could see that he was in rant-mode, but their doors were open) because I did not agree that he would take the money gifts from my daughter's Bat Mitzvah and invest them. And once again he did not spare himself the opportunity to mock me in front of my 17-year-old who is both cracking up inside and erecting a strong and solid wall to the outside world. He should be proud of himself that he turned a teenager against her mother, against the person who encouraged the development of her mind so that she would be an independent thinker.

Tuesday is mediation. Thursday is court. Please please please let this be over soon.

Sexual Harassment: A Lose-Lose Situation

I have been mulling over this posting for quite a while. Not that I am concerned that it’s too controversial, but because it bothers me so much that in the twenty years since this happened to me there don’t seem to have been any changes in the way the world goes round. Yes, sure, there are cracks in the ceiling, but if you can still call it a ceiling, then things are still the same.

Why am I instantly bringing together sexual harassment with gender-based workplace discrimination? Well, because it seems evident that that is where so much sexual harassment happens—as in my case. I don’t want to go into the details because they are not what is important, but I was told that I would get a raise and a car if I agreed to meet my boss once a week in a hotel room. A week after the rebuff, I was fired. While the details will make for some fun reading (for example: the business trip to Paris that my boss arranged for the two of us the week of my birthday thinking that this would make me so grateful that I would agree to his intentions—that took place a mere week before the proposition and then the firing) it is, instead, the implications that sexual harassment can have on a woman that I want to discuss. The implications do not “just” extend to losing a job, but to the differently damaging impact on self-esteem.

Up until that time I had believed that if I worked hard, tried hard, had the smarts, was a good girl who did her best and didn’t hurt anyone (intentionally) that I would be treated fairly. But no, that is not right. No, someone can swoop down and take that naïveté from you with a swoop of his own ego and self-interest (lovely term that, for lust). Loss of naïveté is a bad thing for a young woman, how are you supposed to stand before all of the naysayers with confidence when you have just been told that your value is your value as a woman, not as a person?

I was fired from my first real job because I wouldn’t sleep with the boss. Yeah, that’s a bedrock for a confident career.

As I discovered years later in therapy, it was telling, too, that I did not tell my future ex-husband because I didn’t want him to: a) accuse me, b) divorce me, c) handle it himself. So while I was good in not succumbing to the temptations of a car (as if), I was bad in not telling my husband about what had not happened. It was bad that I didn’t trust him. It was bad that I didn’t trust that he would trust me. It was bad that my boss put me in that situation (especially since I was in the blush of married life; for goodness sakes he danced at my wedding). It’s not good that the two men in my life at that time could not be trusted to treat me with the respect I thought I had earned—that I deserved as a woman, as a person.

Sexual harassment, it’s not just about the innuendoes, the pressure, the repugnance, the power-play, it affects one’s being, how one sees oneself. Not only do you second-guess yourself, but you learn to be wary of others, unsure of how you are judged and viewed.

And to be honest, I don’t know how many people are honest about this with their partners. At first you don’t even realize that anything is happening: that the smile might be too big, the sitting too close, the conversations too wide-ranging. How do you even broach the subject to your partner if you are a responsible professional? Aren’t you capable enough to handle your work life without suggestions from your partner? And what if your partner is a bit controlling and would decide for you what to do and say, and if you don’t adhere to his guidelines you have now failed him? Oh, the twisted weave that is woven for us.

I naively do not believe that the victim has brought this upon herself. Someone tell me how a woman who wants to keep her job, who likes her job, who needs to work with her boss can be said to be at fault? At that time my husband was in law school and I was supporting us, so I was scared to quit and be left without a job. There were certainly financial pressures that enabled me try to talk my boss down from his imaginary life without walking out in a huff of self-righteousness.

I was good at that job (technical writing and copywriting), but my confidence in my abilities was sorely shaken. Was I on the fast-track because of my abilities or my potential? And the lie, the lie that I was never able to confront forced me to be other than who I thought I was, and to get a glimpse—without acknowledging it enough—of marital troubles of the personality-clash type.

But I think I am talking to the choir. Where are the men? Are they reading this? Are they acknowledging the damage that they can cause a woman’s esteem just for an ego boost? So is this a win-lose situation: your ego or mine? Maybe they need to realize that it’s a lose-lose situation before things can begin to change. For how can anyone really give himself a pat on the back if he has forced someone to have sex or a relationship just so she wouldn’t lose her job? Do you hear that guys? You lose. Coercion is not a thing to be proud of, it is shameful. Grow some self-respect.

Madonna Verbally Abused? Is No One Safe?

From the Mail Online, October 17:

“Madonna is building an extraordinary divorce case against Guy Ritchie, claiming he was a cruel and verbally-abusive husband who would belittle and ridicule her in front of others.”

“Her lawyers say that 40-year-old Ritchie's comments made Madonna feel worthless, unattractive, unfeminine, insecure and isolated during their eight-year marriage.”

“After a period of time, Madonna says the constant put-downs created a distance between them and that she felt totally isolated in the marriage. That's when the love started to die and when their sex life also suffered badly.'”

Can I just say: Oh My God! Is no one safe? Even taking into consideration that she and her lawyers are preparing her custody case and are building her husband up as an abusive man—Oh My God! Madonna claiming that she was verbally abused. Is no woman safe? Or, why are so many men incapable of dealing with strong, independent women—one at a time, of course?

Ladies, there’s a reason why there’s a ceiling above us in the work world, it’s because it’s there at home. Hubby Bubby must have his ego coddled when he gets home. What about us? I wonder how many more men get their meals served to them when they come home compared to the number of women who benefit from the same treatment—both of them after a day at work? And I don’t want to hear about some division of labor where he mows the lawn and she cooks. There is a huge difference between something that is done daily to something that is done occasionally.

Today at lunch in the teacher workroom a teacher in her mid-twenties complained (in her upbeat way) about her 30-something boyfriend enjoying the dinners she prepares but finds no available time to reciprocate. No, I won’t say that this is a case of "meal abuse," but the scales are surely not balanced, and it has been percolating in her, otherwise she never would have mentioned it in such a public forum. (Twelve English teachers who can facilely turn a brief episode into a telling anecdote is surely a dangerous place to reveal secrets.)

And we have a similar situation in politics. What are the attack ads and negative comments if not a form of verbal abuse writ large? But I will not dwell here except to say that calling someone names when you are 40 is as bad as when you were 10, only when you’re 10 it’s called being a bully but at 40 and 70 it’s called politics. I guess it’s the bullies who are able to bully themselves ahead.

But back to Madonna. Poor, poor Madonna. I mean who could she turn to for support? (No, not Victoria’s Secret.) Where does someone who is an icon turn for help? But come to think of it, I am an icon too. Don’t my children see me as an icon? Didn’t I have to pretend the verbal abuse from my ex-husband away for a while, as if confronting what was being said to me in front of them would diminish my status in their eyes. It took a while to realize that the very act—in their presence—was enough, already, to lose some of my status; status that I could only get back when I confronted or stood up to my abuser, my EX-husband.

My “nothing,” “ugly,” “fat,” “leech,” “useless friends and family” is like Madonna’s “worthless, unattractive, unfeminine, insecure and isolated.” Peas in a pod, the two of us. But, no, unless the pod can contain the millions of women who are abused—verbally, emotionally, physically. In Virginia, where I live, a husband can verbally abuse his wife with impunity; there is no law that restricts what a man says to his wife, except to threaten her life (glad they have that caveat). I sent letters to the editor to the Washington Post about verbal abuse, but they didn’t think it was important enough to cover (that was a day after a woman and her children were killed by her ex-husband who had been emotionally and verbally abusive); meanwhile, every time I publish a post here or at places such as Midlife Bloggers or Blogher or iVillage about verbal abuse, there are too many responses from fellow sufferers—past and present.

Enough. Guy—and guys—zipper it! If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all because words hurt. Words hurt and betray and wound.

Madonna, if you need an understanding shoulder to cry on, I’m here for you.

Ego Stroke

It’s midnight, and I just had a confrontation with slime. Apparently he will be suing me for millions of dollars. For what, I’m not sure. But would that mean that I have millions of dollars? Now that’s news I would like to hear.

He was truly scary to look at—and I looked today, he was right in front of me and I wanted to see what evil looks like, I wanted to see what it looks like to be devoid of humanity. And it was scary. It was red. It was shaking all over. Its eyes had an evil detachment, as if only the evil and nastiness bulbs were in existence inside. Even the hand that held the little tape recorder friend that I spoke into to say “You’re slime” was shaking.

As I sit here on the floor with Poops beside me and my daughters in their rooms (older, having yelled at me, too, to turn down the radio that I cranked up to drown out the sound of him; and younger, looking at me with a scary, scared blankness when he came into her room when I was talking to her and started yelling at me and ordering her about) I summon an ego stroke, or it comes to me, to service me.

I think of friends, and I think of the man at work who for the past two years has dropped by my classroom or teachers’ lounge to see me smile, which he says makes his day. Never mind that he made a pass months ago and I turned him down, he still comes by and makes me feel good, makes me feel appreciated for just being me, makes me believe in the inherent goodness in me. And that, my friends, is an ego boost; one that helps me pass to a stability of mind that will let me get through the next 49 days (my “election” day) when hopefully there will be a judge on the bench who is able to truly judge things. Obama has his countdown, I have mine.

* * *

Another Saturday Morning at the Coffee Shop

This morning, while reading far too much election-related material and attempting to do some writing in between commenting on new and “old” revelations at my favorite café, my friend, who is separated from the virtual twin of my ex-husband, came in. She was full of more heart-wrenching drama of the tribulations of what her nasty husband is doing to her and her daughters. Tears were barely stopped by coffee shop napkins; my goodness, how do our lives devolve to such a state that in our forties we wonder, we honestly wonder, how life could have gotten so bitter. And we wonder, too, if it will get better.

And thanks to comments from readers of this blog, I was able to transmit some of your encouraging comments to her. I was your vessel to tell her: yes, it will get better; yes, this will end; yes, you are loved by your friends; and, yes, you deserve better. I thank you for making me believe that for myself, and for her, and for all of the women who are drowning in tears wrought by their once-loved ones—listen, listen to your friends and let their words drown out those spewing from the evil man in your life.

* * *

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Twenty-Three

Getting Physical (Abuse, that is)

As I held the telephone receiver in my hand with the 911 operator asking me what is the problem, and with my husband screaming at me about his career—I was numb. I didn’t answer her. I had called, but I was overwhelmed by the situation. I had never been so scared in my life, scared for my life because of my husband, but fearful, too, perversely (or as evidence of how cowed I was of him) of the consequences of calling the police on my husband. “Luckily” he yanked the phone cord out of the wall, solving that dilemma, and enhancing the existing—the existential— one, of his now physically violent behavior.

It had started as another of our fights which ended with me (as usual) trying to get away from his insults and threatening attitude, and with him following close behind me, as if I were the energy he needed to keep going (which surely must be the case). I went down to the basement, hoping that he would not follow, hoping that he would stop, hoping that I could get away from him in my own home, hoping that I did not have to go out for an escape drive, hoping that my not answering him would result in his losing interest (as some experts suggest) in harassing me. Alas, he followed me down the stairs into the basement and to the laundry room in the very corner of the basement.

As I bent over to pick up clothes to do a load of laundry, keeping myself busy with the rhythms of a normal life, he was there—near me, menacing me with his physical presence. It was as if he was an anti-peacock, ruffling his black feathers to warn and threaten his peahen instead of to entice and woo her. Suddenly, I felt something hit me on the side of the head—he had kicked a large garbage bag at me. “Luckily,” it was full of other garbage bags so it did not hurt too much (physically), but it bent my glasses and knocked them at an angle. “You hit me! You hit me!” I screamed, partly in shock that what I had feared had finally happened, and partly to protect myself from a continuation or intensification.

His reply, as always, was to deny, deny, deny. “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do anything.”

What, I would fabricate that? I would be cornered in the basement with this six foot tall big guy and I would lie about the outcome? That was insulting. Goddamn it, why won’t he take responsibility for his actions?

I went upstairs, acting on some kind of behavioral auto-pilot, and told my daughters that I was going out for a while, afraid that it would seem that while saving myself I was leaving them. Then, I went to the phone in the kitchen and called 911.

When he saw me pick up the phone he started yelling again, this time, “My career! My career!” Unbelievably, he was placing his guilt onto me; he was trying to make me feel guilty about something that will happen to him because of what he did to me, as opposed to what he had just done to me.

When he yanked the phone cord out of the wall I realized that I really needed to get out. Shaking, I got into my car. As I closed the door I realized that I had forgotten my keys. I held myself as tightly and as compact as possible and went back into the house for them, terrified, terrified of this man who I had once craved. When I got back in the car, I realized that I was barefoot, but I was not going back for my shoes. (I had never driven barefoot before.)

As I was pulling out of the garage, he came out holding the phone in front of him, “For you,” he said.

It was the 911 operator calling back. “What happened, what’s the matter?” she asked me in a concerned tone.

I closed the window, locked the door, and started to blubber into the phone, a true bawling blubber, “my husband kicked something at me.” At that moment it was so hard to speak; speech was another rung up the evolutionary ladder from where I was, it was too hard to find words amidst the emotional turmoil. The operator said that she was sending some police cars over. I was thankful that I did not need to give an address because I was having such a tough time focusing on speaking. I told her that I would be waiting at the end of our drive, fearful of being at home with him. I drove up to the top of our little four-house street and parked. Still stunned at the negative development, I sat there and cried.

Finally, three police cars pulled up, one male officer in each. It seemed excessive, but also comforting. They asked me what had happened; I explained it as calmly as possible, as objectively as possible. Why did I feel a need to be objective, to be the detached observer relaying what she had seen? Did it make me seem more reliable, more truthful, more intelligent, more trustworthy? Who knows, but that’s the persona I thought I was conveying, not the dismayed, battered, wife. Maybe I didn’t want to be that woman, and so I acted as if I was someone else.

They went to the house to get his side of the story.

While I was waiting, a neighbor pulled up, stopping his car beside my car, rolling down his window to talk to me. I needed to wipe my eyes before I could open the window. “Is everything okay?” he asked. I replied that it was, and thanked him for asking. Why is the husband across the way concerned about my welfare when my own husband obviously is not? Why is this man who goes hunting and calls people “buddy” more tender than my charismatic lawyer husband? I know this shows my bias, cultural and educational, but it is true. Why does this man, who I barely interact with except to say “hi,” stop to inquire? I know my husband would have just driven by if it had been this man’s wife at the top of the street and three police cars at his home.

When the police officer I spoke with came back, his deepest insight was that my husband “seemed to be mad at the world and that he did not intend to kick anything at you.” Amongst other things I wanted to say. He had been three feet away from me and kicked a bag in my direction, what was that if not on purpose? The police did suggest that I not go home immediately. I didn’t. But why did they not tell him to leave? Why did they not issue a restraining order on him? Why was I punished for being punished?

When I did return, I saw that he had taken that bag that he had “innocently” kicked at me; moreover, it wasn’t even in the garbage bins in the garage—it was gone. His guilt, though, was not. My naïveté that he would not hit me was gone.

* * *

Later that Night

When he came home on Monday night, I could tell that he was raring to go for another round. I was in my room, with the door open, working, preparing to teach my two religious school classes that I will be teaching on Tuesday nights. The word scum came out of his mouth, the tape recorder friend came out.

I got up and closed the door, and locked it. I am just not in the mood for this. He cannot make me play.

He did spend the next hour talking my older daughter into needing to take an SAT-prep class, which she does not need. And I heard him yell a few times that I refuse to pay for it.

When I went to say good night to her, she asked me to pay for the SAT-prep class, that she needs it. I just could not listen to her spew out his words. I said I need to go to sleep. And went into my little room, and closed the door.

My other daughter then came in to thank me for stitching up Charles, her Build-a-Bear bear that she and a friend had operated on. She even commented on what a good job I had done. So there was something positive to my day. I can heal a wounded bear; now that is something.

* * *

Mad, Mad Monday

I am a raging woman today. I cannot believe that I made it home safely from work. I cannot believe that the people in my path made it home safely from work. I cannot believe that I did not scream at my daughters about anything the second I walked in the door, or even later. I cannot believe that from the outside, people would think that I'm a normal person.

The only ones who have met my mad, mad mood today have been my mother on the telephone and a friend in an email. My mother had to get off the phone when I was venting because her leg was hurting her. (Yes, I know that I need not to vent so much to my mother because I don't think that it's good for her health. Apparently the leg spasms, or whatever they are, are from stress. What a shock that she had one as I raged today.) And my friend was confronted with an emotional email that did not have even the slightest hint of humor--it was pure hurt and anger.

The day started when I woke up freezing at 4:45 because the air conditioner was on 64. Autumn has begun in northern Virginia; but it is still colder in here than out there. Then, at 5:20 AM (I get up at 5) slime came out of his room and started calling me names and talking into his little tape recorder friend about calling the police. Apparently my closet door slipped and banged the wall and made noise that disturbed his sleep. I don't know about you, but I don't like being called a scumbag ever, but it is especially trying before day break. He thrust his little tape machine friend at me: yes, I said, I told you to shut up, what is wrong with that you psycho.

I know, I know, I need to leave. Which leads me to vent number 2.

I emailed my lawyer the second I got into work that we need to talk, that I need to get out of here, and by the way, please send to me the letter you sent to slime last week. I have told this man repeatedly not to send anything without letting me see it first. But he keeps thinking that just because he has a degree from an Ivy League college and a law degree and has been practicing family law for years he is smarter than me. Maybe he is, but not regarding my case. He sent a letter that totally misrepresented the fact that slime cancelled our meeting a week and a half ago and made it sound that I don’t want to meet because I wouldn’t pay my lawyer’s travel expenses. AHHHHH! And he has not gotten back to me yet, and he always gets back to me quickly.

Positive thoughts, positive thoughts.

Oh, and coffee date man, who I opened up to and told about my blog—which is very important to me—said that he’ll get to it when he has some quiet time later in the week. Thanks.

Breathe breathe breathe breathe. Close your eyes. Listen to Marc Cohn sing, “True Companion.”

Sign up to campaign to register voters so this nightmare scenario of mccain and palin won’t come true.

Breathe breathe breathe. Keep listening. Look at Poops, take a hint from Poops the maltese. Relax.

Get the lawyer to be a bastard or get a bastard lawyer. 

Listen to song again. And again and again until I am back. But do I want to be back? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s the kind of positive thinking I need.

* * *

It's Hard to Keep It Up

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up my positive attitude. There comes a point when even the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed among the cheery crowd needs to drop the pretense that willing it, visualizing it, focusing on it, breathing about it, and sending out positive vibes will not move Reality Mountain. That is where I am right now. The wall I have been trying to move appears to be immovable. Have I failed in correctly visualizing? Have I not breathed correctly to allow my positive thoughts to impact the universe? Is there a formulation that I didn’t get correctly? What is it? What have I missed? And why have I missed it?

I just came back from Friday night services in my synagogue. And, as usual, I was unable to stop the tearing up when the choir sang and the prayers were recited by the congregation. Maybe it’s the feeling that is felt without even being aware of it that I am in the midst of people who are reaching into themselves, who are reaching out of themselves, who are there for the sake of their own peace and reflection and who are invoking God to help them, to help others, to be there for them, in the sense that they are strengthened in the very act of thinking about a Being who has no ulterior motive, whose existence rests in their perception, whose existence enables their perception.

When I got up to leave, the friend who I was sitting next to asked if I had been remembering a loved one (hence the teariness); I replied that it is my life. She then said, “You are a treasure to all of us.” I barely made it out of the sanctuary before the real tears began. And there was a message from my parents on my cell phone.

But I came home to a full house: monster man and my two daughters. I turned off the AC (it’s 65 outside). He had, of course, closed my door. I opened it and turned on the radio and cranked it up. My hour and a half of praying and calmness did not make me want to turn any cheek (luckily I’m Jewish, so I don’t have to feel guilty about that) but STAND UP. And my daughters asked me to turn it down. I did, and then back up a little, and a little more. He came out, of course, to turn the AC back on. Oh, and he talked into his little tape recorder friend stating that I have purposely turned up the radio to ANNOY him. YES, you got it bud. Call the cops. Call someone to complain. Bring it on!

What are you going to tell them? Are you going to tell them that you cancelled another settlement meeting? Are you going to tell them that you have been playing with people’s lives for nothing other than your twisted sense that you deserve what you want but nobody else? Are you going to tell them that you are a morally-deficient creature who is torturing a woman, and her children, because you have lost all understanding of right and wrong, all RESPECT for others and their right to live unencumbered by your psychosis. TELL THEM!

Ah, the AC game is still on. There was an “Idiot” uttered as he left his room once again to turn the AC on.

He’s on his tape recorder friend again. Yes, it’s 10 and I am listening to Donna Summer at full volume. Is there any other way to listen to disco?

Yes, I am evil. Talk to your little machine. Tell your machine that I have annoyed my daughter with the music. Oh, did I mention that one daughter is wrapped in a blanket and the other is wearing a sweatshirt because it’s cold in here?

He’s getting tough. He has opened his door so I can hear that he is listening to what, CNN News?

Okay. “Loser” and he slams the door. And he opens it again. Oy, I need to go to sleep. I need a good night sleep, not the sleep that a loveseat brings.

I need to breathe and breathe and breathe and close my eyes and bring back the feeling of community that I felt just an hour ago. Just an hour ago I was surrounded by people who united for the common cause of praying together. Of wishing well for themselves, and their families, and their friends, and their community, and the world. And now I am home. And I have none of that.

Here comes Poops, my dog. He is here to be with me; he snuggles against me on the loveseat. And I know that there is a life outside of this place.

Excerpt Twenty-One: First Year of Teaching

The first year of teaching is supposed to be one of the hardest job there is. For me, as tough as it was, dealing with life at home was harder. The constant stress of living in an abusive relationship was much tougher than teaching one hundred and thirty reluctant teenagers the eight parts of speech.

Is relationship the right word to describe my marriage, perhaps predicament or situation is better? How can something so nefarious be a “relationship”? Isn’t that a word with positive connotations, doesn’t it signify something that brings happiness, isn’t it something that you want to be a part of?

Learning how to plan interesting and effective lessons; reading and understanding the short stories, plays, poems and novels I was to cover; writing quizzes, tests, and warm-up assignments, homework assignments and essay questions; speaking to and emailing students, parents and administrators; reading, commenting on and grading papers were all difficult, but coming home was infinitely worse. At school, although there were tough days and tough kids (or, kids being kids, or kids reacting to a tough teacher) who challenged me by slumping or ignoring or doubting or questioning, at least they seemed to respect me and knew (I think) that I was doing something for them, or at least that I was trying to do something for them. And I was. At home my husband made me feel that my very presence was anathema. That pervasive feeling of negativity is what made home so much tougher than school ever was.

Since my husband did not work for a year and a half, including the entire first year of my teaching (the ostensible reason was that he was laid off, but I interpreted it as part of his absolute commitment to make my life hell), he was at home most of the time, and so everyday as I drove home I would wonder if he would be there when I arrive. The drive home usually took about 40 minutes; it was generally a good transition from school. I would take the highway, so I could just drive along with the flow of traffic (three o’clock is still too early for traffic, even in this area), listening to music, snatches of my day coming up to me, with all of the accompanying ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves,’ a calm easy time between two worlds, but in a world of itself.


That is until I would drive down our driveway and click on the garage door opener. Is he home or isn’t he? Because of the lighting in the garage, it always takes a few seconds for the garage door to open enough for me to know the home situation. If the car is not there, I would smile broadly and continue the easy transition. But, if it was there, I would generally say (out loud for emphasis, to show that I really mean it, that this is more than wishful thinking, this is a demand, a desire that is so strong that it deserves speaking out loud, making it more possible, perhaps it will reverberate into reality), “Get a job! Go away!” And then I would drive in with an absolute anchor as a heart. I could feel myself being beaten down just by his presence; just by the tangible prove of his reality—of my reality:

     That I live with a man I hate;

     That I live with a man who is constantly insulting me;

     That I live with a man who treats me with absolutely no respect;

     That I live with a man who finds it acceptable to ridicule me;

     That I live with a man who is constantly trying to control my life.

I am confronted with the fact that my home is no one’s castle; that my home has become my prison, and I am an inmate.

If he is home, he is generally on his laptop in either the basement or at the kitchen table. If he is at the kitchen table, he generally gathers up his computer when I come in and goes down to the basement. While I relish his going away so that I don’t have to confront his verbal abuse or stony countenance (which I find repulsive even though I am unable to look directly at him), it is still upsetting that my mere presence is repulsive to him, too. Certainly I don’t expect unbounded joy when I come in, but this summary dismissal is still hurtful. I simply said that I don’t love you any more, I don’t want to be married to you anymore; I did not verbally assault him. I shared with him more than twenty years of my life before I really felt what was being done to me and voiced my decision. Why is he so vindictive? Why has this degraded into a game of wills that is counter-productive? Why is he (perhaps it is we by now) unable to confront each other and talk the end through? Why do I have to come home day after day to a man who has become an evil entity, who simply wishes me ill?

I had always prided myself on being a mature person, so why now, when maturity is so much in need, am I incapable of getting past his solid wall of antagonism. It just does not make sense, or maybe it does too much, that what I say and do is not enough to end this marriage with grace and timeliness. Continuing in our sorry cycle, it must be according to his time-line and conditions, otherwise we barely move forward. It seems that he can’t prevent himself: he must be a bully till the end. And finally, I can’t get over it that I am always prevented from getting what I want, even when I am forceful.

Am I so weak? Am I too nice and too understanding, always questioning myself, doubting myself and my experiences, and not him and his motivations?

* * *

Honor. Really?

I will admit it: I occasionally read the gossip column, and I peruse gossip magazines at the supermarket and any waiting room that I am, well, waiting in. If it’s about people’s lives, then I’m interested. Which brings me to today’s reading of the “Names and Faces” section of the Washington Post, (which is how it terms the quarter-page devoted to, you know, the lives of people you see acting in movies and television, and playing sports, and, since this is Washington, politicians with their occasional lapses in moral fiber) which mentioned that Hayden Panettiere’s parents had a “domestic argument” that resulted in her father being arrested. (I don’t know who she is or what she is in, but she’s made it to the gossip page of the Post, something that I have not done—in better circumstances, of course.)

The paper noted that her father was “arrested early yesterday in Los Angeles on suspicion of hitting his wife.” According to the sheriff, he punched his wife a couple of times in the face during a “domestic argument.” I have had a “domestic argument” that required the police being called in and I can tell you that it is not an argument in the sense that you are thinking of an argument. It is not a scene where you have a man and a woman talking, discussing, disagreeing, raising their voices, getting frustrated that their spouse doesn’t get what they are saying. And then, maybe, someone pours more wine or coffee, or someone goes to the bathroom, or someone finally stops talking and listens to what the other person is saying, and they get back to taking turns talking and listening, or at the very worst, one storms out of the house and they just might (horror of horrors) go to bed angry at each other.

No, it is not like that. It is one spouse yelling with spittle flying from his mouth and the veins of his neck popping out, and it is the other spouse trying to get away from the monster in her midst. If at first she was answering him angry word for angry word, by this time she would have stopped, realizing that it is not helping, realizing that there is no talking to him when he is like this. That is not an argument, that is a fight. That is what Russia is doing to the Georgians. If they just took out the word “domestic” it would no longer be called an argument, it would be called what it is: violence.

The paper goes on to quote someone from the sheriff’s office: “At the party, Paniettiere ‘apparently felt disrespected by his wife.’” Ah yes, the "honor" defense. If I recall correctly, men in supposedly less developed countries than ours commit “honor killings” where the honor of the family is at stake if a girl or woman “disrespects” the family. Yes, we abhor that, it is so crude, so uncivilized. We don’t have that here. No. No, of course not. We have domestic arguments where a man punches his wife in the face because he feels that she has disrespected him. Well, then, that’s okay. He is, after all, the king of the castle and his word needs to be foremost and, any way, she must be a bitch, so she probably deserved it. Oh, it’s too draining even to recount those explanations and the subsequent reasoning. No, they just never do what they are caught having done; and it’s never their fault. There’s no honor here, it’s a lame excuse that is used to cover up the banality of the act: a man bullying a woman and hitting her.

Maybe if we call things what they are we can take off our rose-colored glasses and start to understand what honor and respect really mean in a relationship.

* * *

Divorce Kills

From the Washington Post, July 17, 2008: A man recently divorced from his wife of more than 20 years shot and killed her inside a suburban St. Louis mall before committing suicide, police said.... The shooter was 49 and his ex-wife was 47, but their names had not been released.

After pausing a moment to think about this woman and this man, and the relationship that they had for more than twenty years and their children, all I can think to say is that marriage should not be a life or death sentence. Life comes in phases, and each phase should be acknowledged, and understood not to have to last a lifetime. The life of a person is more sacred than the life of a marriage.

And we each deserve to live our own life. A life free from the burdens, expectations, and psychoses of others placed on us.

May her memory be blessed.

* * *  

Keeping Up the Statistics: Holley Wimunc Murdered by Her Husband

“On the average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day” according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.


According to AOL News, “the remains of Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc were found Sunday in a brush fire in North Carolina, three days after she disappeared. The 24-year-old nurse was reported missing after a fire at her apartment in Fayetteville, N.C. On Monday, her estranged husband was charged with killing her.”


Typing in “wife murdered july 2008” in Google yields information on men who have murdered their wives across the country and across the world. Holley, unfortunately, joins Nisha Patel-Nasri who was stabbed by her husband in England. And Ashley Guarino and her two children who were murdered by her husband in Pennsylvania. And Linda Singh who was murdered by her husband in Fiji. And Jenny Young Park and her cousin and two children who were murdered by her ex-husband in California. And Adalina Weber who was murdered by her husband in Illinois. Luckily, they are not joined by Lisa Meyer, since her husband was arrested for trying to hire someone to kill her.


I’m listening to “Love Hurts,” but this is not love, this is evil, this is about control and power and violence. A howl needs to go up every time a woman is killed by someone who professes to love her until there are no more howls. We need to howl in horror and shame that we live in a society that debases the concept of love to such an extreme degree. We need to howl until those who yell and hit and stab and murder can hear someone else’s cries and not cover over those sounds with anger and frustration, and stop in mid-shout and mid-slap and mid-thrust to hear themselves cry out in pain at the pain they have been causing. We need to howl until we raise generations of men who can respect themselves enough to know the difference between love and control. We need to howl until we don’t need a National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.ndv.org). And we need to howl until the only hurt that love causes is “to make you blue.”


(cross-posted at www.blogher.com)

* * *


"It's Finally Over" (2): Game for Miserable, Separated & Divorced Women

The second game in this It’s Finally Over series of games is composed of questions to ask yourself. All of these games stem from my own need to understand why my marriage had failed, how I had failed in my marriage, how my husband had failed me, and then, eventually, what I could do to get myself out of the funk and on my path to being the contented—or even happy—person that deserved to be.

Why did it take so long to finally begin the process of ending this horrible relationship? For so long there was no love between us, there were no conversations (that is, if you don’t count his insulting me and me telling him to stop insulting me), there was nothing except a past. That seems to be a critical question. Here are some things that I thought of in response; you can add to this list or change it to suit your situation. These are simply some basic questions to help you contemplate your marriage and yourself.

Essential Questions:

Did I stay in the marriage so long because I felt that:

-- I deserved to be in a bad relationship?

-- I deserved the insults?

-- There was truth in the insults?

-- I was committed to the marriage (I had to stay in)?

-- I could not survive on my own?

-- I could not support myself?

-- I could not find anyone better to love me?

-- No one else would love me?

-- I would be alone?

-- He needed me?

-- He would be lost without me?

-- I was being selfish?

-- The marriage would improve?

-- It was just a temporary bump?

-- I would be a failure if my marriage failed?

-- It wasn’t so bad?

-- It was too hard, confusing and uncertain to embark on a divorce?

-- I was the failure and I needed to improve to make things better?

-- If I was better, wiser, stronger, lovelier, smarter, thinner, …, the marriage would improve?

-- Life together was better than life alone?

-- I still loved him?

-- It takes a long time for love to work its way out of your system.