(This seemed like an appropriate story on April Fool's Day).
We were fighting again. Lately, it seemed like all we ever did. After 3 1/2 years, and with a wedding being planned, things seemed to be falling apart. As he stood there yelling, in the kitchen of the tiny third floor apartment that I was renting in a lovely old lady's home, I suddenly had a thought. What has happened to me? Why do I put up with this?
Seconds later I had another thought. There's the look. That's what his mother meant. His mother had asked me, years ago, if I ever saw "the look". At the time I had no idea what she was talking about, so she explained. "He sometimes gets this really mean, angry look in his eyes". What she didn't say was that he looked wild, slightly crazy, and scary.
As I brought my focus back to what he was saying, I heard him say, "I am really trying to be giving and supportive of you, but I feel like I'm not getting anything in return". Is he serious?, I thought. I had been giving and supportive for the past 3 1/2 years, putting up with things that most girls would not. The anger started to build inside me, and I spat out, "Oh, that's RICH!" I could tell immediately from his angry glare that he knew what I meant. "Fuck you", he said. As I heard the words coming out of his mouth, I froze. No one had ever said that to me before. I couldn't imagine someone who claimed to love me saying those words.
It was my first out of body experience. I picked up one of the many old lady trinkets that adorned the place and threw it at him. As it crashed into the wall behind him, inches from his head, he looked at me in disbelief. When I realized what I had done, I started shaking. "Get out", I said in a voice that was barely a whisper. Then, louder and louder, "Get out! Get out! Get out!" "I'm not going anywhere", he said. "Then I'm leaving". I ran down the stairs, slammed the door, and started walking as fast as I could towards the library, trying to silence the voice in my head screaming, Who are you?
He was never abusive, but he had some kind of hold over me. I had started to forget who I was, what I thought and felt, and what I wanted. He had this way of twisting things so that I somehow ended up apologizing for things I knew weren't my fault. It hadn't always been like that, though. In the beginning, he pursued me, with grand romantic gestures - with flowers, poetry, songs, and compliments. He was my first real boyfriend. Was I so desperate for a guy to notice me? Was I so blinded by the thrill of being in love, that I failed to see all the warning signs along the road, admonishing, "STOP!", "Wrong way!", "Loser Crossing"?
It perplexes me now, looking back, and thinking about the person I am today. I am certain that this version of myself wouldn't give him the time of day. Why did I then? Have I changed that much? I sometimes think of those 3 1/2 years as wasted time, but I guess if those years made me the strong, wont-take-any-bullshit woman I am today, I am better having experienced it. I learned from it. I learned to pay attention to the way a man treats his mother. I learned that you can't change someone. I learned that no one should have to settle. I learned that I deserve someone who treats me like gold. I learned not to be a fool for love. Please, tell your daughters.