Wednesday, July 5, 2017

All I Can Think About

::NOTE- I WILL write about that movie y'all are prolly expecting. I want to see it one more time, first.::

It's the Fourth of July! 

This post is decidedly not about that.

Sometimes, stuff gets stuck in your head.  And I'm not just talking about songs

Maybe you just saw a really cool movie and bits of a super cool and pivotal scene keep flashing through your mind's eye. 

Maybe you went on a really good first date, and your thoughts keep drifting back to that person, to their voice, their smile, how their hand felt, interlocked with yours. (Or, alternatively, it could have been a really awful date, in which case, you're reliving the angst of it all.)

Maybe you're in the service industry, and you had to deal with the Worst Customer  Ever, and the condescending, disrespectful, and/or threatening way they spoke to you just won't get out of your ears. 

Maybe you have a big presentation to prep for, but you're at family dinner,  listening to Uncle Earl tell you about the inevitable zombiepocalypse, 'cuz guv'ment, for the umpteenth time this year. 

Maybe you're worried about the direction the country is going, and you can't shake the feeling something  terrible is going to happen, and you're coming up with a plan to move yourself and your family to Canada, where it's safer

Maybe you're damn hungry.

I had something on my mind today. Or, no, I had the curiosity of someone on my mind today.

It being the Fourth and all, there was an unspeakably small amount of traffic on the roads- I got an extra hour of sleep, even! But I noticed that some electric signs that can be changed (usually to indicate variant speeds) said the two left lanes were closed. I merged into an  appropriate lane, and eventually saw what was obviously some sort of crash site. I couldn't see any damaged cars, though, just lots of law enforcement vehicles. The scene was on a curve, a left one, at that, so as I got far enough up to see around the last car, I saw yellow tarp.

Covering something.

And when I got enough around the curve to see the tarp close enough, I saw a head. And a hand. The tarp was covering a body, a man's body.

Now, my commute isn't exactly short, even when there's a dearth of traffic. So I spent the next twenty minutes gripping the steering wheel to keep myself in control, gripping so tightly, my  hands still hurt a little now, more than twelve hours later. 

That whole car ride, so many things were spinning through my brain, things I couldn't get rid of, no matter how I tried to distract myself with music, with doing things like reading licence plates out loud to myself.*

Who was he? Where was he going? Did he have plans for today, it being a big ol' holiday and all? 

Do his loved ones know? Did they know he was going to be on the road so early on a holiday morning? When was the last time he saw them? Kids, did he have kids? A spouse? Siblings? 

What happened that made him end up sprawled on the ground like that? Where was his vehicle?

I went to work and did the best I could, but my head wasn't in the game. It kept going back to this man, this man that I saw on the ground, cold, under a tarp, a yellow tarp that, under different circumstances, would have warranted a "big banana" joke (it was yellow). Instead,thinking of it made me feel sick. It still does,  a little.

I kept forgetting things, all day. I'd trail off and forget to finish sentences. 

There were a few times when I was able to throw myself into work with helping customers (bra fittings are magnificent distractions from the macabre). But it's the Fourth of July. We weren't very busy. I was having trouble finishing any of the tasks I assigned myself to (gobacks, markdowns, etc.). I was trying so hard not to think about what I had seen, I made it nigh impossible to think about much anything else- it was either him or nothing at all. 

Then I had to get back in the car. 

The same thoughts flooded back into my mind, breaking the dam I had forced up. 

And then I got home and couldn't stop myself- I looked for information about the crash. I found this** first. 

His name was Richard A. McKelvey, and he was twenty-nine years old.

A motorcycle accident, that explains the lack of car. But I had seen his hair, what about a helmet?


A new image bored itself in my brain, a man  flying off  a motorcycle, heading straight for a big car, his body colliding so hard and so fast, his helmet flies off. 

I finally cried, like really cried, not just the watery eyes I had had off and on all day (yeah, that's me, I'm a cryer). 

And I couldn't help but think of the terror he must have felt. Did he know this was It? Was he able to think of his family in that last second? Did he pray? Did he curse? Was he at peace? What was the last thing he saw? Maybe his mind went to a good memory?

I have no right to presume to know anything, but my imagination won't leave well alone. Not that it's really "well," but, y'know.

Weirdly enough, I was reminded of my ex (the one I wrote about a while back). He loves motorcycles, and had one for a while during our time together. Now, as some context, he used to drag race, for money, way before we met; that should give you an idea of his driving style, and also how he rides. I saw him ride, he was indeed reckless. Sure, he wore a helmet, but still- he had nearly died in two different accidents before we met, who was to say he'd be lucky again? I would worry about him all the time, and he didn't care (that should have meant more to me then- I'm realizing literally right now that he probably somehow enjoyed making me worry, since it was a form of control). I had started hyperventilating on my way to his place once because I passed a motorcycle accident and saw the rider on the ground, surrounded by cops, but moving. That could be him. It gave me nightmares. 

So I wonder if Richard had any loved ones that worried about him the way I had worried about my ex. And my heart aches for and goes out to them, if they did. Their worst fear, come to pass. 

Maybe it's presumptuous to use his first name. 

I feel... trapped. His was the first body I saw that didn't belong to someone I knew***, and while this is a terrible "first" to have, it's still a first, nonetheless. And I don't know how long this is going to stay with me so... forcefully. 

I don't have a funny line or gif with which to end this. All I can say is, be safe, please. You never know what's going to happen.

*I talk to myself sometimes, okay?

**I submitted the correction about the side the closed lanes were on, as when I first saw the piece (and as of this writing), it said the two right lanes were closed. But really, that's such a small thing, in comparison to everything else. 

***That I remember. My mom tells me there were other opportunities to see scenes such as this, or worse, when I was little, but she shielded me from it. I love my mom so damn much. 

Friday, May 5, 2017


In "Wonder Woes," I discussed some stress/anxiety/anger/etc. I was experiencing in light of a potential change in Diana's backstory. It turned out to be a rumor, but I'm calling this post a sequel because my source of frustration here is still what's going on with Warner Brothers and one of the myriad things they've chosen to do (or not do) that just will not help me relax about Wonder Woman. Seriously, pretty much the whole time I've been watching this whole thing unfold, I've felt frustrated and helpless.

My latest stress is that with the premier date less than a month away, I'm kind of out of sorts over the dearth of (good/smart) marketing promoting it. And I'm not the only one noticing it. All sorts of other fancy, more-read people have noticed it, too. Not only that, but one of the few advertisement partnerships WB has made is with gorram diet bars. (Yes, there have been a few other partnerships, but the main one available now is food "for women" and associated with weight loss/dieting/etc. Just totally not cool.) And while a lot of the other articles are pitched as a "fans are wondering  why" piece, I know why- or at least, I have a theory. It has to do with what I was talking about here, and more.  They may be making the movie, but they don't expect it to do well. So they're cutting their losses and saving every penny they can, since they don't think the movie will make much more than its $100M budget (an historical thing in and of itself, if you didn't know). 

And of course that  upsets me. I've blogged before about how it seems the Dudes in Suits are so paranoid about having a comic movie star a woman, they gender/character-swapped the Days of Future Past storyline for the movie.* I have zero faith in movie executives at this point. And it's not up to directors what kind of promotional materials get made/distributed/etc. for their movies- so Patty Jenkins, our director here, is entirely powerless, now that her movie is (presumably) finished. There's nothing she can do as WB's PR department completely drops the ball. I can only  imagine how upset she was when she saw the "Thinkthin" shit. 

What makes this troublesome for me is this "we don't think it's going to do well so we're not going to waste money promoting it" has the potential to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if the movie does, in fact, do poorly it's first weekend or two, low turnout will be used as the excuse to put a cease and desist order on any and all female-starring superhero movies ad infinitum. Not a damn thing about the lack of effort from the PR department will be said, just the poor box office numbers. Alongside Catwoman and Elektra, Wonder Woman will be touted as an example of how "women just can't star in superhero movies." It's being set up to fail, and that failure will in turn lead to zero faith on the part of the Dudes in Suits. 

And yes, I do think this means Captain Marvel will very likely be affected, too. I don't care if it's a different studio- these Dudes in Suits take notice of what each other are doing, how they're doing it, how it does or does not pay off, etc. Marvel Studios would totally reconsider a Captain Marvel movie if a gorram Wonder Woman movie tanks. 

(I was going  to have this point be a side or footnote, but I think it's important and relevant enough it needs to stick in the main body.) When having this conversation in person, and when I bring up the Captain Marvel/Marvel Studios point, the only time anyone resists/challenges me there is when I'm talking to a man. Any women I've discussed it with has agreed emphatically, while any man I've spoken with about it has always argued, or at least tried to make it sound like I'm jumping to conclusions or something about it. The fact that Marvel Studios is separate from WB, or that they already have people cast and a director and stuff for Captain Marvel are among the main things I hear these dudes say (and I should note, I've reached over half a dozen at this point, who have all done this to me). 

What I want to know is why they think any of that matters, here? Movies complete with directors, actors, scripts, etc. get cancelled all the gorram time. So what's so special about Marvel Studios?  To say a thing I've said a million times, Marvel isn't actually all that great with female representation onscreen. Women end up being sidekicks, mysteries, tools, obstacles, and damsels in distress for the men in the stories to interact with somehow. And now that the Avengers team is even bigger, more than doubled, after Civil War, I want you to look more closely at the cast of Infinity War Part I. There are six women listed as for sure (one as rumored). Six. And that list doesn't include extras or anything yet. Six, out of 30 (or 29, if you count the two rumored listings). That's only 1/5 of the entire named cast. Or watch this "first look" featurette:

Notice how it's all white dudes talking, and any character-driven plot they talk about has to do with men specifically or general groups (the Avengers themselves, the Guardians of the Galaxy), groups in which women are a minority. I think that just sort of sets the tone for what to expect from the movies- as with all other Marvel movies,  these women will be side characters, and the main players will be Iron Man, Captain America, Star Lord, and Thanos. Also, as I've said before, if Marvel Studios is still unwilling to make a movie for a guaranteed-money-maker like Black Widow, one they know all of the nerdboys drool and jerk off to, now that she's been onscreen in five of their movies (soon to be six/seven, with Infinity War), why the fuck would they hesitate to ditch an idea for a character that's mostly unknown to the uninitiated? (Seriously, I don't know a single person that doesn't read comics but knows who she is (compared to Wonder Woman, which is like "duh"), and when I inform them she's a she, they're usually super surprised. Which says a lot, I think.) I don't think they'd cut her from Infinity War, no, but would they give her her own movie? Probably not.

And to state the obvious point, this would have absolutely nothing to do with the character of Captain Marvel herself, or any projections based on her- it would be simply because the Dudes in Suits would see that a- THE- Wonder Woman movie bombed, ticket-wise (which is all they care about- even if it gets a 100% on Rotton Tomatoes or like a 95% on Metacritic, the decision-makers wouldn't care), and would change their minds. 

And then the Batgirl movie with JOSS WHDON at the helm that hasn't been openly denied by anybody will get canceled, too, which would make it the second Whedon-helmed, female-led DC movie that didn't get made.  

And I just... While the dudebros and neckbeards may think, well...

I don't really care. I need Wonder Woman to succeed. All women and girls do, as far as I'm concerned. William Moulton Marston, the man who created her character, knew how important it is for girls to see characters "like them" in the media- that was a huge reason he created Wonder Woman in the first place. Back then. In the 1940s. A man knew representation is important for the self esteem and well-being of little girls.

So why is that so gorram hard for Dudes in Suits nowadays?

I need this movie to be good on a deeply personal level, don't get me wrong. It would invariably send me down a bad spell if I leave the theater disappointed. But that's a somewhat different discussion. Like I said before, the execs won't really care if it's "good" or not, they're only going to notice how much money it makes. Shit, I'll buy tickets on Fandango that I won't use, if I have to.

And there's a valid comparison between the standards this movie's performance has to surpass vs. those of male-led movies and what women have to deal with in professional settings, too. While neither Thor solo flick barely beat $60m opening weekend, and the first Captain America did about the same (compared to both Avengers, which nearly doubled that, and the later Iron Man movies, which all did much better, too), the Norse God is still getting a third movie, and Cap already had one. Even Ant Man, which at $57M made less than every other Marvel Studios movie (except the second attempt at a Hulk flick) has a sequel in the works.** Wonder Woman is projected at making a bit over $80m opening weekend, and yet a number that high is actually being treated as if it's low

Which makes me  sick. But, y'know,

It's the same double-standard women in the workplace deal with- they have to do twice as well, be twice as nice, and still may get passed up for promotions, or the credit will go to the dude that did half as much, etc. Films led by men can have comparably sub-par performance and still have subsequent movies in their franchises, yet there's speculation the franchise starring a woman that may perform better may thus be doomed? Come ON, now.

So we all need this movie to make lots of cash. Thus, I implore you, please,


I say the second weekend because the drop between opening and second weekend matters, too. 

But, anyway.

Tell your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, frenemies, enemies, customers, coworkers, bosses, students, teachers... Tell every person you interact with every day. Tell them to see it. Even if you don't think it's going to be good (which is a whole different rant, but suffice to say I get really fucking tired of men saying they think it's going to suck and are apprehensive about seeing it, but they are more than willing to see any and every Thor movie in theaters, even admitting to seeing previous ones more than once despite knowing they were awful), give them a (breifer) explanation like mine as to why: If this does badly, we can expect to have to wait  another ten-plus years for another superhero film to headline a woman. 

There is one more fear, related to this double-standard: That if the movie does well but is kinda crappy, they won't make it its own franchise. We're past the point where that matters, though- all we can do is vote with our wallets and show the Dudes in Suits we want more by getting our butts  in the seats. I truly think that, at the end of the day, these Dudes in Suits aren't being consciously, maliciously sexist. I think the film industry is just so bloody entrenched with misogyny that they can't help but follow those tracks and keep things as is. But, this is capitalism. And at the end of the day, money is the most important thing.

So I also am desperate to believe the opposite of these fears: That if Wonder Woman does well, it will pave the way for other female-starring superhero flicks. So that Batgirl movie will really end up being a Thing. Black Widow will indeed get her own movie. Other franchises will come out of the woodwork, ones we've already thought of, and ones we haven't. Hell, just run a Google search for "female superheroes that need movies" and you'll get a never-ending list of articles, some with lots of overlap, some that are completely original. But the point is, people care. They want to see women onscreen. WE want to see women onscreen. And if Wonder Woman does well, I think it's possible. The patriarchal trends in the film industry could be at least a little changed, and someday, entirely smashed.

This really is an issue about the fate of feminism in this country. Wonder Woman  has, since her inception, served as a symbol for feminist ideals. That's literally what she was created for in the first place. This character is been around for a lot of shit, and has made it through a lot of shit that the dudes in charge of her stories have decided for her. I don't just think  it's superhero movies at stake. Even though The Hunger Games was successful, it, and the handful of other movies starring women that also did well, aren't treated as the norm. If Wonder Woman does well, maybe it will help that radical notion that women are people, and that the movies starring them can be money-makers, will be more accepted. And then 

BAM! Feminism FTW!!!

So please, get out there. Spread the news, make sure everyone you know goes to see Wonder Woman. And keep fighting the good fight.

*In that post, I said I was sick of Wolverine. While he did have a small part in Apocalypse, his swan song, Logan, was a masterpiece, and I am very pleased with how they said goodbye to the character. Of course, as the new series moves forth, they'll probably find a new Wolverine, but, hey, maybe the break will be longer than the breaks we've had between Spider-Man iterations. 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

On Bravery

If you haven't read it yet, at least skim my last post, otherwise a lot of this will make  zero sense to you. 

I want to address something important. While I keep hearing that I'm "brave" and "strong" for leaving my ex, I want to speak as a victim about what all of this bravery is, and where it started.

I started out brave. Like I said last time, I knew abuse at an early age. And I came out on top, stayed a good person, even make efforts every day to be that way. Even when it's hard, I try to do the right thing, do right by others, and help decrease Worldsuck, as some* would say. And despite seeing some of the worst of people, even having that aimed at me directly, I continue, to this day, to usually by default expect and see the best from them. 

So I was brave for trying. I've been hurt every time I attempted at even a chance at love before. When I first met  the person I discussed in my last post, I had no intention of letting him in. I had big, thick walls up, with trebuchets and a moat with a big goddamn dragon. I've talked about this before. Obviously, that post was before I met him.

I took a leap of faith, like what I talked about there, when I let him in. I was scared as Hell, but I did it. Because I was brave enough to try again. And you know what? It felt good, at least for a while. I'm reminded of a line from The Nightmare Before Christmas, "Well what the heck, I went and did my best, and my God I really tasted something swell. And for a moment, why I even touched the sky..." There were moments where I was flying, where I thought I'd die I was filled with such joy. I did feel safe, and loved, and beautiful. And I was happy. With myself for having taken a chance, with my situation, with him. And as I said in that last post, at least I was actually loved- I never doubted he loved me, which just made the bad parts hurt more. But I kept on, and hid it from the world, because of that love.

So I was brave in staying. It isn't just that I kept telling myself it (i.e. the abuse**) would never happen to me. I also cared for him, even in the middle of his worst outbursts. That Joan of Ark aspect of me... I know a part of me  wanted to help and save him. He didn't want to be saved, of course, but that didn't matter to me, not until I found my line again. I kept loving him, even though it was often hard. I hoped and prayed that maybe  my love for him would be enough, that he would see the damage he was doing to himself and us and me, and that he would then turn a new leaf, and we'd be happy more, I wouldn't be walking on eggshells.

But my love wasn't enough. I was a saint, but it wasn't enough. I comforted and forgave, but it wasn't enough. Belle was brave when she tamed the Beast; I was brave in trying, in holding him when he fell, in picking him up when he had finished crashing. I was brave for wiping his tears before my own. 

I was brave to start getting my own help. Therapy and mental health issues (not to mention medications for "head stuff") are so stigmatized, it's easy to feel like you're less of a person for going in and seeing a professional. I had known I needed help for a long time. I kept making excuses, but I eventually ran out of them when I was promoted to full time and thus had corporate benefits (as opposed to state). So I started going. And it was (and still is- my counselor is amazing) hard. It was brave for me to open up in that office. About the things that have been haunting me for years, say nothing of the relationship of focus, here. And as I said before, I was hoping I would eventually feel ready to get back in touch with my dad. I think a part of me also hoped that if my ex saw how much I was improving because I had and maintained a self-care plan that was working, he would want that  for himself, too. Naive, I know. 

And no, I wasn't stupid. I just hoped, because I believed in him. I wanted to, I needed to, otherwise what was the point of letting down those walls in the first place? I didn't want that risk I had taken to be for nothing.

I was brave to be as honest as I was with  the friend I talked about in the last post. I kept as much as I could hidden for a long time, but I know most, if not all, of my friends knew things weren't good with my partner and I. I was afraid to tell my friend what was going on, but I did it, trembling and crying. That's bravery. It's strength.

I was brave in telling the ex not to come home. In all of the time we had been together, during all of his tantrums, I had stood up to him maybe half a dozen times before, most of them being on behalf of my dog (because, as said, he would get unnecessarily and unwarentedly*** mean with her when he was grumpy). But I did it, I found my line, set it, and told him exactly what it was. It wasn't a request, I didn't downplay it (with something like, "I know this is going to be  hard/ I'm sorry but..." etc.). And it was so hard to do. My hands were trembling as I sent the text. And my chosen method being text may seem cowardly, but that I did it at all was huge. IS huge. And I knew that if I heard his voice, I would be weak and give in, lose that line, so I texted him. So sue me. That I told him an any way at all I didn't want to see him again that day was a HUGE act of bravery, yes. That's the main one everyone thinks about. But there's more.

I was brave somewhere in the middle there, when he was at the house the second night to get more stuff. At that point, I was still thinking it would be a break. And I was brave in two big ways then. First, when he was saying goodbye to my dog. It was like my heart was breaking again, as if it was possible, watching him kneel there as she gingerly licked his chin. She knew something was wrong, and the way his voice cracked... She's my kid, and he was her Daddy. It was as if I was getting a divorce, and my child was saying goodbye. Involuntarily, I jerked a little bit toward them. In a flash, I saw myself throwing my arms around both and having that be the end of the episode. But I didn't. I grabbed the counter, squeezed it so tight that my hands and forearms were sore the next day, and I didn't move. That was brave.

And then, as he hugged me goodbye, he said, "I've fucked up big time," I said, "Yep, you did. Now fix  it." I was brave for saying that. SO fucking brave. The older me would have taken some of the blame off of him, "No, honey, it's my fault, too, it's not just you." But it WAS all just him. And I knew he wanted that, wanted me to absolve him, at least partially, right there, because that's what I always did. But the difference this time was I saw it for what it was: manipulation. And I was brave for standing my ground in the face of it. 
It was hard, it hurt like Hell, but he left. No matter how badly I wanted to say it was okay, I didn't, and that's bravery. 

I was brave in finally saying the word "abuse" out loud. I didn't even mean to say it, it just came out, flowed naturally with where I was going when I was on the phone with him. And it clicked. It made sense. It gave me the momentum to be firmer. I was brave in standing by that, too, because of course, while he didn't say much to it then (it was the first day that happeend), he had all sorts of nasty comebacks  later about how I was overdramatizing it, how that wasn't what he was doing, he says  and does those things in anger, that's not abuse. But it is, it was, so I didn't back down, and that was brave. He was yelling at me while I was on the phone with him in my counselor's office (I really wouldn't have survived this without her, too), and I was brave for not letting him gaslight me, change the topic, change the goal posts during that conversation shouting match. 

And I've been brave for not asking his mom (whom I've needed to have some contact with for logistical reasons) or brother (still good friends with him and his girlfriend) where he is, if he's okay. Do I worry for and about him still? Absolutely. But I can't let myself go down that path. And the braver, stronger part of me is protecting the other side of me while she heals. 

But I want to clarify something, too.

I didn't stay out of weakness. I don't think anyone has even remotely implied that, except possibly me, maybe, here and in person. Because while in the middle of being emotionally and psychologically beaten down by my significant other, I became a better version of myself. I improved, against those odds. I do owe a lot of that to getting professional help, but as she told me, she's only helping me tap the resources I already have within me. So little did he know, even as he was wearing me down, I was building up. If that isn't strength, I don't know what is.

Also, it wasn't weakness, the falling for him, falling into his net. Like I said, it was brave to try. L
etting someone in, even if that person does end up hurting you (like all the rest, in my case) is brave.

Bravery can mean trying to save something because you thought it was worth it. And yes, it's admitting that thing isn't worth it anymore, giving it its proper name, and letting it go.

Love always comes with a risk. I took it. It got me down, but...

I'm getting better each day, like I said, but I'm not  brave enough to try again yet. I will, sooner or later. I still want a family of my own. I mean, my dog is great and all, but I want a husband and kids and the whole nine yards. Call me a traditionalist, but, well, there it is. 

And it's already brave for me to think about that future. I know I'm not ready to try for it again, no, but even being able to consider it again, in the face of what just happened to me, is brave. And someday, I still want to believe, that bravery will pay off, and I'll get what I want. I know I'm worth it, I know I deserve it, and for fuck's sake, I HAVE EARNED THE SHIT OUT OF A GOOD LIFE. Amirite?

You, right now.

So it'll happen. I'm still swimming through all of the emotions. But I'll take that brave step and open those gates again. 

*Nerdfighters, aw yeah!

**And again, let me say, I was never deliberately physically harmed. Sometimes intimidated, but he never hit me, pulled my hair, nothing like that.

***Totally just made that word up, yo.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Finding Your Line, or, Why I Hate Christmas

This post is going to get pretty heavy, but while I don't have the strength to share this individually, I want the people who care about me to really know what has been going on in my life the past few months. I will warn you now, I will discuss suicide (in multiple contexts) and emotional abuse in this post, so if you fear it will be too difficult for you, due to your own lived experiences, that is entirely valid, and I am so sorry; I hope you know that I am here for you and willing to talk, if you think will help you. Otherwise, hang in there with me and allow me to elucidate some events that have had large effects on me. Understand, I am not "seeking attention," so much as using this as an easier way on my own heart and mental health to share this with people- I've dealt with and come closer to reconciling the first big thing, and talking about that is easier now. But that one was easier to keep close to the chest, while the most recent events are still visible right now, in my bedroom.

So, to use the line I have used before and think is just so damn applicable when talking about this dramedy that is my life...

I officiated a wedding in September, for a dear friend from college, in our college town, to wit. It was beautiful, and superbly relaxed, and even though I only knew about 10% of the guests, my speech during the ceremony wowed them all with its wit, charm, and earnestness. I even opened with a joke* that led to this picture being taken by one of the photographers:

 The reception was pretty fun, and the food was amazing- a little old lady was pressing tortillas for the taco bar, and the sangria! It was at a bed-and-breakfast, so the party was in the backyard, and as the sun set and the little lights started to twinkle, I kept warm by snuggling close to my date, the person I had been with for nearly two years at that point- it was our first wedding we were both able to attend together, so it was one of those Big Steps in an adult relationship. While he was inside in the bathroom, I was alone at our table, far off from the dance floor where everyone else was. I saw my phone light up and crinkled my eyebrows. Mom? Why would she call me now, of all times? I gave it a second, thinking  maybe she had butt-dialed me and it would stop ringing, but it continued. Well, this doesn't make any sense, she knew I would be here and  unavailable... So I picked up, and instead of saying hello to me, she demanded I put my boyfriend on the phone. Wait, what? She repeated, a little urgent this time. I explained that he was in the bathroom, and she repeated the original request, more urgently. I said I didn't know when  he would get back, so she asked me, "Are you alone?"

"Well, I'm at a table by myself... Why? What's up?"

"Honey, are you sitting down?"


"Honey, your aunt went to visit your dad today, and she found him in the bathtub."


"Honey, he killed himself."

I felt my chest tighten and my face get hot, my hands shook and my voice cracked. I started to ask questions and panic. At just the right moment, I looked up, tear-stricken and still babbling, to lock eyes with my boyfriend. Even though it was dark, he somehow knew I needed him, so he beelined to me, nearly taking out a chair (or himself) on the way. I held the phone out for him, and he stepped away without saying a word as I put my head on the table and sobbed so hard (but silent- I didn't want to draw attention) I could hear the wine and champagne glasses bobble. After a few moments, which was enough for him to get the necessary information, my boyfriend gave my phone back  to me, took me by my hand, and led me around the side of the house so that we could walk through the neighborhood around the B&B instead of disturb my friend's wedding. After a struggle, I was able to get my mom to tell me my dad had shot himself in the head with his mom's gun. We sat on a park bench for a while, his arms around me as I sobbed and tried to talk to my mom, before heading back to the reception.

My boyfriend told a couple people, the small spattering of those that realized something had happened and were asking after my well-being, but I tried to avoid the wedding guests as best as I could- again, this wasn't my night, and it was supposed to be a happy moment for someone I hold very close to my heart, and I couldn't in good conscience tell her then. That night, I cried instead of slept, and my boyfriend held me the whole time. We had to drive home the next day, but I spent most of the car ride and the rest of the evening in tears, and the same with the next two days, before going back to work. He had to change his shirt a few times each day  because  of all of the tears and snot I was getting on him.

As my life is a dramedy, it wouldn't be complete without some mildly morbid comic relief here: I had started seeing a counselor in July, and we had arranged for bi-weekly appointments to start. I had seen her two days before the wedding (which was a Saturday), but on Tuesday, amidst the crying, I got a reminder phone call from the clinic about "my appointment" two days from then- apparently she had accidentally scheduled me for the next week, so I didn't even need to call ahead to squeeze myself into her schedule!! AAAAND, I also happened to have an appointment with the person that handles my meds for Wednesday, too- so I was able to walk into my already-scheduled appointments and let then know what was happening.

I've had weekly counseling appointments ever since.

Flash-forward to about a month ago. I was having a heart-to-heart with a friend whom I love dearly, opening up to him (or rather, elaborating) about my relationship with my boyfriend. While I still had never been entirely open with him about my boyfriend, he knew things weren't as good as I tried to make them out to be, and as I cried and made excuses, I admitted that while I had thought I knew where my "line" was for "how much" I would put up with, I had lost it. We talked some more, but as he was leaving  he said, "Look, I can't tell you what to do, and I would never try to do that. But all I have to say is," and he put his hand on my shoulder, "Find your line. Just find your line again."

Then a series of necessary events happened last Monday/early Tuesday morning:

1) I received  a check in the mail from my mom for Christmas that morning. I sobbed, first because I feel guilty taking money from her, since  she works retail, too, and then second, because I didn't want my boyfriend to know about it, because I knew he would want me to cash it and give the money to him. So I tore it up.

2) That day, we were supposed to go on what I came to call an "errand date" where we spend  spare time together by getting stuff done together and helping with each other's errands. We did this before, and it usually ended with making dinner together and spooning while watching Netflix. On  this day, he decided to take a nap instead.

3) Later, he started getting irritable because he didn't have any cash, and he kept snapping at my dog. She started shaking, and I didn't feel comfortable with trying to comfort her until he was out of the room.

4) That night, he couldn't sleep, so he kept thrashing and grumbling right beside  me in the bed, getting up and laying back down, going in and out of the room, and about once an hour even getting dressed and stepping outside. He became gradually more and more vocal during these little tantrums  as the night progressed, and at about 2AM he got up and grumbled about how he's "tired of holding on just to hold on" and that I "don't need to worry  about the holidays" because he "wouldn't be around for that shit." And he left the  house again and I heard him peel off in his car.

5) When he got back to the house, he started rattling the door knob, and I thought maybe he  had  taken  shots or something quick to get sloshed. But he sent a text demanding I unlock the door, and it dawned on me: I had gone to the bathroom after he left, and apparently had subconsciously locked the bedroom door. 

I refused to talk to him or let him cuddle (his way of apologizing) that night and the next morning. He left before I got up, so I sent him a text demanding he get his stuff out while I was at work.

The short version of the rest of that is while I started out hoping to take a break so he could get himself together, I realized I needed to cut all ties completely after some pretty horrible stuff happened and two more days passed. I realized he will never care about himself enough to care for me the way I deserve, and I cannot save him. The last time I saw him was Thursday, and I hope it's the last time I ever see him. 

I know, it seems odd, that the man that was so supportive when I found out my dad killed himself would be thrown out just a bit over three months later, but I need to explain some about both.

First, my dad. I hadn't seen him since 2013, summer. And the last thing he said to me was, "You bitch," while I was helping my mom pack up the house in which I grew up so she could leave. See, my dad had changed once I hit 16. A lot of life happened, and his depression won over: He went from being Dad of the Year to a non-functioning alcoholic that was emotionally abusive and manipulative to my mom, myself, and my younger sister. It took time, but he was a completely different dad to me than he was my younger siblings, something I apologized for all the time after leaving for college. By the time I was a sophomore (and thus only home for breaks), I hardly ever saw him sober. And he would pick fights whenever he could, however he could. The house became toxic, and I hated going home for breaks and found every excuse I could to make the visits home short or avoid them altogether. When I found out it had evolved to physical abuse, I finally begged my mom to leave him. I, and she, had held out hope he would get better, would seek help for his mental illness, but he didn't, and Mom had to draw the line somewhere. 

But even after that, I had still hoped. Hoped he would take that as his wake-up call and seek a therapist, medication, whatever. That he would sober and up and get serious. That he would come back to us and be that dad I remembered, the one that sprained his ankle fixing a swing at a park for me, that let me stay home from school to play video games. The dad that used to make me laugh, (gently) stop my tears, and made me feel safe. I had had visions of him barbecuing with my boyfriend at our wedding reception.

So him killing himself, and in such a way, was an even more complex situation for me and everyone else. I had, in a way, already been in mourning over the loss of the dad of my youth, but now I was in mourning for a man that was so broken, in so much pain, he decided to end his life. "Forgiveness" isn't the word I have for how he treated us later on, but that doesn't make the loss of any chance at better memories less painful. Add to it the fact that I had hoped to reach out to him myself, once I had been in therapy for a while and felt more in touch with who I am and at peace with my past traumas (not just caused by him), and you have a huge ball of awkward and pain and uncomfortable and confused and anger and hurt and... Pretty much everything you can possibly imagine. 

So this leads to the now-ex boyfriend. He, too, is mentally ill, and he, too, refused to get help with it. And, like  my dad, he took his pain out on me. Don't get me  wrong, both men had legitimate reasons to be angry, to be hurting, but they projected it and it manifested in passive aggressiveness, unpredictability, manipulation, and isolation. My ex never explicitly said I couldn't spend time with friends, but the way he moped, texted me nonstop about how he missed me while I was gone, and/or picked fights with me over text trained me not to do it. With his mood swings, I never knew how he would react to the same kind of joke (or even exact same joke) from day to day. And the above scenario, where he turned his frustration with himself  over having no money and not being able to sleep into rants  about how  unhappy with me he was, happened far too frequently. He "broke up" with me at least once a month. I would make excuses, hide it from most people, tell myself he didn't mean it, he's just angry and in pain, he loves me more than anything.

And like with Dad, it didn't start out that way. He was charming and attentive and kind and warm, and the first man to see me as a woman and treat me like a human  being. Even though he loved me selfishly, he at least proved to me I can be loved, and for that I am forever grateful. And even up to the last few weeks, it wasn't always shouting and tears: when he was doing better, he could be disgustingly thoughtful and sweet, and he did take care of me during some of my darkest moments, like what happened with my dad. He was good in a crisis... when it wasn't his own. And when he started to boil up, he would gaslight me, change the topic, snap for no reason, act like everything was my fault. I was losing myself, and willfully blind to all of this because I had seen it before. That could never happen to me, I wouldn't let it, I'm far too smart for it. I knew exactly where my line was, and so help me, no man would ever cross it.

Except he did. He crossed so far over it, I lost sight of that line. He loved me, but it was a selfish, jealous love. It wasn't nurturing, not overall, even though it had its moments. It was draining, and it hurt to love him. I was always the one trying to make us work, yet I would be blamed whenever something was bothering  him, something he wouldn't tell me about until one of his blow-ups, something that was his fault in the first place. (Like remember how I said he napped instead of went out with me? That was a patterned behavior, too, backing out of plans- yet he would yell at me he was "tired of never doing anything" with me during his rampages.) So later on during the height of the drama last week, as my ex was saying he was sorry, that he missed me, missed us, missed the family we had made with each other and my dog, my friend's words echoed through my head.

"Find your line."

That same friend has been my rock through all of this, and I will never be able to repay him the kindness and selflessness he has shown me. Remembering that advice helped me find the strength to admit the truth  to myself, out loud, and to my ex.

"You want to know what that is? It's abuse, that's what it is."

And once I said it, I felt myself gaining strength, at least in that first moment, and I kept going. That wasn't the end  of it, but it was the start for me. 

He even kept throwing that it was "almost Christmas" in my face. That fueled my fire then, and I held that line, but once he was actually gone, Christmas was even worse for me than usual.

When I was little, Christmas was always great. Our family had our little traditions and rituals, but we had fun, and we loved each other. As time went on,  things got more and more prickly and fake, and we went from spending all of our waking moments Christmas Eve and Day with each other to barely speaking and staying in our own designated areas of the house. And now that I work retail, I won't get a chance to repair with my mom and siblings. I get that about my life, but I still mourn it. Even before I left my grad program, Christmas reminded me of everything I had lost. Then all of the breakup stuff happened, and I felt more alone than I ever thought possible. I could force myself to enjoy a moment (after all, I wasn't physically alone- I had people willing to take me in, and that wise friend of mine was there, too), but staying up until 2AM (again)  on Christmas  Eve rewrapping because I had written both of our names on the "From" line with Sharpie on all of the presents I had bought (the one year I wrapped as I purchased, I didn't bother to get tags I could attach... nooooo, I had to write directly on the gorram wrapping paper of all but two gifts) didn't help. 

I haven't slept more than a couple hours at a time since the first night he wasn't beside me, and waking up to an empty space in the bed on Christmas morning was awful, even though I had only woken up beside him once on Christmas. I miss the Christmases we'll never have, so I keep seeing  them, the ones I dreamed about, where we had our own home and family, our own traditions and rituals. I would be in charge of the Nativity scene, he would do the lights around the house. And I keep remembering my dad and how much he used to care about his Christmas town, meticulously placing every piece, re-attaching limbs and chimneys whenever necessary; how he gradually let it crack and break before he was too broken to go on anymore. There was a drawer he would put the broken  pieces until he was able to fix them. I don't think any were there for more than a day when I was young; by the time we were packing the house, there were some in there from before I graduated from college. 

And  it hurts. It hurts so much. The truth is, while I never planned to kill myself before, I had thought there was no point in living, the the pain is too much, that others around me would be  better off without me. Those thoughts stopped a while ago, but it hurt so much that it flickered through my mind a little. I know it's irrational, and I will not actually do anything to hurt myself, but this is how much pain I am in right now. I am in so much pain, I can't bring myself to clean the mess he made while packing, just when I had finally started to keep the room cleaner.

I will never get my dad back. I will never be able to reconcile with him, no matter how much I had wanted to. He was in too much pain and valued his own life so little that he didn't try to get any help. Eventually, he killed himself. It has nothing to do with me, and there is nothing I could have done.

I will never take my ex back. I will never reconcile with him, no matter how much he wants to. He will never have my trust again, even if he does get the help he needs (and a job). Because  I will have no way of knowing for sure that it's not to get me back, but because he values himself enough to do it- and it's the latter that is necessary for him to be a true partner, not a dependent. 

I told a few friends that "my Christmas gift to myself this year is freedom." This is true. But freedom comes with a price. I will be in pain for quite some time, and I have no idea when I will be ready to try to love again. But, as my  mom said, it's better to be lonely and alone than lonely and with someone. 

I don't have a witty, funny way to end this. But I can say that I have been thinking of a quote from my favorite movie:

"There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."

That sounds dire, but for me, right now, it means my story is still going, and this isn't my ending, happy or otherwise. My life will go on, and while a part of me will always mourn both of these men that were so similar, both in good ways and bad, I have learned what I deserve, and, importantly, what I do not deserve from a partner. The kindness others have shown  me during both times has helped remind me how good others can be, and that even though I may feel alone, there are people that would more than happily ease that pain. 

I don't expect a happy ending now, and I never have. But I do expect to find some happiness again. And, someday, I'll enjoy Christmas again, forge a family in whatever way I can, to make better memories. 

*Question: What did Batman say to Robin  just  before they got into the Bat-Mobile?  Answer: "Get in the Bat-Moble."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mind the Rule of Three

I used to work in special education (as a paraprofessional), and I know I missed my calling there. It came naturally to me, having grown up in a household with disabled siblings. I was nine when the older of the two was born. And since I spent so much time with my younger siblings and their peers, I was surrounded by kids younger than I from just about the age when you start to develop cognizant perceptions of people and who they are, right as you start to do it for yourself. Kids with disabilities were more "normal" to me than typicals, simply because I was around kids with disabilities way more frequently. 

I think this, in part, has to do with why I always despised my peers as a whole when I was in middle school. Not just having matured emotionally at an earlier time than most of them because of the home situation, but because having been around kids with disabilities so often, I found the behavior of my own peers without them insufferable. You see,  kids with disabilities often have behavioral problems, sure, but these can be traced back to their disabilities and how they're treated and cared for regularly; when given appropriate coping skills and in the care of people that understand  them, those behavioral problems can shrink down to a bare minimum. Kids with disabilities may seemingly behave selfishly, but that seemingly selfish kid may actually not be able to understand concepts like selfishness and its opposite, selflessness. They may act out, but if you figure out the trigger and eliminate it, it can be prevented in the future.*

Middle schoolers? They're just selfish assholes that act out at any given opportunity, for no other reason than the fact that they can't see past their own goddamned noses. 

You, right now

Yes, I said it. I can't stand middle schoolers. Even when I was in middle school, I couldn't stand  them. I think some of my peers thought I was stuck up, and in a way, I guess I was. Because I knew I was better than them. Not in the Pride and Prejudice kind of way, but that I was a better human being. I actually gave a damn about other people, I didn't try to be center of attention every second I got, I didn't make a scene over absolutely goddamned nothing

And duh, I get it. Middle school, your tweens, is the time in your life where, like I said already, you're starting to understand individuality in more intense ways than just "I need to poop" and "I want a puppy." It's puberty. It's when you're trying to attempt self actualization, without even really knowing what that is, or what it looks like, or what you want it to look like. When you start to want to do things outside the house with your friends, so you either need to bike or bus it, or figure out a way to cajole a ride from those assholes you have to call your "parents." It's social  pressure. It's really caring about what people think about you, while simultaneously trying desperately to not let that show, otherwise you're really uncool.

I get it. And I got it back then. But I was still disdainful at my peers writ large, en mass. Because, the way I saw it, just because you may be having a hard time on your own, you still didn't (don't) have the right to be an asshole (at least, not in a situation where no wrong had come to you- by all means, stand up for yourself and your beliefs). I guess that since I had had so many  huge things already happen in my life, I thought it was petty and pathetic that there would be so much drama over such stupid shit like backpack brand and who sat next to whom in the goddamn cafeteria. And I didn't realize  it, but a lot of that was privilege, on their  end- I went to school with some rich-ass kids, and while the biggest complaint  they could lodge with their parents was that they "need mo' allowance," I had dealt with violence, death, and so much pain, from personal, deeply influential experiences, that I couldn't relate to most of them. I couldn't relate to how all they cared about was themselves, when I had grown up caring so deeply for my family, and especially my younger siblings. From the moment the older one was born, I put them first, and I didn't understand how so may of the kids in school with me couldn't comprehend how to do that, ever. Especially the ones with siblings a similar age as mine- I had seen some  of these middle schoolers be mean to their younger siblings when we were in elementary school, and I especially didn't want to be around these individuals. 

Now of course, I had friends. I had tons of them, and because I was (am) so goddamned nice. And these friends were consistently also more mature than errbody else, which is why I wanted to be friends with them in the first place. I was beat up and made fun of, sure, but there were always specific reasons for that, i.e. someone with a personal grudge or beef with me over something entirely inane, but that was so goddamn important because... middle schoolers. (Sigh.) I was actually, I would say, of the Middle Class, socially- the Popular kids would sit or chat with me when not enough of their own people were around, and I would get invited to birthday parties by people of every ilk. I was usually more comfortable with other Middle Classers and also Lower Class kids, though, because they were usually less selfish and asshole-ee then the socially elite.

But back to the beginning. Like I said, I have always been extremely comfortable (one could say "at home") around kids with disabilities. So I get mildly embarrassed nowadays when I tell someone for the first time that I used to work in a special education room, and they get all reverent at me. They say things like, "You must have the patience of a saint!" or "Wow, that's amazing!" or "Ohmygod, really? I could never do that!" It feels weird to me, like they're really saying, "OH MY GOD YOU KNOW HOW TO BREATHE!"

Every bloody time...

Well, you know what I say to anybody when I find out they teach middle school?

"You must have the patience of a saint!" and "I could never do that!!!" Etc.

And I mean it. I could never teach a whole class of goddamn middle schoolers. I would literally prefer to be in a classroom where getting poop thrown at you isn't entirely unheard of than have to deal with middle schoolers all day. 

Now,  before you get all, "MY KID IS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HE/SHE IS AN ANGEL!" on me, let me get to my theory about middle schoolers, and why I was able to maintain friendships with them back then, and also why I've never actually strangled one to death.

See, they're fine on their own, or in pairs. Even in groups of three, they can be decent, even enjoyable to be around. I've met many a sweet, kind middle schooler in my adult life, and I'm more than happy to, say, keep an eye on a middle schooler on their own when in public. I like chatting up the middle schoolers that come to the store I work at when their parent(s) are busy, or when they're all at the register. I especially enjoyed ringing up families during the Back-to-School season when I was head cashier at an office supply store- I liked asking the kids their favorite subjects, if they played any sports or played any instruments, etc. Because I like kids, I do. And the poor things often look so painfully miserable to be there. When they're in smaller numbers, I actually try to engage. And when I was in middle school, I didn't usually do things in big groups (and whenever there were more than three involved, there was eventually drama, even if not immediately).

But when there are more than three...

I think it's a law of physics. Like  when too many of their bodies are in the same space, the chemicals in their brains start going  haywire, and they compulsively turn into walking turds that bump into you, block your way, yell in your ear, insult you, and go out of their way to make sure you can hear them swearing profusely. If you separate them out, they'll go back to normal and wonder why you're so upset with them, as if they can't even remember how bratty they were behaving literally ten seconds earlier. In packs, they act out, they give you the side-eye as they misbehave in public, making sure you're noticing them but totally playing it cool and pretending to ignore you. One-on-one, you can have meaningful conversations with them and enjoy their presence. 

To prove this theory, I went into the field earlier today to gather data, at my own peril, for the sake of Science. Namely, I went to a Safeway across the street from a middle school ten minutes after school got out.** 

And it was utter chaos.  

Packs of middle schoolers were running and shouting everywhere, flailing their  arms like Kermit the frog as they scampered from aisle to aisle. It was so bad, there were actually five security guards in a huddle by the registers as I left, and from what I could overhear, they were literally strategizing how to handle the groups of kids causing problems. But see, that's just it: the ones causing the ruckus were the ones in groups of four or more. Because I also saw a bunch of kids flying solo, or with one or two companions, that were much quieter and politer. While the ones running around in hoards would bump into me without a word, would congregate in the middle of the goddamn aisle, shouting as many swear words as they could fit into each sentence, would barrel out of the aisle without yielding to those passing***; if there were any less, they would smile and make eye contact, would apologize if they bumped into me by accident, would hold out a hand as if to say, "After you," if we both got to an intersection at the same time. Hell, I even saw a kid on his own bend and pick up the can an old lady just dropped for her, and while a cluster of five boys on the other end of the aisle was holding a shoving match, to boot.

I mean, damn, can you geta better symbolic moment than that??? Seriously. I'm picturing beams of light coming from the can as the solo kid hands it to the woman, her eyes glossing over in gratitude, an undulating blob of darkness behind them. Then the beams fade as the foreground and background slowly switch in clarity, and we discover the blob is actually a cluster of boys  rough-housing in the middle of a goddamn grocery store. ::cue horror movie music::

Bam! See? 

Yeah, yeah, I know, anecdotal evidence isn't proof of anything. But just as how the lived experiences of women may individually be anecdotal when it comes to harassment, while the overall reality is that women deal with a lot of shit men don't "get" every goddamn day, I find this idea of mine too often corroborated to be merely a whimsical notion made up all by me onesie. Because a number of (adult) friends of mine have said they feel the same about kids that age. That on their own, they're fine. But in groups, they're terrifying. 

And it makes me think, "God, I hope I do a good enough job that my kids aren't little snots like that when they're that age." This isn't to say  the behavior of every delinquent-esque middle school kid is the result of failed parenting. I just hope I can teach my kids the lessons I learned without them having to learn them the way I did.

And as an adult, I realize that was probably part of it, too: I was jealous of them, because I knew why we were so different had to do with how different our lives had been. I resented them for not having known the kind of pain I had. And no, not every friend I made then had experienced tragedy and trauma like my own, but you could say, in those cases, it was a mild form of bigotry with the, "Well, you're different," qualifier attached to the friends, "the exceptions  that prove the rule," or something. 

So no, I don't want my kids to live the way  I did. But I hope they act the way I did. That they  respect others (or at least,  those deserving), that they apologize for bumping into someone, that they save the swearing for the house, and that they be willing to sit  next to the school's biggest nerd when he/she is alone, too. And all this, even while they're in that "delicate stage" of life, or whatever the fuck it's called.

But I'll still tell them to keep their social engagements small. Three, at most. 


I would never wish any actual harm to a child. This was just a sort of rant from a stodgy old woman that doesn't appreciate getting her glasses knocked off by some kid flailing his arm and yelling at a friend, a kid that then laughs and  runs off with the rest of his buddies, and a chance for me to muse over something I've thought about a lot in the past. Like I said, I do love kids, and I would put myself in harm's way for the sake of a bunch of middle schoolers, if it came down to it.

*Yes, I know I'm being very simplistic, here, but hang in there with me.

**I lied. I actually totally forgot school was getting out, and I nearly got back in my car when I realized the huge mistake  I had made in going to that Safeway at that exact, unfortunate moment.

**Grocery Store Etiquette 101, you ALWAYS yield when exiting an aisle.