I had a small party last night. Rafe asked if I ever did political blogging, and told me about a movement to impeach Bush. I can safely say that one of my two best friends never has read my blog, and I can say anything I want to about him, but I like him too much.
Al finally began a blog of his own. It’s very Manhattancentric. That’s great as I realized that my heart belongs here at least for now. Just have to go on a lot of vacations, because Manhattan is best when you’re coming home to it. The always wonderful blogger’s blogger Dan is Shayna’s guest on My Musical Highway Project For some reason I couldn’t get to comments on Dan’s blog and that really bothers me.
I am off issues and politics, and I shouldn’t be surprised at anything Judith Regan does—she did call her lover, Bernard Kerik when he was police commissioner and before he bore the title “convicted felon” to interrogate the employees of a media company–can’t remember which—because she thought her jewelery was stolen. She found it in her pocketbook, I believe. Her entire career has been a quest for shameless self-promotion, hell she probably invented the genre.
As a writer I’m not supposed to say anything bad about her because she’s a publisher who can make or break you. As a woman, I’m embarrassed that we walk on the same earth
This isn’t supposed to be a truly depressing post. I made some decisions that turned out to be irrevocable. That’s life, and life truly is too short to sit around regretting the past. I do however write, and I have a blog, and to me, blogging is all about my personal past from the great to the ugly. Zachary, who looked just like the guy in My Name is Earl, a show I have never seen was cute. Our relationship wasn’t.
In between errands, visiting a friend, and having company I wrote this on Saturday. I was rather angry.
When it comes to abuse I almost always believe the woman. I have some expertise into spousal abuse. Later I would become a Geriatric Social Worker who seemed to be able to spot it almost intuitively. It wasn’t easy, and didn’t win me any points with most of the nursing home staff.
“Oh, Mr. O’Donnell was so cute driving the wrong on 231st Street.”
West 231 Street is a steep hill. When a nurse made the above comment at a staff meeting I wanted to kill her, but settled for:
“Mr. O’Donnell is a damn drunk who…” and then I went into all the things I had found out, had witnesses too and had carefully documented. This was in 1995, and while it is hard to imagine geriatric spousal abuse, it did and does happen, even to a woman who was mentally somewhere else, and physically couldn’t care for herself. Maybe it had been mutual abuse in their younger days but now she lacked any control. I was able to stop her from having weekend home visits, and from Mr. O’Donnell being alone with her in her room. It felt like one of my few victories as a social worker and not a very happy one.
First, I was a young woman who lived with a man who became verbally abusive, broke a window in my apartment, over turned a table with many plants that broke apart, and then stalked me for a year. He was only physically abusive once, in the first year, as we got ready to host a New Years Eve party. I chalked that off to anxiety and I was being a bitch.
By the time he broke the window and plant table, I understood that any man who could do this to my stuff, could do worse to me. It was 1981. When I went to the 19th Precinct for a restraining order, I was told that I needed witnesses, and I was told this problem didn’t exist in my part of the city as this was the 19th–my zip code was 10021, then the richest in the city.
When you’re abused it shapes the rest of your life. I went through everything from “maybe I deserved this to I hate men,” to feeling my way back into relationships with a kind sweet brilliant man eight years my junior who also was broken.
I have long loved, respected, and pitied Dominic Dunne who had a daughter Dominique who was killed by her boyfriend. He advocated for his daughter in death as he couldn’t do in life. Dunne was the single person who made the world aware that White Girls who lived in Good Zip Codes and had a pretty good self-image could be abused.
My Dad did advocate for me once he realized it wasn’t Pia being the bitch, and Zachary’s so nice. Having such strong parental advocation seemed silly at the time. I was 30. While my Dad and I had always been close, including the years we spoke through my Mom, it was Zachary who made us adult friends. My Mom realized that he was obsessed with me. It was the first time we used the word “obsessed,” in that context. My Dad pretended never to listen to my Mom who he called “the drill Sargent ” or “the psychologist,” but he secretly always listened to her.
As much as I have tried to understand how Hedda Nussbaum let Joel Steinberg control her, it’s beyond my comprehension. And yes I have thought about it often and wondered what makes some women able to recognize signs without having read anything or having been told anything, and get the hell out of the relationship as quickly as possible, and other women become more and more controlled.
I have always taken a sort of perverse pride in getting out, but the reality is I am a strong, if damaged person, who had much familial and friend support. Hell, I wouldn’t let my parents control my life during my teenage years, I wouldn’t let a man control it.
I realized that I wasn’t in love with Zachary two months after we met. But the sex was magical and our lives had become so entangled. So i can’t take pride in getting out fast because if I had I would have ended it that day. I didn’t find it endearing that he wanted to be with me 24/7. My friends thought that it was perfect. Everybody thought that we were a golden couple. I lived a lie the next year and half.
Before Zachary I had a long on and off again relationship. It was seriously flawed from the beginning. When he asked me to marry him, I told him I had to think. Two months later he gave the ultimatum. The pros were: I think I love him though maybe not in the way I should. He makes me laugh. It’s my third serious proposal, and I’m 21 maybe nobody will ask again. The cons were: I don’t think I love him as I should though I did when I was eighteen, we’re both immature, getting married because maybe I won’t fall in love again is just stupid.
We’re still in touch. He played a pivotal role the night I met Zachary, something I have reminded him of.
I was seriously screwed up. Being very bright with serious problems that nobody could name or help me with was horrible. Yet somehow they didn’t matter when I was in my mid to late 20’s.
I was quick to pick up concepts, and I could read people. When I met Zachary I was a supervisor at a litigation support company. It was a good fit and I had a good life
But as I said being abused shapes a person, and my life is different than what it had been before. I turned more inward and began to realize that if I was going to survive in the world I needed to trust my intuition more, and others less.
Until I met the one after Zachary I had a number of one night stands and a few interludes. Let’s get real, I had self-esteem problems before Zachary and a hell of a lot more after him.
Abuse is so much more complicated than the warning signs we’re all familiar with now. Abuse tears a woman apart. I might not have reacted “correctly” to being raped, but I was seventeen, and filled with hope. I also allowed myself to get into a situation where I was raped, and a part of me thought that I deserved it.
But being abused, it is the single most shameful thing that can happen to a college educated professional woman. Excuse me, it’s the single most shameful thing that can happen to any woman. But I’m talking about the type of woman I am most familiar with. As usual I speak for nobody but myself.
It’s about control and we allowed ourselves to lose control. Controlling my own life has always been paramount to me and after Zachary I took steps to ensure that I would never lose control again. Too many steps.
9-5 work was beneath Zachary. He was almost famous, you know, and if it weren’t for me….I got him a job at my company. The Village Voice wrote about the supervisor on the second floor with the union organizer boyfriend on the fourth floor. It pissed me off but they said some nice things about me, probably about my looks so I let it go.
I was very loved at my company. There had been 240 of us in the beginning, then 120, then it grew to a thousand. Five out of 80 supervisors made the top rate $8.19 an hour. I was one of the five. Nobody cared that Zachary didn’t do any work or didn’t show up half the time. I cared, but I was close with all top management. They were charmed by zachary and thought that he made me very happy. I looked very happy. Had this glow about me. Good constant sex was very important to me. I cared for him, but I accepted any invitation and invited people over constanty because except for sex I found myself in dire need of stimulation from the rest of the world.
Getting him a job at my company when he called me every seven minutes to begin with wasn’t rational. But nothing about abuse, the beginning, middle or end ever is. Rational decisions and behavior go out the broken window when you’re being abused.
So when Judith Regan says that the father of her dead child punched her while she was pregnant I have problems. She made her career because of publicity. Like me, she seems to talk freely about her problems and life. When you really have been abused it sticks with you, and you do talk about it later if you’re a talker, or even if you’re not.
What truly bothers me is her assumption that this will be cathartic for all women who have been abused. She crossed two powerful lines in her remarks. One, she didn’t sound believable but was mimicking words from many abused women. Maybe she was, I have no way of knowing.
The second line, and the more important, is the assumption that people like me will want to read this book for a cathartic experience. I would run, faster than OJ did on that freeway that night. Because even Zachary couldn’t make amends to me. An abuser is never to be believed. That feminist theory I do believe because it’s been proven. The recidivism rate was 95% several years ago. Last I heard, mandated group counseling didn’t really do any good
I have friends who aren’t big on talking about their problems, but they will say “I’m damaged,” and you know exactly what they’re talking about. Some women never talk about being abused, but us overly articulate, story for every occasion, abuse is the biggest. Because talking gives a measure of control back.
I used to buy into the Carol Gilligan school of feminism. To over simplify it, the woman is always the victim, the man is always the abuser.
I believe that it’s much more complicated than that. The one time Zachary hit me, I egged him on. I truly was the bitch. Yes, I played a part in the disintegration of our relationship and have always accepted my part of the blame. Even when other people would tell me not to. I did have anger management issues that were easily solved with some pot and/or good sex.
But Zachary’s destruction began before he met me. It intensified when we met but he had two albums out before he was 25, and at 27 considered himself a failed old man. He loved my zest for life, and he hated it. All my energy was supposed to go into making him a star. I couldn’t of course and knew that then. When he made me write an application for him to “win” a Macarthur Foundation Genius Award, I so wanted to use another name. I wrote it of course.
He knew that I had serious self-esteem problems and spent time trying to build my confidence up. I didn’t appear to be a person with issues. I was likable. In the beginning it felt wonderful that somebody cared so much. Many other people cared. I took them for granted or didn’t notice. Zachary couldn’t make a decision without my input and somehow being called every seven minutes at work or home–we timed the calls began to feel like a burden quickly.
When he broke my table, it had nothing to do with any of my actions. I had kicked him and found him an apartment. I paid the first and last months rent. I lost a few friends over this as he sublet it from some friends of mine. I had many friends then. Zachary, well he had friends back home in New Orleans, and a few here, but it was my friends we hung with. He couldn’t try to cut me off from my friends or family. He could try and succeed to make my life miserable.
He was an undiagnosed bipolar who would exercise his Second Amendment to self destruct seven or so years later.
When Zachary stalked me after the table incident, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Maybe I had been a bitch at times, but I didn’t deserve to be followed everywhere. I didn’t deserve him to stand outside my door, because somebody would always let him in, and ring my doorbell all night. The police? Every time they would come he would hear the sirens and walk away. He looked normal enough
I stopped calling them because god forbid I really did need them. I would be like the boy who cried wolf.
How the hell is OJ’s story supposed to be cathartic for me? What am I supposed to learn that I don’t already know? I had an abortion at 29, and was stalked at 30-31. Prime childbearing years. No way in hell would I have Zachary’s child, and I didn’t trust myself enough to have a child with another man or be a single mother.
I thought I was a nice package. Easy on the eyes and a great worker. After awhile I wasn’t even sure of that. I spent my 30’s searching for answers to my problems because maybe then I could be normal enough to have a relationship with a man. The One After Zachary was doomed from the start, and I did pick fights to ensure that it would be over. I never wanted his child. I did say yes to his marriage proposal, I guess, because I liked being proposed to. I thought that I was in love, but I couldn’t let go of my built in defenses.
I wasn’t perfect. I could be a bitch. Snark, you want snark? My own father, master of sarcasm thought I over did it. Then he envied it as did my husband another master I surpassed.
I am angry over Judith Regan’s remarks. Angrier than I have been in a long time. I was one of the lucky ones. I had support. I had my own sense of self, warped as it might have been, and I had the resources to leave my job and hide out in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, where nobody would think of looking me for, and Miami, where Zachary couldn’t afford to go, and my best college friend Shelby lived.
It hurts to know how much I deprived myself of. I was at my physical best in my 30’s, and had many adventures. Maybe I would have preferred fewer adventures and a husband and a kid. I don’t know because I never let myself go there. We all have roads not taken and other roads too curvy with hair pin turns over large cliffs, and it’s been a long time since I have said anything as melodramatically metaphorically as this.
But when I think of OJ I turn back into that girl who had been scared but filled with hope for my future the day I met Zachary. I write and rewrite the story of the day we met. It is obsessive. I can never work my past it, and get into the relationship itself. I can’t tell the good stories just generalized about being abused, and that hurts because we had some very great times. I do try, and have some in the archives.
I will never get the innocence back that I had the day we met. I will never have a child or a grandchild of my own. I will probably never live with another man again because I truly did become too independent.
My only advice? Never met somebody on a Sunday and move in with him that Tuesday. It ain’t love, it’s lust. But I thought that this was the beginning of a great adventure and it was. Just not the good type of grand adventure.
I’m no longer bitter or angry. My problem is with trust, and maybe that’s the biggest problem. I would so love to trust a man, and I can’t still. That was the single most difficult line that I have written in Courting.
So explain how OJ’s book is going to be a cathartic experience for anybody but OJ and Judith Regan because I just don’t get it. OJ’s story was news a decade ago. It’s only news now because Judith Regan is making it into news, and if she hadn’t said the bit about being abused I would have never written this.
And I hate being so damn earnest. I have had several more serious relationships after the One Who Came after Zachary, but I always sat next to the exit sign, on the aisle. Honestly, that’s where I’m most comfortable. I am a very contradictory person.