I'll say this entry is part one of two - I will owe you all a very brief entry tomorrow morning after I have faced the scale. Oh, yes, I shudder at the thought; last week's numbers having gone in the wrong direction certainly does a 'number' (pun partially intended) on one's motivation to step back on! But I held myself accountable for it and I'm hoping that I am ready for tomorrow morning's outcome. I've taken my usual Sunday night cocktail, hoping that Friday night's steak dinner (no fries on the side, skipped the before-supper unlimited bread and butter, had a salad with my meal, although the dressing was the most lethal part of it, AND I didn't even finish the whole steak!) isn't held against me; I was extra vigilant with my food intake on Saturday and today, hoping that reflects on the scale in the morning.
I'm also starting this entry now because as I type, I'm fighting off the urge to make myself a bowl of popcorn. Stomach is growling, likely because I had my supper at 4:30pm. Usually we eat hours later, but my fiancee brought a pizza home from work when she got out at 3 and we all know the best time to eat a pizza is when it comes out of the oven! Soon as she got home, we each had two slices and a couple of delectable garlic knots. I know I have a few more points (insert Oompa's voice here...."points") that I'm allowed for the day, but have decided to skip them if I can, the numbers have more of a chance of being more favorable if I do!
Y'all know I'm good for a brief update in the morning. Just say a rosary for me if that's your thing! ;)
Anyway, I had a bit of a surprise when scrolling through Facebook earlier. A friend (and I use that term lightly, explanation to follow) of mine, someone I knew BEFORE I met the wasband, just became a grandmother. Her son, whom I remember being five or six years old at the time and the equivalent of Hell on Earth, just became a Daddy.
She posted photos of her brand new grandchild, a little girl. She posted photos of her and her husband, cradling the new addition. The years haven't been too kindly to either one of them - she's recently had some health problems and he's looking a bit gaunt. When I remembered/spent time with them both, they were in their forties already. He was working at the fire department and she was a SAHM; (stay-at-home Mom) they had a little side company deejaying on the weekends and would invite me to their karaoke nights (which is kind of silly considering I never could hear the music or sing along) and I'd go, for the free drinks if nothing else. I'd then be drunk at the end of the night and their guest bedroom would be where I stayed until I was sober enough to go home.
Some background information here - I'd met her online, we both volunteered for an AOL sponsored writing forum and upon conversing, discovered we lived 20 minutes apart. This was back in 1998, just before the two-year anniversary of when I'd been sexually assaulted at a party. So, that being said, I was NOT in a good overall frame of mind. I was eighteen, nearly nineteen. The flashbacks, the sleepless nights, the constant mini-breakdowns were common, and she acted as a sounding board during a lot of those times - she had some CSA issues in her background, and she kept my secret. My family remained clueless. Online, I had a small group of supporters - AOL had a chat room for survivors that I would frequent whenever the house was empty and I had ensured privacy - but in person, I had no one. I kept to myself, I stared at the floor more often than I looked in front of me, I rarely made eye contact with anyone. I was soft-spoken, I wrote my thoughts down. My grades had slipped, so I focused more on pulling them back up than I did being social. I didn't want to be around people who were my own age.
As far as friends went, she was the most available. The few friends I'd gone to High School with were either away at college or simply too busy to be hanging around with me. She was home all the time, so whenever I didn't have classes or before/after school, I'd trek over to her house. We'd to go lunch, go shopping, we'd spend hours talking. I spent countless weekends at her place, usually following a Friday night karaoke session.
I eventually told her that I had trouble trusting men. I shared with her my feelings of a developing bisexuality and told her I felt safer and more comfortable in the company of women. I would later come to discover that this was true even before the 1996 rape, but it was a feeling that I couldn't shake at the moment. I remember her laughing at me when I told her that I thought I was 'bi.' I asked her why she would laugh at that, and her answer was, 'because I'M bi, too!" So rather than table this conversation for a time when my mental state was more healthy, I allowed her to lead me down a dangerous, risky path that I have spent the last 20 years regretting.
Now, please don't misunderstand me, here. I don't for one minute regret the last ten years I've spent with a loving woman. J and I have a successful, committed relationship and we are happy. Y'all have seen and heard what we fight about and it's usually nothing more than what we're having for dinner that night. I don't even regret meeting the wasband - without that fateful blind date, I would not have had my beautiful son and daughter to show for that relationship. Sure, I would have liked for things to have gone differently and to say that an ugly divorce wasn't a part of my life, but if it ultimately means my life would have improved, then I'm okay with having gone through a (failed) marriage/divorce. Those are things that happen to survivors and non-survivors alike, so these are things I never use the word 'regret' for. To me, that's life. These are bad things that have happened that bring forth some good.
Here's what I do regret, though. And I do think that I use this word mostly to describe the choices I made while being friends with her. And if YOU are not in a good frame of mind as you read this, perhaps you will come back later or altogether skip the rest of this blog entry because I am about to share a little bit more about myself and most of it is stuff I'm not necessarily proud of. Oompa knows NONE of this. My J, though, knows all of it. Now THAT's a relationship!
I regret being weak enough to allow this woman to become my first female sexual partner. I would have liked my "first time" with a female to have been a little more special than that afternoon. I was at home in my room when she called me from her house, saying she wanted me to bring over some sign-language textbooks so that I could begin to teach her. I didn't hesitate. I grabbed my books, drove over to her place. When I got there, I let myself in. At this point, I either had a key or she left the door unlocked, knowing I'd be coming by. Anyhow, I searched through the house and found that she was in the bathroom adjoining her bedroom, and she waved for me to come in. I sat on her bed while she blew-dried her hair. We exchanged some small talk about the usual everything and nothing. When she was finished, she came into the bedroom, stood over me and asked me if I was going to take my pants off, or was she? Just like that. I was so surprised at what she'd just said and don't think I was even able to speak. But I tossed the book aside and the next thing I know, she's 'showing me the ropes.'
I think my eyes were closed for most of the time. I didn't participate because, really, I didn't know how. I don't think she cared, nor minded that I wasn't reciprocating; she kept at it until I managed a weak orgasm. When she was finished, I got dressed again and went home. I felt different. Not violated, because, well, if it was something I didn't want, wouldn't I have said something? Wouldn't I have told her 'no?' I didn't. A part of me felt more mature because now I'd been with a woman and it was an experience that I no longer had to be curious about. I think I also felt a slight bit of guilt because she WAS married and her husband wasn't 'in the know' of the new nature of our friendship.
I didn't feel guilty for very long. As time went on, I learned a lot of things about my "friend." Things that led to more and more of the subsequent "bad choices" that I made.
Not only were we fooling around on a regular/weekly basis (we took a few small road trips, we'd sneak in some activity while her son was in school and husband at work, etc), she was also known to fool around with other men behind her husband's back. She was overly friendly online and made many of her online flirtations a reality, especially if the gentleman caller of the week was "close by." I'll never forget accompanying her to meet one of them. She spent most of the one-hour trip ranting and raving about how attracted she was to him. Then when they finally met, I sat in the car and waited while she got into his back seat. No details needed there.
She also made it her personal mission to promote my sexual health - she'd attempt to set me up with men. I don't know if this is because she felt the need for me to have an all-the-time partner, just like she had her husband. I didn't object. I trusted her. I was more comfortable with women, but I was also not ready to commit to a long-term relationship with one. My family would never have understood nor approved of that. And so, I allowed her to "introduce" me to some of her men.
I dated a guy who consulted with her on a deejay/karaoke gig. This was short-lived; we just had very few common interests and he eventually moved on. She attempted to set me up with various men that she knew from servicing her house at one point or another. And I only agreed to date the carpenter because he looked like Matt Damon.
(He really did.)
But that didn't work out, either.
She sent me to meet a car salesman. I don't even remember WHY...all I remember is going into a motel room with this (older) man and waking up naked. I don't even remember his name. His face. Nothing. I could have walked past him on the street and wouldn't have recognized him. Yet, I consented to this, apparently. I'll later attribute my fogginess to likely dissociation - I certainly don't feel as if I was violated by him. But back then, I always thought and believed sexual assault to be what I'd already experienced it to be - the crying, the kicking, the screaming. Not this. This was more along the lines of my not giving a shit about myself and just doing whatever I thought would help make me normal again. Whatever she thought would help me be normal. Help me ENJOY sex.
Whenever she and I were together, she'd make small comments that, in hindsight, give me more questions rather than answers.
"You're like a robot," she would say to me, after we'd been to bed together, "You go somewhere else whenever I touch you in a certain place."
Back then, I had no idea what she was talking about. Now, I do. I was dissociating. I was 'checking out.' It was my way of blocking out whatever it was that I was SUPPOSED to be feeling. Because it wasn't right. It wasn't wrong, we were both consenting adults at this point, but there was always something there that I didn't quite understand, nor could put my finger on. Something wasn't right.
Just like it wasn't right on the night I was drunk after karaoke at the bar and I'd retired into the family room. I'd just fallen asleep when she came in, took my hand and led me into her own bedroom, where she whipped the covers off her naked husband. I didn't object, I simply obliged. I had sex with both her and her husband that night, all of it a drunken blur. I can't say I was too drunk to remember what happened. I could have stopped this if I wanted to, though. I will not convey details of the 'during,' but the 'after' left me ashamed - mostly with myself for having done what I'd done and furthermore, wondering if this woman really was my friend. Following that night, there were a couple more threesomes, both while I was lucid, each one leaving me more and more uncomfortable with myself and with them. I began to hate myself and what I was doing, I felt unclean, I felt more damaged than I'd been at the start of this "friendship."
And, so, I began to distance myself. I stopped going to the karaoke events she worked, I stopped visiting her home. I cut down on our communication, saying that school was keeping me busy.
I met the wasband around this time, too. From the moment he and I began dating, there was no more physical contact between her and I.
They eventually moved to Florida. It was a number of years after I'd married the wasband. By now, the son was a toddler. She'd send a yearly Christmas card that I'd chuck into the trash when it was time to put away the holiday decorations. Then, she found me on Facebook and both she and her husband sent me friend requests. I accepted. Don't ask me why, I think a part of me felt badly for dropping the friendship, even if deep down, I knew it was an unhealthy one. Over the years, I've flirted with the idea of deleting them both but haven't done so, yet. I don't know why. I don't understand it. I think a part of me holds onto a point in time when I trusted this woman with all of my secrets and cared about her. I guess keeping her as a Facebook friend was my way of watching from afar and was harmless - perhaps it's a good thing to kind of know what she's up to without having to spend time with her.
So, here's another thing I have trouble admitting, mostly to myself. Because from a different, outside perspective (yours perhaps?) it is far more clear.
I never classified her as an abuser, and I've always had trouble with this kind of thing. In my mind's eye, abuse is something you don't consent to. It's rape, something I've experienced, thus making it easier to recognize. It's violent. It consists of the yelling, the screaming, the hitting, the crying. It's repetitive. I could have said no to her advances/propositions, but I didn't. I allowed whatever happened, to happen. I was silent through it all. I did not cry, I did not experience any violence with her. Eventually, I began to participate, although slowly. It's just not something friends do to each other.
I know now that when someone is being abused, a fair percentage of the time, they don't even realize it. How else do you explain child abuse? Spousal abuse? A child is most likely to do whatever he/she feels will please their abuser. Only they don't understand they are being abused. A wife will move heaven and earth to appease a controlling husband and say it's because she made a vow to obey and she's afraid of what he'll do if she doesn't comply. That's abuse. Mental abuse is abuse, too. It took me years, YEARS to realize and recognize the many forms of abuse. And it's taken even longer to figure out which forms I can hashtag, 'me, too.'
I'm older now. I'm smarter. I'm not a child anymore. When she and I were friends, (again, throwing that term out there lightly) I was an adult only in years, but have come to realize that I was a child in so many ways, stuck in a child-like mentality when it came to sex and experiencing sexual things. Yes, that was because of what happened in 1996, and this wasn't her doing. However, she knew my reasons for becoming 'a robot' and she took advantage of that. She hurt me without leaving visible bruises and scars, and with each passing encounter, she further battered my self-respect until, finally, I had none left.
When I met the wasband, I was a broken down, submissive product of this relationship. It's hard to call it a friendship now; to refer to it as an 'unhealthy relationship' seems more appropriate. It makes more sense now that I think about it and am writing about it - why I jumped from one poor relationship into another. The light bulb, that's been flickering for many years, is now brightly lit.
So, earlier this evening, seeing her picture scroll by on my newsfeed, I couldn't help but stare at the screen in disgust. It became so much more clear. She's an abuser. Whether she realizes this or she doesn't, I can safely say she is an abuser. And on top of that, this woman is now a grandparent.
I sure hope people change. I know I did. I suppose meeting her and being "friendly" with her for about two years shouldn't be a total regret, either - she taught me a lot, even though some of these lessons took years to be fully learned. And I think she continues to teach me, even if she raises question after question on nights like this one. I answer them all, even if just to myself. And then, I ask them again, again, and again.
On that note, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, folks. What happened, here? And how or why was I so blind to it back then? Or was I just stupid? (I mean, yeah, I know I made plenty of stupid choices!) How does someone just do that to someone else?
In closing, I also want to mention to you all that I've forgiven her as well as myself. That was something I needed to do in order to move on, bury the bad relationships as far away from me as possible, and proceed onto a happier, healthier union, such as the one I share with J. I think keeping her on as a Facebook friend is part of this forgiveness/evolution. No, I will never look back at those times and smile; but I'll at least say I learned a lot from those experiences and they're certainly not things easily explained.
Okay, so...tomorrow's part two will consist of either happy me (numbers down) or pissed-off me (numbers up). It won't be as long as tonight's entry, I promise.
For now, good night. My to you all.