The Human Stain

The title is lifted from a Philip Roth novel about a writer who is accused of making an unfortunate racial slur. It’s also a perfect description of the way I feel about Donald Trump, a man who represents every ugly stereotype he hurls at others.  A man who heaps disdain, racial slurs and insults on every ethnic group in our country, then turns around and calls his opponent a racist.  A man who lies every time he opens his mouth, uses deception in all of his dealings, and tricks his supporters into thinking he’s someone he’s not – yet describes all of his opponents as lying, deceitful and weak people.  He’s a master of projection and trickery and has convinced a lot of people into believing that he means what he says.  This man cannot be our next President.  I have never felt this way about a Republican candidate for President – and I’ve been a political junkie since I was 10 and had pictures of Bobby Kennedy hanging up in my bedroom alongside Tiger Beat photos of Bobby Sherman.  I was dismayed when Nixon was elected (twice), disappointed when Reagan was elected (twice) and incense when Bush was elected (twice).  But there is no comparison to the way I feel about Trump.

It is unbelievable to me how low we have sunk as a nation.  The news media treats us like infants who can only comprehend sound bites and only if they’re wrapped up as entertainment.  The thoughtful, insightful and well researched article published by Newsweek (this week) regarding Trump’s tangled, international web of business dealings was ignored – even though it raises real, legitimate questions about his ability to operate with world leaders in an unbiased way.  Trump’s answer to how he would avoid a conflict of interest was to state that he would put his business into a blind trust run by his children.  This is not the definition of a blind trust but he probably thinks Americans are too stupid to know that.  I shudder to think that he’s not aware of what a blind trust is, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Instead of the media talking about this real, potential conflict of interest, we are bombarded with “stories” about Trump’s appearance on Dr. Oz (who is referred to as a quack by his peers at Columbia University), Hillary’s pneumonia, Jimmy Fallon messing up Donald’s hair on live TV, whether Hillary smiles enough, or any number of dumbed down reports the media thinks we can stay tuned for.

I blame the Kardashians for this mess…

When Trump lies, it’s never called a lie. It’s called “stretching the truth” or a “misstatement”.  This man, who lies about everything, is never, ever called out on it.  You will never see the words “he lied” in the New York Times or the Washington Post or on ABC/NBC/CBS.  Why are they afraid to say that about the man who lies every day?

I don’t (can’t) believe this man will actually be elected President of the United States. How could such a thing even be possible?  All of the work done over the past 50 years in the areas of civil rights, abortion rights, women’s rights – all of the hard-fought work we ALL have done – will be hobbled.  I really believe this.   I often feel as if I need to reassure my children that this isn’t the way things are supposed to work and have never worked in the past.  That we used to have civil discourse on things we don’t agree on. That we used to at least present a semblance of honesty in our Presidential campaigns. That we have never had a Human Stain for a candidate before.

It’s crazy out there, my friends. Thanks for listening.


if it ain’t broke…(or how I learned to say no to the medical establishment)

I had a recent experience with the medical community, and not a very good one I might add.  While not necessarily blaming my grandson for my injury, let me just say that I was holding him when the freakish incident involving my knee occurred.   Now, I’ve never known anyone who’s injured their knee while in the act of simply straightening it, but I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly what happened to me.   “Crunch, pop, crunch” were the sounds emanating from said knee while I was having an otherwise pleasant conversation with my new neighbor and showing off my grandson – AKA the most beautiful child ever born.  “Oh God” I said, feeling immediate pain and almost falling down.  “Are you OK?” new neighbor asked.  “Great!” I said, barely able to maintain a serene façade.  God, I hate showing weakness and wasn’t about to start, even though the pain was excruciatingly intense. 

 My daughter-in-law, who witnessed the whole thing, knows me well and realized immediately that something had just gone terribly wrong.  “Here let me take the baby – he needs to be fed” she said, deftly stepping in and relieving me of the little guy.  New neighbor and I exchanged goodbyes and I turned to high-tail it back into the house.  “Shit. Can’t walk” I squeaked, as my son and daughter-in-law helped me hop into the house.  In the meantime, my accounting brain was quickly tallying up the expense of an ER visit and comparing the sum against my bank account. 

It didn’t look great but then again, I couldn’t walk.

While lying on the couch, I debated the pros and cons of being seen.  It was the weekend and I really didn’t think the local CVS clinic would be able to accommodate this kind of injury.  The ER would probably prescribe some kind of narcotic relief, which in my opinion goes to the top of the ‘pro’ column.   Still, there was the expense.  On the other hand, I really couldn’t walk. 

 I opted for the ER. 

 Now it just so happened that my 75 year old mother had just arrived at the house.  We’d planned on catching “The Help” at the local movie theater, which I’d been trying to see for a couple of weeks.  A friend and I had planned on going the prior Sunday, but when we met at the theater, she sheepishly told me she’d just seen it the day before with her sisters and would I mind seeing something else?  So we saw One Day, which I frankly thought was crappy romance schlock.  Not my cup of tea.  Not that I was real keen on seeing The Help, either, but I’d read the book and thought it was pretty good and all the reviews of the movie version were good too.  Plus I like that feisty little Sissy Spacek.   I’ll bet she’s a real fun grandma like me, assuming that she IS a grandma, but we’re about the same age so she probably is.  So mom and I made a date to see The Help for that fateful following Sunday.  On Saturday the sheepishly informed me that she’d ALSO seen the movie with a friend the previous day but really wanted to see it again and now that both people had gone behind my proverbial back and saw it with other people,  it was my personal mission to SEE THAT MOVIE.

 Of course it was not to be.  Instead, we spent a fun-filled 3 hours at the local ER.   In triage, the nurse asked the pertinent questions:  Current medications, other medical conditions, previous surgeries, recreational drug use, the usual …    I almost laughed when the recreational drug use question was asked, but thought better of it.  Instead, I shot back my wittiest answer with lightning speed: “Uh, not since the late 70’s”.   The nurse laughed andI figured she really didn’t hear that kind of answer except from her Most Fun Patients (like me).

 Mom and I were finally ushered into “the inner sanctum” where the fortunate ER visitors are finally allowed to rest their weary heads, and into our own little cubicle where we settled down for the duration.  The fact that the nurse promptly brought me a couple of Vicodin was much appreciated, not only for the obvious pain relief effect, but for its magical power to make time stand still.     Fast forward 2 hours and several X-Rays later when Dr. Whatshisname (who I mentally renamed Baby Doc) arrived to say I really needed to see an Orthopedist because the X-Rays told them nothing and I probably would have to have an MRI and possibly surgery.  Again my lightning quick brain tallied up dollars and cents and came up with a flashing neon sign that read “WAY TOO MUCH MONEY”.   “And what happens if I don’t do any of that?” I asked.  Baby Doc shook his head sadly at my obvious ignorance of his superior genius brain power and assured me that I would most certainly re-injure my knee and would have to do it anyway.  I left the hospital decked out in a knee immobilizer, a pair of crutches (which, as of this writing have never been used) a script for Vicodin and no intention of calling an orthopedist for follow-up.   I figured out how to walk on my own (right leg stiff, no bending) and spent the rest of the day blissfully zoned out.

 Best of intentions and all, my knee did not heal in the rapid-fire way I thought it would.  At least not at first.  By Day 4 and after a promise to my best friend to make the appointment, my knee was still really, really painful and I was still walking stiff-legged, so I made the call.  The friendly lady on the phone scheduled me to be seen 4 days later by Dr. George – a nice, unassuming name.  One that sounded friendly and old-timey-doctorish to me.     Little did I know that Dr. George would turn out to be just a cog in the ever-grinding machine that turns bad knees and torn rotator cuffs into huge sums of revenue.  Revenue made on the backs of the unassuming ER patients who’ve had slight orthopedic mishaps just like myself.  Dr. George Friendly indeed…

 Of course, just like when you take your car to the mechanic and it flat REFUSES to misbehave, the day dawned practically pain-free.  “Great” I muttered to myself while twisting my knee around to increase the source of the pain, thus legitimizing my appointment.  Dammit, now when I wanted and NEEDED the knee to hurt, it actually felt better than ever.    I twisted my knee a few more times, trying to turn on the pain and made a mental note to park in the back row of the clinic’s parking lot, hoping the walk would screw my knee up at least a little bit. 

 Of course it didn’t, but as I entered the Dr’s office,  I had enough of a residual hobble to make things look good.  Before I even saw the doctor though, they needed X-Rays.  Look, this clinic is right NEXT to the hospital and they even said they had access to my previous ER films, but I guess somebody needed a new motor for their boat or something because there I was, posing for more lovely pictures of my 54-year old knees for their viewing pleasure.  Really, I’d assumed they’d skip that and go for the more costly MRI, but it turns out that there’s a step-by-step procedure for stripping cash from a patient and the first step is more X-rays. 

(Enter Dr. George)

 Not the doctor I anticipated.  In fact, Dr. George was the opposite of my mental picture of a grandfatherly man who would listen to me thoughtfully and sympathetically and inquire about my pain level and generally fawn over me and make me feel special.  Not Dr. George.  Dr. George first told me that I had pretty good knees for a 54-year old women (“hardly any arthritis – not what we usually see), but that would be the last compliment he would pay me.  He then wanted to look at my knee, and tried to pull up my capri pants, which he couldn’t do because they wouldn’t go over my knee.  Sighing, he went to a cabinet and pulled out a pair of paper shorts – “here, put these on so I can look at your knee” he said, handing me a piece of clothing that I immediately knew I could not put on.  Before leaving the room so I could change, he added, “you can even take them home with you!” like he was bestowing a gift on me that I would treasure for the rest of my life.   I tried, folks, really I did.  But here’s the deal:  I have a (relatively) small waist and large hips and this makes articles of clothing like pants and shorts troublesome at best for me.  I can literally spend hours trying on dozens of pants and shorts before settling on one or two that actually fit me.  So you can imagine how trying to pull on a pair of paper shorts that look like they’ve been designed for a teenage boy, went for me.  I gave it my best effort but things started looking grim just past my knees .  “Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself.  “Keep your fucking shorts for some pre-pubescent with no hips” I muttered, throwing the shorts back in the cabinet and pulling out a perfectly-suited hospital gown.    

 I think Dr. George was a little disappointed that I’d eschewed his “gift” and it was my suspicion that he was going to hold that against me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m right about that, since he spent some time palpating my knee on the wrong side and asking “Does that hurt?” No,” I said, “my knee hurts over on the other side and the pain is really deep and I can’t even palpate it myself.”

  “Oh” he said.  “You need an MRI.” 

And with that, he walked out the door and on to what I can only imagine was a much more interesting patient.  Probably someone who would really appreciate a pair of paper shorts as their parting gift.

 So I paid my bill, and walked out the door to await a call from the office regarding where and when the blessed MRI event would take place.

 And here I sit, two doctors, several sets of X-rays and hundreds of dollars later, with no treatment, no diagnosis, and wondering if I’ll even bother with the rest of this medical establishment freakshow.  I suspect there’s nothing terribly wrong with my knee that time won’t heal anyway and that the dire warning from the ER doctor that not following through will mean certain re-injury probably won’t happen in the near future.  Besides, I could die before it happens again anyway.    At least there’s that.      I’m definitely cancelling that MRI appointment.  I’m pretty sure of that.

 So Dr. George, I hope you won’t notice that I never came back to visit you.  I hope you gave your boy shorts to some acne-faced teenage boy or a supermodel with no hips – someone who can actually wear them proudly.  I hope you got a new motor for that boat of yours with my financial contribution to your fine establishment.  Most of all, I hope you develop a personality – preferably something closer to what I imagined yours would be.  That would be nice.

the grandma name

As soon as my daughter-in-law told me she was pregnant I got on the phone to my best friend in Texas. “I’m going to be a Grandma!” I told her, barely believing it myself. When you reach a certain age – or more importantly, when your only child does – thoughts turn to the next logical phase in your life: Being a grandparent. This thought had been churning around in my middle-aged brain for about a year when the blessed event finally happened. “Oh my God!” my best friend said.

An excited exchange of the usual then ensued: “When is she due? How is she feeling? What’s your grandma name going to be?”

 “My what?”

 “Your grandma name. You know, what he or she is going to call you. Like, are you going to be Grandma or Nana or what?”

In the next few days I got asked that question. A LOT. Seems that everyone has a pretty good idea what they want to be called. I actually already knew what I didn’t want to be called because that’s just something you know. Like knowing you don’t want your kid to be named Horace or Grizelda. Certain names just don’t ring the friendly bell. For instance, I know I didn’t want to be called MeMaw, which brings to mind the image of a really OLD grandma with a cane and a Dowager’s hump and a bowl of ribbon candy on the sideboard that’s been there so long it’s formed some kind of ribbon candy blob in the bowl, making it impossible to separate out one piece – if ribbon candy’s something you actually like to eat. Which most people don’t. I also didn’t want some kind of new trendy name like G-mom which sounds more like a suburban female superhero’s name. I am definitely NOT a superhero and besides, spandex tends to accentuate my hips. Nobody wants to see that. .

So I did what any post-modern person would do; I Googled the words “grandma name”. Point 23 seconds gave me 66 million results. REALLY? Seems that everyone in the known universe is now choosing their own special grandparent name, and really when you think about it, this is the only time in your life when you get to choose a name. And foisting it off on an unsuspecting grandchild is really the key to making that name stick.

At least that was my plan.

Earlier, I mentioned my best friend in Texas. Her mom’s grandma name, which was just a continuation of her adult nickname, was Chief and Jean was the personification of the word. When I was 19 years old, she the first real professional woman I’d ever met. Smart, single and successful, she was my role model. All of her children called her Chief because she was the one who could fix anything or solve any problem. I thought about that name for myself, but decided it would be inappropriate. Her nickname died with her and besides, I wanted something to fit my smarmy personality. For awhile, I told people I wanted to be called “The Situation” – after that guy in Jersey Shore who actually named his abdominal area. Or “Winning”, because that was around the time Charlie Sheen was going through his spectacular and very public rant-fest. This was good for a few laughs but of course I wasn’t really seriously considering those names. Well, maybe a little bit. I mean, The Situation has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? But then I imagined all the ways a toddler could slaughter a name like that and really, I’d want the kid to say it properly -not all diced up into unintelligible syllables, one of which sounds like a curse word that just doesn’t belong coming out of an 18-month old’s mouth.

When my brother was young he had a terrible stammer. I mean it was BAD – like speech therapy kind of bad. Poor kid wanted to talk, but the words just didn’t come out like everyone else’s. Saying Grandma or Grandpa…well, that was just a set-up for verbal disaster for him. “G-g-g-aaaaar” he’d say. Whether it was our grandfather or grandmother he was trying to address, it came out “Ggggaaaaar” every time. My brother called all four of our grandparents “Gar” until the speech therapy kicked in.

God, I hoped I wouldn’t end up with a name like Gar for my grandma name.

The Royal Wedding took place in April and as I was scarfing down a Hot Pocket at my desk, I watched the online feed. While wiping a piece of super-heated cheese off my face (they don’t call ’em Hot Pockets for nothing), I stared, transfixed, at the image of Pippa Middleton’s backside in the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen. Being a short, stocky woman myself, Pippa had the kind of figure I spend nights praying to come back in another life with: Tall, long slender legs, fabulous hair. Yup, that Pippa had it goin’ on, alright. And if I couldn’t pull off that look without leg-lengthening surgery and full-body lipo, I realized that she had something I could have – the name. My Grandma name, I decided, was going to be Pippa.

I gave it my best shot. Made a formal declaration and everything. “My Grandma name will be Pippa” I told everyone. My best friend, being the true-blue-twin-sister-of-another-mother kind of best friend, actually called me that. “How’s Pippa?” she’d ask when I would call during that last, long gestational month of my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. “No baby for Pippa yet” I’d answer, my feet cooling in 2 inches of tepid water in what became known this summer as The Sled Pool. It was July, it was scorching hot and I liked to talk on the phone outside. Not having a real pool, I drug my son’s old plastic sled out of the shed and filled it up with water. The dog and I would fight for possession of the Sled Pool and he would usually win – stretching out his full length to take advantage of every available square inch of water-filled space. When he was sufficiently cooled to his satisfaction (or a clueless squirrel breached the backyard border which the dog monitored with the diligence of a newly minted Al-Qaeda recruit), he’d scamper off, leaving me with a tepid, somewhat muddy soup mixture. Waiting for a baby to come in the summertime is hot, tedious business and Pippa was READY to hold that baby.

And so it goes. My grandson was born and like every grandparent, I pronounced him the most beautiful baby ever born. And suddenly, just like that, the importance of my grandma name vanished. Poof. People asked me “how’s grandma?” not “how’s Pippa?” I thought that saying the name would make it so. I said I was going to be Pippa and assumed everyone would just call me that because I SAID SO. It was a good way to pass the time this summer, though. I got some laughs and discovered a whole grandparent name subculture.

So I’m Grandma. For now. And that’s OK with me. My grandson hasn’t started talking yet, so maybe there’s still a chance for “Pippa” to rise from the ashes; only time will tell – but no matter what he calls me, even if it’s Ggggaaaar, or even if it’s (do I dare say it?) MeMaw, it will sound like music to my ears.

the return of observant

I’m back…..and I’m a grandma.    Yeah, and I’m rockin’ that shit, too.

separate ways

Disclaimer:  Yeah, it’s been a few months since I’ve posted so my Ticonderoga’s a little rusty – but here goes:

Let me start out by wishing Mr. Ex-Boyfriend a hale and hearty CONGRATULATIONS! on his recent nuptials.  I’m happy report that I was drinking beer, noshing on (among other things) a deconstructed BLT and ceviche in  pureed avocado and making friends with a KC Roller Derby chick and a couple from Boston whilst he was saying “I Do” to the new Mrs. Ex.  It does my heart good to know that it only took him 18 months to locate, woo, propose to and marry the (new) woman of his dreams.   Yeah. This is what I get for violating the Fist Commandment of Facebook: 

Thou shalt not lurk on thy Ex’s Facebook page,
no matter how utterly public his site is

Lest you think I’m bitter, let me assure you I’m not.  I’m in a good relationship with Mr. 2.0 and I’m damn sure he’s not cheating on me.  We like the same things, listen to the same music and have more things in common than Mr. Ex and I ever did.  It’s just that I’m competitive and have this freaky little quirk where I want to excel at everything.    Apparently I didn’t shine too brightly with Mr. Ex or he wouldn’t have seen fit to be a serial philanderer. 

Yeah I know.  I’ve heard it over and over:  “It wasn’t about you.  It was about his weakness (or his addiction, his lack of self-control, his inability to express negative emotions)”   Blah, blah, blah.  When it happens to you, it’s personal, baby.

He still sends me a card for my birthday, you know.  This year, instead of immediately throwing it into the trash with the onion skins and potato peels and used Oil of Olay face Cloths, I actually read it – a semi-religious tome to a special person on their special day!  His handwritten message indicated that he still thinks I’m special.  

Damn right I’m special. 

So now I have Mr. 2.0.  He doesn’t cheat on me or keep things from me or bury his feelings under a Happy Face veneer of denial.  We laugh and cry and tell each other the hard truths about ourselves.  No, I won’t marry Mr. 2.0 either – just like I wouldn’t marry Mr. Ex.  My marrying days are over and apparently it’s something I’m not very good at.  And if I can’t excel at it…  well, you know the rest.   

So off we go, into the sunset.  Mr. and Mrs Ex riding one way, and myself and Mr. 2.0 heading somewhere completely different. 

You know, I think we’re both going to be very, very happy.

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Pretty Girls

She’s the kind of woman that has the characteristics I covet:  Bouncy personality, great people skills, and most importantly – normally proportioned legs that actually fit into a pair of knee-high boots.   I imagine she never has fat days, and I’d bet my 401(k) pittance that she’s never had a fat month or (most definitely) a fat year.  She’s the kind of woman who, upon meeting her, makes me feel like I’m riding one of those 200mph Japanese bullet trains back in time: With a wheeze of the hydraulic brakes, I’m dumped off in the year 1972, smack in the middle of my Sophomore year.  I look down and note that I’m also fully outfitted in my old wardrobe of mismatched insecurities, body image issues and terminal shyness.   Walking to school each morning, I’m often passed by cars of Pretty Girls who are being driven to school by their cool boyfriends.  With my books clasped to my chest, I dip my head down so as not to be recognized.  It will be years before I realize that instead of sticking out like the sore thumb of a loser I was, my walks of shame to and from school probably never even registered in their pretty brains.

  At school, I trudge from locker to class until the dreaded noon hour.  High school lunch period is a miniature recreation of India’s caste system and its unwritten rules dictate which table I’m allowed to sit at.   We’re not exactly untouchables, but we’re definitely not A-list Pretty Girls either.  What do they find to talk about that makes them throw their pretty heads back, laughter trilling from their perfectly lipsticked mouths?   These girls are a mystery and we accept the cultural hegemony that they exert over us – not yet aware that come Graduation Day (or as I like to refer to it: The Great Equalizer), their power over us will disappear – as if by magic – and all that’ll be left is a faint scar that will ache only when a set of specific circumstances align themselves perfectly upon our grown-up psyches. 

 After high school, I teach myself how not to be shy, and over these past few decades I gained confidence and what I like to think of as a healthy level of self-esteem.   But once in awhile a Pretty Girl will cause that faint scar to ache and I come face-to-face with my much-younger, shy awkward self.  This happened to me just recently as a matter of fact.  I meet her and Wham! I immediately felt years of therapy and hours of reciting affirmations while sitting at my dressing table (trying not to obsessively stare at my pooch of belly fat because that’s really not going to help me “erase my negative self script”) circling the drainpipe of my existence.  It’s such an uncomfortable thing, this feeling of being thrown back in time.  So, to ward off those icky knee-jerk past-life forays to Insecure Adolescent World, I draw myself up to my full sixty-inch height (enhanced, of course, with 2-inch heels – don’t leave home without them!), smile sincerely, hold out my hand and greet her like she’s a long-lost, A-list lunch table soul sister.  I telepathically channel “See?  I’m just like you!” via my confident handshake and wonder if she buys my ruse. 

  I look at this perky woman and it’s sooo obvious she never had to sit at the Loser Table during lunch or trudge to school during a fall windstorm – and then have to spend most of 1st period trying to fix her hair in the girl’s bathroom with a cheesy pocket comb.   No, this girl obviously had all the perks:  A boyfriend with a car, cool friends, and a full complement of Yardley Slicker lipgloss.  I wonder what it’s like for her to wake up in the morning, throw on something cute and walk around in the world as if she owns it.  .   I, myself, will never be able to leave the house without donning several outfits in order to find the perfect combination that won’t make me look too fat or too short.

Girl-Before-a-Mirror-1932-Posters I guess some of us were just born to sit at the popular table, while some of us will never be able to wear knee-high boots.  The real trick is not to board that bullet train to the past if we can help it.  So once again, I park myself in front of the dressing table mirror and recite the following over and over:  “Hello, so nice to meet you.  I’m just like you!”  Eventually, the Pretty Girl who lives inside of me emerges. 

 And then she smiles.

the color of waiting

waitingThe color of waiting is white.  It shows no pity to those who succumb and it wraps itself around you saying:  “Now you are mine for awhile.”  It fills your head with its dense cotton batting and settles in your abdomen where its presence makes itself known with an ever-growing sense of anxiety. 

Waiting is a white cotton sheet tacked over the window, sequestering you in your home and holding you hostage to its demands.  It sits, wedged next to you in your chair, radiating its alabaster coldness while erasing the words in your book.  It whispers, “You are not important” and makes you forget your name.   White noise clogs your ears and makes time stand still.   Minutes will seem like hours and days will feel like centuries.  It etches wrinkles in your face and changes the part in your hair.   It is the grayness of nothingness and of everything.

The color of waiting is a ghostly white specter floating above your head and through your body.   Its tendrils weave a web across your eyes until you can only focus inward, where it sits patiently, always present, always reminding you of who’s really in charge.   It creeps into your bed at night and startles you awake – an icy cold finger rearranging a jumbled dreamscape into its own name.   Its white-hot ember will light up the blackness and you will not sleep again tonight. 

Instead, you will wait.

You will wait and you will think only of waiting and you won’t stop, won’t stop, won’t stop, while your eyes film over with milky white cataracts and your nose fills with the acrid smell of self-loathing and your mouth tastes only regret.  

“You will wait now” it whispers, its departure time unknown.

to disregard thee

“You have 1 friend request” my Facebook account informed me today. Whenever I see someone’s requesting me as a friend, my first reaction is always one of bewilderment.   I mean, my circle of friends is purposely small, so the people I consider my real friends have long been in on my Facebook page.   These days, casual acquaintances and relatives who’ve come to Facebook at the urging of their children are my usual requests, so I assumed this morning’s friend request was one of those types.  Instead, I found myself face to face with a person from my long-ago past who, to this day, still strikes invokes feelings of fear and loathing in every fiber of my being.

Back in 1975 -, long before the terms ‘domestic violence’ and ‘post-traumatic stress syndrome’ became part of my lexicon; long before the days where teen dating violence was discussed in high school; long before the establishment of battered women’s shelters and domestic abuse hotlines – I was trapped in a secret web of violence with my battering boyfriend.  Looking back at that time in my life, and armed with the psychological portrait of a batterer I’ve now practically memorized, I’m able to see the warning signs of impending abuse long before the first slap was ever administered: Insults, name-calling, accusations, isolation, intimidation, blaming, withholding, coercion.  They were all present and accounted for.

“I want to sit in that chair. Get up and find another place to sit” he demanded.  Up to that point, I’d been enjoying the evening talking and joking with him and his sister, and feeling a little cocky I laughingly said  “No.” When he walked over, physically removed me from the chair, pinned me to the ground and started slapping me around, my mind rebelled.  Who would do this?  What had I done wrong?  Doesn’t he love me?  Why isn’t his sister stepping in a stop him?  What can I do to make him stop?  His sheer physical strength was too much for my 108 pounds and the best I could do was turn my head so he wouldn’t injure my face.

Afterward, there were the tears and the apologies and his ever-so-logical explanation that it was my fault.  If I’d only obeyed him, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad.  If I’d just done what he told me to do in the first place, he wouldn’t have had to drag me from the chair. “See how simple it all is?” he seemed to be saying.  And it did seem simple enough because he’d already made apparent my inability to do the right thing  just a few weeks prior…

He’d had some friends over for a jam session.  I’d recently become enamored the use of the recorder on Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and had just purchased a cheap recorder to practice on.  While my boyfriend and his buddies were in the next room playing Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple songs, I stayed in the front room, trying to teach myself how to play along to Today and White Rabbit.  Over and over, moving the needle back to the beginning of selected parts, I absorbed myself in memorizing the notes of these haunting melodies.  Successful, I felt proud and excited to have discovered a new way to make music.

“You’re nothing but a whore” he told me after they’d left.  
“What?”  I thought, my mind racing.  I wasn’t even in the same room with them. What was he talking about?
“I saw the way you looked at them, the way you had your mouth around your instrument!” he sputtered.
“But I didn’t look at them in that way” I insisted. “I didn’t”
“You did, you filthy bitch. You’re nothing but a fucking whore the way you wrapped your mouth around that – that THING!” he screamed.  I cowered as he stood over me hurling accusations and describing my “behavior” in increasingly hateful and derogatory terms.   According to him, playing my recorder in front of other men was a ‘signal’ that I wanted to give them all blowjobs.

I don’t remember how it ended. I only remember feeling ashamed and guilty for something I hadn’t done.  I put away my instrument and didn’t play it again for another 10 years.  It reminded me of what happened and the way he made me feel so dirty and confused.  And alone.

The last time I saw him, he accused me of sleeping with other men.  By that time we were married.  The beating was severe.  Eye blacked, face swollen, and (finally) afraid for my safety, I found a way out of my marriage, out of that relationship and him out of my life for good. 

Eighteen years later and still reeling from the after-effects of another disastrous marriage, I found myself alone in my house, sitting on the couch watching the 10pm news.  And there he was – HIM.  He was the subject of a news story.  His teenage son had been beaten up at school and the dad – HIM – was being interviewed for his reaction. I drew my knees to my chest and pushed my back into the soft cushion of the couch.  He was in my house, my home, my safe place.  I felt invaded, violated, discovered, and even though I knew he wasn’t really in my house, my gut reaction was to hide, to make myself as small as possible, to disappear into the furniture.  My shame about the relationship I had with my abuser has stayed with me all these years.  I married him knowing he was broken and fatally flawedm yet I believed I could learn to act better, to be perfect and to not make him mad anymore. Not long after my divorce, the subject of domestic violence became part of the national dialogue and I could identify every single warning sign from the list I obtained. He followed all the patterns of an abuser.  I cannot honestly say, that if I’d had that information at the time, it would have helped.   I, too, was broken.  Years later, I went into therapy and learned to identify and claim my own rights to happiness and to decent, respectful treatment.  I discovered my own personal reasons for tolerating certain behaviors and made a paradigm shift in the way I conducted relationships.  I like to think I’ve made progress but still, I rarely talk about my experience and almost never mention being briefly married to an abuser when I was 18.  There is so much shame.

Over the years, he’s gone by many pseudonyms – He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned, The Asshole, and my current favorite – The Entity. I cannot bring myself to even say his name because that word in my mouth feels and tastes like evil.

I signed up for Facebook using the caution I’ve learned over the years to practice.  I was careful to apply all the privacy settings – to block my picture and mask my personal information – so imagine my horror when I opened a friend request today and found his unmistakable name and his aging face with the same sinister smile staring right at me.

“___________ would like to add you as a friend”    Confirm   or    Ignore.

Ignore seemed too soft, but is my only option and I can’t click it fast enough. I wish for a button that says “Not No, but Hell No” or, better yet, one that automatically sends the inviter a restraining order after you click a button that reads “Go Fuck Yourself”. Fortunately Facebook gives me an option to block the offending person, which I also hastened to do.

Friend:  It’s something we never were and the sheer gall of his request after all these years baffles me.
Ignore. It seems too polite a word for the way I feel about that person – yet it’s exactly the response that’s called for. The definition of the word means simply ‘disregard.’

I disregard you, He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned.
I disregard you, asshole.
I disregard you, Entity.

I disregard you, ________.

Ask Aunt Pittypat

Aunt Pittypat

After fleeing her hometown of Atlanta during General Sherman’s siege, Aunt Pittypat lived out her remaining years in a small town in Georgia.  Now, through the miracle of cloning, Aunt Pitty has been brought back to life, where she is able to fulfill her greatest dream – to advise Southern women in proper behavior.  Unfortunately though, 150 years have passed…

Q:  My brother has recently gone to jail for embezzling money from his employer.  What should I say to people when they ask what he’s been doing lately? 

A:  Well, dahlin’, a Southern girl never airs her family’s dirty laundry in public.   It’s best just to say that he’s gone away to a sanatorium to “rest” for a spell.  A true Southerner understands crazy a lot better than they understand dishonesty or ungentlemanly behavior

Q:  My boyfriend keeps asking me to kiss his sausage but I say that’s gross!  He says he’ll stop being my boyfriend if I don’t do it.  What should I do????

A:  This is quite a perplexin’ question, my dear and I’m not sure where to start!  To be very clear:  A lady does not – under any circumstances – kiss food, unless she wants to end up in the sanitorium with her brother.   For your gentleman friend to request such a thing makes him quite suspect indeed!  Is he, by chance, a Yankee?  They do some rather odd things up there.

Q:  I want to pierce my nipples but my mom says I can’t until I’m 18!  This is so unfair!  Aunt Pitty, what do YOU think?

A:  Oh my!  Peter, my smelling salts!  (Aunt Pitty has fallen into a dead faint.  After a brief interlude, she revives).  Well, let me say your question has left me quite speechless!  Have you been dipping into the laudanum young lady???  Your bosom is a sacred thing, fit for suclking babies but not, I repeat, not for piercing holes into.  Goodness, such a thing could not possibly be comfortable – or becoming.  I fear this practice could do irreparable harm, not to mention drastically impair your chances for marriage to a suitable gentleman.   And how on earth do you expect to cinch your corset properly? 

Q:  I’m a 22 year old woman .  My live-in boyfriend of 2 years wants to get married but I seriously don’t know if I ever want to marry.  What should I do?

A:  You are practically a spinster already, my dear!  If you wait much longer, your marriage prospects will wither and die – just like an unwatered camilia- and this would be a tragedy.  And why, if I may ask, does your beau live in the same house with you?  Is it because his estate was burned down by the Yankees?  Or is he a visiting cousin from afar – preferably a civilized place like Savannah or Charleston?  If he is gainfully employed and a gentleman, there is no reason to tarry.  Please make it a priority to engage the services of your family minister so you can be properly married, and not end up a burden to your poor family.

Q:  When my husband and I are having sex, he wants me to talk dirty to him.  I don’t feel comfortable doing this, but he says he’s going to lose interest in me if I don’t start.  What should I do?

A:  Well, a lady should never engage in gutter talk, nor should it ever be requested of her;  it’s just not done, my dear.  Try telling him what a handsome man he is and how much you admire his intelligence and superior business skills.  If this tactic does not work, try batting your eyelashes and saying “Darlin’ your lovemaking leaves me absolutely speechless.”  If he’s a true gentleman, this should surely be enough for him to consider you the rare flower that you most certainly are. 

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