This is a letter to my soon to be ex-husband. Maybe to all the men who have become categorized as alphabetical representations of people and lost their names or titles once held. Mostly however, this is for him.
When I was young I looked into peoples windows and watched their normal lives from a far. My adolescence was a struggle-adults were not trustworthy; I hoped for something better. I thought that families were pictures on the wall, wreaths on doors, welcome mats and pets in the window smiling out. I thought that if those measurable and attainable things could be seen through my windows then I would surely be content.
As I grew up and made some friends I learned that most houses had some shit inside that you couldn’t see from the street. The owners kept the ugly in the rear facing rooms, or basement but it was there-its always there. Abusive dads, drunk moms, mean brothers, addicted sisters, biting dogs that no one trained or pays attention to. They are all there and waiting for naive preteens to come over for dinner or a sleep over with their friend and notice, hear it or get bit.
You X, especially know all too well that as a young adult I had not stopped comparing myself to others or coveting what they had. Wise to and offended by the white standard of beauty-I should have thought more critically about how that very model applies in other situations. The Hallmark standard of love. Two shiny faces, a sparkling diamond ring, a house, pets and a kid. If I could check those things off then I would really be safe. I spent years offering my vagina to men who weren’t giving nearly as much back in a waify attempt to fit some model and then I found you. We fought like hell but you stuck around, you were not a cheater and I didn’t think you would leave. You photographed well.
I rushed a wedding, we couldn’t afford it and it wasn’t the event we really wanted but I had to check that shit off and the pictures turned out great: 1 down. We had too many animals. I love our dogs but we stretched ourselves too thin, over committed to medical expenses and food we truly couldn’t afford. Obligated time you didn’t have. They didn’t go for as many walks as big dogs should, they could have learned more tricks but man they were cute piled up on the couch and we sure looked happy if you peeked in the window (until they noticed and the bark alarms went off). We didn’t quite make it to kid. I guess I could have arranged that, skipped a pill, told a lie. I am not that girl-you think a lot (should I say little) of me, but still I am not that girl. Instead I shouldered the emotional abuse, the accusations and the labels. Years of ‘you wouldn’t be a good parent’, ‘you would hurt your child like your mom hurt you’, ‘you are a narcissist, a manipulator, an abuser, bi-polar, bpd…’. Never did you hear that you would not be a good father because of ADD, that you would leave a child in a diaper past when you smelled it because you are lazy, that you would be erratic and judgmental and egotistical just like your father, dismissive and cold like your mother. Never were you belittled, demeaned and emotionally wrecked by someone else’s personal fears or insecurities. Those things I worried about, those things I said to friends.
What didn’t photograph well was the psychological manipulation. All humans transgress against other humans, the kind ones apologize, recognize and do not repeat the transgression. I recognized my offences early on and was honest about them. I sought clinical and personal intervention and grew tremendously. I never repeated those mistakes, I did not engage in violence. In most arguments you referred to me as an abuser, without empathy, a psychopath. You never allowed me to live without the shadow of what had happened almost a decade earlier and had never been repeated. You created a sense that I would always be wrong, always be sick, always be the aggressor. Even now, after 7 years of marriage, 10 years of a relationship the instances that you name as to why you walked away, the things you say I did are 8 years old and not once repeated. The hole in our bedroom door though… who made that?
What is my point? Why is this public?
This is what it looks like to find your feet after years on your knees. This is what is sounds like when I stop whispering decide to shout it out. When I confront that you were an image in a photograph, a Christmas tree in a window-you were an ideal but not truth and certainly not the best I could do.