Recently, I was bouncing around Facebook when I came across the ex-wife of my best friend. During their marriage, she cheated on him, stole money, bought heroin from drug dealers on spec that then came looking to collect from him, caused their house to be foreclosed on (because she used the house money on drugs) and then strung him along so he would pay for things before ultimately leaving him because he just “wasn’t good enough for her,” all before she landed in jail for grand theft. That was less than 5 years ago. Today, she’s married to a rich guy, and they were enjoying their private cruise in Florida, or so their Facebook feed where she kept showing off her huge ring seemed to suggest. Meanwhile, my friend continues to dig his way out of the accumulated debt from back then, even though he has a great job as an accountant and doesn’t break any laws. There’s just something fundamentally unfair about it all that irks me to no end.
Coming upon my friend’s ex-wife on Facebook got me thinking about my own episode with the classic “crazy bitch” many years ago. It’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, I suspect because of some stressful things going on in my professional life. That whole episode too seems quite unfair, as last I saw of that woman’s Facebook feed, all she will talk about now is social justice and the need to be an upstanding person (sooooo, no longer just dropping N bombs left and right and saying Mexicans are just plain dirty then? Good on ya).
I never really write about the abuse I went through at the hands of that woman. It seems a bit gratuitous and like I’m angling for sympathy to me. But really, at a deeper level, I’m trying to understand her and the world that allowed her to thrive, which I know is silly, because there is no reason for the unreasonable. And, though I hate to admit it, she got away with it so perfectly that part of me gets nervous when writing or talking about it, because it feels almost like she’s going to find my stuff and double down again on doing really messed up stuff to me without even a bit of remorse. But, I guess since I don’t talk about it to anyone, I need to let it out somehow, so congratulations dear reader, the abuse bum out 2016 is coming your way.
For our purpose, we’ll call crazy bitch du jour “Karen”. If your name is Karen or you like that name, I just chose it at random. No offense. I’ll detail a bit of what it was like to go through the whole ordeal with Karen over the next few days. As the whole relationship and the resulting debacle of a break up was a series of escalating abusive behaviors on her part, someone like me is drawn to blaming myself for what I could or could not have done, as that’s all I can control. So, though this will go over her messed up being, I’ll frame things (as I do in my head) in terms of things I did fundamentally wrong.
The First Mistake: Ignoring Red Flags
Karen sort of ran in similar circles that I did when I was younger, but I never really knew her, so when we finally did meet up a few years later when I was in grad school, we had a lot to talk about and seemed to have a lot in common being from the same town and into the same music and all. And I was somewhat taken by the whole thing. She was really cool and super friendly.
In hindsight, she was too friendly. Too eager. By the time you’re in you’re early 20’s, I feel you should know to take things slow and not put too much pressure on a relationship. You can be into someone and respect their boundaries. But she was not only friendly, she would get downright upset when I wasn’t online and didn’t return her texts immediately. We’re not talking about me waiting days to talk to her or text her back, we’re talking about me watching a tv show and being scolded for not paying attention to her online because we just had so darn much in common why would I want to be online with her? That’s a bad sign. Because ultimately, she was saying, “I’m really into you except your behavior is not what I like, and instead of respecting you doing what you want even though we just really met and connected, I deem that you need to completely change what you’re doing.”
Karen also had A LOT of baggage I ignored. She had a “crazy” ex-husband and a young daughter. She had no job and lived in her parents’ basement. She told me the horrible story of how awful her ex was and how it was his fault she was now in dire straights. She told me about how awful her father was and how physically and verbally abusive he was. She told me about how her mother let her father walk all over her and never protected her. She told me about a string of abusive exes that just didn’t get it. In short, everyone had screwed Karen over in life. She was a passive helpless damsel the world had let fall through the cracks into the hands of evil people. Not exactly a Match.com dating profile is it? But, the schmuck that I am, I simply believed every word of it and, wanting to see the best in people, I decided nobody had really given Karen a true shake in life. Facepalm.
But wait, there’s more.
Karen also told me about how she had slept with literally hundreds of men when she was younger and quite a few women as well. She had been a groupie at one time, banging many famous rock bands. While hanging out with such a rather risky crowd, she, of course, picked up a little meth habit. But, she assured me, that was years behind her; and, to be fair, at the time we were first talking, there actually had been quite a long period of her being clean and not being a groupie. She never returned to drugs or groupie behavior, in fact, downright rejecting such people as messed up; but as they say, sometimes things leak out in other ways. Risky behavior is a precedent. It often isn’t the drugs and sex that take people down; it’s that part the personality that’s drawn to risky drugs and sex. Regardless, it’s a huge red flag that I simply thought, “Eh, we all do stupid things.” No, you idiot, we don’t all do those kinds of stupid things.
But wait, there’s more.
Karen told me of how she had tried to rebuild her life. She had….well, really she just got married, and, as she tells anyone who will listen to this day, the birth of her daughter really set her straight. Of course, then it came to light that she had married some guy she barely knew that was an ex gang member. Good times. Remember that risky behavior thing? It will come up again. Her husband had ignored her and their daughter for seemingly weeks at a time, talking to friends and playing video games instead of being a true father and husband. It was this reveal(of course) that was the thing that forced her to seek companionship elsewhere; and so she started cheating on him with some guy in another state. From my perspective? How could he be so blind? She made a mistake, but he had to know sooner or later that relationship would fall apart with him acting like that. Certainly, this was no red flag. No, not at all. Nothing to see here.
But wait, there’s more.
But even living in her parents’ basement, she had courageously started putting things back together. She hadn’t really gotten a job yet, but she had made some good friends online. Strangely, they were all male. But, you know, she had a kind of boy attitude, so to speak. Certainly having a string of male friends and very few if any female friends wasn’t a red flag. And later in our relationship, when those men continued buying her expensive gifts and she refused to break contact with them, that was just me being petty and jealous.
Another face of sexism
The theme here, if you haven’t been beaten over the head with it enough, is that at no time did I ever consider she played any part in her own outcome. Maybe she had made mistakes, but it was like the mistake a child makes walking out into traffic: fundamentally the child is pure of heart even though naive. It’s the rough and tumble world that was the real culprit.
Looking back, I see this basic interpretation I gave Karen as a result of both sexist societal training and her own angling. Society tends to only want to see women as disempowered, a play on the societal sexist desire to save women (because you have to since they’re so weak apparently) and the erroneous dehumanization of women through denial of their agency in their own lives. Those bad things that happened to Karen are just because that’s how the world treats women. To frame that sentiment another way, Karen certainly wasn’t responsible for her own life because she’s a woman and the choices women make don’t matter to the outcome of their own lives; it’s solely how the world treats them that affects their outcome. Women as passive automatons. I apologize profusely.
Karen instinctively knew this sexist set up and played it up. “I’m but a helpless woman in this wicked world and my father, husband, ex-boyfriend (that I cheat with), etc have all used and abused me and thrown me away. Woe is me.” That portrayal viscerally can pull at a man’s beliefs about honor and duty, again, playing on the stereotype of every other movie ever made to save the damsel from whatever wickedness looks to do her harm.
But obviously, it was ALL Karen. I learned later every story was almost completely backwards. Her husband hadn’t ignored her. She just got bored and sex with a new person while getting free trips to other cities was fun (of course without her daughter that she couldn’t stand to be without). Her father was unforgivably abusive, but she was a really rotten kid who even the most saintly of parents would have been frustrated with. The ex-boyfriend she cheated with got hit with a bat because he dumped her long distance. Those drugs she ingested weren’t forced down her throat. She took them willingly. Those rock bands she banged; there was always a story of how she had to do militaristic-like maneuvers to get to where the bands were to get banged. That whole not getting a job thing? Of course she didn’t as her parents paid for everything. And of course all her male friends online; sexting extravaganza.
I never looked past serious red flags again. To be fair though, I don’t think I ever again came into contact with that many red flags.
Ignoring red flags got me into a whirlwind romance with a woman that always seemed to be testing my boundaries and pressuring me to get more and more serious about the relationship though we had really just met. It only got worse from there.
Next, I’ll tell you about the actual relationship itself. Stay tuned.