Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Thing About an Abusive Relationship

Note: I've turned off comments for all posts, as I have no desire to open myself up for attack from the legions of assholes.

Sometimes it takes a while to learn that you are in one. Especially if he doesn't hit you.

In March 2007, I wrote a brief entry about a bad relationship. It was written in a light-hearted tone, the kind I would take when swapping dating and breakup horror stories among a group. When you tell those kind of stories, you downplay the really horrible parts and focus on that one aspect of the relationship that screams "bad match!" You don't want to bring the rest of the group down.

Since I wrote that post I've done some reading. Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. Rosalind B. Penfold's Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like. Kate Brennan's In His Sights. I recently finished Lundy Banecroft's Why Does he Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. In between there have been blog posts, articles and essays. There have been multiple hundreds-of-comments long threads at Metafilter and an especially excellent entry on Sick Systems at Live Journal.

All that reading to confirm what I always suspected, that he was abusive and I was lucky.

So I downplay the really horrible parts.

I talk about the arguments we would have whenever we went out in public together. But I don't talk about how those arguments lasted hours, until I was exhausted, demoralized and ready to agree with anything he said just to end the "discussion".

I don't talk about how those argument were primarily him accusing me of wanting to fuck other men and hours of him haranguing me for denying it.

I talk about him sulking when he felt like he was not getting his way about something. But I don't talk about how he would freeze me out and refuse to speak to me for days.

I don't talk about how he never allowed me to stay over at his apartment and flat out refused to spend more than ten minutes in mine.

I don't talk about the comments he would make about my body. About how he would dump me if I gained weight but expected me to stay with him no matter how he changed.

I don't talk about the time he deliberately tried to get me pregnant. Because to say it out loud meant admitting that he was escalating from verbal abuse into something much more dangerous.

When I tell the breakup story, I don't tell the part where he called me at 2:00 AM wanting to discuss things.

I don't talk about how I would go out of my way to avoid him for the rest of the time I was in school. How I would look for him where ever I went, mentally planning escape routes in case he our paths crossed.

I don't talk about how I took J to a mutual classmate's wedding after our second breakup, as I knew that was the only way to keep him from approaching me.

After the first breakup I went back to him because I genuinely believed I was the problem. I left the second time because I figured out that I was not.

But I'm not any smarter, more self-aware or more confident then other women. I figured it out sooner then most, soon enough to prevent any real permanent damage.

He was abusive. I was lucky.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Costco Tire Department, Sunday Afternoon

After what can only be described as a mediocre holiday, I decided to cap off the weekend with a quick run to Costco to pick up bread and honey. French bread, because it tastes as good as I am going to get without jetting to Paris, honey for J to make cherry mead.

As we are going on a road trip in a few weeks, I also stopped in the tire department on my way out to get a quote on a new set of tires.

I learned a few things. I learned that our vehicle had after-market rims in a weird size that Costco does not carry. I learned that the employees of Costco's tire department are incredibly competent, patient, polite and willing to walk out to your vehicle and examine the tires personally. I learned that one of them works as an EMT three days a week.

And I learned that the cold stare and silence is a very effective weapon when handling inappropriate comments about the management of children.

Especially when the child in question does not actually belong to you.

Ahead of me in line was a lovely man, of Indian nationality, in his thirties. He is equipped with empty stroller and the former occupant of the stroller, an adorable two year old girl. The gentleman was picking up his car and had some questions about the tire warranty. The little girl was wandering nearby and examining the various sized bolts and nuts stored in a rack of bins near the counter. I was standing several feet away from the gentleman, between him and the little girl, waiting my turn.

An elderly lady enters the tire area, looks at the little girl, looks at me and immediately says to me “Excuse me, your little girl is playing in the bins”.
I look at her, then away. I say nothing at first because I am confused. Why is she talking to me? I don't have a daughter.

So she is looking at the nuts and bolts. She isn't throwing them across the room, rolling them on the floor, attempting a juggling act or snacking on a nuts and bolts sandwich.

My thoughts move quickly from confused to annoyed. That she is assuming that I am the mother, even though there is zero resemblance. That I have sole responsibility for making a child stay away from the bins. That she is judging my ability to parent my non-existent daughter. That she felt that a child quietly going through bins of nuts and bolts was worth commentary, when an adult doing the same thing would provoke nary a response.

As I formulate a response, the lady speaks to me again. She repeats that the girl is playing in the bins, assuming I did not hear her the first time.

Now I am officially pissed. I give her a cold look and do not respond, turning my attention back to the counter. The silence draws out, becomes uncomfortable. Out of the corner of my eye I see the woman enter the beginning stages of anger.

Finally the man speaks. “Oh, that is my daughter” he says, with a laugh. The lady visibly relaxes, then states “She might mess up the bins”. The man shrugs it off. The clerk speaks up at this point and states that the nuts and bolts are primarily for display. The employees have a separate supply in the back. The point is dropped on all sides.

The lady isn't finished with me yet. She asks what I am doing there, am I picking up my car? I explain that I stopped in to get a quote on tires. She replies that she is checking to see if she can get her tires rotated today, if doesn't take too long. Then she looks me, an unasked question hanging in the air.

I pick up the subtext immediately. She wants me to cede my position in line so she can ask her question first. But she does not want to ask me directly. She wants me to offer to let her go first.

I begin to feel a touch bullied. Bad enough that I am getting subtle verbal chastisement over the supervision of my non-existent daughter. Now she wants me to offer, nay believes that I should offer to give up my place in line so she can ask her question?

I make a non-committal noise and turn back to the counter. The silence grows long again. The clerk finishes with the gentleman and turns back to the counter. I give him the size of the tires currently on the car and wait as he looks it up. The size he quotes me is not the the same - it is smaller, with a larger rim. I ask why they are different. He asks if we changed out the rims. I reply that I do not know, they are the tires that were on the car when we purchased it used. He offers to go out and take a look at my tires, to clear up the confusion and heads towards the back to get another employee to cover the front while he is outside.

The lady is not interested in waiting any longer. She finally asks me directly if she can get her question in before we go outside. I say yes. I have made my initial point. I can be gracious now.

She asks and receives and answer that she did not want to hear. She fusses briefly over having to bring her vehicle in on a weekday. Mercifully she is finished quickly and the clerk and I head outside, bread and honey in tow.

I get in my car, no longer angry but bemused. When you look close enough, I don't look young. I am fat and very out of shape, with grey in my lashes, brows and hair. The skin on my face is old and tired. There is significant flab on stomach that will never go away. The time when I could be mistaken for a teenager has long passed.

Yet there are still these moments. Moments when I am sized up at glance and found to be an easy target because I still look kind of young and I am female, therefore I need to be corrected. Moments in stores when someone will question me for allowing Boy Alien to walk 15 feet away from me to look at toys. I notice them, the quick glance at my hand to see if I am wearing a ring, the disapproving purse of the lips, the pointed questions to my son about the location of his mommy. I see it in the times that someone hovers a little to close to the counter, hoping to cut ahead. I ignore them.
And it wears me down.

75° Partly Cloudy
Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Cancer Strikes Again (Maybe?)

I’ve had two conversations with my parents in the last 24 hours. Yesterday was my bi-weekly check-in. Today was to return a phone call thanking me for the Mother’s Day flowers, accidentally sent three days too soon. I order from the same local florist’s website twice a year. This is the first time I forgot to check the delivery date, so mom got same-day delivery.

It was an interesting conversation and one of the rare times I could speak with my parents while they were both sober and coherent.

Last year’s breast cancer diagnosis was scraping the bottom of the shite barrel, as mom has had significant medical issues with her back, heart and intestinal system going back years. The deterioration of the vertebrate in her back is directly related to her years as a nurse, spent standing on her feet in bad shoes.

So it was disappointing, but not surprising to hear her tell me that she had fractured a vertebrate in her back and was in some pain. She mentioned it might be “mets” which I assumed was some sort of medical condition that affects the back. She explained that she was going to see a neurologist in Pittsburgh next week. I offered to try to meet them at the doctor’s office.

Today I asked her to clarify why she was going to a neurologist for a bone problem.  She explained when her back problems were diagnosed three years ago, the first doctor recommended surgery. She consulted two additional neurologists for opinions on how surgery would affect the spinal column. Majority rule said “no surgery”.

The conversation continued. No, her spinal column was not affected. Yes, it might be caused by the chemotherapy (my younger brother, D, asked the same question). “Mets” means metastasized.

“Oh shit” I replied, dropping the cheerful demeanor I have tried to cultivate when talking to her on the phone, as it is not the job of the cancer patient to reassure her loved ones. Reassure my mom did, I was finished babbling an apology for the inappropriate outburst.

“The bone scans don’t show anything but the fracture, so it is probably just that”.

My dad joined around that time, to express his relief that I sounded (and felt) better and had recovered from my first serious asthma attack. Those warnings about the late spring causing the pollen to be released all at once? No joke. I spent four days wheezing, coughing hard enough to pee myself and not sleeping, and six days inhaling, snorting or popping a medication every four hours. It was a misery I don’t care to repeat any time soon.


My dad (“not to be political”) blamed it on global warning. My mom commented that D was doing much better after several years on allergy shots. I pointed out that he started sooner and that I would not be as bad as I am if I had started shots four years ago, when the symptoms started getting serious. I am supposed to see some improvement by the end of the summer, but it could take longer. At the very least, I am able to take the shots without visibly flinching, so I guess that is something.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Project 333 - Day 8

It is incredibly windy out. Last night the temperature dropped enough that even J noticed it was really cold. I went to sleep shivering and work up sweaty.

Something must have happened overnight with my employer's network, as I don't appear to have Internet access outside the corporate firewall and my email access is spotty. Which is problematic, as I need external Internet access to figure out what the hell I am doing testing-wise.

Today's Attire:
Lucky Brand jeans.
Black Flexees tank.
Red three-quarters length sleeve top.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Lucky Brand scarf.
Black Dansko clogs.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat iridescent crystal pendant.
Silver deco ring.

Observations:
1. The jeans are probably the final pair of Lucky Brand I will purchase. I'm incredibly disappointed, as they do make stylish, well fitting jeans in larger sizes, but I can't afford to burn over $100.00 a pair, a only to have them fall apart a year later (as the last two pairs did so recently). I have one more pair of straight-legged jeans from this brand, which I purchased from a discount store but never wore because the legs felt too tight. In light of the fact that they will probably fall apart anyway, they will go into my burgeoning charity pile.
2. I have been more comfortable in my clothing in the last week. Deliberately choosing the clothing I like, rather than dithering over those pieces I feel obligated to wear, has been really liberating. I is still taking me a while to get dressed, mainly because I have not pulled my capsule wardrobe together, but I am almost ready to commit.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Project 333 - Day 7

Another slow Monday morning. I made it into work later than I intended. The outfit that I planned today was not going to work - too dark and not spring-like.

Today's Attire:
Lauren jeans.
Max Studio white cowl neck top.
Tommy Hilfinger navy blue cotton sweater.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat iridescent crystal pendant.

I have a combination of the mean reds and the blues today. The home buying/selling process can do the to a person.

J and I are in the process of selling our old home. It felt like a miracle, receiving a respectable offer five days after listing the home. We are in the appraisal/inspection waiting period and the buyers agent is not the most communicative of the breed.

It makes me anxious, as I feel like we, our agent included, are being viewed as adversaries. Which is understandable, but stupid as J and I just want to be able to wash our hands of financial responsibility. We are more than happy to lose any gains we may make, as long as we are able to pay off the loan, cover the fees to the city/county/agent and turn off the utilities.

The only information our agent has been able get is that the slate is crumbling and the buyer is going to have a roofer inspect it. We don't know the appraisal value, we don't know what other issues were uncovered in the inspection, we don't have anything information so we can do the right thing.

Observations (Tuesday Morning)
1. I felt bland all day. I looked fine, I just felt bland. Mostly my mood I think.
2. J got referrals for roofers. Now we need a sunny day to get a proper assessment done and get it fixed.

48° Sunny
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, April 07, 2014

Project 333 - Day 6

Today I slept late. Went to the flea market. Had brunch. Purchased new pillows for Boy Alien's room. Did two loads of dark clothing. Changed the sheets in the master bedroom. Puttered. Tried to figure out if there is a pants elf running around the neighborhood, snatching packages from unsuspecting UPS drivers and delivering them to their appropriate owner days later.

Late last night, upon returning home from dinner with friends, I discovered a small Zappos package beneath my mailbox. Inside contained the missing pair of pants, which I verified by checking the order number. As Zappos is sending me a replacement pair, I will have to arrange to ship one pair back.

I am mystified. J's guess is that the driver lied about delivering the package, but he would have to have known he was coming back on Saturday. If it was a neighbor, a note would have been welcome, to save me the trouble of reporting them missing.

Today's Attire:
Calvin Klein jeans.
Green Gap t-shirt.
Gap brown leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Purple and orange scarf.
Roots red “Canada” hoody.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.

Observations:
1. The semi-obsessive recording of everything I wear and my feelings is a pretty significant exercise in frivolous naval-gazing, but it is not without a purpose. I want to figure out what I genuinely feel good wearing and get rid of any item that does not make me feel awesome or is a hassle to wear (such as a sweater that will not stay buttoned.)
2. I have not culled my clothes down to 33 items yet. I already know that it is probably not going to be possible for another week and I am ok with that.
3. I really want it to be consistently warmer.

54° Clear
Whitehall, Pennsylvania, United States

Project 333 - Day 5

I don't have any idea what I am going to wear today. I need to attend a bridal shower (ugh) this afternoon and meet friends for dinner this evening. Part of my reasoning in doing this first week without choosing my 33 items upfront was to determine which pieces of clothing and accessories I genuinely love. Now it is Saturday, I need to go from a business causal event to an informal dinner and all of the ideas I had planned in my head are probably not going to work. They all involve items I love, but the weather is classic cold spring slush.

Idea 1: Brown XCVI pants, ordered from Zappos on Thursday afternoon, as a replacement for my two ruined pairs of jeans. Paired with a flowing, white Thomas Pink blouse. The pants are made of cotton poplin and have the funky kind of styling that can go from a bridal shower to a causal dinner. Zappos has next day shipping on items ordered before 1:00PM PST, so (fit willing, but I've had excellent luck with XCVI) they would have been perfect.
The bonus would have been being able to add the pants to my rotation for the whole summer.

Except that I never received them. The UPS driver handed the package over to someone trespassing in our yard. Zappos, to their credit is sending a new pair of pants, but I will not receive them until Monday.
UPS gets a few more cents profit, as they get used again for shipping. I know that Zappos will probably recover that money in the end, but in the meantime UPS earns a few cents interest on a shipment they deliberately delivered incorrectly.

Idea 2: Meadow green XCVI shirred skirt with the Thomas Pink blouse. The downside is that it is not going to get close to 50F until 4:00 PM, which means I will need to wear hosiery and I don't have shoes that go well with hose in spring/summer, since it is supposed to be warm enough to go without.
I think I am going to just fuck it and wear trouser-style jeans.

What I ended up wearing…

Today's Attire:
Wide legged trouser-style jeans
Gray Flexees tank.
Cream three-quarters length sleeve sweater.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Purple and blue scarf.
Slim, knee-length black leather coat.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
String of black diamond beads.
Silver deco ring.

Observations:
1. I originally wore a pair of purple Dansko sandals, but the weather was so cold that I had to put on socks, which look stupid with the sandals.
2. The jeans are from the now-defunct Martin and Osa. I was crushed when American Eagle Outfitters decided to close those stores. They were specifically tailored to fit me and are the only pair of pants I did not have to discard post-pregnancy. I am so delighted to be able to wear them again.
3. The sweater, which is really lovely, will not remain buttoned. After the shower I gave up and changed into a blue Max Studio cowl neck t-shirt. The sweater will be washed and added to the charity pile.
4. I still hate showers.

37° Cloudy
Whitehall, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, April 04, 2014

Project 333 - Day 4

I feel as if I must explain that my jeans don't fall apart just because my thighs are enormous and can friction their way through denim.

When my employer moved into their current space, they inherited the furniture left by the prior business. This furniture included authentic Aeron chairs in each of the cubicles. Some of the employees lucky enough to be assigned to a cube disliked the chair, so they swapped with employees unfortunate enough to be assigned to one of the former lab spaces built in the interior of the building, far away from amenities such as working heat/ac and natural light.

I hope you have gathered by now that I worked in one of the former labs for over two years. It sucked. After the buyout of my employer by large international behemoth was complete, all of us working in the former labs were moved to empty cubes. I really need to write about the twisted politics that lead to the bulk of the engineering staff working in those rooms.

By trading, I managed to score a chair that cost more money then the powers-that-be put spent renovating the interior rooms. In the process I developed the habit of kicking off my shoes and sitting crossed legged on the chair.

The unholy alliance of quirky sitting habits, fat thighs and thinner material resulted in me trashing two pair of jeans in the past three weeks, due to tears on the inner left thigh. One pair was a complete loss. Both pairs were from the same manufacturer, so I will not be buying jeans from them again.

All of this meant I spent a fair amount of time scrutinizing my remaining jeans, evaluating which pair was least likely to call it quits on me today. I also checked my cottons/linen pants.

Today's Attire:
Calvin Klein jeans.
Cream Flexees tank. (I have two of these. Both badly need to be discarded due to some pretty serious under-arm staining)
White cotton t-shirt with burned-out illustration of a butterfly.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Gap 1969 denim jacket.
Lucky Brand scarf.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat Crystal Flower Pendant.
Sliver and red enameled ring.

Observations (10:38PM)
1. I felt very comfortable in my clothes today.

57° Mist and Fog
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Project 333 - Day 3

I am writing this at the allergist's office, waiting to be released after getting my shots. I will go to Starbucks, then back to work.

I had a difficult time getting up this morning. Wigford was silent, captivated (I hope) by a bird or other small creature. He has been incredibly lonely since Axel and Lucy died. Both of his buddies gone in a span of two years. I've wrestled with getting another cat, but I am starting to feel so much better now that the allergies are under control.

So the bed did not get made and my time in the shower stretched longer than usual. Two more pieces of clothing went into the charity pile - thin sweaters in peach and orange, colors that look truly awful on me. I am trying to be merciless.

Today's Attire:
Lucky Brand jeans.
Nude Flexees tank.
Cream Lucky Brand three-quarters sleeve blouse.
Gap brown leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Slim, knee-length black leather coat.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat Crystal Pendant.

This morning it was more difficult to he dressed as I felt really lukewarm towards most of the options I had planned out in my head last night. The jeans and belt were easy, the shirt was difficult. For the past several years I've had an ongoing problem finding spring/summer shirts that I love. Getting rid of the ones that I bought in desperation to have something to wear feels really good.

There was also the issue of being sock less, as I forgot to throw the clothes in the dryer last night. So I had to dig up a pair of ankle socks I reserve for yoga.

Observations (1:06 PM)
1. I am not as comfortable today. Part of it is that I lost my jeans to my thighs after my allergy shot this morning. I sat down in my chair, tried to cross my legs and heard that oh-so-ominous tear.
2. The good news is that the jeans are salvageable for shorts. The bad is that this is the second pair, in the same brand, to fall apart on me at work in less than a month.
3. And the shirt, while adorable (and tear free) wrinkled very quickly.

40.4429° N, 80.0071° W