Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I was SURE I could never end up in an abusive relationship

This is a long story, and a multi-parted one; and I'm not even sure precisely what my point is, but I'm gonna tell it anyway, because I don't think we talk about this stuff enough.
My kitchen is very therapeutic for me, when I'm doing something I enjoy there my mind wanders widely, other than that I cannot tell you why on earth I was thinking about Rihanna. But I was, I was thinking about Rihanna and the thing with that snapchat ad. She said she didn't take it personally and was speaking out for other victims of DV (domestic violence). I don't follow her, so whatever I have gleaned about her is by the way, and based on what I have caught by the way, she seems to be self assured, a fighter, outspoken.. and what I don't know about her personality aside... I definitely know she's a hugely successful multi-millionaire, who has what it takes to go out there and get hers... and I think it definitely takes a special sort to do get my drift... the kind of woman that you can't imagine that domestic violence would happen to. But it did, and how long was it happening before the world found out? And how much longer would it have happened if we didn't? And, the biggest question of all, WHY did it happen to a woman like her? And why did she stay? To understand why I'm asking these questions, let me ask another question... do you think it could happen to you? Would you tolerate it? If you were not able to prevent the first blow (physical or otherwise), would you stick around to find out if he (or she) really "would never do it again"? Not me. And if your answer is also no.. this is why it's an important question. Because I think it can happen to you, it can happen to anyone, and a part of this post is how I learned, quite shockingly, that it could probably happen to me. But first, I'm going to tell you why I was SURE it could never happen to me.

I was sure no man could violate me in anyway because I am angry, and I have experienced a shame that I never want to experience again. My anger and shame come from my first sexual encounter, which was not consensual, I am hard pressed to call it rape, because he was my boyfriend, and I didn't cry (well, actually I did.. shocked silent tears laying confused beneath him as he had sex with me after I said no) but you get me.. no outcry, no yelling, no fighting, and because at 14, I didn't understand that was a sexual assault (and I don't think he did either), I continued to have a sexual relationship with him for another yr+, and a few months after that incident when his other girlfriend came to let me know that she was his girlfriend, and I was his girlfriend, I pretended that didn't happen either. So, I'm angry, angry that my boyfriend violated me sexually and I did nothing, angry that mere weeks after "taking" my virginity he had started up another relationship and when I found out I did nothing. Angry at myself, and ashamed for not being strong enough, aware enough to see, and to draw a line for myself. Ashamed not to be that "powerful woman" who would never let herself down like that. Of course, it actually took me a few years to get to that shame and anger... cause 14? I definitely didn't have the capacity for all that then. So, once I got to this great anger about what happened, and most importantly this shame for letting myself down, I promised I would never let that happen again... you know what I'm always gonna do? I will always stand up for myself. Always. There is zero room in that promise for allowing any man, woman, dog, puss, rat, lizard, whatever, be it in love, work, friendship anything. Nope. Not happening. But, you know what I discovered there is room for? Abuse in sheep's clothing. The sheep being you, and its clothing whatever way you dress up and justify someone's bad behaviour.

Here's how I learned this - and this is the long part of the story. I dated a guy from Zimbabwe. I have never been to Zimbabwe, and so I had no first hand experience of the culture there. But, based on my experience with him, and with Jamaican men, it seemed it was a more extreme idealogy of how (THEEE worst) men here think... my woman muss dis, my woman muss dat, a good woman muss... etc. You get my drift? And I wasn't having ANY of it. I was like dude, listen, I like you (he had some great qualities I thought, hell if I can tell you what now, but that's not the point the point is I wasn't having his shit), so I told him listen, you're a great guy, smart, driven, funny, sweet, and I like you, but if you want to have a relationship with me these ideas you have about how a woman should behave are not going to cut it, and none of it is open for negotiation. I go out alone and I'm not going to stop, if you have an issue, leave. I have close male friends and it's going to stay that way, and if you can't get over it leave, I entertain conversations with other men, these conversations are not an invitation to them, and they are not a reflection on my morality, and if you think so, leave. He didn't leave, nor did I. And why didn't I leave? This relationship happened while I was living in America, he had never lived in or even visited the US before he moved there, and so I JUSTIFIED his behaviour and mine. His by saying he didn't know better, that the problem was his culture, not him, and that he was struggling to learn; and mine by always thinking I was holding my ground - I never allowed him the room to make me feel shit, or less based on his ideals. And I certainly never conformed to, or even entertained conversations about his dictates. And he seemed to genuinely be trying to understand and assimilate into this new culture of relationships - cause I was like dude.. all this stuff you're telling me about how it works in Zim is not gonna cut it, you're not in Zim, and I'm not a Zim woman. So, we were struggling together to try and figure out how this different type, black, Jamaican woman (cause talk truth, there are some Jamaican woman he could have got over with that with), and this Zim man who were digging each other and living in America could make this ting work. Until I found out he had woman fi stone dog. I was so out I had nothing to say to him... I had a trip back home planned, and I had not told him yet, so for a peaceful life I decided I would wait til just before I left to let him know I knew what was up, break up with him, and just drop out to Jamaica quietly. In the weeks leading up to my trip home. I decided to play the model girlfriend just to avoid the fuss. He was visiting me one night, and a friend of mine stopped by. Now my friend is as gay as the day is long, and that is a fact you could not miss about him in passing. Nevermind that I'd told him that a million times (not that his sexuality matters, but just to show you how deep this was). So my friend stops by to discuss our plans for the thanksgiving weekend. His family had a cabin and we were planning to spend the weekend there. I am desperately motioning to him to shut the hell up cause I know this is going to result in an upset. Sure enough, as soon as my friend left, he started on how it looked, and what kind of woman would etc, Where I would typically have shown him the door, and said dude, leave if you can't deal. I was being the model GF so I said to him. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I know how you feel about stuff like this. I love you. I won't go. Just telling him everything I figured he'd want to hear. And he said call your friend, I'd like to talk to him. So I did, he says to my friend "she's my woman and she's not going any where with you" etc etc. I played along with the whole thing, meek, and obedient. And his response was shocking. His behaviour, his energy completely changed, he became sweet as candy, he apologized, and said to me, I am only like this because I love you. He said I am sorry I was like that to your friend, call him back, I'd like to apologize. And he did.

At that point, I had been dating him for over a year, he attempted to alienate me from my family, he attempted to control my behaviour, he attempted to shame me for my independence, he attempted to erode the meaningful relationships I was having with other people, and all the while he was f*@king who knows how many women... but it was a lot. If I tell you this version of the story, which sensible self loving woman would put up with this? But the other version, the one where I was not tolerating his shit, I NEVER compromised anything, the version I was telling myself, where I was simply being patient while he learned to trust me, while he unlearned his Zim ideas of a relationship. The version where I'd never felt unsafe, or imagined that there was any sort of risk, because I was strong enough to stand up for myself.

That version of the story fell away the night I recognized the glaring alarm bell of an abusive relationship. I mean, the only thing missing were the bruises, and the roses. And this is how I learned it could have happened to me, because how much longer would I have continued to justify his behaviour with "he doesn't know better yet, but he's trying"? How much longer would it have been before a blow fell? And if and when that blow fell.. would I have been far gone enough to justify allowing there to be another? And another? I am humbled when I think about that trip we were planning to Zim, I think he'd never been violent to me because he would not have risked losing his scholarship, but on his home turf, with me completely vulnerable in an unfamiliar place, what would have happened? I don't know the answers to the how it could happen to women who we think are above, or beyond it. But I learned in that relationship how easily it could have happened to me, even while I was busy being the kind of woman it could never happen to. I don't think domestic violence is really about the type of woman it happens to, I think some women are easier victims than others, but ultimately, I kinda think domestic violence is about the kind of man that does it. You see, my man was one that kept me feeling safe the whole time, my man was one who seemed to genuinely want to outgrow the problem of what his culture had taught him about a woman's place, my man seemed to genuinely struggle with the differences between what he thought I should be, and who I actually was, my man was one who had an excuse that was tailor made for me and my compassion, my man was a good liar, my man was a patient one, who was willing to wait a whole year and a half to "break me" because the other thing I understand, is if what happened that night had been genuine on my part, I believe after than night, that relationship, and my life would have been all downhill from there.

Any one, including me, will tell you that they could never see me as the kind of woman who would be a victim of domestic violence, yet I spent a yr+ in a relationship that had all the hallmarks of an abusive one, and I didn't even see it, because the first blow had not yet fallen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


As the story goes, faced with two weeks of changing diapers while his wife was away my cousin Duane succeeded in potty training his 2yr old son before his mother returned.

He grasped the idea that he shouldn't go in his diaper before he got a firm hold on the "go to the bathroom" bit; so once early in the training when he really needed to poop, he just squatted in our cousin's back garden and let go. I wasn't there when it happened, but when I was told the story, I cracked up and said "Oh, I can't wait until he's old enough for me to torture with that story."

This morning I was remembering, and wondering what's the right age? At 12 he might have enough of an awareness of himself for me to tell him that story, but he might not truly grasp my reason for telling it - bonding. When my family retells my baby stories - a lot of them for a laugh at my expense - the laughter is only a small price to pay for the sense of well being I get, the gratefulness I have for the people who shared in my childhood, these stories are the evidence of the bond that has traveled with and sustained me since birth. 15 might not be much better, I think the 20's and older are a great time for the retelling of his baby stories, but that's 17 years and a few weeks from here; and I found myself wondering would I be alive then.

I am not terminally ill or had any great epiphany lately, nor do I have any great fear of the abstract idea of death. I've accepted it as an inevitable bridge I'll cross when I get to. I've also accepted that I won't know until my dying moment that I am leaving, and from time to time I stop to affirm that be it days or years upon years that I have left I accept my fate and am grateful for the time I have spent so far.

This morning though, I am hoping that in 17 years and a few weeks I'll be around to do in the retelling of baby stories what my family friends and family friends have done for me throughout the years, and I that I can hang around to keep sniffing that sweet spot on his neck so that when he's twenty he won't forget that I am the one who used to powder him with kisses because that's just what he smelled like.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dream Animals

I seem to dream a lot about animals (also ghouls and monsters but I've never posted about that).

I just found a dream I jotted down a few years ago. In this dream there was a hurricane that changed the terrain, and I am caught on a sandbar that used to be Lime Cay waiting for a boat to come and get me.

Many boats come and go, and still mine doesn't show so I decide I'm gonna just jump on the next one that comes in. Instead of taking me back to the mainland I end up picking my way across a craggy landscape. As navigate the sharp rocks dark and shiny with the sea water, in the distance I notice a spray erupting from the surface of the water. At first I think it's oil but suddenly I am with people and one of them says "no that's a fissure, air is escaping from the earth". As we continue across the rocks we see a network of pipes that suggest the fissure is man-made. The instinct to follow the pipes rises, but as I move towards them a boat comes. As I wait to board the boat I am suddenly aware that I have a pin and a needle driven horizontally into my heel, but I cannot get them out because my heel is frozen.

Standing at the side of the boat I ask for a container for the finless tailless fish I have in my pocket. The fish had been terrorizing my mother and I don't want it to die because I want to gift its fate to her. I knew I couldn't put it anywhere near the water at the risk of it escaping, so I'd put it in my pocket and poured some water in. As if it were magic to the fish the water made my pocket larger and gave the fish so much room to move around I was afraid it might escape.

I am aboard the boat and almost ashore when I check my heel; it has thawed and there is only a pin, the edges of which I can see sticking out so I try to catch a hold of it as the boat sways. The driver says to me "doesn't that hurt? Why don't you wait til you get to the shore to take it out? The boat's jostling." I yank it out anyway and say "Nah, it doesn't hurt".

He seems impressed by my bravado, as the boat pulls up the dock I double check that there's nothing else in my heel, check my pocket for Mummy's fish and step onto the sandy shack-lined terrain.

Monday, November 9, 2009


When I decide to accomplish something I have this great drive to do it and do it NOW; but I am figuring out that this great sense of urgency is a shortcoming as much as an excellent tool depending on the task at hand.

In the case of goals that need to be accomplished over the long term; this sense of NOW can be a set up for failure; because if NOW passes and you've got nothing to show, you've failed to achieve your goal. I am trying to learn now how to translate this energy into a long term sense of motivation. I kinda figure what I can do is turn that initial feeling of urgency to plotting the course of my goal, and everyday dedicating that sense of urgency to what I can do for it NOW.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No really does mean no.

I watched Californications "Land of Rape and Honey" (where Marcy tells Runkle all women have a rape fantasy, and where his boss confirms by detailing hers) and I'd just like to put this out there:

That's the stupidest and most dangerous absolute to put out there. Not all fucking women have a rape fantasy; I don't.

I can't even detail how upset and disgusted I am.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Skeleton Woman

As told in "Women Who Run With The Wolves"

"The Skeleton Woman"Sedna, legend tells, was a beautiful girl who lived by the sea. Although many courted her, she would not leave her widowed father, and refused them all. But one day, a raven disguised as a handsome man came to her. He promised her a better life - and best of all, he promised he would also provide for her father. And so, full of hope, Sedna left with him. But he took her instead to a desolate island, where she was cold and hungry. When her father came at last to visit, he grew very angry. Taking Sedna into his kayak, he paddled into the open sea, but Raven caused a terrible storm to arise. And Sedna's terrified father, in desperation, hoping to save his own life, cast his daughter from the boat. Sedna clung to the side of the kayak, and would not let go, until her father cut off her hands with his knife. Then Sedna's hands and fingers fell into the sea, becoming the the fishes, the seals, and the whales. And handless Sedna sank to the bottom of the ocean to become the skeleton woman.

One day a fisherman came fishing, he had drifted far from his homeplace and did not know that local fisherman stayed away from this bay, saying it was haunted. When a heavy pull on the his line drags his kayak to sea, he thinks he has caught the "big one," a fish so large he can eat for weeks, a fish so fat that he will prosper ever after. As he daydreams about his coming ease, what he reels up is Skeleton Woman, a woman flung from a cliff long ago, her fish-eaten carcass left to rot at the bottom of the sea. In terror her flings her from his kayak and paddles with all his might for shore. Skeleton Woman is so snarled in his fishing line that she is dragged behind the fisherman wherever he goes. She is pulled across the water, over the beach, and into his house, where he collapses in the darkness in terror.

Thinking he has lost her, he falls into an exhausted sleep. The fisherman wakes in the morning, and lights his whale oil lamp, and there lies Sedna the skeleton woman. A pile of bones and fishline tangled on his floor. Perhaps it was the softness of the lamplight, or that he had passed the night unharmed by her, but feeling pity for her, slowly disentangles her. Muttering words like a mother to a child he untangles first her toes, then her ankles and so he works through the night gently untangling her. When her bones are in order, he dresses her in furs to keep her warm, and exhausted falls asleep. During the night, Skeleton Woman scratches and crawls her way across the floor, drinks the tears of the dreaming fisherman, and grows anew her flesh and heart and body. Her flesh from his flesh, her heart from his heart, the fisherman wakes to find himself wrapped up with a beautiful woman.

The people who cannot remember how she came to her first ill-fortune now say she and the fisherman went away and were consistently well-fed by the creatures she had known in her life underwater.

Wah eye nuh si heart nuh feel

"if you can't see it it won't hurt you".

When we were little my sister was so afraid of thunderstorms she would hide from them under my grandmother's bed. Recently laughing at that memory she said "I don't know why I did that... it didn't change anything".

I know why: "wah eye nuh si heart nuh feel" - somehow, being unable to to see the thing that scares us makes us feel safe.