Unsolicited Advice

Let’s Rant.

What is it about unsolicited advice that gets me so worked up? There are multiple scenarios within reason I can admit I’m guilty of “advising” in… for example friends/people/strangers that may have just wanted an ear to vent to and there I go giving advice. I am specifically not talking about those times. Because unless you specify at the top of the conversation, “I am going to vent a lot to you right now and I do not want you to tell me what to do or give me your insight or thoughts AT ALL,” then, you’re screwed, because whatever, we (meaning me) want to express our opinion or perhaps, unsolicited advice, because it is human nature.

No, I am not talking about that brand of unsolicited advice, rather, I am talking about the advice a certain generation (Generation Baby Boomer) writes out on old receipts found in the trash or at the bottom of a salty purse for Jason and I to find brazenly atop the pillows after they’ve checked out of the AirBnBeeber.  That’s right, those crazy nuts that also go by the name Grandma and Grandpa, just cannot help themselves and need to let us know what we’ve done wrong.

For some reason the current Grandma and Grandpa generation just cannot enjoy an experience without sharing their important unsolicited advice that I have “coined” as criticism. 

For example, there was recently a note left behind, two-sided, front and back, that expressed how we could have, “made their stay nicer,” if we would have, “installed a larger refrigerator and a microwave oven.”

This was so important to the guests that they both texted and emailed us to let us know they left said note for us in case we missed it or thought it was trash, since it was written on a piece of trash.

It was hard to miss the red, bold, Sharpie pen ink.

If you are not feeling what I am emoting it is heavy silence. My face has become hard and my eyes are shooting daggers into an imaginary target.

Preposterous.

Then there was the sixty-nine year old hippie that needed, needed, us to immediately return our sink and vanity to IKEA and purchase a larger, wider and deeper unit like the ones at Crate and Barrel (this from a legit hippie) or take the overhead matching cabinet off the wall and install it two feet higher so he didn’t feel like he was going to bump his head while brushing his teeth.

He also wanted to show us how he had rearranged the room and thought it worked better with the murphy bed raised…in raising it himself without the know how he busted the mounted reading lights, broke the bed’s feet off, and could have maimed himself from his own stupidity had he not called us in to complain about our bathroom vanity.

I’m laughing. Truly, I’m laughing. What an asshole. 

Preposterous.

Then there was the lovely woman traveling alone (right-on!), that also left us a long, two-sided note of all the things we should add to the unit to make it nicer:

Lemon Tea

Chamomile Tea

Mint Tea

Herbal Tea

Lavender Tea

Chai Tea

Rose Water Tea

Jasmine Tea

Oolong Tea

Sleepy-Time Tea

Tension Tamer Tea

Green Tea

 

I’m confused, additional tea options? Could have just said that. Or gone to the market across the street and picked up the flavor you like. 

Preposterous.

And finally, for now, we will come to the one couple that left us a note regarding money. They wanted to let us know how nice our studio is, but that we are just not the best value because we’re not…wait for it… a hotel. Maybe if we added a pool or hot tub we could compete with the better hotels around Los Angeles… let’s get one thing straight we cost a fraction of what the Best Western up the way charges, so it cannot be the nightly charge, right?

So, wait, WHAT?

Preposterous.

The teenager in me wants to talk back and tell them how stupid they sound, but there’s a little fear I may be grounded and not heard. AmIRight? 

 

 

The Other Night…

The winds in Los Angeles the past few evenings have felt abrupt and out of place, much like the rains we experienced this past winter. They’ve spread allergies and coughs and viruses, much to the chagrin of every parent, daycare and otherwise sane person. All that hell aside, in the middle of another evening of howling winds knocking down trash bins and whipping open latched gates at will, we had a real situation Thursday night, at 2:07AM.

Jack was having a restless sleep, tossing and turning until he woke himself up and called out for a snuggle around 1:40 AM. Jason sprung into action for that special, middle of the night Jack cuddle time, so down a body in the bed, I starfished myself right out and fell back asleep before I ever really feigned getting up for Jack. Before I ever made it to REM sleep I was trapped in a hellish half-sleep/half-awake-nightmare. Somewhere from the depths of someone’s soul there was a bellowing cry echoing off the mountain and reverberating throughout our home. At first I feared it was Jack and my subconscious was not allowing my conscious state to waken and I couldn’t get to him; I was trapped in sleep-purgatory.

The bellowing yell got louder and I could feel my conscious self pushing through the paralysis of my sleep-state until I sat straight up, blinking a thousand times while catching my breath. Jack was NOT crying and Jason was still missing from the bed and on a second glance at the clock, I saw a mere fifteen minutes had passed since I’d fallen back to sleep. Then, as if on cue to remind me why I’d stirred back awake, there came the same bellowing call for help, only this time I was hearing it with woken ears and a very present mind and it was more ominous and menacing than my half dream state allowed me to grasp.

The voice was oscillating – at one moment it sounded as though it was right outside my window and then almost immediately it sounded like it was coming from down the road and then immediately outside my window, again. The voice so deep, so loud it made me shake on the inside. Finally, I heard the words:

SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE.

PLEASE.

SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE.

PLEASE.

 

 

 

somebody call the police.

please.

…..police.

 

This was not the voice of someone in trouble, though. It was not the sound of a crisis. It was hypnotic and foreboding and terrifying, I promise you.

I timidly pulled back the curtain a sliver and peered into the night, looking and searching for the man making the noise as it grew closer and closer to the house, yet again. And I saw my gate was hanging wide open, yet the wind had stopped. Fear shook through me; he was in my yard, but I couldn’t see him. There were no eyes peering back as far as I could stretch my vision through the dark. And when the bellow of PLEASE was right on top on me, I let go of the curtain and ran downstairs for my phone.

I dialed the numbers 9-1-1, send. Hurry. Answer. Hurry.

911 Operator: 9-1-1 – What’s your emergency?

There’s a man – I think it’s a man – somewhere, I think in my yard, yelling from somewhere wild in his belly, for someone to call the police.

911 Operator: And can you see him?

No, I cannot.

911 Operator: But he’s in your yard?

Yes. I think so. Or maybe not, but he’s close. Somewhere close. Listen, do you hear that? That’s him.

911 Operator: I’m sending a car now.

I hung up. I wanted to ask her to stay on the phone with me until the police arrived.

“Jaime?” It was Jason, thank God for Jason. He was whispering, not because he didn’t want to wake-up Jack, but because he was scared. He didn’t want the voice to hear that we were awake, that we felt vulnerable, that we could be his enemies.

“I’m here, I’m here,” I whispered back as I ran up the stairs to meet him.

When I hit the landing of the staircase I saw him, clutching tightly to Jack who stirred in his sleep, and we ran back into our room cradling our baby and waiting for the police as the sound of the voice grew, and grew, and grew. The echo of his pleas haunting us.

There were no sirens when the police arrived, we only knew they’d arrived when we saw the beams of light from their tactical flashlights.

The “Voice” saw the lights of the police as well and suddenly the tone changed. Now the sound of panic and fear, manipulating the previous sound of strength into cowardice, “I’m up here! I’m up here! Help me! I’m up here!”

We gazed out the window to see who was brilliantly managing their voice with such precision and where. And as we followed the beam of the police light up, up, up. There stood a man atop the apex of our neighbor’s roof, peering down at the four men in blue. He who had beckoned the police officers to the spot was almost childlike now, displaying a sense of innocence and underdog cowardice he gently announced, “I’m stuck.”

The ensuing conversation between the rapidly growing police presence, now a dozen large, and the “Voice” on the roof top is not worthy of the character count it would eat up on this post, trust me. It was boring, benign if I’m being generous. The usual patter of please and thank you, but one detail has remained with me: he said he had been chased. Chased by something, but he was not sure what. Chased from the freeway, past the train tracks, and all the way up the roof of this house.

And that was it. There was no follow-up, questioning. No inquiry to description. And no what happened to the “thing” chasing you. As I said before, the exchange was boring.

Personally I do not think the “Thing” is gone. It never stopped chasing him. I think the “Thing” got him. It resides inside him. Dueling with itself, showing fragility in the face of authority, but commanding power over its victim when he’s alone. If his mental disorder is not engineered by the Meth that is rampantly spreading like a disease in our gentrified neighborhood, then it’s the cause of his own genetic make-up breeding chaos in this man’s life.

I will leave you with this: he stood, silently, handcuffed for nearly half an hour while the police officers slowly peeled off, leaving the original two and one more car for safety. Eventually a silent ambulance arrived and with that the entire ordeal was over. Erased. The block empty, peaceful and quiet, the way it should be at 2:30 AM, and the way I hope this man’s mind can find itself again some day. 

I Hid A Bag of Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds – For My Sanity.

IMG_5002I am wildly uptight when it comes to cleanliness and basic household etiquette. Think Monica from ‘Friends,’ but maybe a little worse (and for another day, let’s discuss the ‘Friends’ Haters… just stop, people. Stop it. I’ve watched it so many times, forwards and backwards, and you’re wrong; it’s delightful, and perfect, period).

My mother has long referred to me as fastidious.

I suppose cleaning is my way of controlling the chaos of life. There are worse “habits” used to control the uncontrollable, like not eating, binging & purging, excessive exercise, and I’ve dabbled with them all; but honestly cleaning is the one that makes me feel the most in control amidst the chaos. It’s not just the act of cleaning, it’s that a clean environment allows me to relax. And as far as addiction and personalities go, I repeat, there are far worse things than being fastidious.

It’s not just cleaning. I have to set hard boundaries within my living environment, too. You are allowed to be yourself in my home and not conform to my standards of cleanliness and I’m okay with it, but if you start to impose upon my boundaries I freak the fuck out. Maybe you do too and maybe you don’t even know it…

I have an almost 2-year-old toddler. Guess what he does? He throws food on the floor and thinks it’s funny, so I laugh and also try to teach him that food stays on our plate or at least on the table or preferably in your mouth to consume. And I don’t freak out, because he’s a baby and I can clean it and it’s totally fine. But when my 35-year-old brother in law does it and doesn’t give two craps about who will be cleaning it and what stain it may leave or that it’s happened at all, I start to panic. I swallow down the annoyance that starts to build up inside of me. I push it deep, deep down and I breath and smile, and I stare daggers at him, but I bury the pending freak out because he’s my guest, and family to boot.

I stare at his brother (my husband) and wait for a signal that it will all be fine and that he will clean it up and then I take several deep breaths, plan a 4 mile run, skip the next two meals, and buy and squirrel away a giant bag of dark chocolate covered almonds to shame-eat secretly, without sharing, and it calms the monster brewing in my belly.

You guys! It’s not just dropping food on the floor with abandon that gets under my skin: it’s the week’s worth of toothpaste stains on my new dark wood bookcase; it’s his toenail clippings in my high pile shag rug; it’s razor blades on the floor of the shower my toddler bathes in; it’s a beer bottle cap in the small hands of my 21-month-old who desperately tries to shove the jagged edged piece of metal down his throat after scraping it along his tongue.

Daggers staring down a dead man walking.

It’s wet underwear strewn across my front porch and wet towels left on top of stuffed animals to grow unneeded mildew and create more laundry that will be left for me to do. It’s empty Starbucks cups and plastic straws littering my front lawn. It is used tea bags everywhere, except in the trash.

It is so much more. It’s interminable.

And, AND it is all so unnecessary. UNNECESSARY. There are towel hooks for wet towels; there’s a dryer for your underwear; there’s a trashcan in so many different rooms plus several outside for EVERYTHING ELSE!

My eye is twitching right now, you guys. Writing this out for you is almost like reliving the frustration.

I watched for a week as our baby gates were treated as mere decorative obstacles and left open for his 35-year-old male convenience whilst my nearly 2-year-old eyeballed the staircase with Olympic-gymnast-enthusiasm.

I tell you this not to be a tattletale, not to open myself up to criticism regarding my rigidity, not to hurt feelings, but to understand myself better because I didn’t handle it well you guys. I did not.

You see, I couldn’t stop him, I couldn’t clean fast enough. The mess was OUT OF CONTROL! Dirt, stains, odor… CHAOS!

I set boundaries and I believed that manners were/are self-evident. I believed baby-proofing, dining tables, and towel hooks should invite use. I expected our houseguest to know all of this without having to be told. My home is not a hotel; that’s the guesthouse out back (see that blog post) and for God’s sake the total strangers renting that out treat it better (and pay us) than my B-I-L treated our actual home while we lived in it with him for a week.

And then I lost it.

At him. On him.

I freaked the fuck out.

And I told him that towel hooks are for wet towels to be HUNG ON and baby gates are not for the convenience of adults to use at will, but to protect the life of a BABY, and that knives & razorblades & sharp jagged beer bottle caps are DEADLY WHEN SWALLOWED and that it is MY HOUSE and he should TREAT IT WITH RESPECT.

Silence.

Slowly he opened his mouth and without an ounce of thought he yelled back. Absurdities such as, ‘he didn’t know that it would require work to live with a baby’ and that ‘he didn’t know that toddlers cannot comprehend basic safety.’

The irony.

So I banished him to his (my son’s) room where he screamed and threatened to leave (on the eve of his flight home).

I agreed he should leave. A hotel is a much better place to treat with reckless abandon.

He said nothing.

He didn’t leave.

And after an hour of separation and a loaded dishwasher and cleaned counters later, I invited him to come back downstairs.

He picked up where he left off – sullying every square foot of surface area I had just spent a very angry hour cleaning to regain the control I had lost.

That one cleaning left me with a night’s worth of control, and I felt better long enough to wish him well on his flight, take a family picture with genuine smiles, and not resent the weekend-visit-turned-into-9-long-days.

My house is not completely back in order by my standards, but it is back in my control and I can sleep more soundly tonight.

And those dark chocolate covered almonds are now out in the open for everyone to share, by everyone I mean new visitors and Jason.

Armchair Psychologist

IMG_4982Hm.

You know what’s hard? Accepting people even though you know they’re assholes. Obnoxious assholes. Obnoxious Assholes who represent everything WRONG about other people.

What a dick thing to say. I get it, you either relate to what I’m saying or I’m the obnoxious asshole in your opinion. Valid.

Like you, I am bound by my civility to accept everyone, flaws and all… no, really.

“Love your neighbor…”

“Be the change…”

“Do unto others…”

It’s not like I can gather 700,000 protestors to march against the stupidity of one bad acquaintance, or neighbor, or peer… or can I? No, that would make me the bad person and on the wrong side of right and I need to be on the right side of right because I need to be RIGHT.

Ugh.

You see my dilemma.

It’s frustrating.

The more obtuse they become the more indignant I find myself.

I’ve begun to dissect the minutiae of conversations with the obnoxious assholes surrounding my immediate space. I maddeningly map out all their exasperating behaviors: how it transpired; in what context; what was said leading up to it; and the response immediately following.

I combine all that with the little bit of history I have learned about them. The people they’ve dated, married, divorced. Do they have pets, bought, adopted rescued, dogs, cats… rats.

After I’ve pieced together the puzzle of their personality from a million different perspectives, I then refer to Psychology Today while cross-referencing WebMD to make my best analysis of whether or not they indeed have a personality disorder (which, yeah, of course they do) and I label them in my own personal file folder: The Narcissist.

Typical.

Right?

But I cannot be satisfied with my own analyses; I need the reassurances of others. So I gossip about these obnoxious assholes. I emphatically underscore my righteousness while stressing the misgivings of the Narcissist and then I wait, smugly grinning until I am told how brilliant my assessment is, which rarely comes because everybody wants to play Devil’s Advocate these days. Everybody wants to do the work themselves’ and come to their own conclusions. No one wants to take my word for it.

Assholes.

And now I have another asshole to analyze and the cycle begins again. Part of me wonders if this is the reason I am slowly losing my mind or if I am sharper than I’ve ever been. Who is to say?

Well anybody psychoanalyzing me right now based on this blog post, for starters.

Armchair Psychologist? Maybe. Or ten years of therapy, a lifetime spent as an observational writer, and a child of Crazy, is rather how I like to define my resume, but that’s not over-qualifying me either.

Maybe I’m becoming the intolerable asshole.

Maybe.

Who Me? Change? Never.

I don’t write parenting posts because having a kid hasn’t changed me.

img_1540

Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Change, you ask? First, now I wear high-waisted jeans and think they’re the “bomb.” Kill me… no, don’t! Please don’t do that EVER! I have a baby now and I need to be right here for him forever.

Did you just read my light-hearted joke and the fact that I immediately retracted it in fear that someone would read that seriously? Like the Universe might not get that I was joking when I said, “kill me”and just might send in the Grim Reaper??? Did you just read all that? Yeah, that’s new. New panic. Death – in jest or in reality – has me very anxious now.

Also, every time I hear the word “kill” in a children’s movie or cartoon I think, “SERIOUSLY?? I DON’T WANT THAT WORD AROUND MY KID! WHY DOES HE NEED TO HEAR THE WORD “KILL” FROM A DISNEY MOVIE… OR EVER? HE DOES NOT NEED THAT WORD IN HIS LIFE!” I would rather he say the word “fuck” by mistake than the word “kill.” I mean that. But please don’t let him go around saying the word fuck either.

If I wasn’t clear, I’m trying to say I have changed and mostly for the better… (whispers) in my honest opinion.

For example, I don’t put myself down so much anymore, especially about the physical things, like my face…or my body image. Because my son is beautiful and I want him to grow up without insecurity and self-hate. I want him to see himself (and he will see a lot of his mom in him) and know he is perfect the way he is… because he is. So I try harder to feel love for myself so he’ll know how to love himself, too.

And, I don’t care as much about the things I cannot change, instead I concentrate on those things I can

I cannot change the fact that Trump was elected president, but I can be an active participant in making sure our country isn’t devastated by the actions he and his merry band of thieves try to enact.

I cannot change the way some folks see me or feel about me, but I can change the way I feel about it.

I cannot change the fact that I am an aging actress who has not yet met her big break, but I can change the way that sentence reads: I am an actor who has been so lucky to work and continue to pursue work with the same enthusiasm I’ve had from day one.

I have better insight now because I see the world through my son’s eyes, everything is new and shiny, and bright and I don’t want to take that away from him ever.

I’ve changed, yes, becoming a parent has made me a little soft (both physically and emotionally), it has made me brave, and most importantly it has made the important things far more evident than they were.

Just in case you were worried there were only good things, here is a list of the bad things that have changed since becoming a parent:

  1. I have no patience when my husband interrupts my five minutes of alone time (which is also known as Mom’s Shower Time) to brush his teeth, pee-pee, or bring in our toddler to say, “hi.”
  2. I do not have time for stupid people now. They used to be amusing, now they’re just a time-zap.
  3. I eat painfully, horribly, and without structure and it sucks, but we’ll get back there Food, we will.
  4. Dates nights are near non-existent.
  5. My clothing money goes to a constantly growing toddler.
  6. I worry a lot more. Yes, it is possible.
  7. If there’s a poopy odor, it’s usually because there’s poop… on me.
  8. Everybody wants to know when I’m going to have more babies. This is annoying. I do not need to have another child to be a good parent or fulfilled mother and if I do have another child I don’t have to be the one that carries it (I can adopt/foster/or trade) and frankly you either only have one more child than me or have no children so WTF? Step off. Thank you.

Life is good.

Someone Stole A Towel

3332e5238659a1b6115fe907e33b69a7Someone took a towel.

We’ve all done it before. Taken a towel from a hotel. Most of us out of necessity, but someone took a towel from the AirBnBeeber.

Someone stole a towel.

Writing the word “stole,” sounds a bit savage, premeditated… aggressive even. I actually do not think that it was aggressive. No, this was not an act of malice, I’m positive. And I’m 73% certain that this was an isolated incident by whichever individual took the towel. However:

Someone did pilfer a towel.

Listen, and I’m serious now, you don’t accidentally pack a large, fluffy white bath towel in your overnight luggage from your AirBnBeeber without noticing. No, you take it, snatch it, loot-abscond-with-nab-heist-borrow-it, but you do not accidentally pack it.

Like I said, we’ve all taken a towel from a hotel before. And honestly, for the most part, hotels are big corporations, not people, and do not notice a towel missing here or there. In fact, I’m pretty sure they have it fixed in their quarterly budgets to replace overused and missing towels. Just in case this is a bigger issue for corporations than I am giving credit, for those of you working in Hotel Hospitality, no need to correct me. I’m sure your loss prevention team has made all staff very aware that towel disappearance is your major expenditure and you need to nip it in the bud. But that’s off topic, let’s get back to the little guy and why you should not steal my towels at the AirBnBeeber.

Towels are expensive. Like very. If I didn’t put nice linens, fluffy soft, clean white towels in the unit, you would leave me a low rating, a less than five star review and I would suffer bookings all on account of the fact that I didn’t provide nice towels. So you get nice towels, and I got robbed.

There have been toilet paper thieves, excessive coffee pod thieves, sugar thieves, books and game thieves, and now towel thieves. You guys, seriously, even purchased at Costco towels are EXPENSIVE. Please stop stealing towels.

I have been trying to put myself in the shoes of the abductor, like, did they get take-out and spill some dark sauce and use the towel as a rag to sop it up. Embarrassed by their mistake they took the towel to leave no evidence behind?

Did they wash their underwear in the sink and it didn’t dry before they left so they took the towel to wrap up their damp items?

Or did they decide on a last minute trip to the beach before their flight when it occurred to them that they had nothing packed for a beach stop so they took a towel, but just one to share, out of courtesy as to not steal two towels. Maybe I should thank them.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

If you’re a towel snatcher, hotel robe abductor, extra soaps on the maid’s cart pilfer and feel you’re entitled because it’s there, here is a little sage advice – AirBnB is not for you.

And if you’re a compulsive towel snatcher may I suggest you start traveling with your own towels? Yeah, just pack one from home. Then you won’t feel the need to borrow (never to return) your host’s.

 

Cycling Through That One Relationship

10482455_10152975622434418_2079828188648728613_nIn the current atmosphere of sharing and sisterhood I will tell you a story that is both personal and uncomfortable.

Before I met Jason I was in a brief relationship with someone I referred to as my boyfriend. Our interaction lasted for about eight months. Leading up to our first date he had made several awkward and endearing attempts to flirt with me over the course of about two years, but I was too obtuse to notice.

A friend, that knew us both, had clued me in on the secret and encouraged me to go out on one date. She, at the time, thought very highly of him. And since I thought very highly of her, I agreed to go on one date.

Very quickly, too quickly, one date led to two dates, led to three, and so on. You know how these things go. He was charming, shy, and smart. I am a romantic, open, and very empathetic. He acquired his adjectives through practice and I earned mine because of a deep desire to connect with people. His gave him an advantage; mine got me in trouble.

Like many relationships, the beginning consisted of lots of dinners where there was a lot of wine. After a glass; often two, I was light-headed and giddy and listened with much intent as he poured out his pain in a broody, rugged, very masculine way. He told me about his previous, and only, two relationships. He’d been in love with women that didn’t appreciate him. They didn’t appreciate the amount of time he invested in his future, or his passions. They didn’t appreciate the home he worked so hard on, or his career, or his body. They took for granted the life he was willing to share with them. They had both left him without a word. Vanished, leaving nothing but a Dear John on his mantle. Two Dear John letters, from two different women, to one man.

These were clues and I admit I was guilty of ignoring them. It was easy to ignore the bad things he said because he said them while floating between French and English. And with the most mesmerizing French-Swiss-American accent. I mean, it’s tough to hear words when someone is speaking so beautifully. All I heard was music.

When he drank he would cycle through mood changes quicker than a post partum, first time mom. He was always boisterous at first, then sad, sad turned into anger, and eventually he was tired and cuddly. I thought he was working out some demons that the alcohol was surfacing, but don’t we all have demons? Don’t we all get a little sad or angry when we imbibe? I brushed it off. I didn’t want to see the bigger picture. I just wanted it to be easy. He was, after all, highly respected in his career, held an MBA from a prestigious university, and was almost ten years my senior. I promised myself he was just working through some “stuff” and it was only when he was drinking… and of course at this point there was always drinking involved. So I made a silent pledge: no alcohol on our next date.

I should have recorded myself and played the tape back. I should have listened to me. I should have left then. Right then. But I didn’t, because we had an impromptu trip planned overseas, and a huge hiking weekend coming up, and we had just bought theatre tickets and well, there were so many commitments already made.

I was not desperate to be in a relationship. I loved dating, meeting new people, the adventures. I did not suffer from any relationship co-dependency. I was not in love with him, not yet anyway, not ever that I can remember, though I do think I had love for him. The thing is, I didn’t listen to the warnings because I wasn’t taught to. I was taught to think of the women that dated him before me as crazy. That the behavior his previous girlfriends exhibited was erratic, wrong, bitchy. I was taught not to trust them, but to sympathize with the broken hearted man in front of me. He was too good for them.

Then something happened. Something that forced me to pay attention. We were cycling through the hills. He became competitive, angry, wanted to race up hills, and down long winding paths. I giggled and took my time, thinking it was a game and silly. And when I smiled and laughed at his taunting, he took it as a personal affront. He started screaming at me. Bellowing from somewhere deep, yelling things like, “YOU’LL NEVER LEARN!” And when I didn’t respond after nearly ten minutes of his berating, but instead turned around to leave, he rode his bike straight into mine knocking me down to the ground.

My shins were badly scraped and my knee deeply bruised, but I stood up, picked up my bike, shakily climbed atop, and headed in the direction of my car. I couldn’t hear him yelling; the wind was strangely quiet, and my heart was pumping very hard and fast. I felt his presence behind me, following me, and I thought I could hear him calling out my name; softer now, and caring. I pedaled faster. As I approached my car, which was parked in his driveway, he quickly approached me and swiftly herded me inside the house. I wanted to run, but I didn’t. I also wanted him to be sorry. And for a moment he was.

It was a “mistake,” he said. He’d had a “hard day,” and a bad call with his “troubled mother,” and it came out “wrongly on you,” he said. And then came the remorse, almost rehearsed, articulate, astute: “Please” would I stay and let him “prove” to me that “this isn’t who” he is. “Haven’t I ever been angry and made a mistake?”

Yes, I had, but I’d regretted those mistakes. And my mistakes happened while I was a child, not a fully cooked adult.

We’d been dating for four months now, and he insisted I knew him better than this one action. And I thought maybe I did, maybe this was an isolated occurrence.

What I told myself in that moment was I knew I would never be a woman in an abusive relationship, and no, that’s not what this is, no, no, no. That’s preposterous. No. No. NO. Maybe he didn’t knock me off my bike maybe I stumbled against the curb because he rode too close. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he was coming over to hug me and I misinterpreted the whole thing. Maybe it was an honest mistake.

And so I stayed. I STAYED. Not because my knee hurt and my shins stung. Not because I was being held captive. I stayed because I felt bad for thinking he was abusive. And if I left after such an ordeal – him unscathed and me bleeding – he would think I didn’t believe him. It was only one mistake, and he wasn’t a bad guy. Would a bad guy be drawing me a bath and putting ointment on my injuries? Everybody thought the world of him, and so I wanted to as well.

Things were normal-ish for a while. We both worked a lot, so our limited time to hang out became fodder for his testy remarks: “You don’t want to be seen with me, you must be ashamed of me.” And, “I’m a much more important person than you, just because you are busy doesn’t make you better than me.” Or my favorite, “If you don’t pay more attention to me I may have to start dating one of the many other girls that like me.”

I was nonplussed by his remarks. They were juvenile and stemming from his insecurity, and I just let him throw his tantrums and then I would coddle him back to happy by showering him with compliments. I would tell him how handsome he was, how dashing. And I would tell him the thing he needed to hear the most, “It gives me such a great sense of pride to be seen with you; such a handsome and accomplished man.”

Gag.

This was the glue that held the relationship together and admittedly I got a rush fixing us. Once we were back to happy I felt myself walking on eggshells trying not to enrage him while he basked in the warm sun of his own ego.

Why didn’t I break up with him? I should have, so many times. I wanted to and he knew it. But I felt trapped…because we worked together. In the same building, for the same company, crossing paths all day long. Which is worse than breaking up with someone you live with. Once you leave someone you live with, that’s it. It’s final, done, unless you want to see each other. Breaking up with a co-worker is difficult, messy, and you spend more time in each other’s space than you do at home.

To my credit, this is why I had purposely remained obtuse to his flirtations for two years. I did not want to be aware of him. I did not want to have a relationship where I worked. Not at all, not ever. It is also the precise reason I made him promise that we wouldn’t announce we were dating to coworkers, or to anyone at work, not until the relationship was serious; not until we’d been together for at least a year. I wanted to keep my personal life segregated from my work life.

Obviously he felt differently. Unbeknownst to me, he had told people all over the building: the receptionist, my clients, V.P.s, the cafeteria staff, his carpool, anyone whose attention he could hold for thirty seconds.

I was not flattered. I was upset. I was embarrassed. I was betrayed. My trust had been violated. However, I carried on at work in the same manner I did before he and I dated and before anyone knew.

His volatile behavior escalated with each passing week. If I did not allow him to steal kisses in elevators, or meet him for coffee breaks when he demanded, or respond to his inter-office messages immediately, he would pull me outside the building and question my loyalty while demanding an apology for not being available at his beck and call. I reminded him I had a job, and a demanding one at that, and the building was filled with my clients. He reminded me that he ranked higher than I did. That if I didn’t stop being a “Bitch” he would make it impossible for me to work on my accounts that he oversaw.

His complete arrogance and the sense of entitlement he felt over me made me feel like a hostage. I felt I had to keep the peace and I prayed he would break-up with me so I wouldn’t lose my job or have to quit.

We went on a trip; a six hour drive up to the mountains. When we arrived at our destination he drank and quickly became upset. There was no one thing I could say correctly to avoid the anger that came as a postrequisite to his drinking. When morning rolled around he was still feeling disappointed, hurt, wronged.

“You’re just like everyone else. You don’t get it. I could be somebody,” he muttered to me, to himself, to the empty room.

I wanted to leave, but instead he left to go ski and I stayed behind, under the guise of writing. I called hotels, no vacancies. I tried busses and trains and car rentals. There was nothing. NOTHING. No escape.

When he got back we went to dinner. He drank some more. He became agitated and loud. I sat silently, waiting out his storm. But the storm didn’t pass. We got back to the condo and he helped himself to another drink, and got angrier. I left the room to separate myself and made a phone call. I would wait out the storm away from him. He came up the stairs. I set the phone down. His face was red from the blood rushing to it, his anger seething. I approached him, gently asking if he was okay, I was legitimately concerned and with one exhale he came toward me, picked me up and threw me clear across the room where I crashed against a wall and then plummeted to the ground.

I was whole, not bleeding, and nothing was broken, so I remained calm. I asked him to leave and he tried to throw my suitcase off the second story balcony into ten feet of snow.

He left the room and I locked the door behind him.

His articulate, astute voice replaced the rage as he tried to get back into the locked bedroom. When it didn’t work, the anger resurfaced. He was on the phone, speaking in French with someone. I understood very little, but recognized the tone of the voice. He was talking to his mother. He came back to the door demanding I open it or as his folle mère advised him to, he’d have to “slap me into submission.”

The door remained locked until morning.

 

I made it home. I broke up with him. I told him to get mental help.

He didn’t acknowledge our break up. He relentlessly made excuses to talk to me. Not because he was sorry; I don’t believe he is capable of empathy. He needed to win. And I’m not sure what winning “looked” like to him, and I didn’t want to find out.

After weeks of his relentless pleas to speak with him, I gave in. It was just easier. He wanted to tell me the following:

  1. He’d seen a therapist at my behest to “win” me back. The therapist diagnosed him as being “of superior mental health.” That he was not a candidate for therapy. And that he should break up with me immediately for suggesting he needed counseling.
  2. Didn’t I see that we were supposed to be together? Couldn’t I see the future, a wedding, a baby?
  3. Everything was my fault. I provoked him to feel a great deal of animosity.
  4. Why did all the “girls” he dated treat him like this?
  5. His mother was right, he should only date very young women that were not pressured by their biological clocks. And that he should have slapped me and thrown me off the balcony.

I could go on, but it would just get really repetitive.

So I gave him what he wanted. I told him what he wanted to hear. I told him he was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I’d learned so much from him. That I wasn’t enough for him and his mother was right: my need to procreate had indeed made me and all other women of menstrual age unbearable. He indeed did deserve better. I told him I thought his “therapist” was correct to suggest he break up with me, and that it was an inevitable conclusion.

And that was it.

One week later I found out he was dating a young woman, almost twenty years younger than him, at the office. She had just graduated… undergrad.

I wanted to warn her. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to give her my number in case she needed help.

When she would see me she’d unashamedly run in the other direction. She refused eye contact. And she glowed with pride when she held his hand around the office building. He frequently strutted her past me with purpose.

It wasn’t her fault she didn’t trust me; she wasn’t taught to listen to the women that came before her, either. Maybe she was riding the same cycle I had. Maybe she still is.

Thankfully I rode in a different direction.