Sometimes you just need to leave. Go. Anywhere. Just go. To clear your head, to feel un-stuck. To remind yourself of possibility.
I drove today. Just drove. Ended up in my hometown. Haven’t been there in years. Grew up there, went to college there, did half of med school there. Met a couple of husbands there, raised a couple of kids for a few years there.
Everywhere I drove, there were memories. Getting lunch at Pedro’s with my mom when I was ten, feeling so grown up. My first kiss in Memorial Park, lying in the damp September grass. Standing outside Leonard Hall arguing politics. Spending hours in the archives at Stapleton library working out how the coal company exploited us all. Volunteering at the Jimmy Stewart museum. Volunteering for Obama in 2008. Handing out flyers for our riot grrl club outside the Indigo Girls show and they all thought we were fundamentalist Christians there to remind them lesbians surely go to hell. Terese avenue where my parents met. The cemetery by the hospital where my grandfather received his military burial.
Lots of trauma memories too, to be honest with you. But I don’t really need help remembering those.
I thought of my mother as I drove around. How very stuck she was. And how hard that must have been. I tried being a stay at home mom and it drove me mad. Maybe it did for her too but she couldn’t really do anything about it, couldn’t even let herself think it. Admit she felt it. Maybe there weren’t many ways for her to try to get unstuck, if only for a bit, other than the way they came out. The ways that were so toxic.
Driving home, the sky was beautiful. Honestly, the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen. I won’t bother butchering trying to describe it. I was on 422, the only car on the road for a few moments. Driving my red Mini Cooper with the racing stripes I’d listed after since ninth grade, sunroof open, perfect September night, my favorite Britney remix blaring. And it was perfect. A few brief moments of utter perfection. A minute or so later I drove past Cheese Run Rd, where my parents’ house is. And I realized that this unexpected little trip has been unexpectedly healing.
Maybe it was closure. Or synthesis. Maybe it was a spiritual experience. Maybe it was me allowing myself to feel nostalgia again. Forgiving them, forgiving myself, forgiving God. And maybe that beautiful sky, that perfect moment, was God letting me know I’m forgiven too.
Two years ago today I did a brave thing and I’m so glad I did. The world may be collapsing right now, but it’s collapsing around us, not in on us. We are safe inside together. Laughing, crying, fighting, forgiving, growing, playing, creating and eating whatever we damn well please. Thank you God for delivering us.
Water torture encompasses a variety of techniques using water to inflict physical or psychological harm on a victim as a form of torture or execution
I’d like to start this post by pointing out the term “Chinese water torture” is racist and nonsensical actually. When this torture technique has been used, it has been mainly by Europeans and there’s no recorded instances of the Chinese ever having used it.
Ok, onward and upward.
There’s this book by Lundy Bancroft I bought years ago titled “Why Does He Do That?” It’s about abusive partners and the many myths that surround our ideas of abuse. He’s a counselor that works with abusive men who either want to change or have been forced by the courts to undergo counseling. We often say abusive men need to learn to manage their anger but Bancroft argues that abuse isn’t an issue of out of control anger. Rather, it is a systemic, deliberate process used to control for the benefit of the abuser. They don’t need to learn to control themselves; they need to learn to stop controlling their partner (and everyone else in their lives they’re controlling).
In the book, he details ten different categories of abusers. The one I am going to talk (err-write) about today is the Water Torturer.
We’re all familiar with the idea of water torture. Not the waterboarding done by the US government. Rather, this idea of tying someone down and dripping water down onto their forehead slowly, drip by drip. The drops come randomly and it induces a psychological breakdown.
Lundy uses this as a metaphor for the kind of abuser who doesn’t yell or hit. He is always calm and appears to the outside world to be a great guy. He rarely slips up and lets anyone see what he’s really like. He knows how to push his partner’s buttons and get *her* to scream and get emotional. Then he says “why are you getting so worked up?” “you really need to work on your mental health problems” “stop abusing me.” He doesn’t punch or kick but he engages in subtle physical abuse such as blocking her from leaving the room or following her around the house arguing when she tries to get away. He doesn’t engage in blatant sexual abuse such as rape but rather makes degrading comments about her sexual interests, her appearance or withholds sex. He makes extensive use of sarcasm, put downs, controlling where she goes, controlling money, undermining her sense of self worth, isolating her from friends and family, badmouthing her to other people and gaslighting. Lots and lots of gaslighting.
Because you see, like Harry Houdini who helped popularize the idea of water torture, he depends upon an illusion to keep her with him. He depends on creating distractions so neither she nor the outside world can see what he really is and what he’s really doing.
The good news, friends, is that you don’t have to remain strapped down to that table. The damage done by this abuse is extensive, but most definitely something you can heal from.
You just have to keep in mind the Wizard of Oz is not real and keep your eyes on the little man behind the curtain. It’s hard to do, but you’re a badass so you got this.
I see this a lot in my practice. I have women who come in with black eyes and broken ribs, but more often they come in telling me stories of emotional abuse like this. They’ve been so worn down by it, like a pebble in a stream that becomes small and smooth over time from the water flowing over it. They are too tired and broken to leave. And they’re in love. And they’re addicted to the chemicals our brains grow to crave when we’ve been in toxic, tumultuous relationships for so long.
The University of Illinois did some research and noticed there are 5 stages to leaving an abusive relationship. The first two stages encompass the very beginning of the abused partner noticing there is something very wrong, something that goes beyond normal relationship issues. She’s nowhere close to leaving, but the spell has started to wear off. Stage three, women start to notice the effect of the abuse on their children. They start viewing the abuser’s behavior as abuse on a regular basis. And they start preparing to leave. Maybe they tell a friend what’s going on. Start stashing away cash in case they need to run. Call a domestic violence line. Stage four is an interesting one.
Stage four is the yo yo stage. You leave but then you come back. You might end up yo yo-ing several times before you truly leave. Why? Because he says he’ll change. Because being on your own is hard, financially, logistically (with kids), emotionally. Because he gets other people to guilt trip you. Because he won’t “give up on you.” Because you’re addicted to the brain chemicals. Because this dynamic is comfortable to you. Because you love him.
Stage five is the final one. You have left and you have stayed away and aren’t going back. The researchers define this as having left and stayed away 6 months or more. The abuse can continue if there are children involved and you are forced to have continue contact with your abuser, but it’s much less than before and you can begin to heal and move on.
It’s hard as doctor to have patients in those first four stages. Hard for friends and family too. But you can’t skip stages and you can’t rush someone through them. They have to make the choice to leave and stay left. You can support them by listening without judgement and validating their feelings. If you’re a friend or family, offering help with kids and other logistics can help too. And if they yo yo back, be there for them. They may be afraid to tell you. They may avoid you. Don’t give up on them. The abuser will likely make even greater attempts to isolate his partner if she goes back, so stay in her life whatever way you safely can and let her know you’re there is she ever needs you.
A lot of doctors shy away from dealing with the issue of intimate partner violence because they find it so frustrating to have a patient that won’t leave or who goes back. There are a lot of reasons women stay or return. And the sad reality is, sometimes it’s safer or necessary for her to stay. Being there to keep her as safe and supported as possible is hard, but it can be life changing for her. If you abandon her because she won’t leave, you’re just continuing the patten of the abuser, seeking to control her.
The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. So, if you’re in a relationship with a water torturer, don’t put off considering leaving. A lot of times the reasons we come up with to stay aren’t as convincing if we discuss them with someone outside the relationship like a therapist, domestic help line or friend. Once you’re down in his world of gaslighting, isolation and control, your sense of reality is skewed. You need someone who isn’t riding that Tilt-A-Whirl.
Once you are out, the healing is not necessarily the most fun process. It’s kind of like when someone is getting over opiate addiction. There’s a lot they need to dig out from. A lot of pain and sadness and the practical part of rebuilding your life. But there’s also joy. And as the months pass, there is less and less pain and more and more joy. And you will look back and say, how did I do that all those years? How did I survive? And you’ll see what a badass you are. And that there are far better things at the carnival than the broken Tilt-A-Whirl. And you and your kids will eat cotton candy and laugh and sleep soundly at the end of the day cozy in your warm, safe beds.
I cried a little on my way into work this morning. Well, not work exactly. I was actually driving to the tire place near my office because I got another flat. Presumably due to hitting the curb too many times trying to squeeze into a parking space in front of my house, a popular place for people from all corners the earth to park. Not that I’m bitter. Anyway, back to the crying. I was crying because I didn’t have a head scarf on. I was crying because my divorce was a little about more final now.
I started wearing my headscarves five years ago. Was it really five years? It went so fast. It was after my husband and I had reconciled, for the second time. I decided to wear the scarf for a lot of reasons. I’m sure I’ve written posts about it on here. I covered my head on my spiritual journey of my youth. Covered it studying Judaism, covered it exploring Islam, covered it, ultimately as a Catholic (turned post-Catholic). It was a way for me to remember God each day. But it was also because I was married. Muslim women who wear hijab do so whether they’re married or not. Same with the Amish. But Orthodox Jews cover their hair when they’re married.
And I’m not married anymore. Mostly.
Divorce doesn’t happen in a day. There’s the day you file, the day you tell the kids, the day you tell everyone else, the day you move out, the day you change your name back, the day you write up your custody agreement, the day you divide up your assets and debts (the physical ones anyway. Not sure you ever stop dividing up the blame and resentment but I hope so), the day the decree is handed down. But these are just the outward signs of the true divorce, the one inside you.
I chose to stop wearing my headscarves this weekend after a year and a half of considering it. I thought and contemplated and prayed and searched my heart and consulted the cards. And I knew it was time. I’m still devoted to God and I’ll still wear it on certain occasions. But, for me, a head scarf is for married women. And I’m not married anymore.
But as I was crying, I thought, why are you crying? It’s not that I miss my husband. I reeeeeeally don’t. It’s definitely not that I wish we were still together. I reeeeeeally don.’t. It was something else. A marriage is more than the two people in it. There are the two of you and then there’s who you thought they were and who they thought you were. There’s the couple you thought you were and the couple they thought you were. There’s all the people in your life and what you thought your marriage was to them. There are your kids and what it was to them. And there are your hopes, the life you thought would unfold over the next 30 or 40 years. Your identity as a married woman, now a twice divorced woman. It is a slow, painful death. But.
It is followed by rebirth. All those contractions and dilating and blood and fluid and pushing until you think you might split in two like a wishbone, are worth it in the end. You emerge bloody and red and crying. You might even have some meconium in your lungs to work out. The air is cold and you miss the comfort of the womb, but there’s no going back. Here you are.
I wish I could say there’s a big boob waiting there to comfort you, but there’s not. After all, you just gave birth to yourself. The only teet is your own. Okay I’m going to drop this metaphor now. It’s getting a little bit too weird.
Where was I? Oh yes, scarves.
When I started covering my head, after we reconciled, if I’m being completely honest with myself, it was about more than God. And it was about more than being married. It was to contain the part of me I had to put deep inside in order to keep my marriage together.
We reconciled because I couldn’t financially afford to leave but we also reconciled because I couldn’t stand to be alone. It took me 40 years to get to a place where I could be alone and not fall apart. Okay, 42; I’ve definitely fallen apart during this divorce process and had to have some very strong external motivators to keep me going. Anyway, when I went back five years ago, it was in resignation. Resignation to the fact I couldn’t afford to leave, resignation to the fact I wasn’t strong enough to leave but I wasn’t strong enough to stay. I knew if I went back this time, that was it. I was in it for the long haul. I couldn’t keep putting my kids through the back and forth. Or myself. I needed to be stable and give them a stable home. I needed to grow up and accept my life for what it was. And so, I knew I had to resign myself to the parts of my husband that always made me want to leave. I had to accept the control and paranoia and misogyny and irrationality and the messy house and everything else. And I had to dim my light, so I didn’t outshine him. And so I covered it with a scarf and said goodbye.
How many of us spend our lives dimming our light to keep the people in our lives happy?
Well, fuck that.
It’s been a long journey of spiritual growth and therapy and a lot of blog entries and a few very good friends. But I have started shining again. Gradually, over these past few years. And now, the scarves are off and I’m aiming for supernova levels.
It’s not just him. It’s so many people who’ve been in my life. And that’s life. That’s the fallen world we live in where people are insecure and jealous and afraid and don’t realize there’s room for all of us to shine. A million white hot suns. Feel free to stare directly at us, it will not damage your retinas.
And so, I find myself thinking of Gloria Steinem and Rhoda Morgenstern and all the other fabulous, confident, free spirited 40-something women with good hair. I am not someone new. I am just stripping away all the layers I’ve used to dull my shine. The self-imposed vernix. I am becoming more me.
I’m throwing my deep purple scarf in the air, ’cause I’m gonna make it after all.
I recently asked a patient how their Mother’s Day had been and they replied, not good. Their mother had found out her partner had been slowly poisoning her. I asked them if this person seemed the poisoning type, any history of violence or mental illness? No, they responded. It was a total shock. And I thought to myself, why would someone poison their spouse instead of just divorcing them? And then I thought about what divorce is like and I wasn’t as stumped.
My friend told me about a prominent pastor who’d slowly poisoned his wife and made it appear as though she had a terrible chronic disease so he could garner attention and sympathy (narcissist much?). Another friend related to me a tale of a man who had poisoned his wife (by slipping it into her prenatal vitamins) right before she got into her car, hoping to make it look like a car accident but the poison kicked in too quickly and he was caught.
And then a friend told me the tale of Aqua Tofana.
Giulia Tafana lived in 17th century Italy. She made cosmetics and holy oils for women by trade. But, she also helped over 600 women kill their husbands with a poison she made called Aqua Tofana. She succeeded for decades but in 1659 she and her daughter Girolama Spara were put to death for their crimes. Well, by one account anyway. Another has Tofana dying peacefully of old age and her daughter taking over the family business.
Spara operated as a kind of “cunning woman” who sold charms and cures to the gentlewomen and nobility of Rome. These activities would not only have introduced her to potential customers, but would also have given her a shrewd idea of which of her clients were happy in their marriages and which unhappy – not to mention which might be desperate enough to seek drastic remedies, and be able to keep a secret.
The thing to keep in mind is that in 17th century Europe, women had no rights. Your husband could beat and rape you as much as he pleased. Your father could pick your husband for you. Women had very little control over their lives and divorce was not a thing back then. What was a girl to do? Giulia Tofana had the answer.
Aqua Tofana was a unique poison. It was colorless and flavorless and only 4 drops was enough to kill a man (or, as the primmer source goes, “sufficient to destroy a man”). The wife would put the first drop in his food or wine and he would feel a bit off, a bit tired. Then in a a day or two she would slip him the second drop and he’d feel worse. By the third drop, he was vomiting and diarrheaing all over the place (which she probably had to clean up) and calling for the priest. And the final drop did him in.
Administered in wine or tea or some other liquid by the flattering traitress, [it] produced but a scarcely noticeable effect; the husband became a little out of sorts, felt weak and languid, so little indisposed that he would scarcely call in a medical man…. After the second dose of poison, this weakness and languor became more pronounced… The beautiful Medea who expressed so much anxiety for her husband’s indisposition would scarcely be an object of suspicion, and perhaps would prepare her husband’s food, as prescribed by the doctor, with her own fair hands. In this way the third drop would be administered, and would prostrate even the most vigorous man. The doctor would be completely puzzled to see that the apparently simple ailment did not surrender to his drugs, and while he would be still in the dark as to its nature, other doses would be given, until at length death would claim the victim for its own…
To save her fair fame, the wife would demand a post-mortem examination. Result, nothing — except that the woman was able to pose as a slandered innocent, and then it would be remembered that her husband died without either pain, inflammation, fever, or spasms. If, after this, the woman within a year or two formed a now connection, nobody could blame her; for, everything considered, it would be a sore trial for her to continue to bear the name of a man whose relatives had accused her of poisoning him.
She initially disguised it as cosmetics but soon moved to hiding it in holy oil bottles marked Manna of St. Nicholas of Barri. This was appropriate because a priest, Father Girolama, was getting them their supplies. (A crooked priest??? Shocking, I know, but it’s true). It was also appropriate because what gal doesn’t want jolly old St. Nick bringing her some Aqua Tofana? Slip a bottle of that potion under my tree, Santa!
We don’t know if any of this is true, of course. The witch hunts were still going in the 17th century as part of a broad and violent effort to suppress female healers, midwives, artisans and craftspeople. Maria Mies refers to this process as Housewiferization . European women were being removed from the public sphere and confined to the private sphere of the home. It’s possible the tale of Aqua Tofana is entirely a result of the times. But I think most women would like to think it’s true. Not because we’re homicidal, but because, well, patriarchy sucks. Being powerless sucks. Why shouldn’t those 17th century men have at least been a little afraid their wife might poison them if they treated her like shit?
We don’t have to poison our husbands these days. We can just divorce them. There’s less vomit to clean up. But it doesn’t make nearly as good a story.
My therapist and I realized the other day that although I’ve been in therapy with her off and on since 2014, we’ve never discussed my childhood. “Well,” she said, “I’m sure you’ve discussed it with the other therapists you’ve seen in the past.” “No,” I replied, “I haven’t. Never.” She asked. if I thought we should and I paused and took a deep breath and said, yes. My life has been a series of fires to put out for so long, this is the first time we’ve had time to get into it. She is clearly not a Freudian. And I have clearly been avoiding this. (My mother’s voice ringing loud in my head “someday you’ll grow up and go to therapy and talk about what a terrible mother I was,” making a pit in my stomach big enough to swallow me whole. The guilt. The shame. You don’t talk about the family to anyone outside the family.
Soon after this, someone tweeted about writing about your childhood and your parents’ reaction. It was a lighthearted tweet but some jackass replied that if one is going to write something negative about one’s parents, they should discuss it with their parents first as he had had an experience counter to this and was not okay with it. Here’s my response:
He has since deleted his comment as you can see.
I mean what I said and yet, I have held back on discussing certain things here. But I’m reminded of the quote:
So, fuck it.
I was reading my fave Viktor Frankl a couple of weeks ago. There’s a book newly translated to English of some talks he gave in 1946, shortly after leaving the camps. He writes about getting out and choosing to stay in Austria and the experience of having so many people there say, oh we had no idea what was going on in the camps. He calls it a deliberate not knowing and says it’s essential to the success of authoritarian regimes. Ordinary people must deliberately turn away from what is happening so that they don’t have to accept responsibility for it, don’t have the moral imperative to do something about it.
And as I was reading it, I thought of my mother. I thought of how much energy she and my father have put into not knowing for my entire life. You see, my greatest fear has always been that my children will turn out like me. They most definitely got some crap genes from me (nature) so I have to know that I am raising them differently than I was raised (nurture). And so, I have to remember what it was like and all the glaring red flags and cries for help and all that that they purposely ignored. Because I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t ignore my kids’ cries for help and red flags and all that.
I used to make excuses for them. It was the 1980s, it was rural Appalachia, not a place mental health was talked about. We didn’t have health insurance a lot of the time. But it’s just excuses. I had a lot of friends, of all classes and varieties, whose parents got them help (tried to anyway). The truth of it is, she didn’t want to be embarrassed and she didn’t want to be bothered. It’s messy, ya know? I remember writing a story in college about a girl who kills herself by slitting her wrists but makes sure to put newspapers down so it won’t make a mess for her mother to clean up. I had no idea the story was about me. I truly didn’t.
When you cut yourself everyday with razor blades, arms and ankles and shoulders and thighs, it is bloody. It wasn’t a thing back then. They still called it “self mutilation.” A friend of mine turned me and my boyfriend onto it and I loved it. I loved it for a lot of reasons, conscious and subconscious. I tried to hide it but apparently something happened that made it impossible to ignore. So they told me to stop. And she said, “You don’t need to see someone do you? You’re all right aren’t you?” And there was only one acceptable answer. “I’m fine.” Because we were always fine.
But my cuts were a reminder we weren’t actually fine. An intrusion into the beautiful little house where she kept her china dolls, four daughters, four dolls. And so my sisters would say that I needed to stop upsetting mom. And they would check me for cuts. And I would find new places to cut that they weren’t willing to look. And in time it blew over. She honestly probably completely forgot about it pretty quickly. They do that, ya know? People like her. They just dissociate out the bad memories that don’t fit their picture of the perfect little life. Just put the cut up doll in a new long sleeved dress and back in her place and everything’s fine again.
Fine. We’re fine. Everything’s fine.
We came home drunk, came home high, came home tripping balls. And they didn’t notice. I thought I was really good at faking them out. My other friends’ parents kept catching them but not me and my sister. We were so much better than them! Of course, we weren’t. Of course, if my kids came home like that I would know instantly. And have to deal with it. And admit things are not fine. And I would. But not her. Not them.
And if my four year old came to me asking for protection because her older sister was bullying her, I wouldn’t say “Toughen up. Life is hard,” and go about my day. If they locked her in a room with a static-y TV meant to terrify her at age 5 because she’d seen Poltergeist, if she was so scared she literally ripped the door off the hinges trying to escape, I would do something about that shit. For her sake and for theirs. I prefer not to raise any of my kids to be dickheads. But she loved her flying monkeys because they did the work for her.
I have to think about these things to remind myself I am a different mother than she was and that my kids won’t turn out like me. They’re already turning out differently. They don’t pretend everything is fine (not at my house anyway). They get mad and sad and worried and frustrated and bored. And they notice when I’m unhappy and ask me if I’m okay and what’s wrong and they try to cheer me up. These things happen daily, generally multiple times a day. And it occurs to me how many millions of time I have stuffed down sadness and anger and guilt and confusion and shame and just generally not being fine. And how many times I have stuffed down the urge to say, what’s wrong, Mommy? Because no matter what I said or how I acted, I knew things weren’t fine. I just didn’t know how to say it. For decades.
I look at my daughter and think, wow, she’s so perceptive. She spots manipulation or insincerity a mile away and she calls you on it. And it’s taken me a year and a half to realize I was that perceptive too. I just didn’t allow myself to admit it. Because I had to survive. Because children die without adults to take care of them.
I think about that study where they replaced infant monkey’s mothers with these cloth monkey dolls and the monkeys bonded to them, clung to them. Those infants turned out much better than the monkeys without one, or with the ones made of wire instead of cloth. And I wonder, did those monkeys grow up and go out in the world and eventually realize their mothers were just dolls, and not real mothers at all? Did the monkeys marry monkeys or dolls? If you’re used to a doll, I’d imagine marrying a real actual monkey wouldn’t feel right. Until you eventually realized being married to a doll isn’t normal at all, and really not a good idea.
WILL YOU MARRY ME? I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK!
I am 42 years old. And up until a few weeks ago, I would have told you I’m not an emotional person. A lot of statements like this “That movie had me crying and I’m not an emotional person.” “I’m not a crier but when she said that, I ended up bawling.” And so on and so forth. I didn’t think I was an emotional person because that’s what they told me. I remember being at the Pittsburgh International Airport and my mom was either leaving for her prolonged trip abroad or returning from it. I was 16 or 17. And my mom was crying and my sister was crying and so on and so forth. And I wasn’t. And it was, oh what’s wrong with her? Why isn’t she crying? And so when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 22, it all made sense as to why she never seemed to express the appropriate emotions. And what it took me all these decades to realize, is that I knew it was all fake. The tears, the words they spoke, the situationally appropriate feelings they acted out. All a performance. A play we put on everyday for ourselves, for the world. I just couldn’t play along. Actual sadness, actual crying, I knew to keep hidden. Like a rabbit crouching down in the field, pressing its soft underbelly to the cool grass, hoping the wolf won’t rip its intestines out. Hoping it will pass by. Never, I mean never, expose your soft underbelly to them. Keep it locked away. Even from yourself.
It turns out, I’m actually really fucking emotional. I cried in front of patients in residency. That is not done. I cry on my way home from a hard shift with my addiction patients. I cry every time my son Max plays piano. I cry at movies, on almost every major holiday, thinking about the future, the past. I’m a crier. It’s taken me my entire life to 1) realize this and 2) let go of the shame around it. You’re not allowed to apologize for crying at my office. Humans are supposed to cry. And if someone feels safe enough to cry with me, I’m honored. Crying, real crying, not performance tears, it’s truly amazing. Every cry is a good cry.
Lena knows the difference between real tears and fake ones. She knows there’s a certain look he gives her that’s meant to make her feel bad for him and manipulate her into acting like she’ll miss him when he goes even though she won’t. And she knows how she’s supposed to act to make people happy. I think she knows she doesn’t need to do that with me. I hope. I’m actively working on it. Working on accepting emotions of all kinds from them and from me. On being honest with them when I’m sad or angry. On letting them know I’m there if they’re sad and that they won’t feel sad forever. Listening. Watching. Noticing. Remembering.
I will never understand how you can see your child’s body bloody and gashed and not want to do everything you can to help her. How you turn away from a four year old asking you for protection. How you tell your daughter she’s a crazy slut and a horrible mother and you’re giving her ex-husband money to get a lawyer and take her kids away. How you mention to her that her uncle googled “Elizabeth Fleming slut” and all kinds of things came up. Show her the tiny little AP wire article in the hometown paper about her turning in the pedophile and mentioning, accurate or not, details about her sex life, and talk about how humiliating it is and remind her how embarrassed her sisters are. And will never understand a man jealous of a ten year old. A man who belittles and degrades his children and his wife, plays them against one another, gaslights and lies. And do you know why?
Because they aren’t real people. They’re just cloth dolls pretending at being human. They’re badly behaved little sock monkeys and I merely, dear reader, relate the facts. Because everything was not fine. And every feeling and word and question and desire and lament and exaltation that I’ve swallowed down, that my children have swallowed down, that so many of us have swallowed down, deserves to come out whatever way we see fit. Y’all sock monkeys can go on deliberately not knowing, just work a little harder at it. The rest of us, we’re gonna be just fine.