I just finished reading the book The Help. I know. I know. I’m years behind on that one, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve never really been good at keeping up with the best seller list. That may sound blasphemous coming out of my mouth at this point in my life, but it’s been my own truth for as long as I can remember. Any time I’ve picked up a former “it” book and read it I understand why it was an “it” book and I’ve loved them all, just like I loved The Help.
The book dealt with so many layers of love, loss, sorrow, joy and abuse it was almost unbearable at times. But it dealt with it all with an honesty and a passion. It brought back to life instances of an abusive relationship I vividly remember.
When I was in college I dated a guy named, huh, well let’s just say his name was Bob (it wasn’t really, but we’ll just say it was). Bob worked at a liquor store where I could easily, at the age of 20, purchase anything my heart desired. This liquor store happened to be right near a gas station I always used. Bob started striking up conversations with me as I perused the aisle of liquor or he would pop his head out the door as I pumped my gas. He was sweet and a little charming and always attentive. I’m don’t remember exactly how it happened but one day we ended up going on a date. And then we went on another one and another one and another, until we were kind of, just a little, dating each other.
It was about the three week mark that he dropped the L word on me, and I don’t mean lesbian, I mean LOVE. I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for that but I just kind of went with it. I didn’t say it back, but I did let the word wash over me, just a little.
About the same time a good guy friend of mine approached me about the new guy, Bob, I was dating. It seemed my friend had some dirt on good ol’ Bob. My friend told me the back story to an incident I was a part of. One night, in the wee hours of the night, my phone rang. It was Bob telling me he had to get out of town. He had to leave. He sounded worried and nervous. He was calling to tell me good-bye. I was so confused. I couldn’t understand what would cause him to be so shaky. I thought maybe he was on the verge of being caught for dealing drugs. I told him everything would be OK and asked him to come over to our house. He did and he was calmer. Everything settled down. But then my friend told me what really happened the night Bob called me in a panic. According to my friend, Bob threw his girlfriend down the stairs of his house because he didn’t want to date her anymore. HUH, his girlfriend?? I thought I was his girlfriend. He told me he loved me, I told my friend. I kind of really like him, I told my friend. My guy friend gave me a dire warning about him. I tucked his words into the back of my brain, but I kept dating Bob.
It was around Christmastime when I met Bob’s parents. They drove in to the big, old metropolis of Manhattan, Kansas from their tiny, little town way down near the Oklahoma border. And that’s when I knew. Bob’s dad was an abuser. The way his mom moved. The way she cowered and flinched as she spoke, alarm bells started clanging inside my brain. In that instance, as I watched Bob’s mom, Bob saw what I knew.
While it was crystal clear to me that Bob had the potential to be an abuser and probably had abused his previous girlfriend, I dated him for a while longer. But my eyes and ears were open. If anything started to go south I was going to get out. Instantly. No questions asked.
And then it started to happen. The power struggle. He started wanting to know who I was with all the time. He tried to make sure he had control over me. He tried belittling and name calling. I told him off. He got possessive. I told him to back off. I told him if he didn’t stop it all I was O-U-T, in no uncertain terms. In my mind, I kept seeing his mom. I didn’t want that for myself and any future children I might have if I stayed with him. And then it happened.
He kept up with the possessive, jealous, angry, controlling behavior, and I told him it was over. I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. And he hit me. Not a little smack or a slap but a full on head butt, in the middle of a bar. It was an ear rattling, head clanging, blood tasting head-butt. I can’t imagine what he would have done to me if we were alone. I never looked back. I dodged a bullet.
While Bob rarely makes an appearance in my head, I’ve often wondered about his mom. And while I was reading The Help I really wondered about her and wondered if she ever escaped the abuse. Is she still alive? Is she happy? Or is she so battered and beaten that it just doesn’t matter anymore?
Those abused in The Help were powerless and fearful. Just like Bob’s mom. They were beaten down and told they were nothing until a small little thing happened. As it says on the front cover of the book “change begins with a whisper.” Life in Jackson, Mississippi began to change a little for the people in the book because someone dared to listen to their stories and write down what they had to say. I’m not saying the abuse went away but maybe the sting was lessened a little because someone cared enough to help want to change things, someone dared to help empower the fearful with written words. Change doesn’t happen when it’s wrapped in fear.
In the past month a blog I wrote called Coaches With Class made me the target of some nasty, vile, abusive comments. I’ve addressed some of them before where I told you I was called stupid, ignorant and a dumb ass by anonymous commenters, and now I’m going to share with you the last comment I got before I shut comments down for that blog. So here it is, in all its glory…the last comment I received again by an anonymous commenter….
[Oh, For the Love of….My Children] New comment on Coaches with Class.