Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, December 05, 2003


listening to: 'My Immortal' by Evanescence
feeling: Oddly Stronger

It occurs to me that twelve years ago today I took a very big step and left an abusive, twisted, six-year relationship to live on my own. Back then I was still struggling with a sense of failure for not making it work, when the reality was that he was hiding behind my skirts in an effort to not really be gay...as long as I was with him, he could live some sort of fantasy of a perfect family with me in the Donna Reed role. I was never cut out to be Donna Reed.

Towards the end, I was really no longer part of any real relationship. I could have been a piece of furniture, really. My therapist once described it as two gay men with a uterus, and really, that was on the mark. He wanted to have children, to have some semblance of a scripted life. In the end, that was what got me out of the relationship. A friend had gotten me to start questioning the double standards, the up-and-down emotional rollercoaster of living with a manipulative, abusive, sexually-addicted person who dominated the relationship with a constant stream of emotional blackmail. But it was a moment of epiphany, watching the movie Ghost that truly got me to leave.

I was watching the scene where Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze are sculpting clay as 'Unchained Melody' plays in the background. I am intensely, if covertly, romantic. It was exactly the kind of moment I wanted to share with someone in my life. In that instant, I realised that not only did we not have that, but that we never would, that I was an object to him, and that I could never bring children into such a dysfunctional household. That was the night I made the decision to leave. Maybe, just maybe, it was the similarity in music tonight that triggered the tears. It reminded me of what I want, and have never had, but sometimes feel I might have lost any chance for.

Later he admitted that he had never loved me, that it was all a matter of using my naïvete to his own ends. We started dating when I was 18; he was the first person I ever dated. In my mind, as a 'good girl', I was supposed to marry him to make everything okay. I was so wrong.

One of the worst things we can teach our daughters is to be a 'good girl'. You can never live up to such an idealised image. It's much better to just live up to your own potential and try to do good with your life. You don't get points for martyrdom. Really. As the line goes in Carousel, 'The meek inherit the dirt.'

I am not that person I was on that day twelve years ago. I'm a stronger person. I'm myself. No more, but also no less. I've grown a good deal. I decided then that it was better to risk being alone for the rest of my life than living such an empty lie, albeit inside a relationship.

I still feel that way. But sometimes, like tonight, I guess I fear being alone for the rest of my life. Now that all the people in my life with whom I'm closest have significant others, it makes it harder. At 36, I'm starting to feel a little like an old maid, sometimes. But more than anything else there's the frustration of knowing that I should be able to let go of fear and enjoy life, but I'm always a little too tense, a little too restrained, because I'm afraid of losing control of my life again.

So, I guess that puts tonight's difficulties into perspective. The odd thing is that I really do think I'm at a turning point in my life. For the first time I can picture myself in love. I can see myself in a good relationship. I can even almost look forward to trusting someone with the raw intimacy of a relationship. But it's just a little difficult to put my feet totally into the water. But with each day, I think I'm closer to the plunge.

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