Arn't I A Woman?



May 2, 2018


Trigger warning: physical/emotional abuse


After ending a nearly two and half year relationship with my child's "father" (sperm donor), I have learned that abuse takes many forms and can often be so much more complex and nuanced than the narrative I grew up seeing. I thought domestic violence came in one form: the perpetrator, a man, has uncontrollable anger, comes home and towers over his partner, a woman, and- seemingly unprovoked, or perhaps provoked by something minute- transfers his anger into his fist and decorates his partner's face with a bruise or two that she hopes will fade and softly sink back into her once smooth skin before any friends or family notice. 

This is surely one form of abuse, but it wasn't my experience. 

My story is a lot more complicated but just as sad, painful, and traumatic. One of those experiences that cuts inside to your inner most core, scoops out that sacred part of you you thought was untouchable, and splatters your insides like paint across blank canvases in an empty, abandoned art gallery. 

When I first met Richard (name changed), he was a tall, handsome, attentive neighbor who helped me move my couch. He was exceedingly polite to my parents. I wasn't interested at first but his persistence wore me down. On our first date I learned he had a 2 month old son and wanted five kids. I learned he and the child's mother had broken up while she was pregnant; he and his current girlfriend had just broken up but were still living together. He was still using her car but insisted he had moved on. 

I noticed his anger very early on. I registered it as an anger I had never seen before and was alarming especially given the context; my dog had kept him up apparently and he became rather irate about it the next morning. (I even wrote a piece early on about my experience with him which you can check out here.)

He was fired from his job and we put things on hold for a week but kept talking. I went to Vegas for my 30th birthday a month after meeting him; he called me on my last day very early in the morning (my actual birthday) and informed me he had been abandoned in the cold on the side of the road in Athens by his friend and ex. They were apparently joking about sleeping together and he demanded they let him out- however was then upset they left him in the cold. It was confusing but he clearly was hurting and-here is one familiar trope that emerges in my story- I wanted to help him and nurture him and be the one he could rely on. 

Later that day, he informed me his ex was going to go to the police to file a domestic violence report on him. He insisted she was the physical aggressor. I consoled him and even used my friend to reach out to her boyfriend for legal advice. This was the start of my thirties. 

I flew back into Atlanta that night, drove all the way to Athens to pick him up, and brought him back to my apartment in Atlanta. He never left. He was afraid of running into his ex girlfriend and would hide from her when we were together, like literally ducking back into the apartment as we walked to the car. I couldn't believe my boyfriend was essentially avoiding being seen in public with me. This was similar to when I drove him to Athens every week to see his son but could only drop him off to avoid the child's mother seeing me. 

However, both that ex-girlfriend and his son's mother tried to contact me numerous times about his anger and physical abuse. I believed him when he wrote them off. I believed him when he wrote his sister's same claims off. I disregarded his son's mother's claim that he essentially trapped women by impregnating them, even though I had already had an abortion early on at his request, and he had told me of at least two other women who he got pregnant that had miscarriages. 

The first time things got physical, all I can remember is that he was taking acid and my head got knocked against the bed frame. I called my brother and his girlfriend but I was drunk and decided whatever happened in my blurry recollection was an accident. Still, my brother would not speak to Richard for months after, believing he was abusive. I desperately tried to convince him otherwise.

Emotional abuse soon became much more common. I've never been called "bitch" and "cunt" by a partner let alone as often as I was in our fights that continued to escalate. I am by no means a passive woman, and I always fought back. Yet Richard had a knack for emotional manipulation and gaslighting, and my brain soon grew so distorted I couldn't think clearly. He had an excuse for all the money issues. His anger was because I incited him. His emotional and verbal abuse created such confusion and he convinced me since I reciprocated we were both at fault. I believed that. 

I believed that when I was being strangled on the bed while pregnant for the second time with his child it was my fault. For example, one time he grabbed my phone and in the culture of fear that "decorated the private hell we built" I fought back. Because he did not directly touch me, I was then positioned as the aggressor. To this day, he wears a bite mark I gave him as a badge of honor that I abused him. In reality, while I was pinned down pregnant on my bed biting him was the only way to release his incredibly strong grasp from my body. He was STRONG. Formally in the army and at 6'2 there was no possible way I could really inflict any physical harm on him. His strength was so superior and he knew that, but he said once he got into a certain mode it was a reflex for him to "fight back." 

He didn't find it odd that this was a recurring pattern in all his relationships.

He financially abused me the entire course of our relationship. I worked multiple jobs and saved up enough money to cover me for maternity leave, since my freelance jobs offered me nothing. He was also not paying child support for his son. I remember one time on his son's first Christmas he remarked that he didn't need to buy him anything because it would just go to the mom. 

He claimed he was an amazing father. 

Once he stopped working and we moved for my job, I tore through my savings. I brought the baby to work with me every day. She just turned a year old and even though he lived with her for over half her life he has still never spent more than an hour alone with her. He did and does nothing to financially or physically help us. I grew more and more resentful and to cope I turned into a reflection of him. I became that angry, enraged partner- especially because while pregnant I was taken off my medication. He would complain if I asked him to do simple things like get me food; he always asked me to bring him food or just come visit him at work. He suffocated me and wanted to spend every day and night together and made me feel bad that I wanted space. 

I picked him up and dropped him off from work. The few months he was working a good job I begged him to start saving up for when the court ordered him to pay child support for his son. He refused. I begged him to help me figure out what we would do for daycare but he insisted people would "help us" so there was nothing to worry about. 

A few months into my new job and our relocation I broke. I was broken. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I was gaslighted over and over again and I continued to develop into my own monster. Once you have been degraded to the point of obliteration and you are constantly threatened and living in fear of someone else's anger, you are on the defense all the time. You start to believe all you have to protect yourself is to retaliate in a physical way, even thought you know it will end with you being hurt.

I finally found the strength to kick him out around November of 2017 after my savings were depleted,   my daughter had been exposed to months of a horrible environment, and I completely hated him. Up until a few months ago, however, we were off and on; he lamented that I no longer loved him and treated him poorly; that I wasn't "ride or die" because I finally refused to put up with his shit. He begged to come home and I begged for us to take space to explore how we could repair ourselves. At this point I accept that I had become a person I never thought I'd become. I cannot fully victimize myself in this experience and openly admit that instead of completely cutting everything off, I continued in a miserable relationship because I thought this was what I deserved, I believed the reality he pushed that insisted he was doing the best he could and I was abusing him both emotionally and physically. If it weren't for my daughter, I would have never left. 

Since things really ended, I tried many times to facilitate his seeing his daughter. He was rather evasive and would only allow me to bring her to his job for five-ten minutes at a time. I now know part of that reason was because he had already been seeing someone else and was hiding it from me. It was the exact same situation each girl before me had been in; I turned into an amalgamation of all the prior women he tore through. His son's mother's complaint that he moves from woman to woman, the multiple claims of physical and emotional abuse that I wrote off, the yelling I saw from his ex-girlfriend- I finally understood it all for what it really was. It wasn't everyone else; it was him. He was the only common link. He seeks out women that he can easily attach to and then slowly breaks them down while convincing you you are the problem. 

I now know I was involved in a relationship with a narcissist. A recent article outlines some major characteristics of a narcissist: 

1) "Lack of empathy and capacity for change"- he never cared of any pain I was in, particularly the pain he caused me. He still does not have a car, is struggling financially, hasn't paid taxes in years, has moved on to another new girl, and enjoys going out with friends while two women sacrifice everything to raise his children alone. 

2) "Narcissists suffer what is known as a “narcissistic wound” in childhood. There is still no clinical verdict as to what causes their disorder, but there are some theories: one of which suggests that they may have suffered maltreatment by their parents and another that shows that being taught an excessive sense of entitlement at an early age can lead to narcissistic traits. As a result, a narcissist’s behavior is hardwired and very difficult to change in adulthood because they never outgrew their infantile sense of egocentrism." His father was abusive to his mother and sister and he grew up in quite the dysfunctional household. He hasn't spoken to his mother in over a year. 

3."They create "harems" and love triangles"- So many love triangles. At this point I've essentially been involved with three with him. 

4. "Their level of malice and sadism"- You can't physically abuse a pregnant woman and not be on some real sick shit. I really don't care what the circumstances are. 

5. "The idealization, devaluation and discard cycle-Malignant narcissists idealize and love-bomb their victims deliberately to groom, manipulate, and control them." He was so persistent and so flattering he was hard to resist, especially when coupled with my life-long low self-esteem. "Once their victims are sufficiently hooked, they take great pride in devaluing their victims and mistreating them, subjecting them to put-downs, rage attacks, gaslighting, verbal, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse. They also eventually discard their victims in horrific ways – that is, unless their victims discard them first, in which case, it becomes an elaborate power struggle to hoover them back in so they can devalue them further." He fought my leaving for months, and then when he finally realized he could never come back, he immediately latched on to another woman to make sure I knew how quickly he could discard me. While I was still dealing with my emotional wounds, he had already moved on. Even with all the pain he caused me, it was a devastating fact to learn. It confused me even more and it made me want to regain my power and that came in the form of trying to put the family back together even though I knew that was the exact opposite of what I wanted and needed. 

I made a lot of mistakes with Richard. But my biggest mistake was letting him create an image of me that was untrue and harmful, and yet an image I eventually submitted to though the internalizing of his beliefs about me. 

I was actually triggered to write this article after reading some posts from a friend about their abuse. It brought to mind how my experience was much different than other narratives and made me wonder how we can create a dialogue that makes room for everyone to actually be open, honest, and how to create a space for healing when things aren't so cut and dry. When each person has to go on living. How can you do that? What is fair? 

I don't know anymore, but I know I am fighting the rage that has festered inside of me for so long because of this relationship. I know that abuse of any kind, from anyone is unacceptable. But I also know when someone shows you who they are, you better fucking believe them. 

Abuse doesn't come in a one size fits all package, but the ramifications are deafening no matter what. It's still so hard for me to minimize my anger that has resulted from my experience. I take it out on other people now and I frequently feel out of control while I raise my daughter alone. It's still hard for me to understand what happened. It's still painful to look back at the abuse I endured and allowed, as well as the abuse I eventually inflicted. But I can talk about it and admit it, and I can now see things for what they really are and what they really were. I can thank my daughter for saving me from hell. And I know that the only way I can start healing is by being open and honest with what happened to myself first and then to others, because maybe someone will read this and it can somehow help. 

If you are experiencing ANY form of abuse or are even unsure if you are being abused or in an abusive situation please reach out. I either reached out and redacted my statements or minimized/ avoided what was really going on because I was afraid of losing him. I implore you to get out of any situation that does not bring you joy. Here are some resources:\

Jan 2, 2018

Mariah Carey: Not the Hero We Deserve, But the Hero We Need

I think we can all agree that there was something unusually nefarious in the air all throughout 2017. At this point, Taylor Swift is the only one who had a halfway decent year; and with a subpar pop album at that! (white privilege in pop music? Nahhh.) The ushering in of the Trump era seemed to really unearth a cacophony of social turmoil buried deep within our collective psyches. Even the cosmos reflected the chaos that we felt here on Earth: there were meteor showers, supermoons, and even a TOTAL FUCKING SOLAR ECLIPSE.! Here in Georgia a huge snowstorm left a chunk of the state sans power and heat for days. I even saw a double rainbow! Cosmically eerie.

You can hand select your own examples from the Chex mix of shitty experiences that was 2017; the outcome is still the same. A shitty year. There's a place for these years in our lives, but they still hurt to experience. 

So, I’m kind of left wondering- since I'm not Taylor Swift- how does one reconcile suffering through a year of explosively depressing events with the need to usher in a new year that can be a much more healing and dignified experience? 
We look to examples of people that have shown great resilience this year. And who better to use as a case study than the elusive chanteuse herself; Mirage, Mimi- the legend, Miss Mariah Carey. Carey has effortlessly exhibited resiliency consistently throughout her career, but especially in 2017-2018. Not sold right of the bat? That's ok. Let's take a look at the facts. 

First, some background: Mariah has a long history of being doubted or criticized somewhat unfairly, as well as being held to insane, unreachable standards. This is really just a reflection of her talent, work ethic, and genius- but for better or worse it has shaped a comeback narrative surrounding her personal and professional highs and lows. Most Mariah fans and pop music critics would point to the obvious example of Glitter: after the movie and soundtrack failed to be Mariah’s Purple Rain, she was essentially publicly shunned while the media painted her as a crazy lunatic for her supposed erratic behavior. She became the butt of the joke with the public abandoning their support and love for the once adored diva.

And then 4 years later Carey released "We Belong Together." The song became an instant classic; it is one of the longest running #1 singles of all time, Song of the Decade, and generally considered one of Carey's greatest records. It was the comeback story everyone loved and Mariah was once again at the top. 

12 years later, a similar story is sparked during Carey's 2017 NYE performance in which a technical malfunction caused her earpiece to go out and her (in my mind, hilarious) reaction to just not sing and prance around stage smiling, totally being a good sport, was demonized.

Here are just a few of some internet comments from Reddit I read that morning: "RIP Mariah Carey's career. It got murdered on NYE live." "Anyone else just watch Mariah Carey completely bomb her nye performance?" "Mariah Carey totally bombed NYE. Anyone else see the atrocity?" "Mariah Carey butchers 2017 NYE performance" etc etc. Check out the weirdly violent language: murdered/ bombed/ butchers/ atrocity??? Yikes. Sounds like reddit went to the school of hyperbole. Now, if you want to read about what ACTUALLY happened, there are plenty of people who have explained that in full herehere, and here

But usually it's easier to kick people when they're down, especially when you are behind a computer screen. 

Most importantly, though, how did Mariah respond to the debacle? 


And make headlines she did. Here are just some of the accomplishments Carey notably achieved in 2017: 

But most importantly, this happened: 


Spoiler alert, she killed it. 

From Twitter user Tropic518

During this year's performance, Carey realized she had no hot tea she was expecting, and cheekily remarked in the mic: "They told me there would be tea. Oh, it's a disaster. Okay, well, we'll just have to rough it. I'm going to be like everybody else, with no hot tea." 

She killed it before even performing though, because the simple fact that Mariah refuses to let anyone dictate her life married with her ability to not take life so seriously and focus on play even within her work is an empowering example. Play is so important to our psychological well-being yet is so elusive to so many in modern societyDid 2017 even have any play? I think it was straight up volcanoes and disaster all the way through. (Besides the birth of my daughter...if you're someday reading this Violet mommy does NOT think of you as a disaster, or a volcano.)

To navigate your way between extremes in such a short period of time certainly supports Carey's comeback narrative. Hell, even Glitter has come full circle and now has a cult following. It is true that Mariah encompasses the strength to take what some might consider tragedies and turn them into a platform for greatness. But Mariah has had too many "flops" and successes for these to be considered comebacks- she is a living legend, and her legacy will never die. There is clearly something else, a character trait that Mariah has mastered to help her wade through misfortune and find her proverbial rainbow: resilience. 

So what is resilience, exactly? I like this architectural definition: “Resilience is a design objective for buildings and infrastructure. It is the ability to absorb or avoid damage without suffering complete failure.” Again and again Carey has refused to let other people dictate her self-worth, and confidently demands respect. This scares people, especially considering the intersection of her race, age, and gender within the pop culture community. 

So what can we learn from Carey, exactly? I've extracted an amended list of consistent traits Carey displays that indicate resilience. I don't know if I can follow them, but I can definitely extract them! 

1) Laugh at yourself and embrace life's absurdity. 
2) Other people's opinions of you are not gospel.  
3) Expect an inconvenience fee when you and your Australian billionaire fiancĂ© break up, because your time is way too valuable to be wasted ladies! 
4) You can embarrass yourself without it destroying you. 
5) Bet on yourself, always.

So what did Mariah's twitter look like this year after slaying the whole world and basically guaranteeing us a shiny bright new year? 


Cup of tea for 2018? I’ll settle for a cup of kindness, myself. 


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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio