For about a week in the early 2000s, I was engaged to be married. He, the ex-boyfriend in question, produced the ring the morning after I'd spent hours curled in the fetal position while he screamed at me, calling me a whore and a cheating bitch. I'd ceased fighting back after hour 1, just crying and begging him to stop. Realizing he'd gone too far, he made it up to me by proposing.
Traditionalists will note he didn't wait for my response before slipping the ring over my finger.
It ended badly, of course, but that was a long time ago, and he has apologized to me with great sincerity in recent years. There are genuinely no hard feelings on my part.
So I recently began following him on Twitter. He's made a bit of a name for himself as a right-wing shock jock (yes, you read that right) and pop culture critic in the Midwest state where he now lives. This was always part of his personality, the "shock" part, although he tended to tone it down in our private lives. Still, I guess I'm not surprised by tweets like this:
Oh, and this was charming:
Although I did quite like this one:
I'm not a particularly political person one way or another, although I am definitely liberal when it comes to women's and gay rights. Part of the reason for my apolitical stance is that I can't stand hatred and intolerance from the right or the left, can't stomach the smug rightness they exude, as if the world was ever so black and white, the answers entirely clear. I hated the ignorant, hateful conservatives I grew up around in Oklahoma, and I hate the ignorant, entitled liberals I often meet now in New York. I don't like people who sneer at others' opinions without recognizing the value of their experiences and respecting their right to feel differently than you do.
But more than that, his tweets are taking me back to a time when all that vitriol was aimed in my direction. To say we had a bad relationship is an understatement.
We got together my senior year of high-school and spent the following two in a long-distance relationship after I moved to New York for college. We smoke a lot of pot and watched bad movies and he helped me make my first zine, Fangirl. After I went to college, he would send me elaborate care packages and drawings of me in funny situations like as a "Cat Person" from the Malcolm McDowell masterpiece.
But even from 1,400 miles away, he was extremely posessive. He was constantly accusing me of cheating on him, and would throw huge tantrums anytime I tried to do normal college student things like go to parties (where I would probably cheat on him) or hang out with new girlfriends (who would encourage me to cheat on him). "If you loved me, you wouldn't need anyone else," he said. Once, when we saw a movie that had included infidelity in the story line, he stormed out in the middle. I wandered through the theater for awhile crying and looking for him before he angrily skulked up behind me. Sometimes he had a dream that I had cheated on him and would wake up furious. When he was furious, he was verbally abusive. Once he started a fight because I'd got to see a college production of "The Vagina Monologues," which he referred to as a play about how "all women are whores."
There's more I could go into -- how he believed all white people, including me, were pandering when they pretended to like things from his Latino culture (e.g., "Once Upon a Time In Mexico); how he lied to me constantly, lost jobs and hid bills; how I had to create a secret livejournal to write about my feelings without him flying off the handle at some small detail which offended him in ways I couldn't have anticipated.
I wrote in my journal in November 2002: "Sometimes I think I'm naive for thinking I can 'fix' your problems, but some days I think I'm inspired. Our love will heal the wounds left over from your past. I can take away the lonliness and pain. I'm going to pull out everything that's black inside you and fill it up with light. You feel worthless because people have hurt you and abused you and left you and won't be able to feel that way when I never do." YIKES. Calling CODA!
And in January, "He called me at the bar and blew up with more anger than I've ever heard -- even from him. He told me there were plenty of other girls he wanted to fuck. He asked me if I liked it when I was raped. He crossed some boundaries." YA THINK?
At a party once, I went to the roof to smoke a cigarette, leaving my bag downstairs. I guess my unattended phone rang enough times that some chucklehead answered it and drunkenly said something like, "She's with me tonight." It was a joke, but when I found out what had happened, I stared at him with shiny, horrified eyes, knowing it would mean hours of sobbing on the phone, curled up on my dorm room floor while he berated and accused me.
My life became a series of smiliar trip wires. Anything could set him off, or nothing at all, like the time he simply decided that I was probably having sex with men for money on Craigslist, or that I had been lying about going to a play when he had seen "me" on television at a protest.
Truth is, he had reason to be worried. I was always headed somewhere he couldn't follow. It's hard to believe now how badly I let a man treat me, but I was never going to let a man break me. When I left for NY, I took the first step in a journey that would inevitably lead me away from him. He bought himself a few years in limbo by sheer tyranny. I neither lived my old life nor started a new one. I just cried on the phone, and wrote that I felt at various times "old," "wrung out," and "dead."
I was 19.
Eventually, and to my mother's great relief, I wised up and broke things off, roughly a week after he first slipped that ring on my finger. I'd tried to end things before, but had been drawn back in by threats of suicide or another tragic story from his childhood that explained why he was the way he was. Finally, I was done. It was painful, but after lugging the emotional dead weight of that relationship through my freshman and sophomore years of college, I also felt an almost euphoric sense of freedom. I could go anywhere I wanted with anyone I wanted and no one was going to yell at me about it. By the time we spoke again, years later, it was water under the bridge.
But reading his Twitter reminded me of how it used to be. None of that anger is directed at me any longer, but it's still simmering, and it's as hot as I remember. When we last spoke, he admitted to the mistakes that he made in our relationship, and told me he works to keep from making them again in his life. I believe him, and wish him well.
I may have to unfollow him, however. He never followed me back anyway.