continued from 11/22...
Reality had to come sooner or later. Here it was, June of 1969 and it was time to go home. I'd been away 10 months but the adventures I had would be remembered for a lifetime.
I settled in Playa del Rey, California, just south of Marina del Rey and though I missed Peter Pan from Southampton, I was swept off my feet by a very charming Irishman. He was attractive, smart, fun, was 10 years my senior, and he had an air of sophistication that, at 21, I just didn't have. I was more like Gigi or Eliza Doolittle BEFORE the make-over. I didn't get hung up on formalities--more precisely, I was completely unsophisticated.
Michael was subtle at first and found my innocence charming. As time wore on, he was more demanding of me and began telling me what to do and how to do it. He was, after all, much smarter than I and, since he was so much more experienced in day to day matters, he convinced me that he was always right. Which isn't a terrible thing to be but what it did do, was make me always wrong. It was such a gradual whittling away of my sense of self that I hardly noticed. By the time I did, my usual joie de vivre had disappeared and so did I. I wondered if I would ever find myself again.
I went from tackling the East German Wall and staring down the barrel of guns unafraid, to barely having enough confidence to cross the street without getting approval that I was crossing the right street and walking at the right pace. The obvious question is "why didn't I leave?". If only I could be me again, I could but for the time being, I was under a spell that I was, at present, too weak to make such big decisions.
The night before our wedding, I cried myself to sleep, knowing that I was making a huge mistake but I didn't know how to back out. When I awoke in the morning, I said to him, "Please tell all these people to go home. I just can't do this". He smiled and said, "Go and get your hair done. It'll make you feel better". And, I did...
It was just after our honeymoon, when he came home drunk and said some mean things to me. That was the first time he slapped me. He apologized in the morning and said he didn't remember doing it and was so sorry. I forgave him. I was sure he didn't mean to do it but something changed within me. I noticed that I was begining to dread when the clock got closer to 5 and it was time to leave the office. My thoughts were, "what will I do wrong tonight?". If I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, I was selfish. If I overcooked something, I was stupid. If I forgot to move the seat back in his car, I was inconsiderate. Apparently, I was a pretty terrible person. I was a very scared, terrible person.
I knew he was seeing other women, but I kept it to myself. Michael was so good at chastising me, I knew that I could catch him in bed with another woman and he would accuse me of being rude for not knocking and in the process, he would have me apologizing for not calling ahead. I know men seem to think that women change after they get married, and, in this case, they would be right. I was beginning to be afraid of my shadow.
Michael was from an extremely wealthy family and I signed a Pre-nuptial Agreement prior to getting married. I believed I loved him and his money didn't mean anything to me. After we got married, I turned over my paycheck and got an allowance for necessities. He paid all of the bills. In addition to his out of control drinking, he was gambling very heavily on sports teams. He mostly won before we got married so I didn't pay much attention but since the wedding, he was on one big losing streak and it was my fault. Infidelity, alcohol, gambling and cruelty. What happened to my fairytale?
One night, my sister was visiting me from Canada. We invited a few couples over for dinner and a game of charades. When Michael's team lost to mine, he made some nasty comments to me in front of our friends. I left the room and went into the bathroom where he followed me. When he began to bang my head against the tile, a couple of his friends stormed in and pulled him off me. Not before I bit him, though. My sister and I packed a suitcase and went home with my friends.
It wasn't until the next morning when my sister said to me "What happened to you? You never took anything from anyone. You always stood up for yourself. I don't think I know you, anymore." I knew what she was saying but I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how to get back there. With the help of good friends and family, they convinced me that I wasn't wrong, I wasn't selfish, I wasn't inconsiderate, I wasn't rude...I wasn't all the horrible names I'd been hearing over and over again.
We were only married ten months, but unfortunately, they were unforgettable.
to be continued...