You can even tell how serious it is because there’s punctuation in the title.
Here at the The Sauer Press, we try to keep things light-hearted. Which is ironic given that “we” is me and I’m a horror writer. Whatever. The point being that the things I complain about and the things that irk me are usually rather insignificant and I take a fancy to waxing poetic about them because I’m a writer and that’s what we do.
However, because of recent events and because talking about things makes me feel better about them, I’ve decided to post a rather personal outpouring of a sticky situation that’s been affecting me for a few months.
I’ll start out by saying that I consider myself a strong, independent young woman and all of the diatribe that goes along with that. I was never really bullied as a kid, but my friends were and I always stood up for them. I gave a voice to those who didn’t have the courage to speak their minds because of youth. Then, as a business owner, I’ve learned how to play hard ball with a lot of vendors, wrangling about pricing, delivery dates, minimum orders, and the like. Needless to say, I’ve no trouble speaking my mind and standing up for myself.
And yet, I recently found myself in an abusive relationship. Not with Adam. No, of course not. But not all abuse comes from a partner. Sometimes it takes the form of a family member, or a close friend. We’ll call the other tango partner in this manipulative dance Tee to avoid confusion. And to give us a starting point.
Tee and I lived together for two years. During that time Tee talked to me on several occasions about keeping the communal areas clean. Now, I’ve lived with many a roommate before and so has Tee. My previous roommates were messy and gross; they would leave dishes out and various types of mold and semi-intelligent life forms began to live in the fridge. Yeah, I’d talk to them about it, but if they didn’t help clean up, it would just eventually get to the point where I’d do it and then get on with the rest of my life. And I’m sure Tee has had messy roommates before too, but the difference between me and my previous roommates is a box of flour.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was admonished the most recent time over an opened box of flour and a measuring cup, after several discussions that were more like lectures over the past two years. It wasn’t even that flour was all over the place, just an opened box of flour and a measuring cup carelessly left out after cleaning up the rest of a home-cooked meal. When Tee confronted me over such, I finally had to say what was really on my mind: “I am a clean person. I clean up after myself. Maybe your standards are too high and you need to figure that out.”
Which led to Tee asking me what my problem was. When I responded, “I have no problem with you, just your perception about how dirty the kitchen is,” Tee began to repeat the question over and over until — and here’s where my natural response to cry in every emotional situation, appropriate or not, kicks in — I was sobbing and Tee started yelling shrilly, without any control, and then slammed a door in my face. I was truly afraid of Tee in that moment unlike I had ever been by another human being in my life.
Not that I thought Tee would do anything, and I know for sure now Tee’s boundaries do not extend past physical abuse, but that’s when the first inkling that something was very wrong popped up. I walked around my own home in a constant state of egg-shell shock, wondering if I had cleaned enough — it was my duty to clean the kitchen every week, regardless of whether I had used it or not — or if the next time Tee wanted to ‘talk,’ it would be another twenty minutes of me mumbling, ‘No, you’re right. Yes, I’m sorry. No, it won’t happen again.” Like I was a dog or a child to be punished for something I didn’t even do.
No one deserves that sort of manipulation and guilt. I am a guilty person by nature. My empathy extends to almost everyone who has a story to tell me and any bad happenings going on in others’ lives almost always elicits an, “oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?” Tee knew this, knew that I am rather easy going and don’t have strong opinions on things like sparkling clean floors and perfectly vacuumed rugs and used this to make me feel guilty for things that had nothing to do with me.
So I left the argument thinking I was in the wrong. That I was a slob and I was making Tee’s life miserable by my slovenly, boorish ways. Until I started thinking about the many times when Tee had yelled at me, thrown things, made me cry, and manipulated me and realized that if Tee had been my boyfriend, I would be his abused girlfriend. Suddenly I realized with alarming clarity that I had allowed Tee to make me believe that I deserved the admonishments dealt and that I was at fault for Tee’s inability to recognize what was really wrong.
I cannot guess as to Tee’s motivations for doing such. Tee is a very angry person and has yet to acknowledge the reasons why. I don’t think Tee was really angry about the kitchen, it was just a catalyst for all of the emotion and stress Tee could not handle. The best reason I can guess is jealousy and an inability to reconcile the bad things that have happened in Tee’s past with where Tee is at now. Tee may be projecting the feelings of worthlessness Tee received in years past, but none of that gives Tee the right to make me feel less than human.
Which is why Adam and I moved. It took a lot of coaxing from Adam and other friends to make me realize the truth of the situation and I’m very glad for their support. I don’t think I would have moved out as soon as I did if not for them. I would have continued to take the abuse for years, thinking that Tee needed my help or that Tee would get better if I just did everything right. What I realize now is that I could never do anything right for Tee and no amount of me changing could change Tee. The only thing I regret is that I did not see the situation clearly earlier and stayed for as long as I did.
When I was younger, I would use my teenage angst as motivation for writing. The feelings of loneliness and isolation I felt as a child, for feeling different and disconnected from those around me, became the backdrops for my earlier stories. Now I’m trying to see if I can use this experience in the same way to both help me get through it and to help fuel my stories with better emotion and description. I’m not there yet, the events are still too fresh, but you know what they say. Time + tragedy = comedy.