My husband of twelve years had told me for our entire marriage that I was stupid, incompetent, and in need of a baby sitter. And I believed him because I made the stupidest decision a woman could make. I had stayed in a marriage that was dead from the beginning, even though I had been given the perfect opportunity to escape.
On the last day of our honeymoon we had tickets for something, called a Booze Cruise. Instead of packing our belongings for the flight home or enjoying each other’s company beforehand, we did what we had done every day since we got to Mexico. We drank.
When it came time to leave for our cruise we were running late, which was nothing new to me. I always run late. I also lose things, and I make bad decisions because I never seem to be prepared.
We left the hotel in a frenzy and barely arrived before the ship set off for her short voyage. But we made it, though we were the only passages not yet aboard. Still we made sure to delay the cruise a little longer just so we could have our pictures taken. We were all smiles and looked to be in love. But if we were truly happy together, that is the last time we would feel that way.
Before we reached the end of the dock I realized that in my inebriated confusion, I had forgotten to grab the tickets before we left our hotel. Instead of giving into defeat I pleaded with the ticket handlers and somehow convinced them to accept my husband’s watch as temporary collateral until we could exchange it for the tickets the next day on our way to the airport. The staff agreed and my husband begrudgingly handed over his time piece. He didn’t like my idea. He didn’t have enough faith to trust them and so I could understand why he would be mad at me but his anger was so great that as we ascended the little ship’s gangway it seemed every passengers had congregated onto the starboard side just to watch him berate and humiliate me. With all the spectators eyes upon me, I cried and he continued to yell profanities, barely taking a breath between insults.
When we finally made it to the top deck some gentleman came to my rescue. He got between us and tried to reason with the bitter, drunken man, whom I had vowed to love, even for worse. The intrusion angered my husband and just as he wound up his arm to throw a punch at the gentleman, a hoard of women pulled me below deck into the restroom, where they systematically tried to explain how imperative it was for me to leave Mexico that very day, go home, and immediately file for divorce. The women, like the Fates themselves, explained that what had just transpired was a foreshadowing of what my future would be. I didn’t want to believe them. I was Catholic and feared I would not be granted an annulment just because of one drunken episode. My husband was not Catholic. I already had to get a dispensation from the bishop to marry him. And I wasn’t sure I would be able to prove the invalidity of my marriage. Take Henry VIII, for example. He got a dispensation to marry his late brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. But when Henry wanted to divorce her, his annulment was denied. King Henry VIII broke of from the Church and took his whole country with him. I was told what my fate would be. But I didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t want to take the chance of being denied an annulment and having to go through life, stigmatized as a divorced woman, as trite as that may sound. And so, like every stupid woman, I convinced myself that the incident, which caused my husband to make me feel so small, was completely my fault. I was, as my husband would later enjoy calling me, incompetent. Really, I had undiagnosed ADHD. But to him I was only stupid, incompetent, and in need of someone to babysit me. If I wasn’t actually that weak of a person then, I surely became her, just because I didn’t have enough courage to listen to reason.
My husband chose a practice far away from family and friends and except for frequent visits from my mother, the only person I felt I could talk to was on the other side of the state. And her marriage was arguably worse than mine.
Since my mother had barely survived a bad marriage, herself, she was unable to stand up to my husband, who would often have frequent drunken outbursts when she visited. So she eventually stopped visiting.
I learned nothing from my parents’ marriage except that the house should be tidy and affection was not to be expected. I tried that, but nothing I did would make him love or respect me. The exotic dinners I made at the beginning of our marriage went uneaten as my husband drank himself to sleep. So I eventuslly stopped cooking.
At first I got an allowance but then that stopped and I would get into trouble for spending too much at Walmart or Old Navy, the only place I bought myself clothes. Meanwhile he literally bought a half a dozen jet skis, a corvette, a few snowmobiles, and the latest Xbox and Play Station every time a new one would come out, as well as boxes of unopened, retro game consoles, whivh would collect more dust than value.
My husband didn’t want me to work so I bartered my membership at a gym in exchange for me working as an aerobics instructor. I also hiked up the mountain at least three times a week just to get out of the house. It was on those hikes that I dreamed about being on my own.
Back at home I had cloth diapered and nursed all our children. I kept their rooms meticulously organized. Their tiny clothes were displayed in order of color and type. And I did the same with my husband’s wardrobe. His laundry was easy because all he wore were scrubs to work. Nonethrless I folded his scrubs, his undershirts, and his boxers in such a way that they would perfectly fit into his dresser drawers. I did this because he wouldn’t. Somebody had once advised me to place his laundry basket on his side of the bed, which he barely slept in, and to resist putting his stuff away because I was not his mother. But when he saw what I had done, he told me, “That’s your job”.
How this happensed I do not know. I used to be a feminist and would criticize my own mother for doing my brother’s laundry when he was in college, and now my job was to put away my hateful husband’s underwear? He even expected me to scrub out his shart stain, when he shit his pants. That sure didn’t earn me any respect or love.
I kept the house tidy enough and my body looked better than it had even before we were married, but he never seemed to notice me, except for when wanted me to scratch his head and his feet while we watched Fox News every night.
Unless I had some entertaining gossip to spill he didn’t care what I had to say. Though I had gotten in trouble for talking all throughout my schooling years, I was suppose to sit next to my husband and quietly watch the news. Every time I’d ask questions he would shush me. He told me if I listened I would be able to answer my own questions.
Though I could have researched politics on the internet, as if I wasn’t sick of the subject entirely, we only had dial up, which was excruciatingly slow. And though the hospital had given my husband an iPhone, which had debuted a year before our youngest child was born, I didn’t have access to my own. I was allowed a flip phone, but I got into trouble when I had used it to send a text message, which I did only once because I had nobody to text. My husband never said I could not have friends but he sure made it very difficult to keep them.
At first we were often asked to parties but after awhile we stopped getting invited because my husband never wanted to go. While he made excuses that he was too anxious to relax and socialize while he was on call, it didn’t stop him from drinking. He just didn’t want other people to know that he got drunk while he was on call. If I learned anything from my marriage it is that patients should demand their surgeon take a breathalyzer test before they agree to be sedated. Since breathalyzers only cost about $50, there is no excuse not to expect every surgeon, anesthesiologist, and scrub tech to be administered this test before every surgery.
One would hope I would have left the marriage because my husband was caught drinking while on call, and though that very thing happened, the hospital didn’t do anything about it. But the real reason I left was because I no longer wanted a babysitter.
I often hear about how women are able to emasculate men by stripping them of their dignity. I am not sure what is it called when a man does the same to his wife, making her feel like she has no more power than a minor child. Years after my divorce I am still struggling to find out how to break out of this identity I so willingly accepted.