Persephone Rising–Part 2

Bending over forwards and backwards, all the time.

The spoon bent at an unnatural angle. Broken. The all natural, organic fair trade ice cream had bent it.  It was gone. I quickly tossed it and chose another–a strong Oneida–and continued spooning out ice cream into the whiskey.

What a joke. How many cups would it take to truly cover up the pain?

Linguistically. Culturally. Morally.

So began a long journey to figure out what was more important; fulfilling my own needs or catering to those of a man who always thought of himself first. And me second. If at all.

And so it worked–I would express a want or need, a thought or dream. If it was convenient or relevant to him, he would help me and express verbal support of me. If it even remotely interfered with his free time, own ambitions, or own needs and wants, it was promptly dismissed as inferior or ridiculous. The problem was that most of what I wanted was dismissed as ridiculous.

I…?!

Like not smoking or drinking. Not hanging out 3-4 times a week with friends. Being as honest as possible with things like taxes and government forms. Later, with our children, it was putting kids to bed on time, brushing their teeth, enforcing rules. None of that was important.

It took me years to learn that the only ridiculous part of all of this was that I myself began to believe that it was ridiculous.

I wanted someone who would love me and spend time for me and not count away the minutes until it was time to go. Someone who could devote himself to me the way I would to him, who would want to stay home with me and watch TV with me not because he had to but wanted to. Who would talk to me about deep, important subjects not because he had to but because he wanted to.

At some point, in most women’s lives, it gets tiring to always be dismissed. And then is when the Demeter emerges, fighting for what is rightfully hers–her own best interests. The moment this warrior comes on the scene,  weak men get defensive. In their attempts to regain control, they pull out all the stops. Oh, the insults they hurl! The threats they wield!

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Persephone Rising–Part 1

I have never met anyone who, as a child, had any ambition to get divorced one day. No one enters into a marriage, or any union for that matter, anticipating the day it will fall apart.

I used to judge people who divorced as  being fickle, as not having the willpower to tough it out, as somehow being too naive in the beginning to really understand their partners. How could they marry someone they didn’t want STAY married too? Were they blind?

Until my marriage began a slow descent into dysfunction, I was very, very judgmental. This series of posts is my attempt to apologize to anyone who was subjected to my stupidity, and to show others going through the same thing that they are not alone.

It is also an attempt to sort out the very, very confused feelings I have and have had, feelings of guilt and shame and obligation. I’ve spent 17 years trying to figure out what is right and wrong about being American and a woman with some ambition, and how to make that fit into my boyfriend’s, later husband’s, life. Now, as I approach 40, I am realizing that being an ambitious American woman is actually something I just AM and that I can’t change that enough to make him happy. EVER.

***

It takes only a moment to change a life, to move a destiny in an unwarranted direction. For me, it came the moment I saw a checkered scarf wrapped around his thick neck. Somehow, that piece of clothing meant worlds to me, –Palestinian revolution, leftist ideals, a rebellious heart . A world of depth, one so much more attractive than than the one I came from–the malls and large American-Italian dinners and loud TV featuring moments that could not (should not?) be attained. The perfect moments in which blond Mother, dark-haired Father, older dark haired son and younger blond haired daughter converge on Disney World. Or Disneyland, it doesn’t really matter which . The laughter, the fun. The thin bodies wrapped in fashionable clothes. Ohh, so inviting. So far yet so attainable. If only I could be smarter?prettier?more moral? I could go there, too.

I felt hollow after watching those countless commercials boasting eternal happiness in the moonlit nights near Cinderella’s castle. Beyond the hollowness lay longing–longing to leave the stark reality of two anxious parents in a world which offered nothing but worry. My working class family rejected consumerism and valued history, but also struggled with feelings of inadequacy. I inherited that inadequacy and took it  with me to my elite women’s college. The people around me had a lot more money, a lot more experience, and were better educated than me.

When I met A, I was searching for something in between the malls of popular culture and anxiety in my family and elitism of my school. I somehow thought I would find it abroad, in Germany. He was an Iranian exile, a dodger of the Iran-Iraq war, a self-proclaimed leftist-atheist-pacificist who embraced world culture. Or so he claimed.

And I–I was a college student 15 years his younger, fascinated by social causes, driven by a need to do good, and by a strong ambition to prove myself to the world. I was a very, very good girl–no drinking, no drugs, no sex. No desire to so.

Looking back, I was the perfect fodder for  manipulation. In between the cool parties with intellectuals from around the world and the fantastic moments in which we discovered how much we had in common, I was being manipulated. I was told I was naive, that Americans know nothing of the world, that women can be so selfish when they only think of studying. I was told I was uptight for not drinking until I collapsed, and fascist for not voicing the opinion that not everyone should be on welfare. But I didn’t realize it at the time. I simply accepted that I wasn’t as worldly as A and his friends and that my American working class background had somehow brainwashed me. I never even considered that they were wrong.

So when did it first dawn on me that maybe they were?