Acceptable Behavior

imagesWhen I was 17, my dad had a friend; he was a man who worked with my dad at the mine.  We would occasionally eat dinner at their house and they at ours; often, my aunt and uncle would join us, as my uncle worked with the men as well.  As it turned out, the friend had a teenaged son who was 19 and was attending the well-known mining school; and I was “off” from my on-again-off-again relationship with my ninth grade high-school drop-out drug-addicted boyfriend.

Needless to say, our parents thought we were a perfect match; little did they realize we could not have been more different.  He was a geology nerd with a love of rocks, and I was… well, not.

Still, every time our families got together, I gave in and would go for a ride with him just to appease everyone.  He had some type of muscle car that he thought would impress me; it was a Mustang, Camaro, or a Trans Am, they were all the same to me.  If it wasn’t a classic car, I could not have cared less at the time.  Besides, he always brought a friend; I think he was a little afraid of me.  So, I sat in the middle on the “hump” as we blared Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and cruised the streets of The Biggest Little City in the World.

Apparently, one day he recovered from his shyness; we left the house when the boring grown-ups were having dinner to go for a ride, but we didn’t pick up his friend.  Instead, he drove to a local park and stopped the car in the parking lot.  Almost immediately, he started mauling me; I could not have been less attracted to him and pushed him off.

Suddenly, this mild-mannered Clark Kent with the thick Coke bottle eyeglasses became a fairly strong man; I had underestimated him.  He came at me aggressively as I continued to push him away, digging my nails into his flesh, drawing blood.  He called me a tease, I cried, begged, screamed in his face; he continued his assault until he had my skirt pushed around my waist, his hands pushing at me.

I grabbed his glasses, tearing at his face, scratching him; he still didn’t care; there was little room in the car, and he was bigger than I had thought he was, completely over powering me.  But, I was small, tiny.  I didn’t have a chance.

When he was finished, he drove me back to his parents, walked in as if nothing happened.  Of course, they were drunk by then and nobody noticed a thing.

Weeks later when we were supposed to go back, I refused; I was lectured about what a great catch he was, how he was going to be a mining engineer, what a screw-up I was, the usual.

I never saw him again; his dad died in a mining accident, and his mom took her settlement, went on a cruise to China, and then moved to a condo in Mexico.

***

Either a few months before or after this time, I truly do not remember; I had a boyfriend who lived a few hours away.  I used to lie to my parents and sneak over to his house to spend the weekend with him.  He was 20, a few years older than my 17 years; and I thought I was in love.

We would have romantic dinners, go to the movies, and spend the weekend playing house.

One weekend, though, was very different; I arrived on Friday night as planned, but instead of doing anything romantic or otherwise, he seemed frantic and out of sorts and asked me to drive him to a park so he could meet a friend.  I did.

We sat in my bright red 1957 Chevy Bel Air, nothing conspicuous or anything, as we waited for his friend to arrive.  As a car pulled into the space next to us, he jumped out and commanded me to wait for him.  I waited in the car, playing with the cassette player, as he got out, jumped in the other car for a while, and then finally got back in my car.

He was in a weird mood, I just couldn’t figure him out; I tried to talk to him, but he was very edgy.  I saw him bend over and snort something up his nose as we were driving down the freeway; I pulled over and started screaming at him to get out of my car immediately.

I recoiled as he slapped me hard across the face; the car continued to run as he slapped and beat me on the side of the freeway as I continued to scream for him to get out and that I never wanted to see him again.

When his rage subsided, I sat back in the seat and looked at him, and he at me, “Come on, baby, you don’t really mean that, do you?” he asked.

In fact, I guess I didn’t; I knew I couldn’t go home because my parents would know I had lied in the first place.  I drove back to his house that night and stayed with him the rest of the weekend; my face and body growing black and blue over the next few days, evidence of what had occurred.

When I left on Sunday, I was worried about my parents questioning what had happened to me; I should not have spent a moment thinking of it.  I broke it off with him, much to my parent’s chagrin; he was such a nice boy, came from a good family, with money, no less, from Lake Tahoe.

Ten years later, I was divorced with two kids and staying with my parents; “Oh, guess who called?” my mother informed me.  It was him; I had forgotten why we had broken up so I decided to go to dinner with him.

As we sat across the table from one another, he was starry-eyed as he looked at me, professing his love, “I would let you work, baby, if you wanted to.  I would take care of you and your kids.  Come on, we could make it work.”

I looked across the table from him and something snapped, I looked at him squarely in the eyes, “Nobody lets me do anything.  And, I remember why we broke up, I’m going home.”  I walked out of the restaurant leaving him with his mouth agape behind me.

***

I’m not sure if that was acceptable behavior for those boys or not, but it was to me back then.

6 thoughts on “Acceptable Behavior

  1. “I would let you work, baby, if you wanted to.” Now that’s a classic. :-/

    We can only ever do what we have been given the tools to do. I had no boundaries with men, even abusive men, because I was not taught them nor allowed them as a child. All I can do is choose a new “acceptable” every moment of every day.

    I used to do a lot of interpreting work with the Guatemalan and Mexican immigrants where I lived and worked. A few of the women tentatively asked me if I thought it was okay if their men hit them. In their culture, it was acceptable, but they understood that in this culture it was not. I hope I was able to affect some change in their lives with my answers and support, but I never knew for sure.

    • I think that is kind of where I was going with this… it was acceptable to me because I was never taught any better. It didn’t occur to me for it not to be acceptable, or to report it to anybody. Who would care? My parents? Certainly not.

      I had no boundaries with men whatsover.

      So it goes.

      Always, Me

  2. I only ever hit a girl once. I was 19 and she 17. We were living together. For no reason whatsoever she walked up to me in the living room and slapped me across the face as hard as she could. I stared at her in disbelief. She did it again, just as hard. I pulled my right arm back and swung toward her and barely nicked her chin with the tip of my middle finger. I’m left handed. She cried for about three hours. She should have, I’m 55 years old and no female before or since has ever elicited that kind of behavior from me. I did not hurt her in the least physically, but she understood the gravity of what that meant. Her explanation later was that we had not yet had a good fight and it was time. Without a word I put my things in my car and left and never looked back. She had a baby and put it up for adoption which I found out about years later.

    I often what it means to be a “real man.” I think one in three women are either raped or beaten at least once in their lives, maybe more. I’m sure not everyone reports such things. If being a man means being that aggressive, that abusive, that insane then I will never be a man. These things are not in me. I guess in some ways if asked if I am a man or a mouse I would have to say a mouse; a rather proud mouse but a mouse just the same.

    I do not force, I do not fight, I do not dominate. I care, I invite, and often I am hurt. I take pride in who I am and what I do. I plan, I work, I guarantee a solid foundation. I build a life and I build a relationship. I protect. And most of all I love. If that is not a man then I don’t want to be one.

      • This had the great weight and profoundness of the voice I have come to expect. This is the single best-written article in this blog and that is indeed high praise. My response will be my blog tomorrow, I’ve already saved it as a draft. I will likely polish and maybe add to it. Once again you make my own place better than it would be without you. My thanks and admiration to a marvelous writer.

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