To Be or Not To Be....

Carrie Bradshaw says to look for someone who loves the you that you love.

When I was almost twenty-one, I got married. I was a beautiful and glowing bride at seven months pregnant. hehehe
It's true, I had a fantastic body. I didn't know it then, but I did. When my groom-to-be met me he was just amazed that he could reel in such a catch! We dated for two years. During that time, there were a number of red flags. He would often try to coax me to do things and be things that I didn't want to do or be. I was young. I probably thought this was normal. But inside, I knew it wasn't good. His frustrations grew and they manifested in his taking opportunities to be cruel and controlling. He would try to get me to do demeaning things. Not extreme or sexual or anything, just things that would sort of let me know that I was lesser and he was greater. Put me in my place. I had a strong upbringing and none of this set well with me. But I would do them. I suppose in hopes that by doing them I'd prove my love and he'd stop or whatever reasons people come up with to put up with abuse. Again, let me remind, this is when abuse is at its very infancy, but abuse is never to be taken lightly. Or so I know now. Let me give you an example.

One day, I think it was Thanksgiving, we were all at his parents' house (he lived there, too) and he and his sister's boyfriend decided to go skiing. So they did. They had a great time. When they got home, he said to me, "Go out and get my skis off of the car." I laughed, because I was sure he was joking. He didn't laugh. And he had a very stern look on his face. I said, "What? Why?" He said, "Because I want you to."
I looked around for help from someone. They all just stared, dumfounded. So, I just went out and did it. I am sure that this is the first time in my life that I felt real humiliation.
It's also the first time in my life I denied the adage, "To thine own self be true." Little thing, big mistake.
He continued to do little things like this from time to time. I really didn't get the deep reason why until many, many years later. And that is yet another story. But for now, I use thise to talk about some of the more normal problems this causes in a relationship.

After we had dated the two years, I broke up with him. I went on a trip to Cape Cod to spend the summer with a girlfriend of mine whose grandmother had a beach house there. Was a great trip. Many things learned. Now my figure has never been slim. I've always been curvy. And at age nineteen that summer, my weight was probably around 130. I was (and am) 5'4". Well my friend and I found a very meager host in her grandmother (or, should I say, step-grandmother) and we spent a good deal of the time very hungry. I got down to around 118. And then we started eating like starving people and drinking LOTS of beer. By the time I got back home, I weighed around 150. When I arrived, this boyfriend I had broken up with wanted me back immediately. He begged and begged. So, well my stupid young heart was far too inexperienced to know what a trap it was. I got pregnant and then he convinced me to marry him. I don't really remember how. But I know it was important to him to do the right thing. This was the rightest thing he could think of. He joined the Navy (left for bootcamp two weeks after the wedding) and the baby was born a month or so later (he was still in boot camp).
You can imagine, this didn't help my struggling weight. But in all fairness, I didn't gain a lot of weight during the pregnancy, and in just a few months, I didn't look at all like a woman who had just given birth. So I didn't look bad. However, he thought I did. Very much so. I'm afraid this is all too common for men to feel this way about their wives/girlfriends who have babies. Now, there are many movie stars and models who will make it clear to the world that there is no reason to have childbearing affect your figure at all! (Thank god, that fad is passing for the moment ~ good girl, Jen!)

So, to make this long story longer...
What happens next? Does he just suck it up and say, oh well, she's my wife and I'm stuck with her? Or does he tell her that he needs her to care more about her appearance (oh and don't forget to add health)?

*heavy sigh*

Here's what I think. I don't like either of those choices. I've learned to love the honest approach. And settle for nothing less. Aha, you say! Honesty requires him to tell her he's not attracted to a fat-ass woman! This is not the honesty of which I speak. I'm talking about honesty with his own self. I think it's just plain wrong to get involved with or marry a person you don't want. Obviously, I was no small thing. Trouble is, this man likes the starved look on a woman. He likes small hips. Small everything. If you could see my hips, you'd realize how asinine it is that he even asked me out! They are not small, they never were and they never will be!
So rather than admit to himself that he just doesn't like my kind of woman, he tortured me for it over the years. He even argued that all men want slim women and that no man would be attracted to me. Now there's a fun strategy.
Unfortunately for him, there were plenty of men (most of them his friends) who were attracted to me. Very attracted. Most of them approached me at least once and said, "Leave this bum and go out with me!" (Especially when I got into aerobics and bicycle riding and boy! did I look good! It's scary how good I looked! ~ he would just say, "Aerobics every day? Try twice a day.")
To these "friends" I would reply, "Yeah.. sure you like me now, but what about in ten years? You'll be just like him." And I wasn't kidding. I really believed that.

So what keeps us from being honest? I mean he struggled for so many years just TRYING to convince me that I needed to change my appearance so he could want me. He fluctuated between trying to be the right kind of man and just look at the good things about me and cheating on me with women he did want. All of this killing his own soul. What the hell? Didn't he know where the door was?
Of course he knew. He just felt that divorce was the wrong thing. He was all about the right thing. (See how warped we are about the right thing?)

I don't want the right thing. I want the true thing. I don't want a man who settles for me because I have some good qualities, so he'll just do his best to accept the rest. That isn't what I wanted him to be.
I want a man who can appreciate who I am, in all aspects. It's true, I don't look at all like a model. But I'm damn good lookin. And, even though I am MUCH heavier than I ever was when I was married to him, I still have a great figure. I'm fit (still work out every day) and active and healthy and sexy and I have a passel of men who will confirm this, if you don't believe me. But what if I weren't? What if I were homely and sickly? What if the only qualities I had to offer were substantial emotional support and a great and interesting mind and creativity that has no bounds and love and acceptance that is immeasurable? How then would I want to settle for a man who says,
"I know.. I love those things about you and I don't even care that you are homely." I say nay. A man who really appreciates the things that make me who I am, will certainly never see me as homely. Or fat. Or inferior in any way.

Is this an ideal that lives in no man? I say nay again. I know many men like this. If you don't have one, then girls, go get one! And I say the same is true in the reverse. I think it's time to be honest with ourselves and not drag another soul down with us into our own desperate darkness of discontentment and all the while call it righteousness.


Her name is Elizabeth Jones. Beth for short. But we call her Tiny. (A nickname my son, Jake, gave her.) She's the mommy of my granddaughter. And she's a perfect little flower. She's beautiful and smart. She loves her baby and she loves me. (That's her finest point! hehehe) She calls me Mommy Face.

I've known Beth almost four years. When we met, she wasn't yet dating my son. I believe we were all doing shots of.. oh hell I dunno. I am not a shots person, so I was just sipping it and she would say, "Hey, finish that up, babe! I gotta use the glass!" :)

Here's the thing about Tiny. She is both strong and frail. She has a solid character that you can feel. But she is sensitive to being mistreated. I used to try to find her work where the people were civil and wouldn't yell at their employees because I couldn't stand the idea of her being exposed to that. It's true, she's come such a long way. She now works two jobs and has gotten her own apartment, where she and the baby live. Her sister and Jake live there off and on to help with the childcare. (Beth and Jake split up some time ago, but they remain close friends and share the responsibility of the baby.) Beth also has a fiery defender's spirit. She is sweet as punch, but if you hurt someone she loves, she'll knife ya!

Beth reminds me of one of those mountain flowers. The type that can grow, even from the ashes of a forest fire. I feel privileged to know and love her.