Thanksgiving Day 2011
On a day for counting blessings, I’m thankful for my husband, Tony. On behalf of one of my clients, I have a Google Alert set up for “domestic violence.” Each morning, when I fire up my email, I am greeted with 30 to 35 stories of the violence against women that happened the day before. (Once in a blue moon, there is a story about a woman abusing a man.) And each day, I say to myself, thank God I have a husband who respects me and lets me be who I am.
Domestic violence is about control. It’s not about sex, it’s not about money, it’s not about stress at work, it’s not about alcohol, it’s not about the kids, it’s not even about you. It’s about his need to exert his dominence. Those things can be triggers—in his mind—and he can blame it on them. But really, it’s him and it’s his problem.
I grew up watching my dad beat on my mom. He was often drunk when he did that, but not always. He was a bully, a racist, a womanizer and a coward. He used to brag that he and some of his friends beat up a gay black guy (and he didn’t say “gay” or “black guy” when he told the story) and set his hair on fire. Nice. Did he beat on my brother and me? I can’t speak for my brother, but I do know that Momma used to make sure we were well out of his way before he got home, and I’m pretty sure she took some beatings in our place.
The effect that watching domestic violence has on children is deep, and lifelong. For my brother, it seems to have made him more determined to be a terrific father, and he is; I admire him so much for that. It was hard work for him to become the fabulous guy he turned out to be, because he didn’t have an example of that at home.
For me, I determined at a very early age that no man would ever, ever put his hands on me. I also made up my mind that I would never have to put up with abuse simply because I had two kids to feed and needed the paycheck of a creep of a husband. So I didn’t have kids, and now I wish I had. Never would a man make me feel lesser-than, and not one ever has. I developed a tough attitude and a hard shell around my heart. To this day, when a man is a bad father or a bad husband, I simply shrug my shoulders…that’s the way it goes. When a woman is a bad mother or a bad wife, I am outraged, because that doesn’t make sense; my mom was great.
My mom finally left my father, in spite of the usual “leave me and I’ll kill you” threat. In college, I met a man who came from an Ozzie-and-Harriet kind of home, where dad worked, mom kept the house, things were orderly and calm. Tony is very orderly and calm. He is steady and kind. He never tries to control me (a losing battle, that) and rarely so much as raises his voice or uses a bad tone. He respects everyone and is liberal in the extreme. He loves babies and dogs and they love him back. He loves me, and I could not be more thankful, this day and all days.
P.S. My father is not here to defend himself. Too bad.