I am filled with grief this morning for Melania Trump.
I watched her husband’s tasteless speech at the Al Smith charity dinner last night, in which he repeatedly and grotesquely insulted Hillary Clinton to her face. [Apparently this event has a longstanding tradition of both presidential candidates showing up to “roast” one another.] And I noted the ease with which Trump shifted into humiliating Melania as a tactic to garner audience support.
When the audience laughed—and laugh they did, breaking for a moment the tension of that excruciating speech—they laughed because for a moment his target felt like a safe one. What husband would say such a thing if his wife weren’t in on the joke, right? And maybe they laughed because they slipped into the same blurred distinctions as Donald, using his wife as a lightning rod for their discomfort with him just as he jabbed at her in a pretense of self-deprecating humor.
But a wife is not mere extension of the man she has married. Make no mistake: that was spousal abuse on display last night, as Trump commanded Melania to stand for the people laughing at him making fun of her. When he admitted that he had not warned her in advance of the humiliation he had planned, he used her own loyalty against her and cornered her into either immediately absolving him or making a scene at a hugely public event.
The signs of domestic violence are not always outward.
Sometimes, instead of mysterious bruises or inexplicable fractures, abuse looks more like an opinionated writer slowly shifting to radio silence.
I learned last week of yet another person who met me through my then-husband, and who was convinced — because of how reserved and distant I always seemed — that I disliked her immensely. And I’ve noticed that when Facebook shows me “memories” of what I posted in past years, any comments I made prior to 2011 are rarely a full sentence in length…and often so vague even I can’t tell what I was trying to say.
Now, I can’t say for certain (and feel free to correct me, if you think I’ve got this wrong!), but I doubt most people who have met me post-divorce — or who knew me pre-marriage — or who’ve made my acquaintance through this blog — think of me primarily as silent, unfriendly, or disagreeable.
This was a line I considered including in my 3 Quotes in 3 Days! kick a few weeks ago. I didn’t for reasons^ — chief among them, the fact that what I like about these words is how they make me think about the idea in reverse:
Where there can be shipwreck, there is always first a ship.
I endured a shipwreck (of sorts) yesterday. While I still feel the shock of it today, truth is — this ship has been in the process of wrecking my entire life.
All we have ever spoken of is the wreck.
All I can remember feeling is the wreckage.
If I am wreckage, then I am also a ship. Then I have also always been a ship.
I’ve got some reading material to recommend to you today, a website I found at once horrifying and reassuring. Hildi suggested I might want to start you off with something gentle — a bread crumb of cuteness you could reference to get back out of the Rabbit Hole, should you decide to follow me down.
She also thought a picture of herself was the best way to reach the necessary cuteness quotient.
Thanks to Natalie Luhrs and her fantastic weekly links posts over at Pretty Terrible^, I recently came across just the site that I needed — at just the moment that I needed it. Given what I know about You, my lovely Readers, I have a hunch that some of you will want to explore about this site too (or may at least find it interesting).
“For several years now I’ve followed blogs about narcissists and other abusers, written by victims of abuse. They’re powerful tools for recovery, and powerful testimonials to the impact of emotional abusers on other people’s lives. What’s been missing is the abusers’ perspective on the abuse. The narcissists I see online don’t write about their relationships with their children and close friends; they hardly write about their own partners, except as props in the narcissist’s ongoing drama. I assumed that there was no way to get the abusers’ side of the story, that abusers are smart enough to not incriminate themselves in their own blogs, and like hell would they get together with other abusers to discuss abuse.
The conversation we had begun that afternoon did not finish until after nine at night. I felt spent and numb, yet somehow giddy. My throat was raw. When I stood up, I rocked unsteadily on my feet.
“What now?” my mother asked. “Shall we go get dinner? What do you usually do after these kinds of talks?”
I blinked at her and shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never actually told my mother about being raped before.”
~ ~ ~
I am now going to tell you a story. That is, I am going to try. I suspect I will conceal more than I realize, and reveal more than I intend. Such is the nature of stories.
My mother would read the words I am about to write as violence. As betrayal.
She might not be wrong.
The capacity for cruelty runs through my family, and I am not exempt. Perhaps it runs through yours, as well.
~ ~ ~
When does someone else’s story become also mine, their memories threaded so densely through my own that I must either speak the forbidden or else tear my tongue out at the root? Secrets wrap around my throat like strangling vines grown thick across a trellis.
I could always lock away this story: until she is dead, until he is dead, until all the family beyond me is reduced to ash and dust. It feels like a ghoul’s choice. I picture myself as some starving vulture, shuffling anxiously from one taloned foot to the other, waiting for the meat to die.
In kink communities, “red” as a safeword is common enough to be clichéd. As far as safewords go, it is a good one for newbies to the BDSM scene. It’s easy to remember: red is the final color of street lights.
A definite and recognized command to stop.
Of course,red is also the color of a matador’s cape. The one he waves to enrage the bull and prompt its charge.
[TW for discussion of intimate partner abuse and sexual coercion]
Within my marriage, I became a woman who submitted. Or perhaps I should say: I learned I was a woman who will submit. It’s hard to know what I am now — or how I might behave, should I ever again invite another human to run electric fingers along the skin of my thighs, or the nape of my neck. It’s even harder to imagine taking that risk.
I do know that one who submits is not the same as one who is a submissive. It is hard to get farther apart than these two states of being are from one another.
Another thing I know? I have never gotten past the shame I carry to voice my own deepest kink. Which is simply this: