Gabriel’s father and I were never married.
We did, however, live together for three years.
I cannot pretend to be innocent of all crimes in that relationship (I have always been a terrible liar).
Damage breeds damage, cruelty breeds erratic behavior.
He used to cut me down, daily.
You’re not pretty enough.
You don’t care about your body.
You don’t care about me.
If you cared about me you would make more of an effort.
It was peppered with professions of love, a hug after the verbal slap in the face, the emotional betrayal.
I remember the day that he told me, word for word, that I would never be good enough for him.
And then held me while I cried.
He cheated on me.
I came back.
I got pregnant.
I decided that I was going to be the exception to the Unspoken Single Mother rule. I was going to be the person who stayed. We loved each other, and we were going to work out. Maybe things would be different, with a baby.
He cheated on me.
I pretended not to know, he pretended it wasn’t true.
He cut me down.
He told me that my pregnant belly was repulsive.
That he couldn’t look at me.
He held me while I cried.
I stayed and stayed and stayed.
And I don’t like to talk about it because it makes me sound so profoundly stupid, but I let him grind away at me, bit by bit.
He eroded my perceptions of myself, and I let him.
I let myself become the person he thought I was.
That petty, nervous, jealous person.
I think I could have lived with it really. I had this shell built up around myself to keep some small part of me whole, and I think I could have stayed.
Ironically, the person who compelled me to stay and the person who gave me the strength to leave were one and the same.
It was one thing to live this life, for myself, to be stuck here, for myself, to be this horrid person, for myself.
But to have Gabriel look at me? To look at us? To look at our relationship as a model? For what it means to partner with another person? I couldn’t stomach it.
My son, the reason I bound myself up in that hateful place, was the same reason that I made myself be strong enough to leave.
And leaving was scary.
Leaving was telling my family I was wrong.
Leaving was food stamps and cash aid and medi-cal.
Leaving was struggling from month to month.
Leaving was the debt that even today I can’t seem to eradicate.
Three and a half years later, here I am, left, gone.
And I’m so very glad I did.
Jenny Grace has been back in school for a year, raising her son for five, and growing up for twenty nine. She’s not quite done yet. Raised amongst goats and chickens on a ranch in the California countryside, she was sent off to high school at a Hindu yoga center, and spent her youth working at her family’s nightclub and bar. No really, Jenny grew up completely normal. Well, normal for a kid raised by hippies that is. Shrugging off her patchouli steeped roots, Jenny went on to get a Bachelor’s of Arts in Linguistics and a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Now she’s working on her Master’s in Accountancy. Don’t let degrees fool you though; she wastes most of her time with wine and crosswords. Jenny is a cunning linguist, honest beyond reason, and incapable of keeping her mouth shut. You can read more from Jenny Grace on her blog, Miss Disgrace.