September 15, 2010 at 10:19 AM (Able Bodied Antics, Assumptions, Autobiography, Cerebral Palsy, Comittment, Disability, Ex Love Interests From Hell, Impairment) (, , , )

This one will be controversial, I’m sure.  And mean, and not showing either of the female participants in their best light.  But…

Why did it matter to me so much?  It did.  And not just on the basic relationship level.  Always, always, why did I feel I had so much to prove among the able regarding my personal life, my romantic relationship?  A lot of folk at the time advised me I was putting too much emphasis on it.

I was.  I’m such a damn cavewoman about these things. It actually became something of a game sometimes,  an old school catfight if an “other woman,’ showed up.  But what I wonder is why I was…

A bit of a prologue is needed, from the time before I was really ‘dating’ my future spouse.

1980 or so.

He  met her at a church function.  She was completely able-bodied, and his disability was fairly invisible. At that time, or shortly thereafter they began to date and it got serious rather quickly. One of those couples that, when they are together, make it seem as though they are the only two people in a room.  (My late husband, when he emotionally committed, did so fast.)  At some point down the line a ring was exchanged and they got engaged.  She was either already in, or joined the military shortly thereafter.  He had begged his brother-in-law to drive him to her place of deployment to say farewell after a leave, and the brother-in-law, while grousing a bit, did so.

After coming home, he realized she had left a gym bag of hers in his closet.

I don’t know how he came to read her letters…whether he was then in the habit of going through other people;s  things routinely (Something I didn’t permit in our home.  Each of us had to ask permission before handling the other’s stuff), or when he picked it up, was the bag open etc.

Doesn’t matter.  What did matter at the time was what he found.

It wasn’t just the shock of realizing she was also very seriously involved with someone else, someone near the deployment she was going back to.

There were particular paragraphs that noted with some scorn, that she had some guy back in the States who thought she was in love with him…very sarcastic in tone, he said, as if the two of them were laughing, via letter, about it.  I often wonder, if unconsciously, she left it there on purpose, to be rid of him.

His mother, a very religious lady described his reaction to this as ‘possessed.’   According to him, he wept. Shouted. Sank into a serious depression.  He did not leave the house for days. Truly devastated.  And, appropriate to be so overset after such a betrayal.

When she returned from that deployment, still well before I knew him,  he advised that there  was some trouble getting the ring back, I don’t remember now if he did or didn’t…but there was some sort of highbrow kitchen accessory still in  a box in his mother’s kitchen in 1985, and she often lamented about what the heck to do with it, since neither he nor she gave a darn about it.  (A child of the Depression though, she just couldn’t bring herself to throw anything away.)

Christmas, 1985

We were dating by that time, and he was working in one of those seasonal holiday shops in the nearest mall.  I was visiting my dad and my dad’s  latest girlfriend.  She happened to live in the same suburb as my guy did.

As my cousin told it to me, here’s what went down.

The ex girlfriend found out where he was working through some mutual friends, and showed up, all interested in getting interesting, very hey, baby what’s up.  As if the weird painful breakup had never occurred.  My cousin and her husband happened to be there, visiting.   My husband excused himself from the kiosk for a moment and proceeded to flee to a restroom and get physically sick…from just seeing her.

My cousin politely but pointedly mentioned that he was in a relationship with me.

She did not know me, and apparently did not care, she intended to go after him anyway.

He returned fairly quickly, advised her he wanted no part of her.  She apparently advised him that she intended to show up in church that Sunday in the company of  these mutual friends…He finished out his shift, shaky on his feet.  He called my dad’s condo, and I got on the phone.

“Hey I know we were supposed to go out to dinner and a movie, but can you just come over?”  He sounded so shook up, I wondered what was going on but said, sure.

We had the house to ourselves, and got comfortable and he calmed down and explained.

He needed hugs and reassurance that night, and got them.  He wanted to make sure I was with him at church, because he advised he didn’t know  if he could handle it.

I wanted to make d@mn sure I was at church too, because gossip ruled in that place, and also because I wanted to make certain she knew where I stood, and what I was willing to do to handle   that archaic “hold on to my man,” thing. (It just irks me to no end that I thought of it in those terms, but I did, and there’s no sugarcoating it.)

I got so insecure, inside my head that weekend.  If he really did want her, how could I compete with that?  Not just able, but military…I was so sad.  I thought, “Well, it’s been good, but here’s the able chick sweeping in.  He’s shook now, but she’ll pester and pester and she’s probably better looking, and they have a history, and she can do more things, and doesn’t limp around and doesn’t have a lazy eye like I do…”  All of the old, “Not good enough,” stuff came up.

After all I have three great male friends, all because,  couldn’t get them interested romantically due to, at least in part, my disabilities…they let me down gently, but they did, and left me feeling inadequate (although they are friends to this day, and I’m now so pleased with that.)

I never actually saw her face till the end of service. By prearrangement we were in the last pew.

She walked in, in uniform, back straight, and didn’t even turn to look at anyone.  Brown curly hair past the shoulder.  A sturdy person.  She sat in the front pew with the folk she was staying with.  I had my best dress on, something that I fit into for only about two weeks.  A periwinkle blue dress with an old-fashioned bodice top.

He had a death grip on my hand and sat through most of the service with head bowed.

He often made scenes and I could see he was mightily suppressing his urge to do so.

The service ended.  “Here we go,” I thought.  Here’s where I have to prove to her in about thirty seconds that she never even had the wisp of a chance with him.” Me, the gimp, facing down a military person. She turned.  And happened to look straight at me.  My impairment was much less obvious standing in a pew from that distance.  I stared her down like murder.  Her brows raised.

And then I smiled.  Wolfish and obvious. the look up and down,  slow starting, “Oh, you don’t impress me at all,” smile.

She looked for a moment like she thought of making an introduction…but when she left the church she simply rapidly walked past on the outside, my side of the pew, without another glance or word.

We heard one last thing about her, that she had later married and had a little girl.

Objectively I thank her for her military service, as I do all vets I meet.  But that’s where it ends.

Why did I *need* to win that battle so much? I still don’t know.  But I won it.

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Real Marriage

September 1, 2007 at 1:14 PM (Comittment, family, Marriage) (, )

This is probably going to be the toughest post I’ve ever had to write. But the fact that twenty years ago this weekend, I got married (a radical act for a heavyset disabled woman even within a conservative fundamentalist denomination) and the difficult but fascinating discussion of marriage over at Tiny Cat Pants, makes me realize I have to write it.

All the folks defending traditional marriage…please listen up….a new dimension of the hypocritical aspects of defining marriage the way evangelical Americans do will be apparent soon.

I made the mistake of falling in love, hard, fast and unbreakable with a man born into, raised in, and called to minister to the American Evangelical Protestant faith. I was an unreligious person at the time, a kind of pragmatic agnostic. “I have to *do* what I have to *do* so get the *fcuk* out of my way…

In 1985, two days into the nutty relationship I realized that the *only* way I was going to be able to commit to this man, and him to me…was not just to *get religion* myself…and not to *fake* my participation, but learn the ropes, learn what was expected and live my life as genuinely as was possible for me in that context….but to *support* his belief, that I thought was the purest insanity for a hemophilliac in the mid 80’s to do…train for the ministry. So, I studied the NIV Bible *hard.* I did that ‘rededicate you life to the Lord” thing. I just told him that at home, in private, and with non evangelical friends I had to be *me.* Me as he met me, not with the fundie add ons. He agreed because he liked that version better….Heh. I also drew the line at “witnessing.” Reactively, I was fine discussing my faith’s positivity if someone inquired…but it was purely the way I saw my connection to God, not a Zondervan improved variety. Proactively, I would do no such thing, and was acutely uncomfortable if the situation nearly forced me into it. I can only remember one time, working in a revival, that I actually did it. I refuse to impose any belief system of mine, past or present on anyone else. It’s rude. It’s inhospitable and I cannot abide it.

It’s summer 1987. A wedding is being planned. In a fundamentalist Baptist Church. In America. Between a man and a woman.

I am summoned *alone* into the present pastors office. He is a gentle ginger haired man with Chron’s disease. and he sits me down and says because I have admitted I’m a lousy cook and a worse maidservant,and that having biological children was going to be difficult that he did not feel we should marry, and that he felt so strongly about this *that he was refusing to officiate.* He was telling me that since I wasn’t Betty Crocker or June Cleaver he would not do it.

I explained reasonably that we were two people with disabilites and so that meant that some gender norms were just *silly* for us to try and hold to. We were each going to do those things we were best at, and blow off or outsource the rest.

And later in our marriage, Brian clued me in about a discussion with a family member who said, “You know you can’t *marry* that girl!”

My husband was even less receptive to edicts and ultimatums than I am.

“Watch me,” he said.

Listen to me evangelicals. You are full of ***** . Because some of you are narrower than *even you believe!* You aren’t defending “Marriage is only between a man and a woman.” *You* are defending “Marriage will only be between those individual men and women that we believe are *within expected norms enough* to be allowed to marry. The furor over racially mixed marriages is another example of this.

Worse yet, of course, I admitted that housewifery and cookery were not the positives that I would bring to the marriage and that that was not what my Brian’s and my marriage was going to be about and that *Brian himself* was fine with that, and Pastor could bring him in and inquisit him alone and he would tell him just that. (Which, of course he did with a few disrespectful words thrown in. The rant my Irishman brought to my apartment that night was a fine one…in my defense. )

Thank God that the Pastor did not go so far as to forbid the use of the building because as bad as that color scheme was (red carpet red pew pads, red red red red…for the blood of Christ of course.) it would have broken Brian’s heart if he could not have been married in the church he grew up in, and since I had no strong pull to a church from my youth it made sense to be married there.

A former pastor, a good family friend saw no reason not to reactivate his credentials and become “Marryin Sam” again, to marry us. He and many others just realised…”The emotional bond between these two people is just too strong not to have them marry. It’s necessary. Let them do it. Where’s the harm, and it might even be a good thing….”

And so, during the good parts of the marriage, it was about two smart, geeky science fiction and/or comic book freakos bonding in the mind, and physically too. Ours was about the physical bond, and the “life of the mind.” We dissected friends lives and interactions, our own ambitions and dreams, and parts of pop culture, over breakfast lunch and dinner. (I had to learn some sports too, and in the end that was another subject to chew over…)

*That’s* what it was about. How much fun we could jam in to the good times, how many intimate moments and days and nights, how many road trips, diners, relatives, amusement parks, holidays we could get in in five and a quarter years. That’s not a bad reason to partner up, to marry.

As I’ve discussed before somewhere in the relationship he discovered his clock was ticking and that AIDS would eventually end his life, and sometime after he knew that, he clued me in.

And marriage did become something I saw as a trap, but only after it went to hell, me sick with Hodgkins Lymphoma and him getting steadily worse.

I didn’t leave him. There was much pressure to do so for many reasons, some of them quite valid. But it was simple for me, and not about what anyones *religion* would or would not permit.

He was dying. No one in this world should die without someone at their side in some kind of way. Though I wasn’t present at the exact moment of his death, it was only traffic that kept me twenty minutes late.

And then, the night of the funeral, when I had spoken over him, the last thing I could do for him and gotten through a weird post funeral gathering in the church gym and fled with my friends to my own apartment…after my friends left other people came and I was told again, that night, after that day that I *got through without crying or screaming or making a scene…*

“Well, we *knew* it wasn’t going to work…”

After which gem of comfort and support, I responded: “Get the fcuk out of my house, and don’t ever darken my door again.”

And ran to the bed that was now, for the first night, truly mine alone…and wept all night.

After *every damn thing* that we had survived and remained connected through as a couple, idiots were telling me that it hadn’t “worked.” (Whatever in the hell that meant.)

It *did* work. for *five years* and more.

And some of the very evangelicals that *today* stand up and shrill about “Marriage should be between a man and a woman,” gave me and my Brian messages again and again that ours was not “the real thing.”

Anyone who’s been wondering why I’ve had such trouble finding a church, well, now you know….

Until an evangelical is courageous enough to come to me and admit that my connection was real and in many ways a primer about what commitment *has to mean…* Screw it. Just completely screw it all. My connection with Deity still exists, but it doesn’t mean I ever need to have anything to do with the American evangelical mindset again.

The hypocrisy sickens me.

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