This, I think, begins one of the hardest series of posts for me. Because there’s so much cognitive dissonance happening. And it’s so hard to explain.
I mean, he ignored my words. He ignored my crying. He ignored my saying how upset I was in the immediate aftermath. At that point, I should’ve been able to feel total and complete anger, right?
And I did. I felt super angry. But I also felt scared… And I also felt like I just wanted whatever I was feeling to go away as soon as humanly possible…
(And I also thought about how I didn’t want this to become a “big deal.” After all, we used to see each other all the time because we ran in the same musical theater circles. I wanted things to be smoothed over so we could continue to do that without strife.)
Instead of running away from him, my instinct was to run toward him – which is an instinct that I think becomes something that happens in an abusive relationship – wanting the same person who hurts you to be the same person who takes away that pain (as often, they are in some weird way).
Within hours, I went from, “that was horrific” to “oh my god. Things need to be okay immediately.” I mean, if you went back, there would be flirty playful text messages to him within a few hours of it happening… Because I was livid when I left. And I don’t want him to remember “angry” girl. I’m the one who has to be practically perfect, after all.
(That oftentimes feels like the only thing that can keep you safe in an abusive relationship – be as perfect as you can be, to try to avoid as much “trouble” as humanly possible.)
At the time, I looked at this and treated it as I would almost any “misunderstanding.” I treated it like a normal tiff, instead of a really, really not-okay-at-all thing.
I looked for places where I was at fault. And I tried to find “middle ground” instead of taking a hard stance that this was 100% not okay (even though I would’ve been in the right to do that)…
I was holding my breath a little bit after it happened, just kind of waiting for the moment when things would return to normal.
I was basically walking not just on eggshells, but Faberge egg shells, because I felt things were so delicate – not just because of the assault, but because I was still trying to repair things from the first sexual assault. I’d get called out for being “too angry” or “too sensitive” or “crazy.”) So, I was trying to become the “perfect” girl.
Soon after the (2nd) assault happened, I had potentially one of the biggest days of my life. I had my first day as an editor on a freaking Jon Stewart-produced show! (How exciting! :-))
(For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I was being promoted at The Nightly Show. I had dreamed of working in the Jon Stewart family for yeeeeeears. This was legitimately a dream come true.)
I didn’t ask for much from this sexual assault guy (who has nothing to do with Jon Stewart or the Busboy family, in case I haven’t made that perfectly clear).
He told me that he has “kind of a thick skull,” so if I ever need anything, I have to be super wildly clear. I told him a few times (so I could be as clear as he needed) that my promotion meant everything to me, and that if he would remember, it would mean a lot.
I didn’t even get a text the day I got to sit in the editor’s chair.
Of course he didn’t remember or care (even though he acted like he cared about me a lot)…
And forgetting my first day of my new job is a teeeeeeny tiny thing in comparison to him committing sexual assault against me. Forgetting an important day, to me, is a normal relationship squabble.
I only tell that part of the story, because my reaction to it feels crazy.
I was disappointed. But instead of just running with my disappointment, or my still immense anger from the assault (and the assault before that!), I turned it around to think, “maybe I’m being unreasonable.”
I jumped to thinking, “Maybe he’s only being so thoughtless because maybe I’m “asking so much” lately (you know, just wanting to be treated with respect and such – I know these parenthesis are sarcastic, ’cause I’ve had a lot of time to think about it… but at the time, I really did think maybe I was asking too much when I was asking so (so, so) little)…
“Maybe I’m being ‘too dramatic’ by being so upset about these things he keeps trying to explain away.” I thought. “Maybe I’m thinking about myself sooooo much, that how could I possibly expect someone to not be rude to me? At least some of this has to fall on me, right? Blame is never good… So, what can I do to be better?” Those were the thoughts that rolled through my head.
So I started brainstorming ideas of what nice things I could do for him. (I asked if I could send him a bouquet of flowers. [Sigh.])
To recap: A man assaults me, ignores and gaslights me when I try to talk to about it before I leave his apartment, does something insensitive the the next day. And then I ask if I can send him flowers?
I just wanted so badly to de-escalate the situation…
And I still do think that sometimes (in more normal disputes), it doesn’t hurt to be the one to reach out the olive branch – even if you’re the one in the “right.”
I’ve done that before this, and I will probably do it again…
Because in my experience, it softens the situation. It can help calm both parties down. It can make it easier to talk things out. (Or at least, I think so.)
I don’t actually think that generally it’s such a bad thing (on “normal” disputes or misunderstandings) to reach out first, to find a part you’re sorry for, and apologize first. But in this situation, it was a mess. Just a total mess.
And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.