Irreverent Mama

Thursday, October 04, 2007

“I did start it. I mean, maybe I hit him harder than I intended. Maybe he didn’t realize it was supposed to be playful.” I'm on the phone with a good friend, venting, questioning, ranting, debriefing; trying to gain perspective on an event that had shocked me to the core a day prior.

“Your first marriage was abusive, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but - “

“But nothing. There is never any reason to hit someone in the face. It is never all right for a man to hit a woman in the face. Don’t start excusing his behaviour.”

“I’m not trying to excuse his behaviour. I was shocked, humiliated and absolutely livid. I’m just trying to determine if my emotional reaction is fair, if it’s justified.”

“Your reaction is justified. Your poke in his stomach was playful. Everyone could see that. When you hit someone in the face, that is not playful. It's never playful. A blow to the face is intended to put you in your place, to establish dominance.”

“Huh. I hadn’t thought that through, but it would certainly explain the humiliation I felt. In fact, it was the intensity of my response that had me wondering whether I was over-reacting.”

OVER-REACTING???? You were the fucking BRIDE! This asshole didn’t just hit someone on the face, which would have been bad enough, male or female. He didn't hit some poor sap at a dinner party. He hit the fucking BRIDE, at her fucking WEDDING.”

Yes, indeed. At my very own wedding, the boyfriend of one of the guests smacked me across my face. Not just any guest, one of my two closest friends.

A moment to remember, indeed.

Let me recap.

The wedding had drawn to a close. People had met, people had congratulated and hugged. The ceremony - short, sincere, and touching - had gone without a hitch. More chatting, some eating, some drinking, and then a gradual drifting away of the guests until only a handful of us remained: me and my wonderful groom, my two friends, and the one friend's boyfriend of five years.

Now, I've met the boyfriend before, and we hadn't quite hit it off. We didn't not hit it off, either. I just didn't feel comfortable with him. He's a bit intense, a bit persistent, persistent to the point of aggression, almost. I've felt judged by him when my opinions didn't mesh with his standards. But we live in different cities, and I've not had a lot to do with him, so it didn't really matter. I did my best to be nice, because I value my friend and don't want to alienate her.

So.

The five of us are chatting, and my local friend suggests that we three women get together before my out of town friend has to leave with the boyfriend. We've spoken many times of the possibility of getting together, the three of us, but never had we had such a good opportunity as this. Out-ot-town friend defers the decision to her boyfriend. She further defers the responsibility of asking to me. In BF's presence, she tells me, "YOU try asking BF."

So, it's my party. Though Matthew's entirely sober, I've had two glasses of wine, enough to put a small spring in my step, and we've all been getting along famously. Lots of laughter, a little flirting, lots of light-hearted fun. I'm feeling more comfortable with this fellow than I ever have. So, with everyone watching, I approach him, put my hands on his collar bone, say his name with a saucy grin and a bit of a wheedle in my voice. "Oswald? Do you-"

He shoots out an abrupt "No" before I finish my sentence. I stick out my tongue - done right, this is charming and coquettish and just a little naughty - I stick out my tongue at him and pop him in the tummy with my fist. Not enough to wind him, not enough to dent his (not too toned) abs. Just a poke.

He laughs and puts his arm around my shoulders so I am swung to face the others. And with his other hand, he slaps my face.

Had he poked me back in my stomach, I would have laughed. Had he smacked my ass, I would have grinned. Like my poke in the stomach, those would have been playful.

He slapped. my. face.

Everyone went suddenly silent. Local friend was dumbfounded. Out-of-town friend was uncertain. My groom was shocked. I don't know how the jerk was feeling. Triumphant? If I didn't want an Incident to mar the very closing moments of my wedding, I had to react carefully. I didn't want this to be The Thing that everyone remembered. I didn't want this bizarre event to taint the whole day for my sensitive husband. Further, if he comprehended the depth of my rage, he'd do something dramatic in defense of me. The way things were going at the moment, an incautious response from me could have this ridiculous Thing devolving into a fistfight between these two men. Further violence would taint the day for me even further.

So I swallowed my rage and humiliation, and smiled. Just as I had swallowed it so many times in my first marriage. Swallowed hard, smiled, said something - I forget what - light and flip and casual. Swallowed very, very hard, and moved across the circle to join hands with my beloved. My warm, kind, courageous, firm, sensitive beloved. Within moments the out-of-town friend is on her way, and my in-town friend is walking home with Matthew and me. She reads my mood well, and we talk lightly about how wonderful the afternoon had been. Which it had, all but that surreal 90 seconds.

Out-of-town friend called a couple of hours later on her cell phone, "just to check in", but in reality to probe about my response to the slap. She was in the car with him, so I didn't feel free to really get into it with her and besides, I was still recovering and not ready to talk about it. I said as much. As she hung up the phone, I heard her telling him I was "all right".

And I am, once again, shocked. On the two occasions in ten years when I've felt Matthew has treated someone inappropriately, I have responded clearly. Once, in private, "That was unkind. I think you need to apologize." Or once, in the presence of the offended person, just a shocked, "Matthew!" In the first case, he did not agree with my assessment of the situation, but the discussion that followed was respectful and helpful. In the second instance, he immediately realized what he'd done, and his apology to the offended party was immediate and sincere.

My 'friend' did no such thing. No shocked exclamation. Not even a dismayed murmur. No drawing him aside. Nothing. Though evidently distressed at the time of the incident, she drove away without a word, and then made the call for him. Is she abused? Not physically, I'm fairly certain. Is she emotionally abused? We've had that conversation. She says not. I'm not so clear. There's something "off" about that relationship, something that makes me uncomfortable every time I'm near it. But she won't hear it. I've tried to be there for her, for the time when she sees the nastiness in their dynamic, but that's over. A line has been crossed, and there's no going back.

This phone call, which he had not the integrity to make for himself, was for his own reassurance. He was not seeking to know how I felt - only that he was in the clear. He did not speak directly to me, and he did not apologize. He did not apologize!

Apparently, he thinks it's okay to slap the bride at her wedding.

Bizarre.

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8 Comments:

  • First! I think you and Matthew, especially you coped brilliantly with that asshole!

    By Blogger john.g., at 4:26 PM  

  • You were magnificent...I'd have reacted far more angrily than that.

    As for him and your friend....if he isn't hitting her yet, he will be at some point. He clearly has no self-control, she's clearly a bit scared of him....and something will trigger him to snap and hit her..one day.I just hope she has enough sense to get out when he does, and never ever go back.

    By Blogger Wendz, at 6:41 PM  

  • John - Thank you. I'm pretty pleased, myself -- though you'll note it took months for me to publish this. It shook me up some at the time.

    Wendz - Thank you. I once took a personality profile thingy (a proper one, with a psychologist) that indicated that, when under stress, I respond by becoming extremely analytical. It's not something I really control consciously, but in times like this, it stands me in good stead.

    Apparently, though (and I don't remember this - my local best friend told me), when I walked over to Matthew I asked my out-of-town friend, "Has he ever hit you?" When she said no, I said "Well, he will."

    I don't remember saying that, though Matthew confirms it, so I'm quite sure I must have. I guess I was still in shock. But I'm glad I did!

    And yes, I hope that when he does, she walks out on him.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 8:29 PM  

  • WTF? I can't fathom how, in any circumstance, ever, that would be appropriate.

    Glad to see what you said to the out-of-town friend. At least she's been warned, and yeah, I hope she ditches him fast.

    By Anonymous Allison, at 12:42 PM  

  • Allison - they're still together. It probably helps that they both travel a lot for work, and aren't in the same place, together, for more than two weeks most months. But still, it's just a matter of time.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 5:24 PM  

  • Natural instincts are real though seldom heeded. I believe the "vibes" you get from people are meant to tell you something.

    Perhaps you give me this fucker's address and I'll explain proper etiquette to him.

    By Blogger Denguy, at 11:12 PM  

  • Denguy - My knight in shining armour! Thanks for the offer. :-)

    I've had my moments of fantasy. See, I know someone who knows people who'll break legs for pay. Or so I'm led to believe, and, given the fellow's past, it's probable...

    They say vengence fantasies serve a useful psychological purpose. Now you can be incorporated into mine! (Well, now. How do you feel about being a feature in my fantasy life?)

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 9:25 AM  

  • You did well not losing your cool. I like to think that I would have responded in a similar fashion, but I fear that I might have burst into tears. And the Awful Boyfriend would have loved that.

    Question: Why did she have to ask him if she could visit you in the first place? It almost sounds as though she was using him as an excuse: 'See? He says I can't visit. He won't LET me.' Etcetera.

    Remind me to go do something without consulting my husband, soon!

    By Blogger Mary Witzl, at 5:49 PM  

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