Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chapter 1: From Nerdy to Thirty

Around this time last year, my twenty-ninth birthday was approaching, and I realized that meant thirty loomed close on the horizon. I began to think about the state of my life and what I could do to improve it. While my life at the time was seemingly stable, there were kernels of unease, malaise, insecurity, and latent ambition that left me wanting change. With that in mind, I set out to improve myself and my life. I set up a blog, made concrete plans, and for about three months stuck to them. This is the story of how, a year later, I am still searching for that change. Reading my first blog post takes me back to where I was a year ago:

Looking back on this entry, I am both refreshed by my optimism and crushed by my naïveté. Perhaps one of the unspoken reasons behind my desire to change was caused by a narcissistic husband who, in an effort to offset his own insecurities, would do his best to belittle me. James (a moniker I have given him for this narrative because he liked to drink Jameson) would regularly tell me that he was, essentially, better looking, smarter, and thinner than me; that his friends and family were more supportive than mine; and that I was basically lucky to be with him.

The vows we wrote and recited at our wedding in September 2007 were three promises we would make to the other. Mine to him were:

I promise to always support you in your dreams;
I promise to always hold you when you have a bad dream;
and I promise to always try to be the woman of your dreams.

I have to think that my promise to always try to be the woman of his dreams means that I knew deep down that I inherently wasn’t. I know now for certain that I could never live up to his impossibly high, ever changing standards. And yet in February of last year, I set out to do just that. I told myself, of course, that I was doing it for me. In a way I was, as an effort to save my already failing marriage rather than admit it was doomed from the start. Our honeymoon period had ended about three days into the honeymoon, and the following months were a struggle. I chose to focus on the good times, and not dwell on the battles. I had made vows (in front of a pastor, no less!) and I intended to keep them, for better or for worse. It just sucked that there was so much worse.

After deciding to change my life for the better, I set up some ground rules as to how I was going to accomplish my big change.

Come April 7, I was facing a challenge and some very hard truths. I figured one of the easiest rules to abide by would be number two. It was also one of the issues that resulted in much of the conflict between us. So I viewed my birthday as a bit of a last hurrah.

James' birthday was in fact the day before mine, so we had a joint birthday party. Of course his friends are based in Long Island and Queens, and mine are based in Manhattan, so to encourage everyone to come, we held the party in western Queens. At this point, I was still making up for the fact that so few of his friends had been able to attend our wedding in Chicago, so encouraging their attendance at any event we held was my way of trying to make that up to him. (We had even had a local party following our wedding, so that he could celebrate with his friends. One of his best friends couldn’t even be bothered to show up to that event!).

From: Katie
To: Recipients Surpressed

Date: Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:07 AM
Subject: Katie & James' Birthday Party!

Hey All,
We're getting older. (One of us more so than the other.)
So come celebrate with us on Saturday (tomorrow) starting at 5, and going till late!

As of now, we will start out at Pizzeria Uno in Long Island City, where they will be showing the NCAA finals and offering an all-you-can-eat pizza special. Tip-off is around 5pm, so that's when the party will kick off.

After we get full or antsy, we will move on to some other local bar, likely with a pool table, so give us a call when you are heading over. We will try to stay close to the N/R/Q/W or 7 lines (or provide rides to subways) in western queens for all you commuters. Please RSVP on Facebook to help us figure out who will be joining the festivities.

See you tomorrow!
Katie & James

The crowd that showed up to the party was mixed, but our friends generally kept separate, like some sort of middle school dance. It started off fine, everyone enjoying pizza, booze and NCAA basketball at Pizzaria Uno. We ended up going to a second bar, with a DJ and enjoyed more drinks and some dancing.

Towards the end of the night James went to the bathroom with his friend Bruno and came out with a giant gash on his palm, with no recollection of how it had occurred. The bartender offered my husband whisky to clean the wound, which I recall him drinking instead. Needless to say, with one prior DWI under his belt, there were so many reasons he should not drive home that night. So I did.

When we arrived to our apartment, James and Bruno were both asleep. I roused James and asked if he would mind getting out and moving his mother’s van (she was living with us at the time) so I could pull into the garage. My husband’s response?

“Fuck you!”

I tried to reason with him a little, but there is no reasoning with someone in that state, so I told him I was going to find a parking spot on the street. My husband's response?

"Fuck you!"

So I drove around the block and upon parking, tried to wake the guys up to get them in the house. Bruno, in the back seat, was out cold, and my husband’s response?

“Fuck you!”

The next thing I knew, James' hands were around my throat, choking me against the car seat. I struggled to pry them off, but the more I resisted, the angrier he got. Finally I gave up and played possum. James lost interest in me, this mouse no longer fun prey for that cat to play with, and fell back asleep. I quickly and quietly gathered up my handbag, the car keys and my high heels, and literally ran in a panic back to the house. I deadbolted the door and sat wondering what I should do when they inevitably came home. That moment arrived, and I of course let them in. Neither of them seemed to remember the altercation in the car. I wondered then if they were playing it off, but came to later learn that neither actually did recall what happened.

Two days later I turned twenty-nine. James gave me a beautiful pair of aquamarine earrings, I was setting out on my new life, was willing to write off the events of the weekend as a drunken mistake, and all seemed right with the world. For the month of April, I did not touch alcohol. This worked out great for James, because it meant he had a designated driver at his beck-and-call. I managed to lose ten pounds in that month, probably by cutting out the calories from alcohol and the late night diner trips associated with a night on the town. By the end of April I was proud of my accomplishments and was waiting for James to notice and appreciate them. I had not told him of my plan, for two reasons. I wanted him to acknowledge my efforts without prompting, and I didn’t want his disapproval were I to fail.

Needless to say, he ultimately did not appreciate my efforts, but instead found alternative reasons to criticize me. There was no “Gosh, baby your body is looking great!” Instead there were demands that I not eat a piece of cheese straight out of the fridge, sans cracker. This pretty much destroyed my motivation to change, rather than encourage it.

Two months later, while vacationing at my parents’ house for the Fourth of July, James informed me he was leaving me.


Ian said...

I can honestly say that I'd really like to meet that prick. Not because I'd confront him or anything; I'm sure he'd quickly and easily kick my ass. I guess it's not even that I want to meet him, as much as I want to meet KJ's ex-husband.

emmablue said...

I can relate to this alot. It sounds like my "marriage".

I would be interested to hear how you met, how long you dated etc. . .

My man did really stupid things when he was drunk. We all do, but also alcohol brings out the truth on a certain level.

He smacked me once! And I smacked him right back.

My man now, pretty much cries when he gets too drunk :) Or professes his love for me.