I grew up in the 50s. While there may have been some tantalizing things back then, rock and roll, cool cars, fun filled dances, the hula hoop and the misleading feeling that all was right with the world, empowerment for women was not one of them. My mother’s motto regarding my father was: “Even when he’s wrong he’s right”. That not only cost her her life (my father thought all doctors were quacks so when she got breast cancer he didn’t get medical care for her till she was in the final stages) but as a result of his incestuous relationship with me, it ripped my family into tiny shreds, pieces that were never assembled again. Let’s give credit to the patriarchal system under which I grew up. The words, “A woman’s place is in the home”, wasn’t a joke; it was a crede.
After I ran away from home I began duplicating my mother’s philosophy. My first marriage was to an alcoholic that thought it was cute that I would haul heavy trash barrels out to the street while nine month pregnant, who liked it that I bathed him after drawing his bath (ye gods! Was that me?), and hurried hastily into the living room from the myriad of household and motherly tasks I was doing, while he hollered, “I need another beer and change the channel for me.” The second husband was worse. Twenty years older than me, he made sure I understood that I was subordinate to him. He got the Cadillac, I got the Honda. When gambling in Vegas he got $1000 play money, I received $100 (and a condescending pat on the head to go and have fun), his clothes came from an expensive men’s shop. Mine came from J. C. Penney’s. I waited on him, anticipating all his needs, and sat in a footstool at his feet while watching television. I cleaned the house, did the yard work, washed the cars, cleaned the garage, did the shopping, cooking, dishes, made the bed, took care of the finances and in my spare time tried to be a great mother to my four small children from my first marriage. When my husband unleashed his drunken rages on me leaving tracks of bruises across my chest his comment was, “You must have deserved it.” Are you throwing up yet?
After 8 years of marriage he decided I hadn’t been obedient enough – he always got rid of dogs and wives when they stopped being obedient and insisted on a divorce. He also decided that I was to receive none of the business the two of us had built up (in the final years of our marriage I became Office Manager, Full Time Bookkeeper, and Sales Manager – in addition to all my household tasks) from 3 employees to over 200. He also insisted on keeping the house, a beautiful show place, with 3 stories and 5 bedrooms. When I instructed my attorney to go after him for my half my husband said that if I tried to get half of the business he would hire witnesses that would testify in court that I was a prostitute that did business in front of her children. An active PTA and children’s sports participant, as well as a loving mother, at first I thought he was joking. But as the weeks went on I realized he was deadly serious. This is a guy who kept a copy of Winning Through Intimidation on his desk to make sure everyone saw who was in charge. Terrified I would lose my kids I finally gave in.
Twelve years of single life followed. At the age of 45 I finally got into recovery. By then I was married to my 3rd husband, a man so sadistic that the therapist I was seeing said I would never survive being married to him. At times the going was so difficult I wished it were true. Here I was trying to go through a recovery program of my own devising while married to an abuser. Part of the time I lived in a women’s shelter. I remember the day I began to reclaim my own power. I found a shirt with the words, “What part of no don’t you understand.” The first time my husband saw it on me he asked, “Why are you wearing that?” “Because I can,” I responded.
Today, no one tells me what to do. Today, I make my own decisions. Today, I have a strong self esteem and confidence in my own path in life. I worked a competent and powerful recovery program, one that gave me back all of the empowerment I had all along but didn’t have the courage to claim, one that REPAIRed all the damage done by the long line of males in my life.