Sunday, November 8, 2009

...You Know When to Stay and When to Go...

The first time I ever experienced dating violence, I was about 16 years old

My then-boyfriend –let’s call him “Artie” - was in a crowd of six, five boys and one girl, and they were listening intently as the girl tried to “explain” that she didn’t “really have a big butt. I just have an arch in my back.” She then proceeded to adjust herself in her chair so that she was on her knees with her rear up in the air and facing the circle of boys so she could demonstrate. “See? See the arch?”

Now I know she knew exactly what she was doing. And I know they knew exactly what she was doing. And since I had just made direct eye contact with Artie, I know he knew I was hoping he wouldn’t do what I thought he was going to do, but he did it anyway.

He leaned forward toward her up-ended bottom and opened his mouth. I don’t know if he was going to lick, or bite, or what, I just know I saw him on the verge of doing something horrible. He was being disrespectful to her (even though she was disrespecting herself) and he was being disrespectful to me by even pretending he was going to put his mouth on some girls butt, in public, and in front of me. And he was really kind of disrespecting himself by behaving like some drunk loser in a bar who’s had a few too many.

He never got the chance to do what he was going to do because before I knew it I had taken every ounce of muscle and adrenaline available to me and directed it straight down my right arm , out of my fist and landed it somewhere around his head or shoulder.

And somehow he ended up on the floor.

And I remember him popping back up and I vaguely recall his fingers curling into a fist. But since I had been raised to know if you start it, you have to finish it, I had my fists up and ready too.

“I dare you. I seriously f----- dare you.” I said. And I meant it, too. In that moment, our obvious size difference wasn’t an issue for me. He was an athlete, too so he was probably faster and stronger, but unless he was angrier than I was, he didn’t stand a chance. I’m not saying he wasn’t very angry, but I know his rage could not have possibly matched mine in that moment and good or bad I was ready to deal with whatever happened next.

Chris Brown said on his recent MTV interview that his attack on/fight with Rihanna was triggered by “anger” but he still doesn’t offer any specifics as to what it was that made him so angry in the first place.

Since I don’t personally know him, I can’t say for sure if he has the sort of personality that seems calm with rage bubbling just underneath, but he certainly never gave me the impression before so one wonders what could have possibly occurred to make him so mad. Maybe he was always a lunatic and hid his insanity well. Or maybe he was just that mad.

Let’s be clear. I’m not saying his violence should be excused because he was “really mad.” I’m not suggesting she started the fight and he finished it. What I am saying is that we’re missing a lot of details and a lot of perspective and without those things we can never really conclude what happened and therefore cannot make any judgments on anyone involved.

Artie and I made up later that same night. He claims he didn’t see me look at him and I countered with,
“Did you need to see me? Why couldn’t you just do the right thing?” He had no excuse for his actions and I had no excuse for mine. That was our only violent incident in the 6 years we were together.

I recognize that every similar situation doesn’t end so easily but I think it’s important to make a distinction between violence and abuse. An act of violence can happen anywhere at any time to anyone. There are repercussions and sometimes lasting effects that can change everything forever. Violence can occur between friends or strangers; it’s horrible to experience and wrong to inflict or incite.

Still, in relationships, we all have our moments and they can become very intense beyond anything we could have imagined we were capable of. I’ve witnessed a few big blow ups in my lifetime, and I’ve participated in a couple, too. It’s not all love, hugs and kisses all the time. Sometimes you get pissed, you throw things, or you walk out and stay gone for a few hours, a few days, and maybe you never come back. But these things, I think , are all a part of the normal scheme of things when it comes to relationships. They aren’t necessarily bad or good they just exist. They might be the worst or best thing that ever happened to you, but they do happen. And if you will live, you will likely face them at some point.

On the other hand, some situations are definitely abusive. If he swings on your because you made chicken and he wanted fish, or she’s repeatedly poking you in your forehead, calling you a punk and daring you to “do something” just because you’re watching sports but she wants to watch videos, then it’s safe to say your relationship is probably unhealthy and you need to leave as fast as you came, if not faster.

And then there are weapons. Weapons are a deal breaker. If they use any nearby object against you, it’s over. And this is coming from a woman who once attacked a guy with a hot curling iron. I ended that relationship because he wouldn’t, and that was just a sign to me that neither one of us was in our right mind, and there could be no happy ending there.

My point is everyone has fights, but you know in your heart if it’s a fight that got crazy out of hand or a warning to run for your life.

Chris Brown made a very valid point during his interview when he said you had to know yourself and trusts your instincts.

No matter what anyone outside of you has to say about it, if something inside of you says to leave, your next move is to GO.

My mom would say, “If you have to question it, then there’s really no question about it.”

I can’t emphasize this enough: if you sense danger, there IS danger and you need to protect yourself immediately.

Be safe, be smart , value and respect yourself. Never forget you’re the best thing you’ve got going, and with that no matter what, you’ll do just fine.

Song stuck in my head right now: Kelis "Attention"

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