The Domestic Abuse Worsens in the Summer of Hell–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–July 1994, Part 1

As usual for the past few summers, we had a family reunion in Three Rivers, MI.  It may have been sometime around the fourth of July, but that’s only a guess.  For the first time, I had a boyfriend and/or fiancé to bring.  He annoyed people, though, like Mom and my brother Jake.  He begged for a Mountain Dew and even offered to pay for one, which embarrassed Mom.

****

I was glad I waited for marriage before having intercourse.  From what I could tell from my limited experience, it was much better to wait, as I did.  Marital sex was wonderful and freeing–I could give my body over to Phil in trust and freedom, knowing my body would belong to him for as long as we both should live.  I was sure it pleased God, too, that we waited, and I also praised Him that we waited.  I felt He blessed our union and the love we made.

****

Soon after quitting his job selling vacuum cleaners, Phil found a job at a factory, second shift.  Second shift in Wisconsin, he said, usually meant two to ten p.m., but in South Bend it meant three to eleven.  (I think those were the times, but my memory could be a little off.)  Since he now missed Picket Fences on Friday nights, he had me tape it for him in my room.  When he wanted to watch he said, “Ficket Pences?”

One night, the Judge presided over a child molestation case.  The sheriff’s daughter thought her best friend was having a baby by her own father, and that she didn’t even realize how wrong this was.  But to prevent prosecution, the “father” finally had to admit they were Mormons, and this girl was not his daughter, but the second of his two wives.  The first wife, whom the people of Rome, Wisconsin had thought was the girl’s mother, was about his own age.  (Rome was supposed to be a fictional town, but I found two Romes on the Wisconsin map.)  This caused a problem, of course, because bigamy is outlawed in this country.  But the Judge said,

“Common-law marriages exist all over.  There’s nothing to stop them from having a common-law marriage.  They must dissolve one of the marriages on the books, but they can still consider it common-law, and live as they have been living.”

And common-law marriages, of course, are not legally recognized in Wisconsin, so he wouldn’t legally be a bigamist.

It seemed Providential that this was on “Picket Fences” at just this time.  I also read in the newspaper about someone in California who lived with a woman he considered his wife, though she wasn’t legally, and the paper called her his “girlfriend.”  But as far as he was concerned, she was his “wife.”

These are two examples that I believed showed my marriage to Phil was truly legitimate, even if the local law didn’t recognize it, so we were truly married before God.  It seemed like God was trying to show us, through two examples so close together that summer, that it was OK.  They showed these marriages were common and real, not just our own idea.

The porcelain bird, my “engagement ring,” sat on my dresser all summer next to a picture of Phil; both got dusted regularly and lovingly.

****

I wrote these things in a letter to a pen pal on 7/3/94:

Thanks for the two cards!  They were cute.  And the bunnies were really appropriate, considering I have a stuffed rabbit that we call our ‘son.’

He wanted to name our first son Benjamin, or Benny.  We gave this name to the rabbit, which he gave me in the spring.  I saw one of the bunnies sold in the Campus Shop, and thought how nice it would be to have one.  They were cute and cuddly and wore T-shirts that said, “Cuddle up with someone from Roanoke.”  I didn’t say a word about it, but Phil got me one.  Phil now has two sons; he named one Benny.  More from the letter:

Interesting all the attention the World Cup is getting.  In the comic strip ‘Cathy,’ Cathy’s new boyfriend has been watching it, but I don’t think they really understand what’s going on.  My brother has been talking about it, but I don’t think my dad has been watching. The TV Guide had articles on it, wondering if soccer could ever catch on with Americans.  Phil, of course, doesn’t watch because he’s not into sports.  I don’t know if it will catch on, but one thing’s for sure: American football will probably remain the sport of choice in this country….

We haven’t set the date, but probably next summer.  My parents plan to pay, it being the tradition even though nowadays the groom’s family might help or the couple might pay for it themselves.  My parents intend to use our local church for the ceremony, which was what I’d hoped to do.

So you see, my not converting to Catholicism would not be an issue.

My parents apparently like the engagement.  It means two of their children married off–my older brother is getting married in a few days–and only one [left]…to find somebody.

P.S.: Phil’s not selling cable anymore.  His pay was hardly enough for the work he did or to cover the gas he used.  Now he’s working in a factory.  Hopefully this one will work out.

The factory was in Mishawaka, but Phil thought the people there sounded Southern!  I knew some people from Mishawaka who did have an accent different from the rest of us.  Or it may have been a Michigan accent, which it did sound much like; we’re so close to the border that we share the county, and the whole area is called Michiana.  Maybe Mishawaka people do talk differently than South Bend people, which would be weird because we’re literally across the street from each other, and South Benders don’t have an accent.  (We used to be one city, but Mishawaka wanted to be by itself.)

Phil noticed his co-workers, my dad and, I believe, Hoosiers in general, said “Wes-consin” instead of “Wisconsin.”  It always used to sound like “Wisconsin” to me, but after he and/or Peter mentioned it, even I thought Dad said “Wes-consin.”

****

Phil and I, since I wanted to match his schedule, got into a routine of sleeping in Sunday morning, having Sunday lunch at home (sometimes warmed up if we slept too late), going to the evening service, then getting our own fast food dinner, because Mom never made dinner on Sunday evening.  Our traditional Sunday dinner was at lunchtime, then we’d have ice cream (sometimes cake or brownies a la mode, too) in the mid- to late-afternoon, and popcorn after the evening service.  But this no longer satisfied me and often made me a little sick.  We used to go to the morning service, and people complimented Phil’s deep singing voice.  But when Phil began working second shift and we took on later hours, we decided we’d rather sleep and go to the evening service.

****

On July 3, I wrote to Pearl,

Oh, by the way, did you have any idea what Dave thinks of me?  Phil told me some things Dave said to him that really upset me, especially since they’re untrue–though Dave believes them–and one is based on faulty information that he took as the truth.  Phil, of course, didn’t listen to them, which I suppose is what really matters, but after all, Dave will be my brother-in-law.  (Isn’t that an odd thought?) I thought we got along well enough, but I was told that Dave called me a name.  Then I had to see him in Botany.  He started talking to me about something, and I couldn’t forget what Phil had told me, and wanted to get away.  At least the semester was about over then. I’ve gotta wonder if his opinions of me are based on things Peter might’ve told him while we were still at odds.  If so, that might explain why Dave would tell Phil we don’t get along at a time when I’d just met him for maybe the first time and thought we did get along.

****

But all did not stay rosy.  The factory seemed to change Phil’s personality.  Even his language began to change, with more cuss words than before.

As the summer wore on, I felt like Phil always had to be right, yet he accused me of this.  He kept taking my different views as attacks, turning them into arguments when they were not meant to be.  He said once that it’s a guy thing–that they don’t like to be wrong.  Basically, that they get mad or act hurt because it hurts their pride.  I felt forced to defend my position because he cut it down so much and refused to let me have a legitimate point.  It frustrated me to no end when he acted like this then pinned all the blame on me.

It seemed I wasn’t allowed to disagree with Phil about things, or have a good point or idea, or a legitimate feeling or reason.  It didn’t seem fair, him accusing me of what he did himself.  Then he shut down emotionally or left the room.  (Some people leave the room to cool down.  But to me it felt like a manipulation tactic, not allowing me to have my say: also known as withholding, the silent treatment, or stonewalling.)

As an example, once, when we were about to make love (if you can call it that), Phil wanted my backside.  I didn’t want to do it that way because it was not just disgusting, but also excruciatingly painful.  He got mad and yelled, “It’s always your way!  You’re right.  You’re always right!”  Then he stormed out of my room.  But as his next girlfriend Persephone  would say, it is my body.  I shouldn’t have to do something I’m not comfortable with.

I hated having to beg Phil to take showers–and use soap.  I shouldn’t have had to.  One day, he said he would use both soap and shampoo.  At one point, I turned on the water upstairs for a second or two to wash or rinse my hands, probably after going to the bathroom (without flushing), then I turned it back off again.

A few minutes later, Phil came upstairs, complaining.  He said that he didn’t use soap after all because the water got cold.  He waited and waited for it to warm up again, but it never did, so he stopped his shower.  I said I did turn on the water for a few seconds, but I turned it off again.

He yelled at me for having sabotaged my own desire for him to use soap in his shower.  I said I had to wash my hands.  I said it was only a second, and hardly long enough to cause a problem.  (I knew how the water worked in that house, since, after all, I’d lived there for twenty-one years.  Running the water or using a dishwasher or clothes washer may make someone’s shower cold or hot, but only for as long as you have the water on–not after you turn it off.)

He said it was cold for a long time–like several minutes.  If it was, then it sure wasn’t my fault, but he just wouldn’t listen to me.  (Maybe Dad was running some water downstairs.  Or maybe the hot water ran out.  Or maybe he was just plain exaggerating or impatient and couldn’t wait two frickin’ seconds.)

This wasn’t a good enough reason to stop showering, because it happened to me all the time, and I didn’t come out and yell at people for ruining my shower.  I just waited it out and then finished up when the water warmed up.  Or I shut off the water while soaping up, and turned it back on again to rinse off.  He was so unreasonable.  He even scolded me for using too much shampoo, when he barely used any, and I had waist-length hair!

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