Phil and I 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 going to get dinner for ourselves from a fast food place, because Mom never made dinner Sunday evening. In my family, 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 (or around 7:00, if we didn’t go to the evening service). But this didn’t satisfy me anymore and often made me feel a little sick, so I welcomed going to get dinner with Phil. We used to go to the morning service, and people complimented Phil’s bass singing, but we decided we’d rather sleep and go to the evening service.
But one evening, the people at the church service divided up into little classes in the Sunday School classrooms. I’m not sure why; it was not normally done, but the pastor wanted to do something different that night.
I was excited about it and wanted to go to one, but Phil refused to go with me. I said I didn’t want to go alone. He said he didn’t want to go, maybe for the same reasons he didn’t want to go to Sunday School–avoiding indoctrination or confrontation? (Like that would’ve happened! We as a church were very laid-back, and wouldn’t do this sort of thing.)
He said we should either leave, or he’d wait in the van for me as I went to a class. I said people would wonder why he wasn’t with me. He didn’t care. I got frustrated, and really wanted to go to a class, but I refused to let him be an object of my embarrassment by sitting outside in the van. I said we might as well leave.
I got into practice of being a good little housewife: Just as I kept up with cleaning my dorm room and laundry, I cleaned our upstairs rooms: dusting and vacuuming our two bedrooms, cleaning the half-bath each week, doing laundry for both of us, folding his clothes and hanging up his shirts and jeans and putting them all away, then putting one or two fabric sheets in his underwear drawer to keep the underwear nice and fresh. (My mom taught me this trick.) But I kept finding the fabric sheets in the wastebasket. It was kind of insulting, almost like he thought I was leaving them there accidentally or something, or like he didn’t care about my little gesture. I put them there every time and set them nice and neatly over his underwear. It seemed hard to mistake that for an accident.
I went to a lot of trouble to clean his underwear, learning how to bleach and trying to figure out how to remove the stubborn stains guys leave behind. I tried and tried and tried, but could not get them out.
I also washed and bleached the white sheets on my bed, which we both used, but the grease from his arms after working at the factory did not come out of the sheets. (Later that year, I’d put the stained parts at the foot of the bed, so I couldn’t see them and remember sex with him. In 1997, I decided to just get rid of them, since there was no way I was using them again. Now I just wanted to burn them.)
He acted like I was a nag for asking him to clean up with the Lava soap I put in the upstairs bathroom for that purpose. But he just didn’t seem to realize what he was doing to the sheets by not washing up every night. He couldn’t take a shower at night because the full bath was in my parents’ bedroom, so that’s why I brought in the Lava soap. But he didn’t get up early enough to take a shower the next morning, when my parents were gone–and for goodness’ sake, he had to clean up sometime!
Trying to wash the T-shirts and jeans he wore to work was almost impossible. They got clean, but except for one red T-shirt that resisted the grease stains, they were badly stained and fit for nothing else but such work. I kept trying and trying to get the stains out, but it just didn’t work. Phil wore the same pair of jeans to work each day so the other ones wouldn’t get ruined.
Phil never bathed much, even now that he was working in a factory, and even when he showered, he didn’t always use soap. He didn’t like showering because of some near-drowning incident when he was a child; he said he’d rather just use shampoo in the shower, and soap up while taking a bath, since the water wasn’t pouring down all over him. Yet I don’t think he took a bath more than once or twice the whole time I was with him. If he did, I didn’t know about it.
He also didn’t brush his teeth. I begged him to shower and brush his teeth, but he said, “This way you won’t have to worry about any other women coming on to me!” But hey–what about being more attractive to me? When he did shower, I begged him to use soap.
Once, he told me he washed his hands but didn’t use soap because he didn’t see any. I said there was a softsoap bottle sitting right there on the sink! (Duh!) He said he doesn’t use soap if he can’t tell it is soap. But, come on, that softsoap stuff had been on the market and advertised ever since we were little kids, and most public bathrooms used softsoap, so he should have known by now what it was. And it probably said “soap” or “softsoap” right on the bottle!
One early afternoon, Phil infuriated me. I did nothing wrong, and wished he would apologize for treating me so badly.
We went over to the nearest branch of the library to get a book, you see; I used to walk there all the time in high school. I thought it would only take a moment because I knew exactly what I was looking for: a particular Gothic novel for my studies. This was all for my senior thesis, Gothic novels and how they’ve changed over time.
Instead I found a collection of Gothic stories. While I looked that over, and over what other Gothic books they had there, I lost track of time. But Phil apparently did, too, or else he knew what time it was and didn’t tell me. Anyway, it got late, and he had to go to work. I thought it was still early, because I was so engrossed that time went quickly. I thought it took fifteen minutes at the very most, and I don’t know what took up so much time. He didn’t tell me until it was already late that we needed to get going.
Then on the way back, instead of walking along holding hands cheerfully and lovingly, like we did on the way there, he started walking and running fast. He got mad at me because I couldn’t keep up with him, though I was physically unable to go faster. I told him I couldn’t walk or run so fast. He yelled at me and then, when we got back, he left in a huff.
I have always had trouble keeping up with others who walk or run fast, especially guys. In a walking test in gym class in maybe sixth grade, I finished the track long after everyone else in the class was done. I have long legs, but still can’t keep up. For years, I’ve considered this an NVLD-related thing. So Phil yelled at me for something I can’t help.
Dad was home so I tried to hide my tears, but I sniffled while doing the dishes. Dad may have noticed, but I don’t remember for sure. (I know my parents did notice some days that I was unhappy.) I was still pretty ticked at Phil because he should’ve been more understanding at my lack of athletic ability.
Phil did say when he got home from work that maybe he shouldn’t have gotten so mad at me, and he did apologize. But he had complained about me at the factory during a break. So not only was he trying to break me with psychological warfare, but he smeared me to his co-workers as well.
Jake’s wedding was on July 30 at Pam’s mother’s house. We of Jake’s family, even Phil, were included in the informal pictures. (A few months later, Mom didn’t like to see him in the pictures.) I loved the punch, which had ice cream in it. And no, it had no alcohol. Why should punch be spiked? It’s delicious the way it is. And whatever happened to punch at parties and weddings? Anyway, the reception was at a restaurant, probably Old Country Buffet. My youngest brother, Mom, Dad, Grandma McCanmore, Phil and I all sat together at the same table.
My youngest brother liked to make snide comments about me all the time. He said I was stubborn and wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to.
Phil said proudly, “She does whatever I ask her to.”
Grandma said to me, “Don’t let him think that!”
I did jokingly call him “master” sometimes, like the girl in Pamela, or like a genie with bowed head and hands pressed together, because I didn’t mind giving over the decision making to someone else. However, this was a grave mistake because he took it to heart, liked it way too much, took it way too seriously.
The 700 Club taught a better form of submission, a wife willingly submitting and a husband willingly loving and protecting (mutual submission), rather than a subservient wife forced to obey her husband. Phil wanted obedience; I wanted mutual submission. It wasn’t until later–when I researched for American Lit and changed my senior thesis to Victorian women who tried to break free from male domination, and probably with the sting of bitter memories–that I began to hate the very idea of one head of the household. But I always resisted being controlled and obedient, as if I were a child and Phil my father.
But if Phil wanted something I didn’t want or could not give, such as anal sex, he began demanding it, scolding me and saying, “You always get your way!” or “Fine, have your way, you always do.”
This from the guy who kept refusing to do things I asked for and treated me like a nag for wanting them, such as: taking me to look for PH paper for his required natural family planning, doing little things once in a while that I asked for because they were sweet and reminded me of our early days together, or going to a park on the weekend instead of just sitting around the house doing nothing except watch him play computer games.
This also contradicted his assertion at my brother’s wedding that I did whatever he wanted me to. Years later, I also heard from a friend that he held me up to his new wife as some kind of saint, obedient and perfect, so that she idolized me and tried to be like me. It was bizarre.
But back to July 1994. If I stuck up for myself during one of his tirades, he screamed, “You always have to be right!” Never mind that he kept demanding I give up something important to me (such as Sunday School), do something disgusting or demeaning or perverted or painful, allow him to get his way or win the argument when he was being unreasonable or cruel or ridiculing me, or read his mind. As I described above, he even threatened to withhold natural marital relations if I refused to agree to the perverted and excruciatingly painful (no lube) thing he wanted to do.
I knew that Phil used pornography before we started dating. He told me he got rid of the Hustler magazines in his room. But studies have shown that use of porn can distort a young man’s expectations of his wife/girlfriend. I believe this is exactly what happened with Phil, that he expected me to act like a porn star. (Also see here.) I knew he watched a certain porn movie all the time, and Hustler is hardcore, not like Playboy.
Sure it’s difficult to put these details on the Web, but stories of abuse need to be told, for the sake of those who have been and are being abused. Maybe some woman (or man) will recognize herself (himself) in these pages and get the help she (he) needs.