Phil’s Emotional Manipulation and Gaslighting Begin in Full Force–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–March 1994, Part 3

On Tuesday, March 8, I began reading Samuel Richardson‘s novel Pamela.  It was a lighter version of Clarissa, not as psychological but still good–for the first half.  Unfortunately, the story was all in the first half, and the second was basically Pamela getting used to life as her master’s wife.  The parts with her trying to convince others that they were really married, that much was interesting, because they had a private wedding, but the family did not believe it ever occurred.  I didn’t even try to read the sequel, because it appeared to be more of the same.

The first half, however, was a great story, with Pamela attracting the attentions of her young master, refusing them because he wanted sex, and then him locking her up in a room until she would agree to have sex with him (which she didn’t).  I loved that part.  It was astonishingly kinky for an eighteenth-century novel!  (Of course, I hadn’t read Dangerous Liaisons yet, but then, that was French.)  It also fit the definition of Gothic, the woman-locked-up definition.  I told Barb about that one day as we waited for World Civ to begin, and she said, “I’d better read that book!”

One night, Phil and I went to the movies.  I said I wanted to see Schindler’s List, which Phil hadn’t heard of, and he went along with it.

During the scenes with the incinerator towers, I discovered the wonders of wide screens in the theaters: The stacks filled the screens vertically, and I actually had to put my head back and look up and up to see the tops of them.  It was as if we were really there.  This was the part that amazed me the most.  The movie was a masterpiece, an instant classic, because of the story and the various elements: music, coloring (black and white except for the little girl’s coat), filming.  I came back to school and raved about it as often as possible for the next day or two.

Soon after this, on an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry went to Schindler’s List with a new girlfriend.  They could barely keep their hands off each other, and somebody saw them.  This somebody knew his parents, and told them.  His parents went to Jerry and berated him with, “You made out during Schindler’s List??!!”  I saw this episode in my room with Phil and probably my roommate Clarissa, and was so glad that I’d already seen the movie and could understand the references–and why making out during it would be considered gauche at best.

****

Phil began telling me I should cut my hair short, and in the summer he would even say that he liked my hair at Christmas at Roanoke (two braids wound around my head) because it looked short!  (I’d often wear it that way because he liked it, but I thought he liked it because it looked elegant.)

I loved my hair long, and hated the look of short hair.  My hair had been my pride and joy for the past several years.  I had waited a few years for it to grow down to my waist like I wanted it to, and there was no way I wanted to have to wait that long again.  I only had it short once, in Kindergarten, when my mom heard it would grow back thicker.  She held me up to a mirror; I frowned at the sight.

Telling me to cut my hair was, to me, the same as telling me he didn’t like me for me, because long hair was me and short hair was so not me.  I was hurt by it, but he kept on hounding me.  At my house over Spring Break or Summer Break, Mom showed Phil all my school pictures.  He said the Kindergarten one was his favorite because of my short hair, though I hated how I looked in it and preferred one in which I had long hair and a little cut from the cat on my face.  (I liked it despite the cut, not because of it.  I thought I looked cutest in it, and liked the smile.)

One day, when I stood at the full-length mirror on the back of the door and he was on my bed and Clarissa was somewhere in the room, Phil said to Clarissa, “Wouldn’t she look good with short hair?”

“No, she wouldn’t,” Clarissa shot back.

I was grateful to Clarissa, who knew how I felt about my hair.

Another time, he got upset because my friends wanted to all dye our hair red at the same time, and I almost went along with it.  I don’t recall if anybody actually dyed her hair, but he claimed that if I dyed mine red, it would drive him crazy sexually, so he didn’t want me to do that.

****

One night, Phil and I rented Men In Tights and Much Ado About Nothing at Blockbuster.  We watched Much Ado first–big mistake.  Much Ado was a masterpiece of comedy and class, with Kenneth Branagh directing and his wife, Emma Thompson, playing his character’s love interest (how cute).  Phil gushed over Branagh’s genius, such as when two of the characters sat down at the same moment in perfect comedic timing.

Then we saw Men In Tights.  Though it was funny in its own right, after Shakespeare it just looked awful.  We started telling people to never see it right after Much Ado.

Though I loved pickles, Phil hated them–like he hated practically every food, it seemed, except for mac and cheese and fast food.  (Yes, he was unhealthy: skinny somehow, but anemic, always getting nose bleeds.)  Once, I even chased him around the kitchen with a pickle.  I forget who was standing there laughing, but it was either Dave or his mother.  I believe even Phil thought it was funny.

In March, Pearl and Sharon told me they and Tara were trying to get into one of the new apartments, and they needed a fourth person (you had to apply in groups).  They needed someone who might actually qualify, since the requirements were very strict: They were honors apartments.  You had to have a certain number of points, which were based on things like grades and activities.  I agreed to try.  The applications were available around the fourteenth.  I feared I might not be socially active enough to qualify, but I was, and we all got into an apartment.

****

During this time, Phil began showing me his true colors, bit by bit.  He’d blame me for things that weren’t my fault, or chew me out for not doing something that I had actually done.  The things he said to me should have been huge hints that he was emotionally abusive and manipulative, but I didn’t see them.  Maybe I just didn’t know any better; maybe I was blinded by NVLD or love.

For example: Phil and I went to the IVCF Lock-In in the Ley Chapel basement, March 18 to 19. As we walked over to the chapel, I don’t remember what we’d been talking about before this, but Phil said,

“If you’d been more assertive, Tracy wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

Basically, he blamed me for his playing with Tracy’s affections!  He talked like Tracy had been more forthright with her feelings and more assertive, and that if he’d known how I felt, he would never have gone out with her.

For one thing, he already had feelings for me, and he certainly could have asked me out himself.  For another, I had asked him out–a huge thing for a shy girl to do–and told him, when he asked me, that yes, I meant for the date to lead to a relationship.  I was hardly ambiguous, and all this happened before Tracy asked him to have a relationship with her.   (See here and here.)  How much more assertive–how much plainer–was I supposed to be?

He said a date wasn’t considered more than a friendship date unless somebody says so, but I’d never heard of this.  On the contrary, unless two people had already been good friends for a while, I and others I knew considered it to be an actual date-date when one of them asked the other out.  And besides, before the date was even over he asked and heard exactly how I meant it.  If he’d had any doubt at all–which was hardly likely–he could have waited for me to come back from Christmas Break to ask me.

He was trying to gaslight me for some reason I still can’t fathom; what could possibly be the purpose of making me doubt my memory, of putting the blame for his own failing on me?  Or was this just part of a larger campaign of gaslighting, each part meaning nothing on its own, but all together meant to make me think I was crazy?

Over the summer, he even said I shouldn’t have chased him while he was with Tracy–as if they had been exclusive, as if he had feelings for her instead of me, and as if he had nothing to do with it.  He talked as if it were a character flaw, “stealing” him away from someone who never held him.  I’ve already told you how things actually happened.

The whole blame thing was ridiculous, and infuriated me, because my mind was strong enough to resist it–especially when I had recorded everything in my diary right after it happened.

It may have been just before the Lock-In that I told him some information about Catherine’s wedding.  I’d been invited, saw that I was allowed to bring a guest, had no idea that she wouldn’t want Phil to come with me (since she didn’t like him), asked him to come with me, and answered the invitation by marking the return card to say that two people were coming.

He had agreed to drive Clarissa and me there.  I forget if the point of contention this time was the time of the wedding or that we were going to the reception.  I know both were at some point.  He may have complained that I hadn’t told him before what time the wedding was, or (I think this is more likely) that I hadn’t told him we’d be going to the reception.

But to me, the very idea of having to tell him about the reception was silly.  It’s generally assumed that if you’re invited to a wedding, you’re also going to go to the reception.  I seem to recall Phil threatening to not take Clarissa and me there at all, which would have left us without a ride because our other friends were in one car and it was full.

At the Lock-In, the group may have taken care of some IV business, but what I really remember are games, such as everyone naming their favorite things or their pet peeves.  The first one I answered with, “My favorite thing is Phil.”  Phil answered the second with, “My pet peeve is when people don’t give me information about things that involve me.”  That was so obviously directed at me and so very unfair, that it infuriated me all over again.  How could he embarrass me in front of my friends like that, and in such a passive-aggressive manner?

(I think my pet peeve was probably people spelling my name wrong all the time.  Absolutely nothing to do with our relationship.)

Somehow, this got smoothed over enough that he still drove us.  The ceremony was at five and the reception was right afterwards, in the church basement.

(I’d never heard of the popular Wisconsin practice of waiting a few hours for the reception, which in Indiana would have resulted in people leaving in disgust before the reception actually started.  Fortunately, Catherine and Glen didn’t do that.  In the late 90s, after I’d been to a few of those weddings which had the reception a few hours later, and wondered what th’heck we were supposed to do or where to go before it started, a friend explained that Wisconsinites like to go bar-hopping before they even get to the reception!  Dang, what a hard-drinking state!)

Apparently in Wisconsin, several hours are scheduled between the ceremony and the reception so that the wedding party (and significants) could “bar hop” to the reception location. What the heck were the other people supposed to do between the ceremony and the reception? Why would you want to get your nice white dress all mucky in a bar? Are bars even open at 11am? It all seemed kinda weird to me, but I went along with it. We ended up only going to one bar, and thankfully, it was fairly clean with lots of other activities to partake in besides drinking. Weirdness I tell you, WEIRDNESS!  –Blog post by a lady who got married in Fond du Lac’s Galloway Village, and is just as baffled as me at WI wedding traditions

 

We got lost on the way there, trying to find the Lutheran church, so the three of us walked in a few minutes late.  We walked past Catherine, who was already standing at the door of the sanctuary with her beautiful gown and train billowing around her, her mother and family members all around her.  She looked at us, and I hoped she wasn’t mad at us.  We didn’t mean to be late, but you can’t help it when you get lost.  I believe we found some side door through which to go in the sanctuary.

The wedding was pretty.  The bridesmaid dresses, worn by Rachel, Cindy and at least one other girl, were kind of a velvety red or magenta, with puffed sleeves.  At the reception in the basement, Clarissa, Phil and I had to sit separate from Pearl and Sharon and the others because there wasn’t enough room at their table.  (That seemed to happen a lot when I dated Phil.  Hmmmm……

In 1996, Cindy reported to me that in the year after I graduated and some people stayed at Roanoke, the group went to a restaurant.  Cindy went along because she was in S–.  A transfer student who was now in the group brought Phil, to their shock.  She and Phil ended up alone at one table while the others sat at a different one.  They later married, but are now divorced.)

We sat across from an old woman who smiled as Phil and I talked on and on about what we’d do at our own wedding.

****

Phil said that when he married he wanted to use Natural Family Planning, a more elaborate and (according to him) much more accurate form of the Rhythm Method.  He’d done a paper on it once, and through his research read an article that claimed it was as effective as the IUD.  He and I believed the IUD tore you up inside, not knowing that improvements in its safety had been made.  I believe the stat given for Natural Family Planning was about 99% effective, when done right.

It sounded good to me, since I didn’t want to use artificial means: They scared me.  The condom would be a barrier between my husband and me, and the Pill might do weird things to my system.  I may have already known that the diaphragm wasn’t as effective as other methods.  Eventually, he would tell me that if I used birth control, he wouldn’t have sex with me, because he would see it as causing me to sin–even though I was Protestant and did not see it as sin.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

 

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