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Articles from August 2013

Phil Tries to Control my Friendships, Unfair Accusations from his Dad and Brother–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–February 1994, Part 5

One night as Phil and I sat talking in the lounge together, he put his head against the back of the couch or chair and began to lament that he wasn’t worthy of me.  He would do this often over the coming months, telling me he wasn’t a good person and that I should find someone else.  I didn’t believe him at the time.  (See #4 here as a sign of abuse: He Warns Her Away by the Rambling Curl.)

I was to discover, through him and two people I’d meet senior year, that I had a tendency to find guys like this, who would be down on themselves and need me to encourage them and tell them they’re not so bad as they think.

This is what I did for Phil.  I also told him that his old desire to become a priest showed him to be a very spiritual person.  I said I had always admired spiritual people, such as priests, pastors or missionaries, and he began to weep with (I suppose) joy.

Phil told me early on, “My parents say you’re another me.”  They saw the way I was then–shy, quiet, spiritual–and the way Phil was the year before–shy, quiet, spiritual (he was more outgoing and less quiet now)–and said this.  Over the coming months, they would say that we were perfect for each other.

Every day when classes allowed, Phil came to talk to me while I worked in the library.  I did miss having a chance to get more homework done, but didn’t mind seeing him.  He would stand there and chat, his two Big Slam Mountain Dew bottles beside him.  He would try to drink the Dew there, but Seymour didn’t like that.  There were rules against that.

Phil often interrupted me as I read my World Civ textbook while working the desk in the library.  Once, in April, while I read a copy of the Mirror, he read it upside-down.  Latosha saw this; after I told her we were engaged, she said she saw him reading upside-down and thought, “That man’s in love!”

I still worked with James; Phil sometimes joked that he was scared of me working with a good-looking guy.  That was ironic, since I had a little crush on James before I met Phil.  He would also joke that one day I would go back home and marry some football player from Notre Dame.  Or that I would find someone with a longer nose than his, and leave him.  (I loved long noses, and his was quite long.  Not Cyrano-style long, but a long bridge.)

Phil told me about his “Vampire Friend” S–, who was really into vampires, dressed like one for Halloween, was into sadomasochism, and was engaged to Phil’s first ex-girlfriend for a while.  He feared to introduce me to S–, who had a tendency to steal away his girlfriends.  (A later girlfriend confirmed this, making me wonder what kind of “friend” S– was.)

Phil liked to spend his evenings with me, but after ten, Clarissa kicked him out.  So we had to go into the lounge to spend the rest of the evening.

Sometimes I even watched Alternative Nation out there with him, since even a boyfriend wasn’t enough to make me want to give it up.  Without it I felt sad, incomplete (sort of like the King Missile guy without his detachable weenie).  We’d cuddle on the couch and chat for hours.

As we sat in the lounge each night, Phil liked to greet Julie’s freshman sister with “Mornin’!” whenever she came into the lounge.  She just made that smile-grimace which says, “Okay, whatever!”

Phil watched Beavis and Butthead, and though I used to hate it, he got me into it.  He said he’d disowned S– High School (I forget if his alma mater was North or South) because he recently discovered the guys there now were all Beavises and Buttheads.

He grew his beard back because I said I liked him better with his little beard.  Dave would yell at him to shave, and Phil would say somebody didn’t want him to.  It grew in sparse and reddish, with several hairless spots: a sort of birthmark.  I liked it that way.

Phil was in Roanoke Singers, which paid $200 a month: far better than what the rest of us got in work-study.  I could never understand why Dave kept yelling at him to get a job, because he had one.

He used half his paycheck to pay for tuition each month, and the rest for food, gas, maintenance and car payments.  He kept running out of money and asking people to lend him some.  By the 15th of every month he owed so much to people that by the time he paid it back, he’d have to start borrowing again only a short time after.

It was a never-ending cycle, and though he did always pay back what he owed, I found my own wallet getting emptier all the time.  I could usually pay for my food in the Muskie and for snacks and laundry, but would desperately need Phil to pay me back come payday.

It seemed as if Phil had more of my money than I did.  The following fall, this was one thing I did not miss.

I mentioned the ill-fated relationships with Peter and Shawn, and Phil said, “You’re so nice to me!  How could anybody not love you?”

Phil’s minivan was a Dodge Caravan, the kind that was so popular that year: boxy, wood paneling.  Where there was paint instead of paneling, it was brown.

It was used (1985, according to a Firestone receipt), which confused me because I thought that model had only just come out.  After all, a model exactly like it was so popular that year that it seemed there was one in nearly every parking lot or driveway.  We thought this was funny.

Phil had three dolls in his minivan: Ren and Stimpy, and Family Dog.  He handed these dolls to me nearly every time I got in the minivan: It was my “job” to hold them.

Early on, Phil wanted us to find “our” song.  We chose “I Can See Clearly Now,” the remake by Jimmy Cliff, because it had been one of my anthems that school year, and was also on the soundtrack for our first movie, Cool Runnings.  Whenever we heard it, we turned it up.  But I don’t think that in my mind it ever had quite the huge association with Phil that “Everything I Do” had with Peter.


Since Phil and several of my friends were in choir, I heard about the single choir director and saw her little, yellow sports car.  It was a peculiar yellow, kind of a dark yellow.

The choir people loved it, and found the director amusing in a good sort of way.  They liked the way she acted, the tips she gave, the way she directed, the way she said to say “watermelon” if you don’t remember the words because it really does look like you’re singing the right ones.

She began dating a professor, which surprised them, probably because he had already been teaching at Roanoke for at least 35 years, and she was only about 44 years old.  (She eventually married somebody else.)

Heidi’s friend Paul was in choir.  Phil told me that Paul’s hearing aid dog Maizie often accompanied the choir during practice.  The choir would hit a high note and Maizie would start barking or howling along with them.


On Sundays I still liked to go eat with my friends in the cafeteria during dinner, as before, taking Phil with me.  But now, Phil kept wanting me to leave them right after I’d eaten.  

I always wanted to stay and chat and joke with my friends, but he’d sit or stand there with a stern look on his face and tell me he wanted to go.  I’d try to resist, but he would practically make me leave.  

My friends noticed this and maybe other things I missed, and began to dislike him.  They thought he treated me like a child, that he was controlling, domineering and possessive.  

He noticed that they didn’t like him anymore, but blamed this on his being Catholic (they were mostly Protestant) and supposedly socially annoying.  So he didn’t like them, either.


I don’t know how I didn’t notice this when we kissed, but he did not brush his teeth very often.  He also didn’t bathe very often.  He had this thing against showers which I won’t explain on the Net, yet he didn’t take baths instead.  I guess my nose slowly became immune.

Whenever Phil drove me to or from school on the road to S–, we passed a cemetery, and Phil held his breath.  He had this childhood superstition that if he breathed by a cemetery, he would soon die and be buried there.  Last I checked on Facebook, he’s still alive.

Once, we saw a dead cat by this cemetery, which upset us.  How ironic that the cat would be killed by a car right by the cemetery.

The Plymouth Neon car debuted in 1994; the TV ads for it featured cars with froglike faces bouncing all over the place.  When it stopped and faced the viewer, the caption “Hi!” appeared underneath it.

(These ads were so cute that in 1997, I got a 1995 Dodge Neon, my dream car at the time, and wrote on my Marquee (personalized) screensaver at work, “I now have a bouncy, baby Neon!”)

There was a billboard right by the cemetery, and one day, an ad for a Neon was put on it.  It had a picture of a Neon facing the viewer, and said, “Hi!”  It looked as if the car was trying to say hi to the people in the cemetery, but of course, none of them returned the greeting.  Phil and I found this hilarious.

Though Peter had once been welcome in the O’Hara house, he was now ostracized: He tried to back up the computer or something like that, and ended up crashing the hard drive.

Everything had to be re-installed, and it was a big mess.  Phil and I thought it was unfair of his family to ostracize Peter, since he didn’t mean to crash the hard drive.

I got my share of unfair treatment from Phil’s dad, too.  First of all, one night in February, I wanted to take a shower because I was staying overnight at Phil’s.  (I did so much of it that semester that Clarissa missed me and wanted me to spend more time in our room.)

I asked Phil when the best time was for taking a shower.  He said nighttime, and that even though it was late, no one could hear the shower.

At my house, my mom could hear the shower because the bathroom was in the master bedroom; Phil said this was no problem at all at his house.  He said, “Actually, people would prefer it if you showered at night, because in the morning everyone’s trying to take a shower.”

So I took mine that night.  I also shaved, which I think I did with just the faucet occasionally running and not the shower after I bathed.

Then I had to rinse off the shaving cream with the shower, turned off the shower, squeezed out my hair and ran my hands under the faucet to rinse off any hairs that may have come off from my head onto my hands.

Then I dried off, got out of the shower, put on lotion, put some kind of leave-on conditioner in my hair and combed it, then left the bathroom.

After I came out of the shower, Phil said his dad had come to him and complained about somebody using the shower and keeping him awake, and turning off and on the water about three times.

I asked if he explained that he told me I should shower at that time, but I don’t believe he did.  I was upset because I had specifically asked and then done what I had been told was the most polite thing to do, and still was accused of rudeness or not thinking of others.

At times I wondered if Phil’s dad hated me, because there were other things as well, such as Phil’s parents telling him (later that semester) that I didn’t live there.  (At this time, Phil would say to me, how could he tell them I was his wife and had a right to be there?)  Then there was the phone.

I would only use my phone card to call long-distance from Phil’s house, which I don’t think I did all that often.  And since I used the phone card, I didn’t see a need to ask to use the phone.

I remember only one time when I used the phone to call home, and of course I used the card.  I got off the phone feeling happy because it was a good chat with my parents.

Later, Phil told me that his dad found out I was calling home–I believe Dave told him, intending to get me in trouble–and got upset.  He complained about me using the phone for long-distance, and not wanting to find a charge on the bill for a call to South Bend.  I believe it was Phil who said, “Maybe she uses a phone card,” and calmed him down a bit.

I was upset about this because yes, I used a phone card, no, I was not rude and thoughtless, and why didn’t he ask me first before assuming that I was running up his phone bill and getting all mad at me?

If he didn’t believe Phil that I used a phone card, he certainly should have believed it when he looked at his next phone bill and there was absolutely no charge for a call to South Bend.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

Getting better at recognizing the disordered

It seems I made the right call on cutting out the person who posted that parents should beat their children.

My husband had already written her off and unfriended her on Facebook, because of anti-Christian memes she would post.  (I try to be tolerant of other views, but her memes were deliberately insulting and obviously ignorant of the actual faith.)

Unfortunately, we couldn’t cut her off completely, because she’s the sister of a friend, and seems to be friends with all his friends.  The friend made a Facebook post, my husband made an offhand comment, this woman turned it into an attack, then began saying all sorts of vicious, venomous things about my husband–publicly, on that post.

My husband got upset and began defending himself, so she accused him of “playing the victim,” and even claimed that she had written him off “months ago” because of how “terribly” he talks to people and how patient they are for putting up with it.  (The hypocrisy of the personality-disordered is laughable.)

A couple of years ago, I saw this woman pop her son in the mouth for cussing.  Then earlier this year, I witnessed her cussing at her son, using the f– word, for bugging her when she was playing a game.  (Gee, I wonder where he learned to cuss?)  Then she posted on Facebook that parents should beat their children.

This woman is another Tracy.  Fortunately, I saw it early before I let her become a close friend.  (I recognized Tracy early, too, but because she was married to my best friend, I wasn’t allowed to cut her off before she could hurt me.)

Maybe I could tell my husband to block her so she can’t get his ire up again.  Maybe I should block her as well.  Just seeing her post happy stuff on my friend’s wall after what she did to my husband, irritates me.

I’m getting better at this, I think.  The more I’ve read and learned about the personality disordered (she has been officially diagnosed as bipolar), the easier it gets to spot them.  For example, before there was Tracy, there was the Avenger.  And before the Avenger, there was my aunt-by-marriage, who from what I’ve been told, has alienated everybody.

When we recognize these people early, we can avoid getting too emotionally attached to them, which spares us from getting hurt as badly as from betrayal by those we love.

The trouble is, my husband felt like people he considered friends, backed up his bully instead of defending him, like he got piled on.  Just like the way Richard and Tracy would treat me, only now it’s his turn.

He’s on edge because he’s afraid we’ve found another Richard/Tracy style of dynamic, meaning another round of toxic friendship and betrayal from people we thought were friends.

See, I’m not the only one who got seriously burned by Richard/Tracy, so I’m not the only one on alert and finding it hard to trust again.

But I noted that Richard and Tracy behaved like this lots of times before we broke up with them, while these other people have only done this one time and we’ve known them for a few years (longer for one of them, whom we’ve known since around 2000).  So hopefully this is an aberration and they’re not the same as Richard/Tracy.

Of course, part of living is taking risks, but with one eye open.

More Evidence of NVLD….

Just now, I was looking through my family genealogy book, put together by my aunt, so I could put my grandma’s obituary in it.  (RIP as of Thursday.)  On the way to find her page, I found mine–and discovered that my aunt had included my worst possible high school picture!

It couldn’t have been the pretty freshman year one, with my hair pulled back and curled, or the senior picture.  No, it was THAT one, with shaggy hippie hair, where I looked like I was about to kill somebody.

(Fortunately, a very pretty picture of me with my little family in 2004 was also included, so I’m not immortalized in this book as the ugly duckling of the family.)

And yet I seem to recall, when I took THAT picture, thinking it looked like a smile.  Or at the very worst, a neutral expression.  Certainly no anger, or anything at all negative.

I know I tried to smile for it, because I always would smile for my school pictures.  Yet in my teen years, those smiles seemed to vanish in the finished product.

Also, for many years I felt my yearbook picture for senior year, which I myself chose out of several options, had a playful smile that revealed my personality.  Now, it looks more like a grimace.

What the—?  How could my impression of my own expressions change so much over 20 years?

To me, this is yet more evidence that I have NVLD.  That it has improved over the years, that I’ve gotten much better at “reading” people and their expressions, but that I had an awful time reading body language while growing up.  (See here.)

One day I might get it professionally diagnosed, if I find myself with a few thousand extra bucks (not likely).

But as I read over old diaries and revise my college memoirs for this blog, I find all sorts of evidence I had forgotten, things I struggled with in the first half of my life which are no longer big issues.  I have learned to deal with them over the years, learned to go with the flow more often, gotten better socially.  I’m not sure a professional diagnosis is still needed.  But I sure could have used one as a kid.

I think I was tested for something in elementary school, but I’m not sure what, or what the results were.

NVLD was identified but not widely known in those days, and I was good at reading and spelling, so my teacher’s solution to my social, math and handwriting problems was to scold and scold and scold.

Didn’t work; it just made me feel more freakish, because I had no clue why I couldn’t live up to her expectations, or how to change to please her.

I just knew that whatever I did was wrong, that my handwriting looked awful no matter how hard I practiced, that my middle school teachers found my work disorganized, hard to read and not according to directions, and that 8th grade math made no sense to me.

This was certainly not for lack of trying, or for deliberately defying directions.  I remember puzzling through study periods, wondering why I couldn’t get my math problems to match the answers in the back of the book.

Today’s kids have it easier because they can get diagnosed early with NVLD or Asperger’s.  This did not exist back then.  There is hope for them; they don’t have to learn the hard way, like I did, and struggle through life until they start to get it right.

I was good at algebra and geometry, but still can’t figure out how to calculate my credit card’s interest rate fees (8th grade math).  I became a clerk, then a stay-at-home mother, because I can do that well.  I can also write; at least, that’s what I’m told.  🙂

Another thing I found in the family book: a eulogy of my paternal grandfather.  He’s described as quiet and hard to get to know, but friendly and full of character.  Not quarrelsome, but won’t put up with getting pushed around, either.  Whether through genetics or other means, I see this is a family trait, because I’m the same way.  🙂

The encouraging news from Murphy’s book is that, with the right support and interventions, people with NLD cope much better as they get older….

“It can be devastating,” Lewis says, “if no one in their world is knowledgeable about NLD.”

That is all too often the case, given how frequently it goes undiagnosed. “The reason it’s very hard to get a diagnosis is that it usually exists in conjunction with other disorders,” says Sandra Newman, a learning consultant in the Hawthorne school district who diagnosed J.C. when she was in private practice in Fair Lawn in 2001.

As is the case with autism spectrum disorders, NLD is marked by deficits in social awareness or judgment. As a child who has not had appropriate interventions moves toward adulthood and expectations increase, social misperceptions and blunders occur more frequently and are more deeply felt…..

“Mike and I will be talking,” Wolin says of his stepson, “and I’ll say it’s 4 o’clock, and he’ll say, ‘No, it’s 4:03.’ So often the drive for precision in the detail distracts you from the larger issue — that we’re supposed to be somewhere at 4, and we’re late.” –Ellen Chase, Children, adults with non-verbal learning disorder develop strategies for using talents, navigating around deficits

That last paragraph reminds me of my ex Peter complaining that I would give the exact time, rather than saying “o’clock” or “quarter till” etc.  I couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about: He wanted the actual time, didn’t he?  I thought everybody did that!


Standing up to Damaging Advice and Overcoming Trauma Directives (Reblog from Emerging From Broken)

People always told me things like “deal with it” and “get over it” and “put it behind you” They always seemed so impatient with me and even exasperated that I was still “there” and not over it.

Has anyone ever given you instructions on HOW to “deal with it”? Have you been giving information about HOW to get over it, that didn’t include statements to which you have to keep asking “how do I do that”?

Just get over it (HOW?)  Just put it behind you. (HOW?) ~ “give it to God”. (HOW?) To which the answer was “Have faith” (HOW?) well you get the picture.

….What if dealing with it IS talking about it? What if dealing with it means talking about every little detail as many times as you needed to state them, for as long as it takes until you understand and realize that you didn’t deserve the treatment that you got.

What if dealing with it means you talk about until someone else agrees with you, that you were unjustly treated, without telling you to “get over it” or “put it behind you?” and thereby validated your pain by not trying to get you to ignore it because the “truth is” that it makes them uncomfortable.

What if you were not told to “get over it”?

What if dealing with it meant confronting the person who did it to you or confronting the person who ignored what happened to you if that was what you needed to do in order to get over it?

The real message out there in the world is “don’t deal with it.”

The real message is sweep it under the carpet where it will fester and grow bigger and bigger and manifest itself as depression and mental illness, dissociated identity, multiple personality, bi polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and yes, even narcissistic personality disorder.

–Darlene Ouimet, Emerging from broken: Standing up to damaging advice and overcoming trauma directives

Blogs Murmur to Each Other Like the Aedificium

The other night I read on page 286 in The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco a conversation between the novice monk Adso and his mentor William, in which William explains that

Often books speak of other books.  Often a harmless book is like a seed that will blossom into a dangerous book, or it is the other way around: it is the sweet fruit of a bitter stem.  In reading Albert, couldn’t I learn what Thomas might have said?  Or in reading Thomas, know what Averroës said?

In other words, books often take quotes or ideas from other books, discuss or even expand on them, sometimes creating heresies from ideas in a harmless book.  So Adso realizes:

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books.  Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves.

In the light of this reflection, the library [the Aedificium] seemed all the more disturbing to me.  It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

While blogs sometimes do and sometimes don’t survive the death of their creators, this reminds me of the blogging community: We reblog or quote from each other, discuss what we’ve quoted or reblogged, and expand on what we’ve read with our own observations and experiences.

Not only do we promote other blogs this way, and also our own blogs through pingbacks which appear on those other blogs, but we join a worldwide conversation.

Sometimes, an author removes a blog.  So those quotes on other blogs become all that’s left of it–just as Eusebius, who quoted from other works in his church histories, became the only source of those works when the originals were lost to time.

Our community becomes the World Wide Web version of the library in The Name of the Rose, as our blogs “murmur” to each other long past publication dates.


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