I love Chris Brown. Well, no. I love his music. But I don’t want to date him. So imagine my horror when I realized that, basically, I was.
I’m not used to feeling ashamed of myself and that’s exactly how you feel when your boyfriend hits you. Not so much fear, and certainly not anger—that comes later—but in the immediate aftermath, it’s pure uncut shame and humiliation.
How did I let this happen?
I’ll start at the beginning. Jack was my first love, the boy to whom I lost my virginity (in a pathetically hilarious way). We’ve been on and off for 10 years and after going away to the Caribbean together this summer, we seemed 100 percent back on and head-over-heels in love.
And then, a few weeks ago, he came to visit. We were out with his coworkers and as we stood at the bar together and he told me he loved me.
“I love you too.”
“I know,” he said.
“Ohhh ha ha you know, huh?” I laughed and gave him a friendly poke.
“Eff you.” (Although, um, he didn’t say “eff”)
That was what he said. Eff you.
“Jack. Do not say things like that to me. IDK if you’re joking, drunk, or what but it’s weird and mean and hurtful and rude. DON’T.”
But he did again. And again, and then a fourth time. Then, in front of everyone, he called me a cunt. A cunt. As in “Well, we could be having a nice night but now my girl here is being a little cunt.” Everyone got really quiet and awkward.
“Do you think you’re the only person who can be mean?” I hissed through tears. “You want to play this game of who can be more vicious? OK. You’re short and balding. How ya like it?”
He. Went. Nuclear…NUCLEAR.
“You’re out of my life forever!” he screamed and stormed out of the bar, across the street to his hotel room. I followed—surely surely he couldn’t be serious.
At this point, the whole fiasco went next level. Apparently, being short is his Achilles heel and I—by now crying hysterically—was a demon beyond compare for mentioning it.
Suddenly he was nose-to-nose, yanking me by the hair and screaming how I crossed this line and that he will effing kill me.
Did I mention that he slept with my best friend last year? He did. And I forgive him. But I point out that he’s no Shaq and suddenly I was the awful one?! What the hell was going on?
Then he shoved me. I hit the floor, hard, and hit my head. Suddenly he was hovering over me grabbing me by the face, his nails digging into my cheeks, shrieking about how I’ve ruined everything and that I’m dead to him. I’d honestly never seen someone lose it like that. And I was scared.
I’m not sure what he would have done to me had security not arrived. Infuriatingly, they kicked me out—because his name was on the hotel room, can you believe that??—and put me in cab, sobbing with such force I almost threw up.
How could this have happened? I’ve known him nearly half my life and never, not once have I seen him lose his temper. That made the whole incident even worse because I desperately wanted to see this as a fluke, a one-time thing that would never, ever happen again. But here’s the thing about psycho boyfriends—once you see a side of them, you can’t ever unsee it. I now knew what he was capable of, and it was terrifying.
Maya Angelou famously said that when a man shows you who he is, believe him.
Later that afternoon he insisted that I come by his hotel so he could “explain.”
“First of all, I want to apologize unequivocally for hitting you. There’s no excuse,” he said in a pitiful sheep’s voice. But then his eyes shifted to meet mine, a burning, psychotic vacancy in them. “But you did make me really mad.”
“J,” I said slowly, “life is long. And hard. And if this is how you react when someone mentions your height, how will you handle kids? Mortages? Death?? You’re a giant baby.”
He didn’t have much of a response, but babbled vaguely about getting therapy. Then he switched tactics, gushing that he loves me so much, and pulling out an emerald Cartier necklace. Seriously. A freaking Cartier necklace. Those things are expensive.
“Please,” he said, near tears. “I just want us to move forward and enjoy the weekend.”
“Oh come on. Why do you want to make this worse by holding on to it? God, get over it.” Yes, he actually said these things.
“J, you don’t get to hurt me then decide that I’m not healing fast enough for you,” I fumed. “That’s not how an apology works.”
I sat there, blinking back tears of anger and yes, shame, at my own inability to leave. I wasn’t strong enough. I was exhausted from 24 hours–nay, 10 years--of drama with this boy, so I gave in. Machiavelli says that you have to use capitulation (or, well, surrender) to your advantage: know when to retreat and gather your strength.
Right then, I had no strength left. I just wanted peace. I wanted it all to be over. And I knew that if I just played along and got through the weekend, he would go back to Florida and it would be over. So I sat there, numbly watching TV as he flitted around obsequiously, making reservations at my favorite restaurant, and even trying to convince me to fly to Vegas for a whirlwind “I’m sorry” trip.
Somehow, I got through the weekend with him. And sure enough, I haven’t seen him since. But a big part of me still loves him and misses him so much. Because it wasn’t all bad. I told my best guy friend Sid, who volunteers at a domestic violence shelter, about the saga and tried not to sound cliché.
“He just needs to learn to express himself, that’s all,” I offered. “If he were truly abusive don’t you think I’d have noticed by now? Plus, I’ve done things I’m not proud of either! How would I feel if someone threw me away after every misstep?”
“Do you realize that everything you just said is exactly what I hear all day long from abused women?” Sid said, shaking his head. “Like, verbatim.”
More shame. I wasn’t even original in my misery. Just another spineless Lifetime TV character who can’t get her shit together.
Now, weeks later, I’m getting over it. I listen to a lot of Rihanna, Miranda Lambert, and My Chemical Romance. I make my roommate check my voicemails for me because I’m terrified one will be from him. I purposely told all of my friends what happened so they could constantly remind me what a psycho he was and how he’ll never get better—especially when he refuses to take any responsibility for what he did.
“You did make me mad.”
Those words rattle around the hollow place in my heart that was once filled with love. What a shame.
Has a boyfriend ever hit you? What would you have done if you were in my shoes? Tell me your story in the comments.