August 20, 2009

"Edith Bunker, You Were Abused Girl."

I'm not gonna even front, I used to enjoy All in the Family. Archie Bunker was a rude, racist, bigoted, ignorant man. But that's what made him funny. Those of us that don't harbor those feelings can sometimes laugh at those who do - depending on how they are presented.

We laughed at his stereotypes of and interactions with Blacks, Latinos, Jews and everyone that wasn't a WASP. We laughed at him calling his son-in-law a meathead and giving his daughter constant grief for marrying him. Those things were funny.

We even laughed as he berated, humiliated and put down his wife, forever calling her a dingbat. But was that funny? Should we have been laughing? It never even dawned on us what was happening right before our eyes and that made it palatable, laughable and acceptable.

But the truth is, Edith Bunker was verbally and emotionally abused. Archie was mean to her and his words were nasty. Mike and Gloria were victims too, but they usually argued back with him. They also didn't have to live there and take it and eventually they were able to move out on their own. But Edith was his wife and Archie was her life.

There is nothing even remotely funny about emotional or verbal abuse and it is nothing to be taken lightly. It is just as serious as a black eye, busted lip or broken rib. Those things tend to be more shocking to us because they are visible injuries.

We shouldn't be any more comfortable with verbal abuse than we are with physical, yet we overlook it so often. Is it because it happens around us and in front of us so much that we are completely desensitized to it?

If All in the Family were on today, Archie wouldn't be calling Edith a dingbat, he'd be calling her a B!T@H, and people would still be laughing. Anytime my husband ever called me a B!T@H, I never laughed, it was never funny. It was mean and hurtful. It cut my spirit and hurt my heart.

I consider emotional and verbal abuse to be the "gateway" forms of abuse, at least that's what they were for me. They get you acclimated to being smacked mentally before the first physical strike ever comes. My husband began with emotional abuse, just being mean and rude and nasty for no reason - even in response to kindness at times.

I remember buying him a bottle of water. I had only known him for a couple of weeks. I was buying him some lunch and when I got to the bottled waters, I didn't know which one to choose. I had seen how he was so extravagant and spent money like water and seemed to like whatever was the most expensive, so I chose Evian. I personally didn't like it, but it was that hoity toity water and cost more than the others. When I came back with his lunch and he saw the Evian, he said, "I don't drink this $h!T." On another occasion it was a corned beef sandwich, and the response was almost identical, "What is this $H!T? I don't eat this $H!T."

It felt like stinging smacks. I couldn't believe he reacted like that. He didn't even thank me for any of it. He just found fault, zeroed in on it and reacted abusively. But I didn't recognize it back then. Looking back in hindsight after having experienced that behavior for 10 years, I can see how that was a preview of what was to come.

He would curse at me for things that were no big deal. My eyes would water and I'd ask him, "Why did you say that?" He always had some reason or another that made sense only in his mind.

Well over the course of almost 11 years, my husband cursed to me, at me or flat out called me curse words thousands of times. It was just who he was. I went from asking him why and crying about it, to getting angry about it, to just accepting it and living with it.

Was he like that all of the time? No, of course not. That would've been too obvious and I would've bounced immediately. He was also nice and seemed to be so enchanted by me in the beginning telling me, "Girl, you're gonna make me fall in love with you," as he hugged & kissed all over me.

So I thought when he'd flip and be mean or nasty that it was because he had been in the rap music game too long and those attitudes had rubbed off on him. I told myself he wasn't really that way.

Well I didn't know any better, I had never been in an abusive relationship before.
I didn't know back then what I know now. The heat was turned up very slowly and I almost boiled to death.

I thank God that I was finally able to detect the temperature of the water.

The Parable of The Boiled Frog