… instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." ~ Judy Garland
When I was in college, I dreamed of being Carrie Bradshaw before I had ever heard of Candace Bushnell, let alone Carrie Bradshaw herself. I wanted to be a successful writer with a series of love affairs living in the big city. In fact, the only differences between Carrie and I is that I had every intention of using my oven for more than just sweater storage and my big city would be Chicago rather than New York.
By the time I was 25, the only part of that dream to come true was I lived in Chicago. Instead of writing, I was working in an administrative assistant capacity for a Fortune 500 company. Instead of a series of love affairs, I had found the guy I believed to be my Big (yes, it was Dipshit. I did actually love the big cow at one point). Oh… as intended, I was using my oven for more than just sweater storage.
What I hadn't counted on was my personality completely morphing into the woman I thought Dipshit wanted me to be.
That isn't exactly fair to Dipshit, actually. He hadn't asked me to change, nor do I think he really expected me to. Yet I will hold him indirectly responsible for some of these changes which again, may not be entirely fair but hear me out.
He was the first serious relationship I had ever had, and as I mentioned last week, I would've followed him to the most mosquito-invested corner of Asia to own a pig farm I was so into him. This would have been a huge declaration of love for me as I'm widely considered to be an all-you-can-eat mosquito buffet.
Instead, I let him walk all over me. We moved to Chicago in September of 2000 after 16 months of having a long distance relationship (I was in Michigan, he was in Hawaii – it doesn't get to be much bigger than that and still be within the same country). My original intentions had been to live in separate apartments and finally, finally date like normal couples. But because we'd already discussed marriage, Dipshit and most of our family members all thought it best to live together. And so I caved.
Score one, Dipshit. Mo, zero.
By the time we got married two and a half years later, my self esteem was zip. I think I was convinced that if he stayed with me, he must love me despite the fact his actions were screaming "I don't love you." I was also of the mind that I couldn't do any better, and Dipshit was a better alternative to being alone. In short, misery loves company.
Some prime examples of Dipshit's actions that I chose to ignore.
- While he was going through four months of National Guard training in Virginia, my sister had a traumatic head injury, to the point where she was in neurological intensive care. It took me three days to hear from him despite the fact he had his cell phone on him, was staying in a hotel, and not only had I left numerous messages but so had his family.
- Before our wedding, I had a horrendous problem with athlete's foot (which is the only communicable disease he gave me, thank God). One night, I wanted to be romantic (read between the lines) and all Dipshit could talk about was my damn feet (and no, he didn't have a foot fetish). After repeatedly telling him he was killing the mood and to please stop, I ended up storming out of the room in tears and sleeping on the couch. He never came and got me.
- Our last Christmas together as he was preparing to go to Iraq, we were at his parents' house Christmas morning. His parents inquired what Dipshit got me for Christmas and before I even said anything, Dipshit responded, "I didn't get her anything. It just wasn't a priority."
Is it any wonder I struggle with self esteem?
The most horrible thing about it though wasn't that I was putting up with this crap. Nor was it the fact that I kept trying to change myself to make him happy. The most horrific part of all was that I didn't even realize what I was doing. I completely lost my sense of self.
I won't lie. Like most women, I have issues with self esteem. Take into consideration that I'm plus size and now multiply those self esteem issues by ten. And so I think in many ways, the fact I went through such a major personality change was in fact a reaction to the environment I was living in. I desperately wanted to be loved and because this man said he loved me, I believed him (but don't ever try to sell me ocean front property in Iowa).
In fact, Dipshit himself knew I had changed. A few months after our wedding it was Valentine's Day. Again, I wanted to be romantic and Dipshit rolled away and said, "I just don't find you attractive anymore." A huge fight ensued (imagine that) but part of the reason Dipshit was no longer attracted to me was because I had zero self confidence. I think one of the most brilliant yet horrendous things I ever said while with Dipshit was, "How on earth do you expect me to have self-confidence when I'm married to a man who never compliments me, never has sex with me, and never puts my needs on the priority list?"
It was the truth. Simply put.
It wasn't until Dipshit and I were well into our separation/divorce that I learned from conversations with both friends and family (and even a romantic interest I had stayed in touch with for many years) of how much I had changed. I wasn't as outgoing, I wasn't as funny, each time they had seen me with Dipshit I had been nervous or anxious. But most of all, I was bitter. And angry. Sadly, while I was better than I had been, I still hadn't been the me I like to be until recently.
Case in point…. One of my closest friends in the whole wide world sent me a message recently on Facebook (we're in the midst of a communication vacation – nothing permanent). Amongst other things she wrote, "I have been keeping up with your blogs and post and wanted to say that you seem to be more like yourself these days…more like the amazing woman I first became friends with. I hope all is going great for you, or at least on the road to great."
I'm not there yet, B, but I'm definitely traveling down the right road. Much love.