Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jeff's Abuse of Suzanne

I've heard models described as vacuous airheads, but that doesn't describe Suzanne unless someone can be both a vacuous airhead and an intelligent, creative, buoyant, and artistic woman.

I believe she was all of 14 years old when she first modeled lingerie for Victoria's Secrets, the catalog and store company. She couldn't have been much older because I met her when she was 16 and she was no longer modeling by then.

Over the years, Suzanne has revealed a persistent talent for getting fired from employments, so I strongly suspect she was no longer modeling by the time we met because Secrets had refused anything more to do with her. She's not a vacuous airhead, but she is dysfunctional.

The story I'm prepared to tell you today concerns Suzanne, Victoria's Secrets, and her abusive boyfriend. I've already introduced Suzanne and Victoria's Secrets, so I'll turn now to the boyfriend.

Meet Jeff.

He's one of those males who prey on women much younger than themselves. Jeff is 20 years older than Suzanne, and very few women his own age have ever sustained an interest in him. Jeff can be charming. He can be witty. He can be exciting. He can sweep a naive and inexperienced girl off her feet. Yet, most women see the looser in him. So Jeff has learned to specialize in the young, naive and inexperienced women he has some chance of getting.

Once he gets them, he doesn't know what to do with them. He turns the affair into a drama, the drama into a tragedy, the tragedy into a nightmare. When you take some fish out of the water, their colors at first fascinate, then fade. Latter, the fish begin to stink. Any girl who lands Jeff sooner or later learns that in a relationship, he's a fish out of water.

Young people almost invariably overestimate the odds in their favor of significantly changing someone, and especially they overestimate their odds of changing a lover. Maybe that's because they are always being told by their parents, preachers, and teachers to change themselves, and so they assume it actually works when you tell people to change themselves.

In truth, the only person likely to change someone is the person themselves. And even then, seldom, if ever, is a person capable of a fundamental change: It's not in the nature of water to become stone, nor of stone to become air.

In the few years Jeff and Suzanne were together, Suzanne wanted two things, both absurd. She wanted to change Jeff against his nature. And she wanted her own nature to bloom. The latter was absurd because Jeff had her under his thumb and was abusing her emotionally, psychologically, and physically. No one blooms under those conditions. At best, they merely endure.

If you yourself have seen a few abusive relationships, you know they are all alike, except for the details. The only detail of the relationship between Jeff and Suzanne that surprised me was that Jeff apparently never tried to keep Suzanne from seeing me.

I'm clueless why he didn't. It's a classic pattern of abuse that the abuser tries to prevent his victim from having any friends who are outside of his influence or control. But through out the time she was with Jeff, Suzanne saw me almost daily. It's true she seldom associated with me in Jeff's presence, but we spent hours together while he was at work or off somewhere else. That sort of thing normally doesn't happen in an abusive relationship.

Suzanne would look me up almost every day. We'd then go to a coffee shop, a movie, the mall, "The Well" -- which was her favorite nudist resort -- or we'd go hiking, or drive around Colorado for a few hours. Whatever amused us.

Once, we even went to Victoria's Secrets. That was three or so years into Suzanne's relationship with Jeff. That day, we'd gone to the mall.

When we were passing the Victoria's Secrets store, Suzanne wanted to go in. The racks, of course, were full of lingerie, and Suzanne excitedly asked me to choose three sets for her to try on. She then took me back to a dressing room where she stripped and modeled the sets for me.

Christmas was a month off, so I asked her a lot of questions about each of the three sets, including which one felt the most comfortable -- if I'm going to give lingerie to a woman, it damn well better be comfortable, especially at Victoria's prices.

Looking at a young nude woman is at least as fascinating to me as watching a beautiful sunrise. Yet, I'm not attracted to most young women's sexuality, and especially not to Suzanne's. Their sexuality is more likely to depress me than to stimulate me, although I'm not quite sure why. At any rate, I certainly do not make a point of telling young women they aren't sexy -- I have my life to protect! So that day I told Suzanne, "This is a lot of fun for me -- watching you model that sexy lingerie. If I'm having so much fun, think of how much fun it would be for Jeff! Why don't you bring him out here?"

Suzanne didn't answer immediately. When she did answer, her voice had gone strange. There was a tone in it I'd never heard before. In a way, it was a little girl's voice. But perhaps it only sounded like a little girl's voice because she was having difficulty controlling it. She said, "Jeff wouldn't like it. If I did this with him, he'd call me a slut."

We fell into silence. Then she began taking off the last set of lingerie in order to get back into her own clothes, but she was trembling.

When you abuse a woman, you prevent her from being true to herself. At it's core, that's what abuse really is -- it's preventing someone from being true to themselves.

Sometimes it comes out in ways that are large enough and important enough to easily describe. Like the woman whose husband prevents her from developing her musical genius so that the world looses a classical pianist. But much more often, abuse comes out in ways that are harder to see, such as when a woman trembles in a dressing room because her lover will not, or cannot, accept her sexuality whole and complete, just as it is, without condemning it.

Those harder to see ways are as criminal as the other. You don't need to beat a woman to abuse her. You can just as well kill a person's sense of themselves, their self-esteem, their self direction -- by a thousand tiny cuts.

By the time I met Suzanne I was too old and had seen too much wickedness to harbor any fantasy that I could reason with her into leaving Jeff. I knew she was confused beyond reason, frightened into uncertainty, blinded by her feelings, and emotionally dependent on him. So, I did the only things I thought I could do, which were never that great nor enough.

For the most part, that amounted to just accepting her for herself.

8 comments:

Nita said...

//When you abuse a woman, you prevent her from being true to herself. At it's core, that's what abuse really is -- it's preventing someone from being true to themselves.//
I agree with that entirely. Infact I think true love is the opposite of this. When your partner brings out your true self, your best self, then that is true love.

Paul said...

Hi Nita! You and I are so in agreement on that! I know of nothing that is more affirming and liberating of one's true self than the love you speak of. It is one of the wonders of true love that we bloom with it.

Steve said...

>>When you take some fish out of the water, their colors at first fascinate, then fade. Latter, the fish begin to stink. Any girl who lands Jeff sooner or later learns that in a relationship, he's a fish out of water.

Wonderful simile, Paul, and post.

I once tried to be a knight in shining armor. I've learned, with heartbreak, I can't save the maimed. Like you, I accept them for who they are.

amuirin said...

It's terribly difficult to watch someone you care about hurt, and be powerless to help, protect and heal them.

Reading this, it sounds as though the sting of that helplessness isn't gone from this situation in your mind.

Paul said...

"I once tried to be a knight in shining armor. I've learned, with heartbreak, I can't save the maimed. Like you, I accept them for who they are." - Steve

I've tried the knight in shining armor approach too. I guess that's how we learn it doesn't work. But I do think some good -- maybe never enough good -- but some good can eventually come of accepting them for who they are.


Amuirin, you are so correct on both points!

Raatkiranii (K.F.S) said...

Knight in Shinning Armor - quite frankly no one, not even a Knight, would be able to help her till she opens her eyes, realizes what a fix she's in, what a curse he is, and thus wants to help herself. Until she realizes what's going on and takes the first step to help herself she won't want any help from others either. It might cause her anger, embarrassment, and shame if others try to step in. Also, it might make her believe less in herself to believe that others think she can't take care of herself.

What you're doing now, Paul, accepting her, is probably the best thing. It'll restore some of her self-esteem in herself, even if it's just for the moments that you're with her. It's still something.

I've seen many women among my relatives who've been brought to their knees by the men they've married. Physical abuse was never necessary to accomplish this, because the words, actions, and doubt of their souses worked just fine. Now, these once beautiful, lively women are only shells of what they used to be. It's sad and enraging, but I’ve noticed, whether it's a man or woman that reaches out to help, their reaction is hardly ever positive. Patience is good in situations like these and hope that the person will realize their worth.

UltraViolet said...

//When you abuse a woman, you prevent her from being true to herself. At it's core, that's what abuse really is -- it's preventing someone from being true to themselves.//

Yes. That is the heart of the abuse. The whole world tries to rip our true selves from us. How much worse when it is our own "partner". My own "partner" has mocked me for years. I took off my wedding ring just recently... and I will never wear one again. The bare finger a symbol of my freedom. The freedom to be wholy and completely me, that I will never let anyone take from me again. The story of Suzanne made me feel very sad inside. I understand that kind of loss... and how hard it is to rise up from it.

UltraViolet said...

also I should say how good it is to have gentle, open and supportive friendships like the one you offered suzanne.

When one's partner is not a friend... how much more we need the love of good friends to carry us through.