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[Althea] Why I'm angry: Isolation edition
Last time I wrote in this theme, it was about your father telling you that I had wanted an abortion in my pregnancy with you, and he told you at a time in which you were feeling particularly vulnerable and unsure whether you were safe with me anymore. He will never, of course, face any real consequences for doing this. No one will ever accuse him of abusing you for doing this. I, on the other hand, have no doubt been canceled forever for pointing out, accurately, that you have joined a cult, and one that demands you damage your own body in the name of pursuing an unattainable ideal.
You’re already angry at reading this. So that makes two of us.
Other people will forgive him. I will probably never forgive him. And no, that refusal to forgive is not what’s harming me. What he did is what harmed me. What I’ve been doing since is trying to pick up the pieces. I’m still an emotional mess, of course, so that’s going to complicate things. I’m trying not to let it spiral out of hand, because that’s all I need at this point.
One of the ways it comes out is I’ll dream about you and your dad, and sometimes also about Crys, and then wake up angry. Those days are always worse than average. It takes me a while to emotionally recalibrate. The effects aren’t as heavy as they were in the first six months after I left your house, but they are still bothersome. The dreams don’t seem to happen as often, but I wish they wouldn’t happen at all.
(If Sean’s reading: I went through something very similar after I sent you to live with your grandmother. The only reason the effects weren’t worse, and they were already pretty bad, was I was pursuing a new relationship and it distracted me. I don’t have that distraction now. But all the times your grandmother might have told you I was crazy back then? Yeah. That’s why I was crazy. Major loss does that to you.)
The problem is: It wasn’t like we started out nice, then things went bad, then things got nice again and stayed nice for a long time, then suddenly boom. I know I mentioned in the other letter that Matt only bothered with you and me after all his other options had evaporated. Marti/Vivien/Kit (what’s her name going to be next decade, I wonder?) walked out and divorced him, Yvette and Joanna and Michele and probably Becky dumped him, Crys had her own life and didn’t want to be in his, and so all that was left was poor angry little Dana. Who else was he going to turn to. I also wonder if he was afraid I was going to scare another one off if he tried to find a new one. I would argue that it never should have been me who scared them off. They should have seen him for what he was and given him a wide berth in the first place. They wouldn’t take responsibility for their own ethics and their own relationship choices, which of course was all my fault. Everything’s my fault. They’ll find a way to blame me for global climate change next.
(Which, yes, is partly my fault, but on a planet of eight billion human beings, that doesn’t mean much.)
And what he did after that was put on the longest one-man scam job the world has seen since probably Moses.
You saw what he wanted you to see. He gave me a place to live and raise you. He gave me money. He got me health and dental and vision coverage. He bought me things above and beyond the money. He complimented me. He flirted at (not with) me. He frequently told me he loved me even though I never, from 2007, said it back. He’d kiss me (not on the lips, thank fuck) uninvited. He’d put on the Sorrowful Dramatic Person act any time I mentioned the old hurts and start apologizing. He sent me to Wizard World to meet David Tennant and John Barrowman and Catherine Tate. He bought me a damn car.
Know how I know it was all an act?
He hoarded junk and collected filth. He wouldn’t help me keep the house clean. He wouldn’t help me keep the yard presentable. He would collect cats and then not care for them until they were half-dead and until I insisted. He would complain, when I had doctor appointments, about something he had to do for work or some meeting he was missing. (I stopped going to the doctor just so I wouldn’t have to listen to that garbage anymore.) He’d make like he was supportive of your homeschooling, then totally trash the area of the house I’d set aside for it and never asked me how I was doing, if I needed help, what I needed help with. He’d hole up in the basement and avoid us. His interests were always more important than mine. We’re not even talking 75/25. (But I was bad for rolling my eyes when he’d talk about his.)
Most of all?
After his divorce and the breakup with Yvette he never interacted with me online again publicly. No social media. No comments anywhere.
I mean, that’s how we met. Not at that Grow Closer festival in Indiana in 2002. But on an email list. He wouldn’t come talk to me and he had zero interest in anything I was doing except as a passing conversational subject. It was like there was a wall between us in internet space.
He’ll tell you it was because I was hateful to him there. I won’t even put quotation marks around that. I was hateful to him there. He was clowning me and not giving a damn about what it did to me and then he punished me for not going along with it, for talking back, for acting up, for calling him out on his bullshit. Bad girl. You’re grounded.
At some point, though, the dust should have settled. And I honestly think that if it had, if he’d made a real effort in something besides mechanically whining “I don’t know how many times I have to say I’m sorry” with fake weepy emphasis added, maybe eventually I’d have come back around. I don’t think I was ever completely closed to the idea of getting back together with him, whatever bravado I wave around in people’s faces about it. But he had to open back up first. He wouldn’t do that.
And that’s not quite accurate. I said “open back up.” He was never that open in the first place. He pretended to be open while he was in Love-Bombing Phase with me, early in the relationship, but soon closed up. I think that bit, as much as his lying and more than his screwing around, was what ended us. Knowing that he opened up like that for other women, even women he’d known half as long as he’d known me, but couldn’t be bothered with me.
After I left and started doing delivery driving for my living, struggling to find a job but not succeeding for more than a year, I spent that year and a half learning the lay of the land in a way I hadn’t in the previous almost two decades. I have a good rough map in my brain of the Columbus, Ohio metro area now and even a sketchy understanding of how it relates to places like Delaware and Plain City. And as I discovered our gigantic lake with a beach northeast of here (Alum Creek Lake) and lots of interesting restaurants I’d have loved to visit (Iacono’s Pizza and Restaurant, Tanuki Sushi Bar) and lots of events I’d have loved to attend (Dublin Irish Festival) and other places I’d have loved to have known about 18 years ago, and as I remembered that he’d take those random newer girlfriends to places like Hocking Hills but never so much as offer to take me (the first time I even heard of Hocking Hills was when I heard he took Joanna there… and even now he’s taking Crys places I’ve never heard of, or so Google Maps once told me), I got angry all over again. All those years he’d ask me where I wanted to eat for dinner or where I wanted to go and I didn’t know this stuff was out there to look for. He’s been working in Dublin since before I met him and most of this stuff is either in Dublin or very close by. He just couldn’t be bothered. I just didn’t matter.
I will forever have this reputation with him, and people who knew him, as that boring fat fucking lump who couldn’t be bothered seeking out a social life the whole time I was in his life. But he was equipped to point me in a useful direction and it just never occurred to him. Because I hadn’t actually mattered to him.
Put that together with the way my mutual “friends” with him bailed after he and I blew up over Yvette and it’s no wonder I’ve been alone. And of course I couldn’t go make my own friends, even if I’d been more mobile (I only got that car in the last five years I lived there, and even then I didn’t have the money for doing much exploring), because he’d get weird. The first few times I mentioned your damn homeschool gym coach, he opined that Q was gay. No reason to believe it. Just felt threatened I was talking about a man. I have no idea why, because Matt didn’t give a fuck about me.
What was that? The civilized version of “if I can’t have you, neither can anyone else”?
I was much kinder to him in walking out, even with the tantrums I threw afterwards (by email and text, you will note: I didn’t call nor come to the house, ever), than he ever was in keeping me around.
And I should add, in case you got your hopes up at all, that where the door hadn’t been completely closed to a reconciliation with him before? It’s slammed shut and bolted now. I’m done.
The sad part is my brain is still stuck in “can’t go anywhere” mode. It’s not just your dad’s fault, but he didn’t help.
I’m debating whether it’s even worth trying to deprogram. People are nothing but a disappointment anymore.
But we’ll see. You’d be amazed to hear it, but I do have some optimistic tendencies. If I don’t watch out, they’ll come out to play.
I try to be optimistic about you already. Speaking of which, one thing I want to do with this Substack is share family information and personal memories with you and Sean. I will see what I can do about making that happen, starting soon. This can’t all be complaining. I just feel this need to tell you where I am coming from in a format where you can take your time to absorb the information and not feel like I am Aspie-infodumping at you. Maybe it’ll matter and maybe it won’t.