Monday, June 28, 2010

Not so Surprising to me ...

I have a little inside perspective on cases such as this: Missing Ohio Girl . Sweet, smart, and seemingly together teen girl hooks up with outwardly sweet, very controlling, slightly older boy. You see, I was this girl.

In high school I was the smart one, although not the smartest one. Most academic achievements of mine were not even a challenge. I was definitely compensating for other things I wanted. I was decent looking, but I have a big nose (in my opinion), I was always a little overweight. I never wore fashionable clothes and didn't have a mom who was into make-up or anything all the popular girls had. I was outgoing and very opinionated. I was not a wall flower and made friends pretty easily. I was the funny, smart girl.

I was terribly, awfully, painfully shy with boys though. When I hit puberty, I hit it hard. I went home one summer flat as a board and came back in the fall with curves in all the right places. I was embarrassed by my stretch marks, C cups and hips. I had a figure that would have made Playmates jealous, but I tried to hide it. I wore baggy t-shirts and boys jeans. Hey, it matched my constant ponytail. Sure, I liked boys, but they didn't like me unless they were trying to copy my homework. There were plenty of girls with their goods on display.

So my junior year of high school I got myself my first real boyfriend. He was super smart, like genius level intelligent. He was sweet and kind and patient. He made every day worth getting up. I had a smile on my face constantly. Then I moved ... to Las Vegas (yes Sin City Nevada). I was heartbroken, but ready for a new adventure (I didn't have a choice, right?)

What better way to reinvent yourself than a move in the middle of your junior year? I wore clothing that was a little tighter than it should have been. For the first time in my life, boys were paying attention to me for more reasons than my brains. I reveled in the attention. I had a make out partner almost immediately. I was still a virgin, and I remained that way for the rest of the summer. I was still a good, shy little Catholic girl at heart.

My parents made me get a job my senior year after wasting all my time (and their money) that summer. I started working at a movie theatre, which was awesome! I got to work with kids my age, see free movies and eat all the popcorn I could stomach. That Halloween I met a boy. He was dressed as a woman, go figure. He acted stuck up and distant, which made me interested, of course. I knew how to play the game, made sure I got his interest too. I'd read all the Seventeen articles, dontchaknow? So one day after school I went to my car and noticed an orange piece of construction paper from a "secret admirer". There were little notes there, no matter where I parked, for the rest of the week. Then he called me to meet him at a gas station so we could talk. After several hour long talks, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

I never got to see where he lived or meet his parents. He always came to me. He bought flowers and was everything a teenage girl wants. Then he gave me a promise ring, six weeks into our courtship, right before I went on a trip east. It sent red flags up for my mom; it made me feel wanted.

Six months later I found out he had been living with his "ex-girlfriend" the entire time we'd been together, driving me around in her car. He needed help moving home since she kicked him out. He was so convincing that I stayed. Another red flag right? Well then there was the fact my dad was the mailman for his house. He saw another girl there a few times one week and debated telling me. He had a feeling it wouldn't make any difference. I confronted him and he convinced me this girl was just stalking him. Red flag number three.

I would sneak him into my parents house almost every night, which was a huge issue (as it should have been). He effectively isolated me from my friends and family. Then I moved in with him. At this point my mother barely talked to me and my only friends were his friends. I was completely and totally lost. I hadn't gone to college as planned. I had effectively given up everything I had going for me. The first time he hit me he was so apologetic, so sorry. He told me he only did it because I made him so angry and that he would never do it again. He didn't, for quite some time. I stayed home when he went out. I stayed in the room the night he and a friend decided to call an "entertainer" to our apartment. I devoted my entire life to keeping him happy. If he was happy, then I was happy... or so I thought.

This cycle lasted for years. Even after he left me for another girl, he gave me enough attention and enough bullshit to keep me around. So people wonder how a bright, outgoing, perceptive girl falls into something like this. It is a gradual thing. Men like this know weak spots in the not-so-pretty, slightly awkward, smart girls like me. They know how to break ties. They know how to convince girls that they are the only important person. Trust me, I've been there. I was this girl. Luckily enough, I got out. I am married to a wonderful man who really loves me.

So my words of wisdom? You can't belittle the relationship or the person your loved one is with. He will use it to his advantage (ala Romeo and Juliet). All you can do is continue to be there, to support and encourage her in all the positives in her life (school, church, other friends). The words that broke my cycle came from a friend of his. He told me one night "Give me your mother's phone number. I want to know who to call when you go missing".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No, Sir, YOU Don't Understand

I had a customer this week, an elderly man, tell me that I did not understand.

I am not exactly sure what he thought or why he said this. I assume it is because his copay was ridiculously high. He was mad, irate even, at the cost. I must say I would have been angry too. I would have been angry with the out-of-touch doctor who prescribe based on what the latest drug rep thought. I would have been mad at the drug company, I may have even been mad at the drugstore... but I would not have been mad at my cashier. You see, I do understand. I understand what it is like to work and work and work and work. I understand what it is like not to have health insurance that properly covers my medical expenses. I understand what it is like to choose between health care and food. I do understand, sir, I do.

What you do not understand, sir, is who I am. You do not understand where I come from. You do not understand my financial, emotional or physical situation.

Let me explain to you where I come from, at least:

I come from a neighborhood called Valley Gardens, in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 47th state. Yes, we are a part of the United States thankyouverymuch (here is the Wikipedia: South_Valley). You see, I lived in a very poor community, in a very poor state. I was also, unlike in most of this country, the racial minority. I am Caucasian, white, g├╝era what ever it is you might want to call me. The only African American, Black, whatever other racial term, girl lived next door to me. We were best friends from the time we were three years old. She is still one of the most important people in my life.

Let's top this all off with how smart I was. I was the nerd from day one. I skipped kindergarten for the most part (me and Luis, always competing). I made friends, and enemies, easily. I was naive and sheltered in a pretty harsh environment. I knew girls who were pregnant right after they'd hit puberty, no later than sixth grade. My middle school had no lockers and no unlocked bathrooms -- too much violence. I was both an outcast and a part of the cycle. I was not accepted by all of my classmates, but I was protected all the same as part of the pack. They sure didn't bother with me, but they did not tolerate others bothering me either. I was shit, but I belonged to them, I was their shit.

Then I went to a Catholic high school thinking it would be my out, my salvation. Little did I know I was more outcast than ever. I did not have money. I did not have successful, rich, influential parents. I did not come from a long line of alumni. All I had were my wits, and growing up where I did, I had them in spades. I knew how to charm parents, teachers and fellow students alike. Still, I waited for the bus to take me home, to the same neighborhood, every night.

I would not, sir, trade who I have become, for anything in the world. I owe my existence to that world, to that neighborhood, to that barrio. I am who I am because of, not in spite of, where I am from.

So you, sir, do not understand.