I step up to the plate for the first pitch. It's a swing and a miss. My heart was all in. It was a powerful swing filled with every bit of gumption, gusto and gutsy determination I had but it was not to be - for the ball was the nastiest curve ball you have ever seen.
At the age of 20, my first marriage was strike one. However, switching sports analogies to golf, I think it might be more appropriate to call it a mulligan.
A mulligan is when you get to pretend you didn't just hit the ball two feet in front of the tee. That shot is forever erased, it didn't happen. You pull another ball from your pocket, place it on the tee and give it another good hard whack. I have grown accustomed to saying my first marriage was a mulligan for it really shouldn't count against me. But you be the judge.
I met Mr. Personality at the age of 16. Introduced by a friend who worked with him at the local movie theater. He was the original all American boy next door. His eyes were an ashen blue, perfectly translucent. He had a smile that made all the girls blush as was evidenced by the fact that every girl in the city either knew him or knew OF him. His personality defined him, it was bigger than all of Oklahoma and Texas combined. I later came to discover that big ol' personality of his was the very definition of a Criminal Personality as a DSM-III-R Antisocial, Narcissistic, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality Disorder.
Turns out, criminals are pretty darn friendly, that's how they get away with all that shit. Who knew?
But my oh my, he did look good. Exactly like this, cowboy hat and all.
Crying my eyes out while walking down the isle should have been a clue but I was too young, too impressionable and too screwed up to know better. I lost my virginity to Mr. Personality so in my fucked up brain, it seemed like I had to marry him; plus, he was the prize and I was determined to win. I had invested too much of myself into this man to lose to one of the other girls in the legion of fans he pursued during our four years of adolescent dating bliss. The guy was teeming with teen skanks who all wanted him.
By pure happenstance, I stumbled upon one of these girls while taking a potty break at the local Godfather's Pizza. I was with four of my best buds, cruising the strip, drinking beer we bought with our fake ID's, the ushe for a Friday night in the big OKC. I was safely sequestered in a restroom stall when I heard one of my girlfriends asking a supposedly innocent, irreverent Mormon girl who she was dating. This seemed odd to me because at the time, I didn't know we had Mormons in Oklahoma.
My friend had noticed the initials dangling from this fallen, wayward Mormon girl's neck (remember drops anyone?). When she said his name, I emerged from the stall with fury in my eyes, slamming the door in perfect harmony with the infantile angst that surged through my veins. Adding insult to injury - she knew who I was yet I had no clue of her existence. Perhaps she had been locked away in the temple while I was traveling to Ms. Pac Man tournaments with him.
In short order we formed a sinister plan to drive to his place of work and confront him as a unified, pissed-off girlfriend front. We arrived at the Hertz Rent-A-Car parking lot around 11:00pm. He saw my car and came running across the lot to greet me. Just as we had planned, she jumped from the back seat, threw the drop in his face, told him she would be praying for him or some stupid shit like that while I said fuck you and the ostrich skin boots you rode in on.
Mormon girl and I were officially best friends. The next day, we both went back to him.
Two years and two failed pregnancies later, I failed to recognize two fundamental truths (me good - him bad), I married him in March of 1984. We were divorced by October of that same year.
Proving the old adage, you never really know someone until you live with them, I quickly discovered he was involved in a gambling/credit card fraud ring. Conveniently, the credit card and occasional insurance fraud supplemented the gambling losses. Inconveniently, I was smart enough to notice when a boat appeared in our driveway with no indication of a purchase.
I thought I had made it pretty clear I had no interest in the life of a prison wife but the shenanigans continued. A new bedroom set here, a lawnmower there. Plus, other aspects of the aforementioned personality disorder were starting to become painfully clear and hideously ugly. He became increasingly controlling, physically holding me down so I couldn't walk away from him, threatening to hurt me if I were to leave him. It was Sleeping with the Enemy sicko, sadistic shit.
It all culminated on my birthday in August when I got a knock at the window which had previously been slammed shut on my common sense. An embarrassing birthday celebratory dinner, credit card confiscated; he told me we had to make a run for it. I refused. He went to the bathroom and never came back. I went home to pack.
Just to be certain I would never don his door again, I was handed an extra heavy, heaping dose of wake-the-fuck-up. He came home before I had finished packing and proceeded to beat me with one of the items I had removed from the wall - a string art piece I had undoubtedly made in junior high school. It was mounted to a sturdy piece of wood with lovely beveled edges, perfect for hitting someone over the head until they almost lost consciousness.
I know it wasn't really art but at the age of 20 I was glad to have anything to hang on those stark, bare white walls of that place he called a home.
I still have that string art piece, though it is tucked away with other relics and no longer displayed in my home. I believe it saved my life. Within six months of our divorce, he went to prison for murdering his bookie. I later discovered he had secretly secured a large life insurance policy on yours truly. Apparently, I was to be the next pawn in an insurance scam.
Looking back through the eyes of the woman I have become, I can find no other words to explain the lessons better than that of John Mayer in his song, Daughters:
Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too
Give your daughters the privilege of knowing how truly powerful they are.