Chapter 13: How Domestic Violence Affected Me: The Never-Ending Search for Love and Stability (Love Languages and Discord, Exemplified or The Player Who Loved Me. I Think.)

the five love languages bookIn his book “The Five Love Languages,” marriage counselor Gary Chapman says humans show and crave love in the form of compliments, time, gifts, acts of service, such as helping around the house, and touch, but we all prefer one or two ways over others. Marital discord occurs when we don’t get what we want. After growing up as an outcast with low self-esteem, isolating myself in my bedroom as my father beat my mom downstairs for more than a decade, and receiving Christmas presents that prepared me for fast-food employees who’d get my order wrong the rest of my life, I’ll gladly accept compliments, time, and gifts. But after living with a mama’s boy/porn addict who touched me maybe 10 times in two and a half years, sex takes precedence. So, a few weeks after he packed his things and absconded to Columbus while I was at work, I started dating the boss who’d been shooting rubberbands at my ass for five months. If you’re looking for love and stability, getting involved with a player who carries a little black book annotated with smiley faces is the stupidest thing you can do, but he spoke my love languages fluently until he taught me faithfulness trumps them all.

Love Languages, Exemplified

what we talk about when we talk about loveOur relationship began with acts of service: He moved my mattresses to my new apartment, where the furniture that fit inside a friend’s SUV had been set up for days. Then, he rewired my stereo speakers. The rest of the night, we drank, ate pizza, and listened to the same techno tape over and over and over because we were too deep in conversation to care. I woke up the next morning fully clothed on my living room floor with him spooned behind me and his arm wrapped around me. Afraid that he’d blame his position on the concussion he’d probably given himself when he banged his head on my plate the first time he kissed me, I shut my eyes because I didn’t want him to hear me blink, wake up, and walk out.

Weeknights from that evening forward, he left the firm at 1 a.m. and drove to my place, where we talked, laughed, and had sex for hours. After a nap and shower, I went to work with sore cheeks and bowed legs. I never felt like a plaything or booty call because, from all appearances, he was in love. When he was too tired to come over, he called and told me to lay my phone on my pillow so he could listen to me sleep. As he dialed the patternless new number I disliked because it was difficult to remember, he noticed the last four digits spelled L-O-V-E, spawning Barry White impersonations for years. While watching “Amadeus,” in which Mozart called wife Constanze “Stanzi,” he created the nickname Randzi.

“I love the way it sounds,” he said via email. “It has sex appeal as do you.”

Weekends, he danced at goth clubs with me. He even bought black T-shirts and clunky Dr. Martens so he wouldn’t stand out like he did at the firm, where the 32 year old’s spiky hair made him the obvious answer in a game of Which One of These Things Is Not Like the Other? Afterward, we devoured breakfast, traded stories, and played Ms. Pac-Man where he used to cram for bar exams.

emerald necklaceAnytime the weather cooperated that spring, we went on long, late-night motorcycle rides around the Emerald Necklace, Cleveland’s interconnected forests, where we pointed to lightning bugs we never saw in the city, dry humped on docks, and accumulated anecdotes like the time we stood staring at the stars from a parking lot at 3 a.m., and some guy on a bicycle appeared out of nowhere, rode a giant loop around us like an invisible lasso, dinged his handlebar bell once, and left.

“That was like a scene from a David Lynch movie,” I said as we now stood staring at each other, wide-eyed. “We should probably get out of here before something bad happens.”

The problem was, he forbade me from telling people these things.

Discord, Exemplified

forbidden from talking“It doesn’t look good for me to be dating my secretary,” he said, looking at my living room floor hours after he’d slammed his door upon returning to the office with the gaggle of young engineers who lunched together every day and walked to the Crazy Horse one afternoon for a mid-day bachelor party.

“I guess you should’ve thought about that before you started dating your secretary,” I said. “Oh, wait. You did. That night you met Mia and me at the bar last fall, she said we’d make a cute couple, and you said you could never date me ‘because we work so closely together.’ Your words. So what happened?”

“I don’t like my personal life being on display,” he said, ignoring my question.

“And I don’t like being a secret, so I guess we’re at an impasse,” I said. “Mia’s my friend and the only person I really talk to other than you. I’m not going to lie to her. And considering I went from being practically catatonic and losing a lot of weight after Jason moved out to smiling, laughing, and being in a great mood, did you think the guys weren’t going to notice and start asking her questions since she sits in their wing and has a big mouth?”

He didn’t reply.

It was bad enough that I’d had to fight so hard to even become a secretary, which wasn’t what I wanted to be at age 23. Hurt that he seemed ashamed to be dating me and warned me months before we hooked up that he would never marry a woman who hadn’t gone to college, my fight-or-flight impulse urged me to break up with him. Unfortunately, I enjoyed him too much. [Here, I have to add that I just woke up from a nap, and the holy spirit immediately reminded me of an article I read about soul ties last year. Apparently, that phenomenon played a part, too.]

We continued to date and re-broached this conversation on occasion, but on the upside, it remained a conversation. I never yelled or chased him outside to tell him and the rest of Lakewood what a horrible person he was, as I had with Jason, who’d summoned my father’s side of the family from the depths of my DNA. Nor did I have to. Instead of throwing his hands in the air, saying, “I’m done,” and fleeing the scene as the mama’s boy had, the lawyer presented his case before breaking my stubborn glares with, “I want to jump you so bad right now,” tickling me, and taking me to bed.

On the downside, he dated other women.

dinner dance“Now I know why you want to keep me a secret from the guys,” I said. “Frank told me you’re taking Sacha to some CIPLA dinner-dance thing.”

“It’s just one night,” he said. “You know I can’t take you.”

“But you weren’t even going to tell me about it. Why the hell do patent lawyers have a dance anyway? Do you have to buy her a corsage?” I asked, concealing my pain with sarcasm.

He laughed and snorted. “You’re so cute,” he said. “I promise I’ll call you as soon as I get home that night.”

He didn’t, of course.

“I fell asleep,” he said.

jealousyI changed banks after Mia and I walked into the branch two buildings down the block and watched him flirt with the European teller I used to chat with, but that didn’t prevent me from spotting a lipstick-stained wine glass sitting next to an un-lipstick-stained wine glass on his kitchen counter.

“My neighbor across the hall borrowed those,” he said, following my gaze.

“And returned them without washing them?” I asked.

pain scaleDue to the domestic violence I endured while living with my parents, the shock of my mother’s confession to two affairs, including one she’d lied about most of my life, the shock of walking into Jason’s and my house to find all of his things gone, and a fourth trigger, a social worker would later diagnose me with PTSD and abandonment issues, but I still don’t know how I kept playing the lawyer’s game, which included broadsiding me mid-workday by sending an email to our wing’s shared printer, knowing the words “she stood me up” would leap off the page as I picked up a patent specification I’d transcribed. If living with a guy who jacked off to porn instead of having sex with me ranked a 10 on the pain scale, dating a guy who drank and did God-only-knows-what with other women ranked a million. I know why I played it though. I loved him, and I was sure he loved me but was too commitment-shy to say it. The closest he came was the night he came twice. I rode him to completion, and he double-patted my hip and told me to keep going.

“That’s never happened before!” he whisper-shouted as he pulled me down on top of him, bearhugged me, and kicked his feet like a 5 year old on a sugar high.

This event cured his wanderlust for weeks leading up to the wedding reception he attended the night before the firm moved him to Japan for three months. He even gave me his favorite hoodie – the one he’d worn while helping me move – and took black-and-white pictures of me for his home away from home.

he must love me.gifIt also served as a Cinderella slipper of sorts. Any man who came twice consecutively must love me, I thought. And another guy did. Not surprisingly, it was the guy who’d been pining for me since the day we met five years earlier. But just my luck, he had not one but two mental illnesses and was thus less stable than the player, the mama’s boy/porn addict, and the alcoholic who preceded him.


An Impromptu Post on an Emotional Day

I’m not PMS-ing and today isn’t an anniversary of any kind, but I’m sitting in the Original Pancake House on the verge of tears. While walking here, I noticed I have a new stalker.

At 10:45 one night in September, as I was halfway home from work, an F-150-type truck passed me — slowly — and then turned right onto the offshoot no-outlet street that I was approaching. I remember thinking, “Oh, f_ck.” I’ve had so many bad encounters with men this summer that it’s difficult to approach one without assuming the worst. In addition to all the drivers, including FedEx and UPS employees, who’ve beeped, whistled, howled, and yelled things like, “Shake it, mama,” a guy shouted, “Hey, babe! How old are you?” from Panini’s parking lot one Friday night. When I didn’t reply, he yelled, “Hey, bimbo!” When that didn’t elicit a response, he yelled, “Hey, bitch!” The following Monday morning, I waited for a bus outside my place, and a guy in a red Dodge Ram passed me — slowly, turned onto the side street behind me, turned around in someone’s driveway, stopped at the stop sign, and asked, in this deep Trace Adkins voice, “Where ya headed, young lady?” Like I was going to tell him where I was going so that he could show up whenever the mood struck him.

Likewise, 10:45 P.M. Guy asked if he could give me a ride home.

I said, “No, I’m used to the walk but thank you.”

“Can I talk to you about Jesus then?” he asked — at 10:45 at night on the darkened street of a sleeping suburb. He handed me a booklet.

“I’m already a Christian,” I said.

“Really?” he asked incredulously.

“Yeah. Why do you sound so surprised?” I asked.

“Because no one’s a Christian.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

“If you won’t let me give you a ride, can I at least follow you to make sure you get home okay?” he asked. “I’ve been following you since Wagar anyway.”

My eyes widened. “I’d really rather you didn’t,” I said.

“Can I walk you home then?”

What could I do?

During the mile-and-a-half walk to my condo, he told me how he became a Christian, how he’d always wanted to be in the military, but “it didn’t work out,” and said he remembers seeing me by Westgate Mall because he was “admiring [my] long, blonde hair.”

He wrote down his name, phone number, Facebook profile, and email address, which began with the word “sniper,” in case I ever need a ride.

I was careful not to turn on a light when I got upstairs, so he couldn’t figure out which place was mine, but with an email handle like “sniper,” he probably carries a telescopic lens.

Today, three weeks later, I turn onto Wagar Road from Westway, and I pass him as he walks toward me, scratching his left forearm.

“Hi!” he says.

“Hi,” I say in a weird voice, caught off-guard.

We both keep walking, and I hit the apartment building driveway where he parked his brown Silverado.

I walk faster, cross the intersection at Wagar and Hilliard so that I face traffic, and notice his truck pass me.

Once I get to Longhorn, he’s walking in the grass median between the restaurant and the sidewalk — toward me and scratching his forearm in that this-is-what-I-do-when-I’m-nervous-and-don’t-know-what-to-say way he’d been scratching it as I passed him earlier.

I walked faster.

Maybe 20 minutes later, while sitting behind a stack of gluten-free blueberry pancakes, I glance up and see a crazy-haired guy who looks so much like my most recent ex — even seated the same way he sits — that my eyes tear up.

I’m an empath and was already emotional in that I-wonder-if-I’m-picking-up-someone-else’s-emotions-because-there’s-no-reason-for-me-to-feel-this-way-today kinda way, and I haven’t even gone to work yet. There, my eyes well up when customers tell me their dad just died from cancer or they just got out of surgery or their dog is old and they were hoping to find a set of steps he could use to climb into bed with them.

And now the pancake place is playing Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

God, I hate days like this.

And now the pancake place is playing “Painted Black.”

I see your red door, I want it painted black
No colors anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

Does this shit happen to anyone else?

Acknowledging Alphonso: A Thank You for My Liebster Award

I regret that it has taken me a week to thank fellow blogger Alphonso White for nominating me for another writing award, but I can no longer afford Wi-Fi, my phone decided to die after six and a half years, and life has been sucking harder than usual. So I will make this short and salty.

Liebster Award Rules

liebster award - CLEvangelismAccording to the rules, I’m supposed to:

    • display the award;
    • thank the person who nominated me and provide a link to his blog;
    • write a 150-300 word post about my favorite blog;
    • nominate 5–11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers and tell them they’ve been nominated;
    • list these rules.

Here’s what I’m gonna do instead: I’m going to implore you to read Alphonso’s posts, beginning with his list of pet peeves. I would add “people who whistle” and move “people with questionable morals” and “people with no empathy” to the top of the list, but other than that, I agree with every word and his choice of stock photo.

After that, I encourage you to bounce around his blog to review his bucket list, which may inspire you to start your own, learn how to overcome writer’s block, discover new ways to engage your followers, and be a better human.

Answers to Alphonso’s Questions

  1. If you had to delete your entire blog but could keep just one post, which one would it be and why? Like my Unique Blogger Award answer, I’m going with How My Parents’ Abusive Marriage Ended (in Three Stages) but for a different reason: It says what it needed to say, from the evil, hateful things my father said and did to my mom’s confession to my guilt.
  2. If you were to write a short (<25 words) note to your future self, say, 10 years from now, what one thing would you say? It hurt — your heart and your pride — having to be the bigger person, but it was worth it.
  3. If you had to choose a different topic to blog about, what would it be? (What else are you passionate about enough to write about?) Hawaii. In fact, my domain name was initially I scrapped it for reasons I will elaborate upon in an upcoming chapter, but I’ve spent weeks on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai — in that order — and could tell you so many things in ways that travel sites — and other travelers — haven’t.
  4. If you were to host an event for the bloggers that you nominated for this award to meet in person what would you do? If I were nominating 5-11 bloggers for this award, I would ask them for their top 10 bucket list goals, find an adventurous commonality among the answers, and schedule an outing that participants couldn’t wait to write about afterward.
  5. What other awards have you been nominated for? Alphonso was kind enough to nominate me for the Unique Blogger Award, and back when I wrote short stories, Vagabondage Press published one and nominated it for the Pushcart Prize and Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web.
  6. You’re a time traveler, where do you go? (I mean when do you go.) Reading about the things people do to each other and to animals, I’ve always felt like I don’t belong here — like maybe I was born during the wrong time period. But the more I’ve learned about history, the more I’ve realized that people have always been cruel. So my very un-Christian answer is: I would spend 1984, the best year in music, clubbing in NYC, minus the Bolivian marching powder.
  7. What would you do if you won the lottery? (Say, 1 million dollars.) An ex calls me “Tink,” short for Tinker Bell, and says, “It’s your song,” every time Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” comes on Sirius, so I would of course divvy some of  the money among charities — both human- and animal-related organizations. Contrary to what trolls have posted in response to Facebook comments, compassion isn’t limited to one or the other. At least it shouldn’t be. As for the rest of the winnings, it’s best that I keep that to myself for reasons that I will expound upon in the same upcoming chapter mentioned above.
  8. 9~ 6/2(1+2)+2=? (Hint, It’s my favorite number) Eleven. I think. I majored in English to avoid such questions.
  9. Before this point, did you realize that the rules never actually asked you to make up questions for your nominees, or to answer questions from the person who nominated you? (Gotcha! I didn’t realize it either, haha. It’s probably rule # 5, which is also missing… Relax, it’s on the award site that I linked in a different section) I’m an editor. Of course, I noticed. 😉
  10. Who you gonna call? I’m an ’80s girl, so I have to answer, “Ghostbusters.” Beyond that, since my phone died weeks ago, no one.

The Salty Part

I nominated several bloggers for the Unique Blogger Award in August, and no one bothered to answer my questions. Most (who follow my memoir, mind you) didn’t even like the post or thank me. So I’m thanking Alphonso (again) (profusely), taking my award, and exiting stage right.

Chapter 12: How Domestic Violence Affected Me: The Never-Ending Search for Love and Stability: Part One (or Bad Boyfriends and Horrible Bosses: The Sum of My Experiences (Part One))

basic necessitiesIn addition to food, water, shelter, and clothing, parents are supposed to provide security and affection. If they don’t, any shrink will tell you, their children spend the rest of their life looking for what they lacked. Since my father threatened to burn down our house with my mom, brother, and me inside, to kidnap my brother and me, to shave my head and send me to military school, to skin my mom alive – slowly, to kill my cats – i.e., my only friends, and denied that he was my father, and my mom was too busy taking care of my disabled brother to notice that I retreated to my room for 15 years of seclusion the night my father knocked her out, I sought love and stability in boyfriends and jobs. If you read chapter 9, you know I failed relationship-wise before I even moved out. At age 42, I’m still single and hoping to land the magazine-editing job I went to college for at age 28, so this chapter could also be called “Chronology to Christianity: Part One” because, as atheists have stated, people always turn to God when nothing else works.

Horrible Boss #1 (1997)

typing with fingerless glovesWhile living a sexless, miserable existence with a 25-year-old mama’s boy/porn addict at age 21 and worrying that my father would kill my mom now that I was gone, I worked for a man who perpetuated the stereotype that Jews are cheap by shutting himself in his office with a space heater while his seven employees wore coats and fingerless gloves to transcribe depositions at un-ergonomically correct desks. He fired a woman named Laurie who set a snowball on the ladies’ room sink to see if it would melt. After I left the $7/hour job, I suffered excruciating, carpal tunnel-like wrist pain and frostbite-like paleness in my index and middle fingers winter after winter until 2013, when I learned about anti-inflammatory foods and started working from home.

The Psycho Coworker (1997)

carried me to his car when i was passed outAs mentioned in chapter 11, I quit the transcription position because the company’s alcoholic videographer carried me to his car the night I passed out during happy hour, unbuttoned my dress, lacquered my breasts and stomach with whiskey-scented saliva, and turned psycho when I rejected him the following Monday. After I told him I still loved my live-in boyfriend, the WWII memorabilia collector set a grenade on top of his monitor, showed a coworker a pair of Japanese swords he kept in the trunk of his car, and earned a restraining order when I spotted him parked outside my new employer’s building.

Horrible Boss #2 and the Inappropriate Patent Firm (1997-1999)

This is bullshit ( Horrible Boss #1 asked me to represent the company at a trade show during my employment, I was dealing with self-esteem issues from childhood and the live-in boyfriend who preferred porn over sex, so I accepted the compliment when he told me to “just smile and let Rob do all the talking” and did my best to ignore the notion that he’d treated me like I was a ditz even though his instructions reminded me of my father calling me stupid.

When Horrible Boss #2, a hoarder who’d stacked all of his clients’ files on his desk and the floor of his corner office to prevent anyone from touching them and to avoid eye contact with passersby, shot down my request for more responsibility several months into my employment because he thought I was incapable of doing anything beyond greeting clients, answering phones, and opening mail, I went over his head to the attorney whose name appeared first on the door. Unfortunately, this attorney entrusted my training to two docket clerks who didn’t like me because I was a third of their girth, started each workday with an apple fritter from the store downstairs, and attracted the attention of associates and one of the old guys.

“They don’t like the way you walk,” our HR person/accountant confided one evening as he drove me home. I didn’t bother to explain why I’d taught myself to walk with my chin up and shoulders back like a model because it was no one’s business. I was punctual, did my job well, and had always been nice to everyone, including the docket clerks who said things like, “I don’t know how you stay so skinny when you eat crap all the time,” and patent attorneys who said things like, “Last night, I jacked off thinking about you masturbating with those blue fingernails.” To me, that’s what mattered.

new meaning to the scarlet letter red ink heavily edited

The catty docket clerk who rubberbanded an example letter to a file and left it on my chair disagreed, so she neglected to highlight, circle, or otherwise indicate all the verbiage that needed to be changed. Consequently, my trial run reappeared on my desk drenched in red ink, courtesy of the guy who wanted me to remain a receptionist. This devastated me but not as much as the fact he kept the letter in his drawer and pulled it out every time I persisted in my pursuit to become a secretary.

“He should just frame it and hang it on a wall. Then all he’d have to do is point,” I told a friend who’d been a secretary for years despite calling off constantly to watch her son or visit her imprisoned husband, who killed a guy in a bar fight. “He’s a patent attorney. You’d think he’d know how to improve his productivity.”

After a few months of the old guy I’d attracted dicking me around as he decided whether he wanted to hire me as his secretary rather than his nanny as he’d once suggested, the lawyer whose name came first on the door hired me as his overflow secretary and the secretary to two associates. My perseverance was rewarded with a $500 raise, a cubicle, and a lot more work. This didn’t surprise me since the firm paid overtime in so-called comp time that you couldn’t use, but on the upside, the docket clerks were given a plus-size 18 year old to answer the phones and take their focus off of me.

The Mama’s Boy/Porn Addict (1996-1999)

wondering how i was going to pay my billsThe day after a fight in which he nearly shoved me out our kitchen window, the mama’s boy/porn addict moved to Columbus while I was at work. Stunned, I stared at a French vanilla wall for two weeks, wondering how to pay the gas bill that averaged $200 per month due to hardwood floors and drafty windows, rent now that our landlord had died and the new owner had sent a letter increasing it from $395 per month to $550, my $300 car payment, and other bills, not to mention food for my three cats and me on my $19,500 salary. My father had disowned me when I moved out, predicted I’d “come crawling back someday,” and complained about debt all my life, so I couldn’t ask my parents for help. If it hadn’t been for the attorney-whose-name-came-first-on-the-door’s secretary – who was married to a judge and worked just to get out of the house – handing me a $1,000 check inside a card that said, “The first $1,000 is a gift. Any more is a loan,” I’d have become homeless.

So if you were to ask why I became a Christian 15 years later, one reason is that, occasionally, people like a Jewish coworker named Brenda, who had zero reason to give me $1,000 let alone help me move considering we’d only had lunch a handful of times, and a Jewish headhunter named Kate, who I’d only met once at the front desk and called shortly after I moved to ask me to interview for a secretarial position that gave me a $9,000 raise, have come along to a) correct a stereotype that could’ve taken root and turned into resentment and b) help me the moment I needed it. This would happen again post-9/11.

What Happens When Customer Service Leads to Stalking and Other Drama That Women Shouldn’t Have to Deal with: A Slice-of-Life Story

From the first man that my mom cheated on my father with to my father himself, horrible bosses, bad boyfriends, and guys who interrupted solo vacations to Hawaii, St. Maarten, and Maine, men have caused one problem after another in my life, but I wasn’t sure how to begin the next memoir chapter. I should know better. My stories write themselves. Here’s what happens when customer service leads to stalking.

First, You Jump to Conclusions About Who’s Doing the Stalking

i'm mostly peace love and light and a little go fuck yourselfIn a minute-long clip uploaded to LiveLeak five years ago, a sedan must’ve ricocheted off the median before it careened the wrong direction across a three- or four-lane highway in Saudi Arabia, hit a curb, and rolled umpteen times, sending shrapnel in every direction. The driver’s body flew out the window toward the left side of my screen; one of his arms landed yards away on the right. My last relationship disintegrated in similar spectacular fashion the day after my 42nd birthday. Technically, I broke up with the 64-year-old yogi in January, haven’t seen him since Valentine’s Day, and haven’t corresponded with him since June, but as I said about another relationship and my parents’ marriage in chapter 11, “[S]ome things need to end badly in order for them to end.” So three weeks after a five-day schizophrenic whirlwind of flowers on my doorstep, cards beneath my doormat, bracelets on my doorknob, and emails that culminated with a barrage of messages that his alleged love for me and recently acquired holy spirit should’ve prevented his wounded ego from sending, when a coworker one un(wo)manned cash register down from me answered my employer’s phone, put the call on hold, and said it was for me, I remembered him threatening to come into my workplace.

email threat to show up where i work copy

When I read the email July 19, I rolled my eyes. No one gave him a gift card for where I work. Prior to me getting a job there in May, he hadn’t shopped at the store or mentioned it, and aside from his teenage son who wouldn’t have bought him such a gift card, he’s a familyless reclusive writer like me, albeit for different reasons. So even before he fired off an immature and transparent attempt to get back at me for saying the bracelets he’d bought me were cheap, I dismissed his original threat as bluster and bullshit like a million other messages he’d sent during the course of our relationship.

email threat 2 copy

But as Line 1 blinked at me, waiting for me, my heart clenched like someone tight-laced a corset around it.

Hesitantly, I picked up the receiver and said, “This is Miranda.”

After a second or two, the line went dead.

“Who was it?” I asked Joan.

“Some guy,” she said.

With glassy eyes and a suddenly scratchy throat, I said, “From now on, I’m not here. No matter who calls, I’m not here.”

She saw the tears on the verge of spilling, apologized, and told me to make sure a manager knows this so the information can be passed down to everyone else.

Then, You Come to Your Senses

kitchen soap dispenserWhile ringing up customers, I concluded that it couldn’t have been my ex who called. First of all, he’s only confrontational via email or text. He wrote a lot of horrible things during fights, but other than one asinine remark he made after a romantic day at the park, he was always kind and gentle in person. Secondly, he had no reason to be a jerk on a random Sunday after three weeks of silence. Thirdly, he should’ve been at church at the time of the call. Lastly and most convincingly, I glanced up from my register and saw a customer I’d helped the previous week staring at me from the men’s department.

He raised his hand in a wave.

I raised my hand in a wave — but less enthusiastically.

“F_ck,” I thought, remembering other men who didn’t understand the difference between a woman being nice and a woman being interested. Like one of them, this guy didn’t respect the institution of marriage either. I’d helped him and his teenage son pick out a kitchen soap dispenser for the 50-something-year-old foreigner’s wife. When he finally settled on one, he pointed to the “I ❤ SURPRISES"-emblazoned lanyard hanging from my neck and asked what my name is. Silly me. I assumed he was going to tell a cashier or manager how helpful I'd been by asking crucial questions such as, "What color is your kitchen?"

"I've seen you up front," he said.

warningAnd that — that sentence right there — should’ve tipped me off that I was in for trouble. Men have always warned me. For example, a lawyer who sent me the lyrics to Paul Westerberg’s “It’s a Wonderful Lie” and mentioned GHB during a separate email conversation later spiked my drink, carried my limp 27-year-old body back to our firm, and bent me over a partner’s wingback chair before date-raping me again in his own office. And just last year, the ex who said, “I used to be quite a cad,” with a big grin showed me that he wasn’t as far removed from what he used to be as I preferred.

Maybe 15 minutes after I spotted Kitchen Soap Dispenser Guy in the men’s department Sunday, August 13, he approached my register empty-handed and asked if I work full time.

“No, just part time,” I heard the woman who got an “exceeds expectations” score on the customer service section of her 90-day review say as my brain glared at him and asked What? Why are you asking me this?

“Do you work the same hours every week?” he asked.

“No, they vary wildly,” I said. Unfortunately, they don’t vary wildly enough.

Friday, as I rang up customers during a lunchtime rush, my coworker Liza facetiously said, “It’s your friend,” as she put a call on hold.

My big, green eyes widened.

“He asked if you’re working.”

“Always tell him no,” I said, frustrated because I thought I made this clear on Sunday.

By the time she picked up the receiver again, he’d hung up because putting him on hold was all the answer he needed.

Next, You Talk to Your Manager

When I went on break, I told the assistant store manager who’d been there on Sunday that he called again.

“What would you like me to do for you?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. Considering I’d watched a training video about “imminent danger” such as a disgruntled customer entering the store with a gun, I was hoping she’d know what to do. “I just want to make sure people aren’t telling him when I’m going to be here. He can’t have coincidentally called on Sunday while I was here and again today while I’m here but no time in between. We keep a schedule by the phone. I don’t want someone telling him, ‘Oh, she’ll be here at 6,’ and have him sitting in the parking lot as I start walking three miles home at night.”

“Does he know you walk home?”

“No! I talked to him for a total of three minutes about kitchen soap dispensers and rust stains.”

She said she’d call the district security office for advice since my store doesn’t have a full-time loss prevention officer. I wouldn’t even say we have a part-time loss prevention officer. I’ve only seen him about 10 times in the last 90 days, and the potential loss of an employee is probably beyond his bailiwick anyway.

Then, You Apologize for Being Stalked

sorry for the inconvenience“I’m really sorry about all of this,” I said before leaving the office. And then I said something that our victim-blaming society has undoubtedly compelled a lot of women to say: “I don’t know why stuff like this happens to me. It’s not like I dress like a slut.” I waved a hand over my white V-neck T-shirt, the tan golf skort that I used to wear to my summer job at the yacht club, and brown inch-high wedge sandals.

“Miranda, you’re a very attractive woman,” my manager started, and I waved the compliment away as if it were a fruit fly.

“I’ve had self-esteem issues all my life,” I said — because it’s true and because women can’t accept a compliment from another woman without being self-deprecating. As a Psychology Today article said, “[R]esearch has found that for women, there’s nothing quite as terrible as being seen as cocky or too confident by another woman. According to one study, ‘only 22 percent of compliments given from one woman to another were accepted.'”

But she continued. “We always see ourselves worse than other people do,” she said. “To the rest of us, you’re a very attractive woman, and you’re just doing your job. You don’t deserve to be harassed.”

Then, the Customer Comes in to See Stalk You

Approximately half an hour after that conversation, as I left the front counter to return to my department, I stopped walking so abruptly that I teetered on my toes. I then turned on my heel and headed the opposite direction.

“Elsie,” I said, panicking into the mic connected to my walkie-walkie, “I think he just walked in.”

“What’s he look like?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “He’s a 50-something-year-old schlub. He has a bald spot and a belly. He’s wearing a polo shirt and cargo shorts. He’s Everyman.” In fact, with that description, it could’ve been an ex that I introduced to the store manager months ago.

Elsie scanned the sales floor with our security cameras and then met me in my department to ask, “Is that him in the accessories department?”

trust your gut instinct if something seems wrong it probably isIt wasn’t, so I apologized, and as nicely as possible, she suggested that maybe I was being a little paranoid. But not even 10 minutes later, she said, “I think I just spotted him,” over our walkie-talkies.

She met me in my department again, and, chin sheepishly dipping toward his chest, he walked up to us.

“Hi!” Elsie beamed, looking up at him as she stood between us. “Can we help you find anything?”

“No,” he said and arced around Elsie to face me so that I was trapped between them and a wall. She asked me to finish something in the stock room, so I excused myself, inched between them sideways, and exited stage left. He, in turn, walked to the front of the store with his tail between his legs — and my manager right behind him.

“Can you please make sure everyone sees him?” I asked over my mic.

One coworker, who watches true crime shows on her lunch breaks, said, “He’s a good-lookin’ guy!” so at least she’ll remember him if no one else does.

Once he was gone, Elsie told me he’d driven slowly past the entrance doors, circled the grocery store parking lot across the plaza, and then passed our sliding glass doors again before leaving.

Fifteen minutes later, he called and asked if I was there. The nice old guy who answered said, “No,” and as the customer who’s stalking me tried to interject, hung up on him.

Then, You Call the Police

When Elsie asked if I wanted to file a police report, I said yes.

“But a cop who works the 3-to-11 shift asked me out for coffee several weeks ago,” I said. He’d been looking at our selection of apple cider vinegar, and I told him Bragg’s is better than the brands we sell. I’m nothing if not honest and losing a $3.99 sale isn’t going to send the store into bankruptcy. “I hope he doesn’t answer the phone because that would make this even more ridiculous than it already is.”

ohios stalking lawBy the end of the call, I wished he had answered because he would’ve been more helpful. After I told the dispatcher about the customer’s calls and store visits, and Elsie told him that she knew it was him because she’d seen him “lock eyes on” me and “make a beeline toward” me and gave him a detailed description of both the customer (5’11” with a European accent, bloodshot eyes, dark hair with a bald spot, and a cyst that a coworker said may be a chemo port) and his red car, including its license plate (which ends in 3663, or 666 if you add the threes together, thus making it easy for me to remember), the cop said the customer is “being creepy” but hasn’t broken any laws until I tell him to leave me alone (which is poor customer service). He did, however, offer to send an officer to talk to him if he shows up again.

In the meantime, Elsie assured me that I won’t get in trouble for telling him to stay away from me, gave me a ride home, gave me Saturday off with pay, and said we’ll revisit this on Monday.

The problem is: We shouldn’t have to.

If you’re dealing with a stalker, read this A Secure Life post. If nothing else, maybe this post will prevent other men — particularly Christians who know they aren’t supposed to act on their feelings — from sending emails designed to get a rise out of their ex.

A Warning for the Wicked and Hope for Good Figs Who Lost a Lot While the Wicked Prospered

The following Darrell Scott sermon is dedicated to all of the hypocritical Christians I’ve encountered and a bad—ahem—fig who “went into increase by acquiring what [I] had to let go of.” More about that in an upcoming chapter.


My “Unique Blogger Award” Nomination (and the Importance of Telling Your Own Story)

I’ve been broke and unable to shop for anything beyond necessities since October 2014, so I didn’t know tax-free weekend existed until I walked next door to Target during a break from my retail job a couple of weeks ago and saw a sign portending service workers’ impending doom on the sliding glass door. Friday, as customers poured into my store while rain pounded the roof hard enough to drown out our Muzak, I learned that people get pretty uppety over a mere 8 percent discount—especially when they neglect to read the rules that exclude most of what they piled in their cart. So imagine my joy when, after two hours of unpleasantness, I retreated to the breakroom, retrieved my phone from my locker, and discovered that fellow blogger Alphonso White nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award. As someone who’s nearly always prided herself on being different, I couldn’t ask for a nicer honor or surprise. And like Alphonso, who appreciates feedback, it was helpful to read, “Reading this blog gave me the extra inspiration that I needed to set a plan [for writing his own memoir] into motion. She has lived an extremely interesting life, never a dull read.”

Alphonso found my blog in February, and I followed him after reading his About Who? post. He’s funny and, like other bloggers I follow, unapologetically genuine.

Unique Blogger Award Rules

According to the rules he shared, Unique Blogger Award nominees are to:

  • link to the person who nominated them;
  • answer the three questions the blogger who nominated them asked;
  • nominate 8-13 other bloggers for the Unique Blogger Award; and
  • ask them three questions.

Alphonso’s Three Questions and My Answers

  1. Out of the blog posts that you have published, which one is your favorite and why?
    That’s a difficult question to answer because I’ve put so much of myself into my memoir chapters in an effort to be as candid as possible so people will learn from my (and my parents’) mistakes. Although they say you know you’re over something when you can write about it, a few things still brought tears to my eyes. Ultimately, I have to say Chapter 6: Revelations (How My Parents’ Abusive Marriage Ended) is my favorite because I wasn’t sure how I was going to transition from my battered mom talking to her attorney and the cop back to my conversation with her. Sometimes, you just need to stop thinking so much and let God work it out. (After all, he’s the one who gave you the ability to write.)
  2. What is a unique fact about yourself that you have not covered in your blog?
    I see hearts everywhere I go. hearts i've encountered during walks
  3. What advice would you give to a new/future blogger?
    Write what happened to you and don’t worry about what people think or say about you. As Pastor Tony Evans said, people don’t hold the master key to your future anyway.

A Brief Darrell Scott Sermon About the Importance of Telling Your Story

Each man divorced [the woman at the well] because women were not allowed to divorce men at that time. As a result, this woman is emotionally scarred, she’s psychologically damaged, and she’s socially ruined. Every man she’s been with has disappointed her to the point that the institution of marriage has become useless to her. She said I’m not getting married again because I’m not going to set myself up to be treated, to be hurt, to be bruised, to be wounded, to be damaged like that again. Her self-respect is totally gone. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks about her anymore.

“They call me a tramp, I don’t care. They talk about the life I’m living, too bad. I’m the sum product of what I’ve been through. And what I’ve been through is because of what I thought about myself.”

She wanders from man to man, from relationship to relationship, allowing her body to be used and discarded while she plays out the string of her existence. She’s a slave to circumstances, in bondage to a past that she didn’t plan. She’s in bondage to a future she doesn’t desire because somewhere along the path of her life, somebody violated the trust that existed between her and them. They took advantage of her, they misused and abused her to the point that she’s spent the majority of her life looking for that perfect man …

The man she’s been waiting for all her life shows up at the well, and this man doesn’t care about her past. He doesn’t mind how many men she’s slept with. He doesn’t care about how many husbands she’s had. He doesn’t mind if she was abused as a child, if she’s a rape victim, or a victim of domestic violence. He didn’t mind what she used to be, nor did he mind what she currently was. He didn’t mind what she used to do, nor did he mind what she currently did. He was only interested in what she would allow God to do with her now. His only desire was for her to forget her past, look past her present, and look to her future.

He said I must go through Samaria to get this one woman because no matter what she did in the past, she’s instrumental to the plan of God, and she’s necessary for the work of God.

Let me tell you something: Don’t let anybody tell you or make you believe that because of your past, God can’t use you. God can erase your past. God can heal your memories. God can soothe your pain and fill every void in your life. That’s why the Bible says if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. All things are passed away, all things [have] become new, and all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself. The Bible says we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

This woman forsook her past in order to fulfill her destiny. She didn’t worry about what she used to be. She didn’t dwell on what she used to do. All she knew was that she found God, and she had to tell somebody else about it.

And despite her past, she started a revival.

Despite her past, she became an evangelist.

Despite her past, she became a walking testimony.

Despite her past, she became a witness.

And the people received from her because they knew what she had been, they saw what she had become, and they wanted what she had.

She then leaves her water pots because they symbolized her past. She left everything that reminded her of what she once was, and she became the first preacher to the Gentile nation.

Her preaching was so effective that it birthed a revival.

She rushed into the city and she told the men because she wasn’t on speaking terms with the women, and some of the men she had been involved with were wondering if Jesus really told her everything that she had done.

“I wonder if my name came up when he was talking to her.”

God accomplished a great work through a person with a shady past. He didn’t use the theologians. He didn’t use the well-to-do. He didn’t use the respected people. … When he wanted to reach Samaria, he used the one least likely to be used, and the reason it was so effective was because the people she went to saw a change in her, and they wanted what she had.

I said all that to say this: God has a plan for your life. Don’t let the devil keep you in the past. Don’t let people keep you there either. God desires to use you as a mighty witness. Let go of your past so you can fulfill your future. Let go of your failure, let go of your mistakes, let go of everything that people try to use to keep you back. Let it go and don’t look back. Turn around, get goin’, and don’t go back. Don’t go back into the mess, don’t go back into the junk, don’t go back into the issues, don’t go back into the drama. Let it go. You don’t need to hide it, just let it go. You need to let people know what you were. Let them see what you have become. It will cause them to desire what you have.

My Nominees for the Unique Blogger Award

As an Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris fan, I appreciate people who share their stories, including their shortcomings. I don’t believe in TMI. Everything is a teachable moment. With that in mind, here are my nominees for the Unique Blogger Award, complete with links to posts that compelled me to follow their blog, recent favorites since writers get better the more they write, or posts that appeared when I needed them or affected me in some way.

  1. Alphonso White: About Who? and Be a Gentleman
  2. Pure Glory: Pursue God’s Destiny for You and Let God Deal with Your Heart
  3. Matthew Winters (the Comeback Pastor): Delayed Disobedience and You’re Blaming Who?
  4. Peace Hacks (Mark Landry): Why Blaming Everyone Else for Your Crappy Life Is Killing You and Unforgiveness
  5. Pancho and the Mule: The One Where Seattle Is for Writers and Ryan’s Alaska Commons article A Quick Stroll in a Place Where Stalking Women Is the Norm
  6. Keith Haney (The Light Breaks Through): Fearfully Made, It Takes Two to Reconcile, and Two Ways to Overcome the Jonah Complex
  7. Storyshucker: Free Show and Watch for It
  8. Phoebe (PuppyDoc): Metamorphosis and the rest of her poetry. [Mind you, I don’t like poetry. In fact, poetry was my lowest grade (B-) in college. Phoebe’s is that good.]

Questions for My Nominees

  1. For those who post regularly: Do you set aside a certain day or time to write? For those who’ve disappeared from WordPress: What happened?
  2. Many of you have hundreds or even thousands of followers. How did you attract them? (Using social media? Adhering to marketing gurus’ advice re: the best day and time to post? Writing posts in which you invited bloggers to advertise their own blog?)
  3. It’s already August. What goal would you like to accomplish by the end of the year and what steps have you taken to achieve it?

Thank you for your time, your posts, and your answers, and here’s another big thank you to Alphonso for nominating me.