It was the luck of the draw, a one in a million chance meeting that brought us together, ironically by the hand of the guy I was currently dating, the last toad in the long succession of bully frogs. Well aware that as couple we were going nowhere, I’d been tolerating him for months as an escort to social functions while I waited for Mr. Right to happen my way. Despite my lack of luck in the romance department, I still held on to the hope that there was someone out there who would treat me with decency and respect.
The guy I was dating began as love at first site and seemed to have a lot of promise, but as the petals of our rose quickly wilted and dropped, so did his civility towards me. It was all about power struggles and games with him, a tiring relationship with a dead end future. I had been married to someone abusive and after the divorce I dated a few Mr. Wrongs, but this guy was really hurtful in his attitude toward me, personal stuff I don't need to divulge but degrading in his comments and just as a small example, continually told me I was fat when my body was leaner than a steel fence post. I knew I would never live under the same roof with him. He was a belittling person, one who constantly put himself first, as he stomped others into the ground with his judgements and criticisms. He was by far the most arrogant and condescending person I have ever met, and not just to me but everyone around him. There was never any loyalty for friends or family as everyone was on his chopping block.
From the moment we met he called me Chrissy, a variation of my name that I never liked. He asked what I preferred to be called, Christine, Chris or Chrissy and when I said the latter annoyed me, Chrissy it was. From day one he wanted to burrow under my skin as any irritant would and create a rash or festering sore. In the beginning, I cared for him so it was more like teasing, but in a few months the veneer of tolerance was gone and he just infuriated me. But in the meantime we had a group of friends that I liked and wanted to stay in contact with and I knew that would stop as soon as we split.
The first time he took me home to meet his mother she'd prepared a lovely lunch of curried haddock and salad. The food was lovely and served on china with sterling flatware and linen napkins. This was the life I longed for, a bit of civility and class. I was, and still am, an old soul with a fetish for bone china, formal tables settings and polishing the family silver. I was young and figured I could learn a lot from his mom who was very comfortable with the finer things in life. So we are sitting at a lovely table, lunch is delicious and the conversation is flowing in this get-to-know me gathering.
I finished the delightful lunch leaving one lone slice of tomato on the plate, placed my utensils in the proper finished position and dabbed the corners of my mouth with my napkin while thanking my host for the meal. She looked at my plate and then at me and said, "There's just that little piece of tomato left, surely you can eat it." It was a statement not a question.
Now I just came from a long marriage with a mother-in-law from hell. She took great pleasure in using me as a kicking can and her cruelty had fewer boundaries than her abusive son. The apple didn't fall from that tree and truthfully her son had a great teacher. Something inside of me clicked, like a switch going off. If this relationship kept heading into the future, I didn't want our relationship to start with her telling me what to do, especially when I ws trying to gain my self esteem back from the hard knocks of my past. I knew from experience, once that Pandora is out of the box, you can't stuff it back in.
So I said very politely, that I was full and was saving myself for dessert. She smiled and reached across the table and pushed my plate closer and said once again, "Well it's only one little slice, surely you can fit that in?" There was something in her tone that unsettled me and they way she was staring at me from under her furrowed brow. Truthfully I didn't like tomatoes and only ate the one slice out of respect for my host. I've always found tomatoes too acidic and they make the roof of my mouth feel raw. So I said.
"Well, tomatoes aren't my favorite thing, I would rather save myself for dessert."
And once again she reached over and pushed my plate even closer, now it was hanging a bit over the edge of the table, one more good push and it would be in my lap.
"Come on, you can eat it. It's only one little slice." The sound of her voice was almost frantic now, the sweetness had abandoned ship. I said nothing so she reached over yet again and gave the plate one teensy little push, not enough to topple it but now it was hanging on by a hair.
"Oh, come on, eat the tomato!"
Now things were awkward. All eyes were on me and I was trying to figure out what to say or do next when her son, my date, jumped up and screamed at his mother "JC mother...why don't you just cram it down her GD throat?!!" (I've abbreviated the swear words as not to offend.)
Well, his mom started to cry, the father started hollering at his son and I wanted to crawl under the table and take that piece of tomato with me. I wondered what in blazes just happened? I would find out sooner than later that there was a lot of arguing in that house, mother and son pushing each other's buttons. They were a family of scrappers and the mom and her sisters had a history of drag em out fights. My date grabbed my arm and dragged me out of there as I blurted out a few apologies. The whole lunch was in ruins. How I wished I'd eaten the bloody tomato or hidden it in my purse or something. Although in retrospect, I think it was all for the best, letting me know the score in the early days.
So we are out in the car and I'm looking at him with different eyes knowing that once again I'd made a mistake in judgement. So I say to him, "That was uncalled for, I hope you don't think you can treat me that way?" To which he replied...."I have more respect for you Chrissy...." I knew right then I was in trouble and put the breaks on my feelings. My mother's wise words always warned that you can tell how a man will treat you by the way he treats his mother. Somehow I was attracting the wrong kind of fella, there must have been a big D for doormat plastered on my forehead.
I remember the evening that changed my life and broke old patterns well. We were at the Blockhouse Fire hall, May 28th, 1988, for a fund raising dance to promote the Mahone Bay Tennis Club. The band was fantastic, playing fifties tunes that filled the crowd with nostalgia. As in any typical date, there I sat, while our friends were out on the floor cutting a rug. I was dying to dance but Mr. Controversy saw fit to be antagonistic, not give the lady what she wants which pretty much summed up our entire relationship. While he was content to annoy me and sip his scotch, I’m tapping away with feet and fingers to the music, bopping my little heart out and dying to get out on the floor. I asked him three times to dance before spite crawled to the surface and I did a mental calculation of how long it would take to hoof the two kilometers home.
“Why did we come here if you had no intention to dance?” I asked.
“Look, Chrissy”, oh how he loved to drag out the syllables to purposely irk me, then continued in his pompous way…”If you want to dance so much, why don’t you ask someone.” He was gleefully pushing my buttons, he almost squirmed from the pleasure of it all. The thought of me out there cruising for a dance partner delighted him. Probably because he thought I would fail. Being a newly divorced woman, still young and rather fit, I could have stirred the pot as women guarded their men from the clutches of a wanton divorcee.
“I don’t know anyone here without a partner,” I retorted haughtily, “But if there was a single, available man I’d ask him to dance in an instant.” And I snapped my fingers with sass, to show how fast I would act.
I guess he took that as a personal challenge because he brazenly stood and pointed his finger into the crowd, moving it around while combing the hall for prospective dance partners. He swung a few degrees to the left and his pointer landed on a man that I’d never seen before.
“Look, Chrissy, there’s Gregg Little” he enunciated the words in a hissing sort of way and continued, “He’s new in town, and single, why don’t you go over there and ask him to dance?” Then he laughed like a hyena and looked at me so smugly I fought the urge to slap him.
“I don’t know him, but if you introduce me, I’ll ask him!” Of course we were hollering, the music was very loud but he heard me and collected my hand, patting it as we parted the throng of gyrating dancers on our way across the hall.
Gregg sat alone, nursing a rum and coke while watching the crowd on the floor. He jumped up as we approached and seemed genuinely happy to meet me. After brief introductions, where I was referred to as Chrissy, I stuck my hand out for a shake and said firmly that my name was Christine and then promptly asked if he would like to dance. So we danced....then danced again, pretty much danced every number, chatting in between sets and then back up on the floor as soon as the music fired up again. This guy clearly knew how to speak to a woman, was mannered to the hilt, interesting and cute.
I was kicking up my heels and having one heck of a time when the boyfriend, who I had forgotten about and who apparently realized his arrogance had backfired, cut in with the line, “Hey, Chrissy, they’re playing our song!” I didn’t miss a beat as I shouted back, “Since when did WE
ever have a song?”
After that he sat in a corner and sulked, like the immature baby that he was, while I continued to enjoy the music and the new guy. Gregg was turning out to be very nice and if the truth be known, I would have allowed him to escort me home if he’d asked, maybe I secretly hoped he would, but I knew I had to breakup with the old before I started anything new. If Gregg wondered about my relationship with my so called date, he never asked, and if he had I would have told him right then and there that the guy barely qualified as a friend. No one treats a friend the way he treated me so it wasn’t far from the truth.
It was anything but a quiet ride home. The two kilometers was used to tell him exactly what I thought of him. My sights were now on someone a little further up the evolutionary scale, a real man, with manners, who believed that decency was always the right choice. I ended up marrying Gregg, and have never looked back. He shows me respect, equality and love, all any person can ask for. He never has a harsh word for me no matter how frustrating I might get. Mother always said that you kiss a few toads before you find your prince, and I happily crawled out of the swamp that warm spring evening at the Mahone Bay Tennis club dance and never looked back!