Recalling events from August 2006 through March 2007:
If only I had woken up earlier that morning in the desperate throes of projectile diarrhea then everything would have ended up much cleaner. But I stayed in bed sleeping comfortably while Wife got up and began her day ahead of mine, and thus was my fate of six months of court-ordered anger management classes sealed.
I have no idea exactly what she went through in my absence that morning. I never asked and never shall. I'm sure it wouldn't make things clearer. But the facts reveal the following: she DID get the newspaper from the driveway; she DID open it up to at least the entertainment section; she DID take a pair of scissors and cut out a rectangle from the upper-left corner of page D-16; and she DID close the paper nicely and leave it on the table where I would be likely to take my turn perusing the bits within.
I soon stumbled along to find my way to the kitchen. In retrospect, it was odd that Wife made herself scarce upon my arrival. It was more common that we hung out together in the morning playing three games of Yahtzee (therefore always having a clear victor in our ongoing board-game wars). "Fair enough," I thought. It would allow me to read the paper at a casual pace--something not really possible if we both sat at the breakfast table together. Indeed, that act had been the source of marital angst earlier in our two years of marital cohabitation. I didn't think it rude to have the paper open during breakfast and use it as a catalyst for conversation and at first she tried to accommodate. But the level of tension it seemed to put on her was palpable, as if she were being ripped apart by vicious inner-dialogues making her willing to attack anyone within, say, the distance of a breakfast table. I soon stopped the practice and would save the paper for later in the day.
But not that morning. No, I sat down with my usual victuals of spoon-sized shredded wheat and placed the paper in front of me. Like many people do, I first glanced across the top-of-the-fold headlines but found nothing of great importance and so moved on. It wasn't until getting to page D-15 in the entertainment section that I found something interesting--a 3x5-inch piece of nothing where something more black and white should have been. I immediately assumed Wife must have found an article so intriguing that she clipped it out for future reference, but it didn't match up to the story boxes on the current page so I flipped it over to see what might have been removed.
A bold-print headline stated "Unfortunately, Sex Sells and Talent Sinks." The article bemoaned the current state of celebrity status in the world of R & B/hip-hop but the accompanying photo was missing. "Hon!" I called out, "What's the deal with the paper?" Coming in from the other room Wife planted herself near me in a standing position and pronounced what was clearly a rehearsed and anticipated statement: "There was a trashy picture there of Janet Jackson that I don't want you seeing so I got rid of it." That's when things got mighty interesting.
|Only five and a half years later did I finally see this "trashy" photo.|
This kind of controlling censorship had been a bizarre problem in our relationship and unlike anything I had ever encountered. The only hint of this issue to appear during our dating courtship was when we were watching an episode of "Friends." It was the one where someone made a pithy comment with sexual overtones while sitting at the coffee shop. Remember that one? I chuckled and she scowled. When I pressed her, she said, "I'm uncomfortable viewing adult content" which I found surprising considering two things: Wife was a sexual dynamo and "Friends" was some pretty mild stuff by my standards. Only after our wedding did I postulate what she really meant was, "I'M fine seeing adult content but I'm horribly uncomfortable when YOU see adult content." In the early months of our marriage, I was inundated with accusative questions like: "Why do you always have to look at the magazine covers in the supermarket lines?" "Why do you always take the path through the Walmart that goes through the ladies underwear?" "Why are most your CDs of women?" "Why did you tip the female waitress so much?" "Will you promise me you'll never think of ex-girlfriends again?" "Will you please always look away from the TV anytime nudity is shown?" "Will you promise me not to look at the Victoria's Secret storefront even when I'm not with you?"
Sometimes I agreed with little discussion. Sometimes I fought vehemently for the principal involved--specifically, why should I pay a price for some form of perceived deviant misbehavior I had not committed? Eventually, I simply refused to even acknowledge such baggage-loaded questions. I determined that she was the victim of a lifetime of indoctrination that had no relationship to my real-world actions and I would no longer be her enabler. If she accepted responsibility for her own feelings and sought help, I would be right there for her. But if she insisted that her happiness could only be acheived through me embracing censorship in order to mollify her--not a chance. She had launched so many baseless accusations at me that her credibility was ruined. Even if she might have actually had a point concerning a particular instance, I immediately put it all into the same category of "no frickin' way." That didn't help us by the time we got to our breakfast with the absent Ms. Jackson.
"Are you completely insane?" I asked with a raised and serious voice. She promptly responded with, "I won't allow that kind of pornography in our home." Knowing that a family-friendly newspaper is not going to publish a photo more than PG-rated, I came back with, "Right. I'm sure Janet's got her tits and ass just stickin' in the camera!" That triggered some sort of escalation of tensions for Wife. Apparently me referring in any way to another woman's sexuality was difficult for her. She started to tremble as the anxiety wormed through her body.
"Where are you going?" she nervously implored as I grabbed my wallet and keys. With intense calm right on the verge of eruption, I said, "I'm going to go buy a newspaper that hasn't been sanitized by you for my protection." She moved quickly ahead of me and blocked my access to the doorway. That kind of maneuver and been a major issue for us in previous arguments and we had often talked about it in post-trauma debriefings when we attempted to better understand each other. She so hated the idea of being abandoned that she would use her body as a desperate attempt to keep me from leaving mid-argument. I, on the other hand, considered blocking a doorway a major act of aggression that bordered on imprisonment. I had previously let her know, "I am a grown up and you don't get to force me to stay in a room to engage in an argument. If you block a door, I WILL MOVE YOU."
Using my chest, I pushed my way out the front door. She cried after me down the walkway, "Please, don't buy that paper. You can't do that to me." She raced by me to again use her body as a barrier to my opening the car door. With increased aggression, I once more moved her aside and quickly slid behind the steering wheel. She dove in after to keep me from inserting a key into the ignition and I stopped trying for a moment to consider my options. She stood within the open door and even if I could get the engine started, I would not have been able to back out the driveway without the car rolling her down. I knew how stubborn we could be. There would be no compromise. I would under no terms argue about whether or not I had the right to an uncensored newspaper, and she would under no terms allow me to leave in the middle of a fight. I decided to logically explain what I was going to do next as a final plea and warning. With a steady, clear voice, I said, "If you don't move and allow me to leave, I am going to have no choice but put my foot on your stomach and push you back out of the way." She looked me dead in the eye and made another stabbing reach for my keys so I carried out my threat.
Just as described, I set the bottom of my shoe against her gut and gave a push. Even in the midst of this horrible action I remembered how much I loved her and pulled back on how much force I used. I wimped out and only succeeded in causing her to lose her balance and fall down rather than sending her flying back several feet as I might have. She attempted to steady herself by grabbing the car door but caught her thumb on an edge and ended up tearing a cutical, resulting in a few drops of blood. Having not succeeded in completely dislodging her, I realized I would not be able to leave and gave up. The rest of the day was spent in cold silence. That was the only way I could process those kinds of moments. My marriage had become such an absurd situation that if I wasn't allowed to physically leave, I just mentally left the premises. I would lay on the bed and simply go away in my head. I would travel the world to beautiful, peaceful environs surrounded by butterflies that danced through rainbows to the sounds of exotic Latin-piano rhythms. Wife left for a couple hours and upon her return, no explanation was asked or offered.
As the evening progressed, I hesitantly turned on the TV to fill the living room with distraction. This was usually not tolerated in the aftermath of an argument with Wife's logic being that until I apologized, I was not allowed any activity that resembled fun. But much to my surprise, she let me be, just as she had the entire afternoon. I wondered if her willingness to allow me space was an unspoken admission that her morning actions had indeed been unwarranted. For a moment, I nearly forgot just what a fireball I married.
There was a firm knock on door that startled me up from the sofa. An unexpected visitor after 10 p.m. was entirely unusual so I approached the door with slight apprehension. I saw Wife down the hall with a look that displayed no surprise at all. Looking through the front-door glass I could make out badges and uniforms on a duo of Sheriff officers. I assumed something must have happened at one of the neighbors and they were coming around to ask if we'd seen anything. One of them asked for me by name. "That's me," I replied, still believing I was about to serve as a helpful citizen. "Sir, we have a warrant for your arrest for Felony Domestic Violence. You're going to have to come with us."
Wife had moved closer to see for herself the look on my face at the moment of my realization that she had been playing me all day long. I had disagreed with her and that simply wasn't allowed. I had inadvertently given her weapons to wield against me, and she couldn't stop herself. Soon, I was in the back of the cruiser and on my way to the county jail for a sleepless night of processing, oral-sex offers, courtroom judgements, and bail bondsmen, all resulting in the most absurb six months of my life learning the absolute falacy of anger management in America.
Well played Wife. Well played.