Once upon a time, I was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t very nice. He was nice at first, but the relationship slowly deteriorated until it wasn’t at all pleasant. Now I’m going to tell you why. One reason was that he liked to play games. But not fun ones like Monopoly or Parcheesi. He liked to play things like the Dr. Pepper game. It went like this:
He liked Dr. Pepper. He wanted some in the house at all times. I’d buy a six-pack of cans (this was before they came out with the 12-packs) and bring it home. When he saw them, he’d say no, I should get the bottles because they had a screw-on top and wouldn’t go flat as fast. Next time I’d buy a six-pack of bottles. When he saw them, he’d say no, he wanted the 2-liter bottles so they would last him all day. Next time, I’d buy 2-liter bottles. When he saw them, he’d say no, I should buy the cans so we can recycle them.
He gave me instructions, I’d follow them, and then he’d change the rules so no matter what I did, I’d always come out wrong. Every time I played, I lost.
Another game was the Wolf Brand chili game. He liked Wolf Brand chili as much as he liked Dr. Pepper. Back then, if memory serves, Wolf Brand came in 11.5 ounce cans and 13 ounce cans. He liked the 11.5 ounce can, with no beans. He’d open a can, scoop the chili into a bowl, nuke it, and eat the whole thing. At the same time, he had no bank account. He’d turn his paycheck over to me and let me pay bills, buy groceries, etc. He never understood why we didn’t have enough money to buy a house or buy him a new computer or buy whatever he fancied. It was always my fault, of course. He never handled the money.
I tried my best to save whatever money I could. One day, the 13 ounce cans were on sale for 99¢. The 11.5 ounce cans were something like $1.25. I saw a chance to save money, so I bought the larger but cheaper cans. When he saw them, he hit the roof. He wanted the 11.5 ounce can. It was the perfect size. 13 ounces was too much. Never mind that it cost less. I must buy the 11.5 ounce can.
I never figured out the rules of that game, but again they seemed focused on me failing, no matter which door I opened.
Another game he liked was the pick-on-Libby-for-her-size game. Initially, when we dated, my size 14/16 A-cup body didn’t present a problem. Or at least he never said that it did. Later on, though, things changed. “I’ll get you a gym membership. You can work out. Get buffed up. Lose weight. And then I’ll get you breast implants.” Yet when I put on a swimsuit to go to the pool (another way to save money, who needs a gym when you’ve got a pool?), he called me a whale. I’d get out one of my workout videos, and he’d sneer. “You won’t stick to it. You’ll never lose weight.” What was I supposed to do? Lose weight when I couldn’t lose weight? Work out only at a gym? Working out at home didn’t count? I couldn’t figure that one out, either.
A couple more examples, and then I’ll move on. I don’t enjoy reliving this crap. At least these don’t need explanation. There was the receipt for a $400 ruby bracelet he left in his jeans pocket. The Viagra he left in his jeans pocket. (Yes, he expected me to do his laundry.) The mysterious phone calls I would answer, no one was there, and as soon as I hung up, he’d grab the phone, run into the bedroom, and shut the door. The times he would simply leave the house and not come home for 2 or 3 days.
Ick. I need to go wash my hands now. It’s the modern equivalent of washing your mouth out with soap, I suppose.
Okay, to continue.
I figured somehow I deserved most of what he said. It was the truth. I was fat. I was flat-chested. I wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t seem to manage our money so we’d have thousands in my – oops, our – savings account. I didn’t go out and look at every single apartment complex and every single house that was for sale, so I never found the perfect place. I didn’t buy the exact right size of chili. I never could balance everything and get it all together so our life together was happy and right.
And then it ended.
One night, he was yelling at me once again – uh, no. Not yelling. To be truthful, he rarely yelled. He smirked. He looked down at me and lectured me for hours with that god-awful smirk on his face. He was older, he knew more, he knew better. He knew how to succeed. If I would only do what he said, everything would be great. But I did what he said, and still I failed. Helpless and lost, I was in tears.
And then my 5-year-old daughter stepped between us.
Before that night, he had reserved his criticisms till after she’d gone to bed. But that night, for some reason, he didn’t wait. I was sitting on the sofa, in a chair, I’m not sure. He stood over me, smirking as usual. My daughter suddenly stepped in between us, pointed her little finger up at him, and ordered him to stop. “Don’t you make my mama cry!”
That was the night I knew I had to leave. Maybe I deserved all he said, maybe even more, but my daughter did not. She’d never made any mistakes, she’d never hurt anyone. She deserved everything, every chance, every opportunity that the world could give her. I would not see her belittled and shamed by any man.
Her life was going to be different. If I did one single thing to give her a good future, I had to leave him. I had to show her that you did NOT allow men to treat you that way. You did not allow anyone to treat you that way.
He protested. “No one will hire you. You can’t do anything. You’re stupid. You’re incompetent.” But I proved him wrong. I found a job. I moved out. And I raised my daughter to believe she was as good as anyone else.
I thought that was enough.
Fast forward a dozen years.
My daughter is in college now. She loves computer graphics. 3D animation. Video games. Movies. She’s a talented artist who has designed all sorts of stuff for Second Life. She aces her graphics classes, even helping teach the other students who don’t know as much as she does.
But this is 2014. Women in the video game industry are having a terrible time. If you’re not sure what’s going on now, look up Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and GamerGate. It’s horrible. My daughter wants to work in an industry where women are treated even worse than my ex treated me.
I left him to show her that women deserved better than that. And where does she end up?
Right where I didn’t want her to be.
My little 5-year-old daughter may be a grown-up 19 now, but I still envision her having to point her little finger up at a man and say, “Stop that!” But how much good does it do? There are still men who think they can order her around, tell her what to do, and make fun of her when she doesn’t follow their exact orders. Men who still believe they are superior to women and that it’s perfectly alright for them to treat women like slaves.
It embarrassed me when she stood up for me. This time, I want to be the one to stand up for her. I want to step between my daughter and a world that doesn’t want to allow her to do what she loves. I want to stick my finger in their faces and say, “Stop that! Don’t you make my little girl cry!”
I ended my fight with my ex. He no longer has any control over me. I wonder how long will it take to show other men they don’t have the right to control me or my daughter or any other woman. I don’t know, but until they understand it, my finger will be right there. Right there in their faces, in your face, in everyone’s face, pointing out over and over again how wrong this whole situation is.
Get used to it, because I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot of my finger.