“You fat-ass fucking cunt.”
He said it with a sneer and a glimmer in his eye. It was his favorite insult. He called me fat because he knew it was my biggest insecurity. He enunciated “cunt” after my confession of how much I hated the word. He delighted in this small victory as he watched it reduce me to nothing, as it always did. His brown eyes laughed behind long black eyelashes. His lips curled and his copper skin seemed electric. This was no new blow to my tower of self-worth. He had made sure I knew my value two years before when he professed his love for me, and after a few blissful days, called me to take it back. He had simply changed his mind and made it quick, this phone call on a normal work day.
This man from a family that revered men. The grandfather who cheated on his dying wife, the father that slept with his students, and the brother he would never live up to. When his sister had killed herself, I forgave him everything. I excused all the torment and all the pain, and I did so for years after.
This man could only be this man because of his hardship and his upbringing. I hate myself now for excusing it.
The argument was assuredly my fault. We had both been drinking and I had the nerve to talk about our relationship. He saw it as a manipulation and the conversation quickly escalated into a full blown fight. These weren’t the polite screaming matches you hate to see, these were ugly, personal,and cruel. He hurled out insults that were demeaning, malicious, and brutal. At first this would only happen in the dark, over empty bottles and veering discussions, but later, they frequented the daylight.
Snide remarks and sarcastic comments hurled themselves at me. I would only blink them away and pretend not to understand. It was as if my acknowledgement would give them meaning and make them real. This would be my downfall. Once the defense mechanism of false reaction took over, he truly thought I was stupid, and loved to tell me so. It wasn’t long until I believed him. I believed every word after so many years of hearing them. I emerged as a new girl. Stupid, fat, me. I think I wanted him to hit me that night. A nice fat purple black eye to show my mom, my family, my friends and his. This charlatan, this Cheshire cat who my family loved and my friend adored.
He was their hero. Older than my friends, he was funny, clever and gorgeous. His deep Texas accent made the girls swoon and he was ready to stand between their knees to steady them. He was smart enough not to fuck my girlfriends, knowing his disguise would falter, and my word withered with his buoyant personality. No one understood that he was a monster. He was my Monster.
The fight ended as it usually did. Me crying and begging him to sleep with me. Sex was always the answer to our fights, and I thought stupidly that if he would only make love to me, all would be forgotten. In the beginning this was true, but later he decided that it made me a whore. My desperation for the only affection he would show me was something a dog would do. I let him think that and say it in our bed. I let him take my insides with him as he came.
I would cry. I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry silently if he was there. If alone, I would scream at the ceiling, letting the air fill my lungs and then pushing the pain out with force, until my throat ached and my chest burned. This was my private degradation. This was the time I would let all of it wash over me. This was the time I let down my well-practiced character of the girl with the great, good looking, and funny guy. I was humiliated. I was mortified.
I trained myself not to be happy. Even at the times where most girls would celebrate, I did not. He asked me to move in with him and I accepted. I held any pleasure at bay waiting for him to take it back. Later I learned he told people he lived alone so he could fuck his co-workers. I had to hide in our apartment, never knowing why there were no introductions.
I learned. He asked me to marry him and I declined. It wasn’t a serious offer, and I think he was relieved. He had been caught in an indiscretion and was desperate to reconcile. My imprisonment was his personal irony.
He wrote me songs. He played them for me when things were hard for him, or when he needed me to forgive him. He played them for other girls to hurt them when they realized they were about me. “Her red hair and her blue eyes” echoed in their ears and made me happy when he told me how he had thought of me when he was inside them. I would lie on my back and let him take me,laughing in meanness at the stupid girls who thought they had him. By now I was no frail flower, I was what he molded me to become.
I upped the ante, offering him threesomes and gifts too expensive for my wallet. I stole the money if I had to, but I did it for him. I will never claim to be innocent. My Monster trained me well. I was manipulative and desperate at the end. I did whatever I felt was necessary.
He taught me to humiliate myself and not care. I began to commit audacious acts to get his attention. I would pick fights and push them. I would pretend to sleep with other men. Anything to make him see me. Anything to give form to my own existence. Anything to get him to love me.
He reminded me that I wasn’t perfect. I had lied to him more than once. I had started our five year relationship on a mistruth telling him I was older than I was. I had followed him home, never really getting permission to go. I was his dusty angel, tarnished in my own frantic love. He was excused with my imperfections. He was justified in my misdeeds.
He snored and hogged the blankets. When I pulled off the comforter in annoyance, he awoke and punched me. He punched me all over my body several times. I was shocked. At the same time, I was elated. Finally! My Monster would be revealed. This would certainly be the one act that displayed his true self to everyone.
I learned how wrong I could be. With bruised evidence on their plates, I was shoved away in disbelief. No one longer cared about me, or about us. He had deluded them into believing I was psychotic; a sycophantic clinger to his person dwelling atop Olympus. I was the butt of their jokes and the pity in their downward glances. When the end had inevitably come, it was I that planned the escape.
Finally, I was his confessor. On that last night, he begged me to hear him. He told me everything. He told me about all the other girls, about the secrecy, about my nonexistence in his real world. He told me about the mutual friend he had screwed on our couch while I slept in our once shared bed. He begged me for forgiveness. He did not beg me to stay.
My Monster no longer resides inside me and I have no knowledge of him now. I had the luxury of two states between us when I severed my ties to him. It was not clean, and it was not pretty. It’s difficult to give up the illusion of love when it’s the only love you know. Walls erected around my heart to protect me from the monsters in this world. Banners flew atop those structures screaming, “I will never be a victim again!”
Years have passed. I have married and truly experienced love. I allow myself to be happy without fear. A life has formed slowly as pride and self-worth tucked themselves back in to the pockets of my soul. I move forward every day as I learn to appreciate my bruised heart and try so hard to let those close to me know that I am capable of love. I just have so limited an experience with it; my husband being the only person I trust with such a fragile part of me. Through sheer luck I found a man that is tender, patient, and kind. He allowed me to learn that love is never conditional and that I am worthy of happiness. He gave me back my femininity, my inspiration, my laughter. He gave me back my hope… My hope… My hope.
I battle still, every so often, as a small glimmer in the back of my eyes, caught unaware, I see her in the mirror. Stupid, fat, me.
I battle on, and I will win.
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