Ha  ha ha HA HA ha  ha HA HA HA HA… OH my. Sorry, the word “control” makes me laugh. It’s not honest laughter, or belly laugh laughter, it’s rueful laughter.

Humans have evolved innumerable ways of attempting (and sometimes effecting) control.

Passive/Aggressive: Just don’t respond to or deal with what your partner has expressed. Or, better, agree. Agreeing is good. Some examples:

a) She calls you when she gets home from her job (as you asked her to). She’s a teacher, so she gets home earlyish. “Hi Honey. What time do you think you’ll be home for dinner?”

“Around 6.” (Fact is, you’re not COMING home for dinner, but if you tell her the truth, she’ll just want to know why, etc. etc.) Ultimately, of course, this kind of thing leads to the erosion of trust between the couple and divorce.

b) I’m reading the minutes of the faculty meeting for my department. “Whoa,” I think, “they’re getting rid of the classes I teach! They’re sending them to another college next year! That might be OK. Well soon, someone will talk to us about it.”

A year later, I’m reading the minutes of the faculty meeting (I was not expected to attend — or wanted — as I was a lecturer, not a tenured faculty member) and I see they have SENT the classes to another college as of the coming fall. Wow, any minute the boss will talk to us (me and the other teachers). Never happened. I contact the union. “We’ll look into it,” they said and never responded about having “looked into it” until it was all a fait accompli. Why? To keep control over what they wanted to do and the agenda that propelled them, it was best not to have any contact at all with the people who would be directly affected by the change, best not to tell them, give them options or protect them through the end of their contracts. This led to a lot of people being suddenly and unfairly out of work.

Scapegoating: This is one kind of control my mother practiced on me. “You look at me like that one more time and you’re not going anywhere.” I look at her in puzzlement. I don’t know what my face is doing. “All right, that’s it. You’ve wrecked this Saturday for everybody. No no one’s going anywhere.”

In reality, SHE didn’t want to go anywhere or maybe my dad wasn’t up to it. I don’t know what the reality was, only that wherever it is we were going, we weren’t and it was my fault that the entire day had been ruined. I think (maybe, if there’s anything rational to this) 1) I’m nearsighted and did not have my glasses on, 2) I probably squinted at my mother and it just hit her last nerve.

I have no idea now and I had no idea then. BUT this type of interaction led to some pretty awful fights once I was old enough to fight back, fights that involved saying things to her like, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “I hate you,” countered by “You’re not my daughter!”

Gaslighting: There’s control through gas-lighting which is the creation of a false reality and then practicing any of the other control techniques on the person unwittingly trapped there. The Evil X was a MASTER at that. Driving home from town. “When are we getting the satellite hooked up so I can watch the Chargers this fall?” (He asks, knowing full well that ISN’T going to happen)

“Who said we’re doing that?”

“You did. Several times. In fact, you promised.”

“No. We can’t afford it.” (He’s not contributing anything to the “common” good; the “we” is being kind. His way of NOT paying rent or anything else was simply NOT paying rent or anything else.)

“You fucking bitch. You lied to me.”

This ultimately led to, “I hate you, I wish you were dead, I don’t love you anymore, get the fuck out of my house.” Should have happened sooner…

Frontal Attack — Verbal or Physical Violence, Relentless Criticism:  Just one example — the Evil X once called me a “controlling bitch” simply because I asked him what he wanted for dinner.  I could write a lot under this topic, but I don’t want to, really. It’s enough to say that if you create an atmosphere in which your partner is afraid of you, you can control them.


I don’t know about people or where the need to control others comes from other than the sense of being out of control combined with being dependent on others for feelings of self-worth. I know some people feel the need for power over others as a way to feel good about themselves. One of the Good Xes said once, “The most dangerous person in the world is an insecure person.” He was right. A person who cannot stand up for him/herself, being self-reliant and able to face the day alone is dangerous.

I learned very early in my life that all we can possibly control is our response to factors that are external to us most of the time and the way we deal with daily life necessities. The cliches like “Make the best of it” or “Put a good face on it” are actually good advice. And…all this probably explains why I live alone. 🙂

Fear Tells Us Nothing

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Phobia, Shmobia.”

In 1977 a man I now suspect was “the great love of my life (glml)” sat across from me at my dinner table and said, “What are you afraid of? File the papers. The guy’s an asshole. Fear tells us nothing.”

He was talking about my husband whom I needed to divorce. I was afraid. I was afraid for a lot of reasons but probably on top of the list was the fact that my husband had abused me numerous times and I was afraid of him. Those times seemed to be over, if for no other reason than he didn’t live with me any more. He’d gotten a scholarship for grad school and had moved to Wyoming six months earlier while I went to grad school in Denver. He’d given me a choice, “Either you drop out of school and go with me, or I go without you.” Not much of a choice.

I was also afraid of the feelings I had for Peter, the “glml”. He was gay. Strangely, though, my love was requited and Peter wanted the “hubby” out of the way.

The next day I drove up to Boulder to see an old friend and lover, Allan. We spent the day and the night together. The next day he was leaving for Berkeley where he’d gotten a grant for a doctoral program. He had an MA in philosophy from the University of Colorado. I got a letter from him soon after and that was the last I heard of him. He was a remarkable man and we both viewed my sudden appearance at his house in Boulder that last day of his Colorado life as a rite of passage for both of us.

That Monday I filed the papers and took them to “the hubby” who didn’t resist. Anyone could tell that when two people didn’t get along and no longer lived together, their marriage was probably over.

Peter, the glml, was wrong, though. Fear is very informative. If you hear a rattlesnake buzz, you will feel afraid. I should have felt afraid of the “hubby” but I never did.

After the divorce, involved in a relationship with the glml, I started reading Hemingway. Courage is a big topic with him and after several books and reading his collected letters, I saw what courage is (according to Hemingway). It is not the absence of fear; courage is unnecessary if one is not afraid. Courage — in Hemingway’s language — is grace under pressure. It’s moving away from the snake without killing it. If I’d been afraid of the “hubby,” I wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as I did.

Not long ago, I thought of Allan and “googled” him. What I learned astonished me. He got his doctorate in social work, not philosophy. He spent his life helping and setting up social justice organizations that rescued, cared for and rehabilitated battered women. I don’t know if a long, long ago night – 1974 – when I drove to his house bruised, crying and terrified had anything to do with what he chose to give his life to, but if it did, then all that pain, fear and humiliation I experienced with the “hubby” was worth it.

Doughnuts at the Cop Shoppe and THEN? Megan’s Further Adventures

Megan spent the night on a bench in the police station. The sun was just up when she was awakened by a female police officer saying, “You want some coffee, honey?” Megan shook sleep from her mind and nodded.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said the police officer. “The rain is gone. It’s a little chilly, one of those crisp bright mornings that makes you glad to be alive. You want sugar in that?”

“Yeah, please.”

“Officer Lamont will be back soon with doughnuts. See? We really do eat donuts.” The officer grinned. “I’m supposed to take you down to family court as soon as they open. That’ll be in about 20 minutes. You want to wash up after you have your coffee?”

Megan nodded.

“I’ll lend you my gym bag. I have everything in there, soap, face cream.”

Megan began to cry.

“Oh honey. You don’t have anything to cry about now. You’re safe.”

“It isn’t that. You’re so nice to me. What did I do to deserve that?”

“What didn’t you do? You ain’t in jail. We didn’t pick you up for shop lifting or worse. You just got a bad boyfriend. That’s no crime. Go back to him? That’s a crime.”

“What do I do in family court?”

“You get yourself a restraining order. Ah, here’s officer Lamont. Did you get me a jelly doughnut ?”

“As always, Sweet Cheeks,” said Officer Lamont, opening the box. “Help yourself. So you’re our roommate,” he said to Megan. “Have a doughnut.”

Megan reached for one of the glazed doughnuts in front. “Take two,” said officer Lamont.

“No, no, this is fine.” The two officers went about their routines of starting their morning. Megan ate her doughnut and drank her coffee. “Here I am, spent the night in the police station and now? I’m going to clean up and go to court and get a restraining order. Wow. How did it ever come to this?”

“Here you go, Megan,” said the female police officer. “The Ladies is just down the hall.”

Megan took the officer’s little duffle bag. Once in the ladies’ room she was overcome by everything that had happened over the past few months. It had started out as a great love, or she thought. They seemed to share everything. Every idea, belief, desire in life, everything. She’d never felt so close to another person. And their sex! It seemed their souls melted together in those moments. “Stop it. If it had been that great, you wouldn’t be here now. This isn’t where relationships are supposed to end up. You JUST slept on a bench in a police station!”

“Are you ready? They’re open for business over there.”

Megan nodded.

“I have the report from last night. Here we go. Hi Sharon. This is Megan. We brought her in last night for her safety. She’s got a bad boyfriend and wants a restraining order. Here’s our report.”

“Hi Megan. Sorry to hear that.”

“I’m going back over,” said the police woman. “Don’t you worry, Megan honey, Sharon will see you’re set, and when you’re ready to go home, she’ll call us. One of us will take you home and make sure everything is OK.”

“OK, Megan. First I need to know. Has he ever hit you?”

Megan wondered about that. Why is physical violence the determiner for abuse? There are other ways to hurt people. “No. He’s never hit me.”

“Do you think he could?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you afraid of him?”

“Yes.” Megan began to cry.

“OK, then. A restraining order will not keep him away from you, but it does make it a crime for him to come within 20 feet or 50 feet or 100 feet of you — you decide that. You don’t work with him, do you?”


“So there’s no reason for any proximity, right? You’re not stuck in a situation where he has to be near you.”


“100 feet, then. What this means is if you see him near your house or anywhere you are known to be — work, school — you call the police immediately. If they catch him, and he’s within 100 feet, he’s arrested. But you must call. Otherwise, it’s just another piece of paper. Lots of women never call. I don’t know why — they’re too afraid of the guy or they don’t want him to get in trouble. Love is madness, I swear. Anyway, now that you’ve filled this out, I’ll got get the judge to sign it. Why don’t you look at these pictures until I get back?” Sharon handed Megan a notebook in which there were large glossy photos of women who’d been beaten to death by their husbands and boyfriends. There were even pictures of men who’d been hurt by their wives and girlfriends. After four or five pictures, Megan couldn’t look at any more.

That’s to scare me,” she thought to herself. “It worked.”

“OK. All done. Here’s your copy. Here’s a copy for the guys next door and one for our files. It’s a court order. The sheriff will serve it on this guy at the address you gave us. That doesn’t mean the guy will take it or the sheriff will find him. It doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the order. It’s just to inform — and warn — your EX-boyfriend that coming near you is a crime, OK? It doesn’t mean you won’t see him again. Remember. It’s up to you now to make the call if he comes around. Keep your phone on you — you have one, right?”

“Oh my god,” she said, “I left it in Rico’s car. That’s why I had to use the pay phone last night.”

“Use the phone on that desk over there and call your cell phone company and tell them you lost your phone. You don’t want anything going to it, OK? Then get a new one. You have a land line at home?”


“Trish? Could you set Megan here up with a cell phone?” The office assistant nodded and went to a locked cabinet and brought out a box of pay-as-you go phones. When Megan finished her call, Sharon brought a phone over to her. “This will take care of you until you get a replacement. Are you set? You know what to do?”

“I do.” Megan’s voice was shaky, but inside she felt like she might just make it.


Getting a Cuppa-Joe at the Cop Shop

“Stop! Stop! What are you doing? Have you lost it completely? This is a 25 mph zone and it’s RAINING hard! Can you even see anything?!”

He put is foot down even harder on the gas pedal. “Why do you do this to me? You make me do these things. If you want out, get out.” He reached around her, fumbling for the door handle. She was sure he’d push her out. She slammed down the lock and blocked the handle with her arm.

“What did I do?” she sobbed.

“Looking at that guy the way you did. I saw you. You think I didn’t see you.”

“You’re completely crazy. There’s a red light! Rico!!!!! OH MY GOD!” she closed her eyes, tight together. If they were doomed, they were doomed. Rico slammed his foot on the brake just in time to avoid colliding with a red pickup.

This is it,” she thought, and opened her door. Before he could reach across the seat to grab her arm she was out and running across the street to the fast-food noodle joint that had opened a week before where the taco shop had been. The light turned green. Horns honked at Rico. He had to go. Megan knew it was five blocks before Rico would have a chance to turn around. “Good,” she thought. “I’m going to do what I should’ve done a long time ago.” She went to the payphone in front of the noodle shop and called the police, gave them Rico’s license plate number and told them he was harassing her, threatening her with physical harm.

“Not much we can do, lady, unless we’re there when it happens. Do you have somewhere to go? Do you live with this guy?”

“No, no, I have a place of my own, but I’m afraid to go there.”

“Any friends you can stay with? A motel?”

She looked around. All there was in the area was La Petit Rouge and everyone knew what THAT was. “I don’t want to stay around here. He’ll be back. He’ll be back any minute and I’m scared.”

“Tell you what, I’m sending a squad car over to your location. They’ll take you somewhere. Will that work?”

“Oh thank you, thank you.”

“They should be there now.”

“I see them.”

“Stay safe. If you’re afraid of that guy, stay away from him. Don’t go back to him like most women do. Make tomorrow a new day, OK?”

“OK,” she had started to cry. Kindness at this moment was so sweet it hurt.

“Ma’am?” said the young, Hispanic policeman. “Are you all right?”

“I am. I’m OK.”

“Get in. He’ll be back, you said?”

“If I know him. Any minute.” She looked up and saw his black Honda coming slowly down the street. He was looking for her. “That’s him,” she said, pointing up the street, half a block away.

“All right. Hurry.”

She got in back of the squad car. The policeman drove a circuitous route ending up behind the Honda. He was checking to see if the driver had seen the girl. “He didn’t see you,” said the cop. “Good. C’mon. I’m taking you to the station. You can spend the night there. You’ll be safe, but it isn’t plush.”

“That’s OK. I don’t know where to go and I only have $3.00.”

“Tomorrow you go to family court — it’s in the same building — and you get a restraining order, OK? Then someone will drive you home.”

All the things she had known she should do but had not wanted to do she was on the verge of. “All he had to do was trust me,” she said, under her breath.

“Some guys can’t do that, miss.”

“I guess not.”

Megan spent the night on a bench in the police station. The sun was just up when she was awakened by a female police officer saying, “You want some coffee, honey?” Megan shook sleep from her mind and nodded.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said the police officer. “The rain is gone. It’s a little chilly, one of those crisp bright mornings that makes you glad to be alive. You want sugar in that?”

Un-Strip Poker

“How many?”
“No. Wow. I’ve seen six-toed cats but you’re saying your cat has seven toes on one foot and six on the other?”
“A regular Johnny Bench.”
“What about his back feet?”
“They’re normal. I don’t know if cats ever have that digital mutation on their back feet.”
“Imagine that guy climbing a tree if he did. 26 toes!”
“Yeah, actually, the little three-toe cluster is like a super-thumb. We’re here. Come on in. I’ll make you some tea and show you Johnny Bench.”

Terry and Julie entered the 1950’s tract house repurposed as two two-bedroom apartments. “We live up here,” Julie explained as they opened the front door. “A couple of hookers live in the basement apartment.”
“You know they’re hookers?”
“Judging from the sounds coming up the ducts all night every night, and the constant slamming of the back door. I’ve never seen them.”
“Yeah. It’s awful. Howler! Howler!” Julie called her cat, an innocuous looking but ferocious pocket-tabby who’d given birth to a litter of 8, one of them on Julie’s bed. The kitten bonded with Julie and followed her everywhere. From the kitchen came the banshee wail that had gotten Howler her name.

“She’s with the kittens. Come on.”
Almost weaned, the kittens mostly hung around their mother out of habit and a need for security — and sometimes milk.
“Here he is.”
“Amazing. I wish I could have a cat.”
“Who doesn’t?”
“So, now we’re here and we’re alone, what do you…” Terry reached for her.

Julie was nervous. She was wanted Terry, but…there were a couple of  problems smack in between them like concrete freeway dividers. Never one to allow objective reality to impinge on illusion or desire, Julie looked at her feet.

spock_leonard_nimoy_lifesize_cutout_buy_now_at_starstills__39592-1“You want to…?”
“Yeah, but I feel weird doing it in your matrimonial bed,” said Terry, a light edge of New York Irish dark irony sharpened the abrupt cadence of his Flushing accent. “I don’t see why you don’t leave that d***.”
“On the floor in my office?”
“With Mr. Spock looking on?”
“Yeah. We can turn him around.”

Julie had a six foot cardboard image of Mr. Spock standing guard in her home office, an “office” that was, in fact, usually her bedroom.

“All right.”

Holding hands, they walked through the living room and down the short hallway of the grotesquely anonymous tract home. “Hurry up and build those things bub, them GI’s are home and breeding like rabbits!’

Julie spread out the bedroll on which she usually slept. Her husband, well, he was, he was, well, Terry was right. Julie should leave him. She just couldn’t, somehow. She wished she knew why.

They undressed and lay down beside each other. They’d wanted this for a while, but ended up falling asleep in each others arms. No wonder. The hookers kept Julie up all night and Terry?

The winter sun ran its short course, and the light showed pink on the curtains when Julie woke from her nap. “Terry, Terry, wake up. It’s getting late.”

“We just SLEPT????”
“I guess we needed it.”

Julie stood and wrapped herself in the quilt her grandmother had made for her long, long ago and far, far away. Terry saw a pack of cards on the desk. Julie and her husband sometimes played cribbage.

“Can you play poker?”
“OK. Sit down. I’ll deal. Every time you lose or I lose, we have to put on a piece of clothing.”
“Yeah! UN-strip poker!”
“Exactly. But I get to tell YOU what piece of clothes to put on and you get to tell me, OK?

Neither Julie nor Terry was very good at the game and the hands they drew weren’t great, so before long they sat on the floor of the living room in socks. They were halted in mid-giggle by the sound of a key in the lock.

“Shit. It’s him.”
“Why didn’t you tell me he was coming home?”
“He’s early.”
“What should we do?” Terry stood about to make a dash for the office and his clothes.

“What’s going on?”
“We’re playing poker. John, this is Terry.”

Terry, well-trained, reached out to shake hands with Julie’s husband.

“Terry needs a ride home.”
“What the F*** are you doing?”
“We’re playing poker.”

Terry had gone into Julie’s office and pulled on his clothes.

“What HAVE you been doing?”
“Nothing. I need to take Terry home.”
“I’ll take Terry home,” said John.
“I don’t think so. Not without me.”
“I have my bike.”
“No, it’s OK, Terry. It’s my car too. We’ll put your bike on the rack.”
“My dad bought the car,” said John.
“No. Your dad made the down-payment. I made the payments.” Julie thought of all the days and nights working in the ski factory paying for the car and putting John through school. “Damn,” she thought. “It’s MY car!”

The three got into the VW Bug. John enraged, Julie and Terry both terrified. They dropped Terry and went to a Mexican restaurant and ate in silence. Julie knew John would not do anything until the event had festered inside for a while, fermenting and fulfilling itself in blind rage. John would not talk about it or think about why it had happened or the part he might have played in it. 

The next day, Terry called. “I don’t see why you think that guy is so bad. I thought he’d beat me up but he just gave me a ride home! Maybe you’re wrong about him.”
“I’m not wrong about him.”
“Well, it was incredibly embarrassing, sitting their naked in your living room when your husband came in. Are you OK? Did he do anything to you?”
“No. It hasn’t registered yet. But it will.”
“Why do you stay?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t fucking KNOW.” Julie started to cry.
“Are you coming to school?”
“I don’t know how. He took my bike to work with him.”