I had been living with him for about a year and wearing his ring for about two weeks. Similar to my first engagement, I knew he wasn’t “The One” either. Tom had two ex-wives; I wasn’t contending to be number three. Placing as “ex-fiancé” was perfectly okay with me.
I think he was on to me, which is why he pressured me. I would find catalogues from jewelry stores lying around the house, the engagement ring section marked with a post-it, and random rings circled in red marker. His enthusiasm wasn’t contagious, but it didn’t matter. I was infected with yet another princess-cut, platinum engagement ring. I hated it. But, I hated hurting people’s feelings even more.
I played along with this charade for some time. I had become a master at changing the subject from weddings to hemorrhoids, and an expert at diverting the attention away from the rock that plagued my left hand. It was painful and uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how to get myself out of this mess. So I stayed away.
As Tom became more controlling and aggressive, I became less visible. I hung out with my work friends and eventually realized I was falling for one. I knew now that I had to end it with Tom; it was just a matter of finding the courage. After a Friday happy hour with the work crew, my new crush offered to drive me home. I accepted.
Tom was waiting for me at the front door, all decked out in a suit. He slurred, “Well, you said you’ve never seen me in one before.” Clearly Tom had been in the company of Jack Daniels all night. Not wanting to make an awkward situation any more uncomfortable, I told him he looked nice tried to get ready for bed. He soon interrupted me with an interrogation.
While I was out, Tom found some graduate school applications I had filled out and put in the mailbox—without telling him. He was furious. Why hadn’t I told him? Who did I think I was? Was I really planning on moving away? My apology was met with a blow to the nose.
The punch hurled me onto the bed, with Tom hovering above me. Stunned, I jumped up and ducked underneath his arm, like I was doing the limbo. I quickly grabbed my cell phone before shielding myself behind the locked bathroom door. As I was frantically calling my brother, Mike for help, Tom was punching a hole in the door. I felt like I was in a bad episode of Cops.
Mike rescued me and took me to our parents, where I stayed for the following three months. My mom helped me move all of my stuff out of Tom’s house. The only thing I left was his ring, which he eventually gave back, I’m sure out of guilt. It looked and felt like a giant Smurf was sitting between my eyes. I told people that I had been wrestling with my nephew and got knocked into the corner of a coffee table. I was showing symptoms of the classic battered woman. Repulsive, I know. But, not surprising.
I grew up in the vicious cycle of domestic violence. It was never more obvious when my mom and I were discussing whether or not to press charges against Tom. “What would be the point? I feel kinda sorry for him … he’s been through a lot lately.” I listened as my mom defended the man who had just socked her daughter. She convinced me. I didn’t press charges.
Even though I listened to my mom and didn’t defend myself, a part of me wished my dad would have. I wanted so badly to play the role of daddy’s little girl—just this once. But, no such luck. Dad was pretty much silent and apathetic during the whole episode, which made me feel as though I had been punched two more times.
It wasn’t until years later that I found out the truth. Mike and I were enjoying a few cocktails when he let it slip. “Dad did stick up for you when all that went down … he scared the shit out of Tom.” I was stunned. How could I not know this after all these years? I demanded details. Mike told me that the day after it happened, Dad ordered Mike in the truck. They went to Tom’s where Dad barged into the house, grabbed Tom by the front of the shirt and threw him up against the wall; Tom’s feet dangling. “Don’t you ever touch my daughter again you piece of shit, you hear me!” Dad hollered in Tom’s face. Tom was reduced to a whimpering coward, apologizing profusely.
“It was so awesome. Dad was quite the stud,” Mike boasted. Mike went on to tell me that Dad asked him to keep it a secret. Maybe he thought I would get angry or maybe he was just being humble. It doesn’t matter—I finally got my long awaited daddy’s little girl moment. I waited twenty-eight years to experience the feeling and realize I may never experience it again. But who knows, maybe I have a slew of assaulted ex-boyfriends out there … I’ll just ask Mike.