By Lucy Connor
This year has been an eye-opening one for me. In my personal life and each week in the media, I am reminded that I am one of the many women who reside in the community called “Damaged Goods”. It is hard to say how exactly this happened. I have some mysterious clues and some flashing neon signs that point me in the direction of discovery, but with blinders on I have not payed attention to clues or neon signs. I have tried to sit quietly and hope it would all go away. Here is the problem, the world is so crazy these days that everywhere I go…I am there. I am there on TV News, Facebook, Instagram, the radio and a host of other media outlets. In these places there are numerous nameless women with the same stories and…Me Too. As a result, I am trying to take off the well-situated blinders and glimpse into the story of my damaged goods.
I came into this world in July of 1959, the third daughter of two physicians. I was supposed to be a boy and was even given a man’s name. Surprise! The day of my birth was the first of many times that I was a huge disappointment to the man in my life….and on this day, it was my dad. I grew up in a home with an over-achieving mother, two gorgeous sisters and a dad who wanted a boy so bad, he adopted two after I was born. I was too tall with dark frizzy hair and was obsessed with all things arts. Weirdo.
My best friend on earth was my godfather who died when I was 12, leaving me heartbroken and wondering why this man I loved so much left me. At 12, I did not understand that he did not leave on purpose…I just knew he was gone. Around the same time, I had my first experience with a pervert. He happened to be my uncle and decided it was ok to grope and kiss me while humping my pre-teen body in our family kitchen. Fortunately, my mom was strong enough to banish him from our home forever. At 17, I lost my virginity to a man in his early 20’s I was dating. I told him “NO”…over and over and still he forced his way on me. What I thought was going to be some semi-innocent making out, ended up being the day I did not want to come so soon. I always figured that since he was in my room, and we were fooling around…and he was my boyfriend, it was kinda my fault… It was not until I was almost 60 that I figured out…It was NOT my fault. I said “NO” repeatedly and he did what he wanted to in spite of what I said to him.
A year later, barely 18, found me coming home from my second day of college in the back of my neighbor’s car, to my grieving mother because my 50 year old father had dropped dead that day of a massive heart attack. My mom told me over and over that my dad lived for his kids and since I was the last child out of the house, he decided his job was done and he died. Along with this message, she was sure to include the fact that it was her time with him alone, their golden years, but he only lived for his kids…not for their remaining time together. My entire adult life, I somehow believed that my dad died because he did not want to grow old with mom and had nothing to live for when I was gone..so it was my fault that he died.
I was understandably a wild child throughout my college years, so when I met a man who was older, handsome, smart and charming who wanted to marry me after a week together…I said yes. I figured I would at least settle down and he was very handsome… I went on to spend 25 years and have four children with this man who was verbally and emotionally abusive to me. I believed it was my fault, he was mean because I was not enough for him. Not beautiful enough, perfect enough, enough… enough. In the end, he divorced me for the woman who is now his third wife and who is a two- time rape survivor. Bullies choose their victims with care.
Believe it or not, I am not completely screwed up. I have a great job, a wonderful relationship with my kids and grandkids. I own my own home and pay my bills on time. I am happy and likeable and generally easy to be around. I still have this man problem though. In all honesty…it is NOT a man problem. It is a me problem. After all the years and all the yuk and the Me too’s and damaged goods…I keep making the same mistakes. I continue to believe somehow that I am not enough for a man. Not beautiful enough, perfect enough, enough…enough. I have dated many people in these ten years of single again and continue to find that true love is elusive. When I think about it, the reason it is so elusive is that I continue to choose to date men who perpetuate my beliefs that I am not now and will never be enough.
I have spent the past five years in an on and off relationship with a man that I love. In that time, we have broken up many times. He has come through alcoholism, a brain tumor, homelessness, an engagement, bouts of complete sexual indiscretions and many other things. Each time he goes away, I am there when he returns. The last time, he left me for his “true love” who he had promised to me on many, many occasions, was nothing more than a friend. When they broke up after an intense couple of months…he called, and I gladly professed all my love again even though my heart had been broken.
Valentine’s Day was earlier this week and this is the text I received. “Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetie. I guess by default you’re my Valentine. Or the closest thing I have to one😊 “
I didn’t smile. But I did learn. For the first time, he put into words what I have felt my whole life. I was the default child to my dad when he did not get his son. I was the default wife to the man who cared more about controlling me than loving me. I will not be a default Valentine or default anything any more. I am damaged goods, but I am worthy of love. Even an older woman can grow and become a better version of herself every day! Let the living begin!
“We either live with intention or exist by default” – Kristin Armstrong