I even paid for my own wedding ring - and his, too.
At the time of my divorce, while sitting in the mediation room, going over the reasons for why this had to happen, I was introduced to an interesting new phrase: Financial abuse. Ah, so that’s what it was called. And all this time I thought having money withheld from me on a continuous basis was just another of the ‘things’ that would get laughed off when it came down to me stating what frustrated me most in my marriage.
It’s funny when you look back in retrospect; when my ex husband and I first started dating, we always went ‘dutch.’ He had this built-in fear of being taken advantage of and so I wasn’t treated to any of the dinners we went out to. I was employed — we worked at the same place — and so I could take care of myself.
And it’s not that I minded the idea of paying for myself, but I kind of missed the whole courtly love tradition of being paid for.
Yeah, yeah, grow up and pay for your meal, you feminist — still, the truth is, there was something that screamed ‘cheapskate’ about this man that I fell in love with. Now keep in mind — I always worked hard. I pulled my weight on everything. I even bought my own wedding ring, and come to think of it, his too.
I’d grown accustomed to the idea that there was a 50/50 split on all matters and that crazy notion of being paid for on occasion was just, well, somebody else’s life. And so, the years went by, and shortly after I gave birth I found myself in the position of being both unemployed and personally broke.
That's where the husbands come in to help, right? After all, there had to be something in our unspoken contract of undying love that stated I might need to be fed. He had the kid covered, which was good and would allow him to know himself as Father of the Century, but his wife, me, wasn’t eating. Or buying food. Or supplies. I was taking care of our child, and waiting on what we decided would be my weekly allowance.
The idea of a weekly allowance gave me the security I needed to feel emotionally and mentally. I’d get money, buy food, supply the family with what was needed, and all would be well. Gas in the tank, and food in my belly. Hot dog!
At the beginning of the week, I’d ask for my allowance.
All of a sudden, I was ‘that person’, you know, the one you dread having to speak with because you know they’re going to ask you for money. It didn’t matter that we were married or that I had a child to take care of or even that I’d just carried this child to term and given birth to her. I went from date to wife to mother to annoyance in a matter of a few years. And never once did my husband treat me to a thing.
I’m not a person of low self-esteem, and I certainly began to resent having to ask for money — especially when my request was always greeted with, “Oh yeah. Let me see if I can get you something by Thursday.” On Monday, I was hungry. Could I hold out until Thursday? But my hunger wasn’t the issue; driving my kid here and there was. Having gas in my car so that I could buy her food was. Being able to do anything outside of wait for him to grant me the holy funds was the damned point. I had a baby to take care of, for Pete’s sake; I couldn’t just blink and make the money flow from the heavens.
Every once in a while, he’d realize that he’d have to fork it over. But it was never what we agreed on and it was never, ever on time. By this point, our marriage had gone so far down the drain that I started to realize what I really was to him: a full-time babysitter, the one you only had to tip on occasion for her services.
A few years later, he asked me for a divorce and left me penniless, except for the fact that I had good credit was able to pay for the mediation.
Yes, I paid the mediator’s fee.
When it came time to pay child support, once again, I got the old familiar line: I’ll get it to you later. Deadbeat dad was on his way to creating a new pattern of withholding. The only thing that was different this time was that I had changed. Being left to fend for myself with a kid in tow woke me up like nobody’s business. It was now or never — and I was faced with a real predicament. Either I say ’No’ and stand up for myself, or I play the easygoing female schmuck and just ‘take it’.
I don’t know where it came from, but I roared at him when he tried to cheapen out on giving child support. Maybe it was the whole mother bear thing, or maybe all that self-esteem I must have stifled into nothingness just nuclear-bombed its way out of my crushed soul.
Whatever it was, I told him, “Listen you. I don’t care where you get the money. I don’t care if you have to borrow if from your girlfriend (he had been cheating on me during the marriage) or if you have to pull it directly out of your ass — if you don’t pay every freaking dime, I will have every woman’s group on you imaginable. I will have them protesting outside your door. I will sic the women on you and you will gag so hard on your deadbeat words that you won’t know what hit you. Babe.”
Guess what? He paid.
And he never stopped paying. And it made me realize what he feared all those years was being told off by a woman. That I didn’t ever tell him off was how (and why) he got away with such financial abuse. The minute I painted this imaginary picture of this army of women coming after him (truly, I had no idea what women these were going to be, it just ‘sounded’ threatening and female) that was the minute he realized he couldn’t get away with it anymore.
See, I was never a bitch. I never wanted that headline. I just wanted to be my kindly idiot self, which I learned really got me nowhere. So, while I’m still not ripe and ready to call myself a super-bitch, I’m one hundred percent ready to learn from the super-bitches that paved the way before me. In the end, it was all about the power of ‘No.’ I was reluctant to know myself as a bitch, but wow, it certainly got my kid and I what we needed.
Ahh, the hell with it. I’m a bitch. Now pay me.