Verbal Abuse

Judith Peck, Ed.D.

I took a stand, told him that heavy hands would not be tolerated, but I did not cry, I did not whine, I did not consider leaving him, at least for more than an overnight. I was an electrical engineer, a competent professional, a nurturing mother and intelligent wife. I could handle this. The incidents left no lasting effects upon me and he loved me, he just couldn’t help himself. And it was not in my nature to throw a pot, dish, a teaspoon. But I was becoming aware how routinely I kept up my guard and how long gone normal frivolity had become.

Stuart’s vocabulary began to grow in ferocity and in color. The combinations became more loaded and more ridiculous as well. “Oh, why don’t you just go fuck yourself?” he suggested. That argument was about a wasted trip to the movies when the paper listed the show times incorrectly and I hadn’t re-checked by phoning.

“Just how do you propose I go about doing that?” I responded in a curious voice, smothering with facile banter the girl-child holding out her arms, crying Love me … The next day with temper cooled, I would try to conduct a calm discourse. “Please don’t say ugly things to me, Stuart, those curse words.”

“They’re words,” he would reply, “that’s all. They don’t mean a thing.”

“But most of what’s between us is words,” I argued, my voice whining in spite of my sensible thoughts, “It’s how we communicate.”

“They don’t mean anything, just steam,” he insisted. He was being patient with me.

“Stuart, we don’t make bird calls, we don’t bark or grunt, we choose words and utter them for a purpose.” I was lecturing now, really hitting the pits. “Your words hurt me like stones thrown in my face. They mean everything.”

“Oh, c’mon, Ari, get off it, will you?” he snapped, striding out of the room. An accusatory tone was his exit bell. Whines he tolerated well.

I recall one day Todd broke his banana in half and in a tantrum demanded that I glue it back together. Discussing with him later the nature of bananas and what neither a mother nor all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men could fix, and how when he ate a banana it would all break up inside him anyway was enough to satisfy him. Todd could agree that he needn’t have been so upset. But Stuart, older, wiser and busier, had no use for looking back. He had no need to; I was doing the looking back for both of us. I was in charge of our marriage like he was in charge of cleaning out the garage. Seeing in the Dark, Arielle’s Story